I think it’s safe to say that all camping enthusiasts have a vision of their ‘ultimate’ free-camping setup.
Opinions will differ based on various tastes and ideals about what is necessary – but at the most basic level an ‘ultimate’ setup has to address self-sufficiency as far as power and water is concerned.
Having averaged a good 80 per cent of our nights touring Australia in unpowered sites this far, we’ve certainly learned a lot about how to get the most out of our setup and have tweaked certain things to increase our comfort and efficiency when exploring away from camping amenities.
Here’s our list of items we’ve altered to hit what we feel is that ‘ultimate free camping setup’ status…
It’s as necessary as air for survival, and a big factor in self-sufficiency for camping.
To enhance our water capacity, we’ve had separate tanks installed for separate uses.
One 190L tank is specific to ‘daily use’ water – washing dishes, hands, bodies and clothing; while another 95L tank is specific to drinking water complete with a separate filter and secondary tap to our main sink. This gives us greater control over monitoring, and ensures that even if we run low on the ‘daily use’ water, we always have enough for drinking.
Not all caravans come with a grey water tank, yet a fair few campsites, particularly within national parks, require you to catch your water waste so it is not dumped onto the ground.
There are other reasons for holding your own waste water too, with a couple being that it can make certain ground coverings boggy and more prone to mozzies.
With a grey water tank installed, we have more freedom to experience an increase in campsite options.
We always use a twin filter system (with sediment and carbon filter) when re-filling tanks to keep water as fresh as possible. It is a fact that across Australia there is varying water quality – and it’s not just within the town water versus bore water comparison.
These filters mean we do not have to spend up big on bottled water and can avoid adding additional plastic bottles to landfill.
Water bladders have also made refilling easier and more convenient. We have two 40L bladder bags that roll up and fit under the seats in our vehicle. That way, if we know we are getting low on water, we can easily stop by a water filling station during our weekly explorations without having to physically drag our caravan from camp.
Our original power source came from three 100Ah lithium batteries with 400W of solar on the roof. That seemed to work well in the beginning, particularly when we were in southern parts of Australia.
As we’ve trekked towards the northern end of the country, however, the increase in heat and humidity have made the fridge work harder – drawing a hefty amount of amps during the warmer nights. We’ve since increased to 660W of solar on the roof and carry a portable 160W solar panel (not blanket) to use when parked in shady areas.
This additional panel can also plug into the car to power the fridge in the back of the 4WD.
The fridges we run are a compressor fridge within the van, which means even if we get caught with no gas we don’t have to rush into town for a refill.
The fridge we run in the car is our 40L top-up fridge, which is generally a designated freezer used for stocking up on meat and veg for longer ‘offgrid’ travels or utilised as the fridge for day trips as we tend to prepare packed lunches most days.
Our ultimate free-camping setup wouldn’t be complete without an inverter to run those ‘glamping’ 240 appliances. We have a 2000W inverter, which increases our comfort by running our kettle, microwave and washing machine.
We used to feel that there was no need for a generator if you had enough battery and solar power. Over the months, this opinion has changed as we have faced numerous cloudy days, shady campsites, and more recently with the hot Northern Territory summer climate making free-camping uncomfortable without being able to close up the windows to shut out any menacing mozzies and midgies and pump the air conditioning.
With that being said, we’ve recently added a 2.2kW generator for those times our batteries need more than solar to replenish power.
Additional jerry can holders have been added to allow more spare fuel for the car/generator for longer remote trips.
There’s another handful of items worth mentioning that have enhanced our comfort and added to our ultimate setup status as far as living full-time in our caravan goes.
The diesel heater: because even in some of the hottest, most remote parts of Australia it can still get extremely chilly at night time.
The 12V fans: whether for ‘white noise’ so the kids can sleep or to circulate the air and offer relief from the heat, these fans are used every day.
Our caravan ensuite is something we debated prior to choosing our caravan. It certainly adds an additional element of comfort.
The Cel-Fi Go we’ve added picks up internet signal in most areas we otherwise couldn’t obtain internet. This helps tremendously with our kids’ schooling and our feelings of safety when away from built-up areas.
We have two heavy-duty bin bags to allow us to keep our rubbish contained and mobile until we next find council bins.
Finally, our slide-out external kitchen increases that ‘outdoor living’ feel, especially when we’re off the blacktop and in some more remote areas. While not necessary for free-camping, it has made us feel like we’ve hit that ultimate setup status.
Are there any additional items you envision in your ultimate free camping set up that we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to hear them! Comment below!