6 Tips for Finding the Right Campsite
There are many fantastic freedom campsites available to us all, varying from those offering serenity and solitude to those popular with other travellers. The freedom enjoyed without having to resort to paying to stay in caravan parks is something many of us enjoy.
However, there are times when the campsite you’ve chosen to stay at may be unsafe, or you find that just as you prepare for happy hour, you’re interrupted by a rowdy newcomer who arrives with music blaring, kicking up dust and creating a disturbance.
Don’t worry too much though as in my travels I have learnt some tips to consistently find safe campsites to enjoy each night. This advice will help you to plan your next trip, or when setting off on the next stage of your adventure, to feel confident that you too will find safe campsites every night from now on.
1. WEBSITE FORUMS & SOCIAL PAGES
There are several websites and social pages that give you the opportunity to ask questions about freedom campsites, either via forums or posts. They are easy to join and are great tools for researching free campsites on your next trip.
Some examples of forums can be found at Exploroz and Expandas Downunder. A couple of Facebook pages dedicated to free camping and a great place to ask about free campsites are Free Camping Victoria and Free Choice Camping.
2. SMARTPHONE APPS
By far the two most popular apps recommended for finding safe freedom campsites are Wikicamps and Camps Australia Wide. Wikicamps Australia will set you back a one-off payment of $7.99 with no monthly subscription fees or charges for downloading additional content. Camps Australia Wide costs $9.99 for an annual subscription (according to their website).
Both apps allow users to easily locate free camps, rest areas, community camps, station stays, National Parks, State forests and caravan parks in your local area, or areas where you are travelling to even if you are offline. Users can also review campsites and upload photographs to allow others to read about and visualise campsites, making it easier for you to choose which campsites look safe and inviting, and those that don’t.
As Wikicamps is a dynamic user generated camping app for Australia, all the sites that are found in the database have been added, edited and shared by users, meaning you get the most up to date information wherever you may be. It also means you too can contribute by adding your own comments on safe campsites. You can also navigate to your selected campsite via Google Maps or Apple Maps from the app.
Camps Australia Wide is also included on the Hema HX-1 Navigator making it easy to navigate to your campsite.
3. TRAVEL BOOKS
Hema Maps produce several travel guides and road atlases that are extremely helpful in planning your trips and providing information on campsites that may be along your chosen route.
Camps Australia Wide is another guide for budget and freedom camping. The most current version of the “Travellers Bible” lists free and low-cost campsites, caravan parks, station stays, national parks and rest areas around Australia, with full colour and informative symbols that depict the facilities at each campsite.
These options are great for seeing where the campsites are in relation to towns and cities, and then you can see if the site is close to the roadside by checking the details of the campsite. In certain areas, camping close to town may not be considered terribly safe.
4. INFORMATION CENTRES/PUBS/SERVICE STATIONS
When on the road, picking up advice on the safest campsites can easily be sourced from places on your way. Information Centres are situated in most towns, and as they are staffed by locals, they will often be able to give you up to date information on the best-known free campsites in the local area.
Talking to the publican, service station clerk, butcher or shop attendant will also often get you the best results. Dropping in at the local police station is also a recommended source of information, however not all police stations are staffed 100 per cent of the time, so you may find this option a little more difficult than the others.
Another source of great information is the cocky driving slowly along the back roads in his clapped-out ute. Once you’ve overtaken him, why not stop and flag him down. Not only will he enjoy the chat, but he will know all the best places to camp. He may even offer you a safe campsite next to the Billabong on his property.
5. NATURE AND NATURAL
There are safety considerations other than those originating from humans. Keep in mind that some campsites may be unsuitable because of the dangers presented by Mother Nature or one of her creatures.
Fire danger is always something to think about when free camping. Never camp in an area where bushfires are currently burning and never light a fire where or when they are not permitted.
The potential for flooding is another trap for the unwary. Never camp in a dry river or creek bed as rain hundreds of kilometres upstream could cause a flash flood and wipe you out. Camping on river banks or floodplains can be dangerous with only light rain, especially the black soil zones. Moving camp before it rains is always the safest option.
Local radio stations and ABC Radio are great to listen to get all the latest weather and natural disaster updates. Smartphone apps such as Weatherzone are also a good tool to keep up to date with weather conditions.
You need to be aware of animals such as saltwater crocodiles when camping near watercourses in Northern Australia. Dingoes can invade your campsite in search of food, so don’t leave any food scraps or shoes lying around and keep an eye on your pets.
6. IN CONCLUSION
What it comes down to is doing as much research as you can, not only before you leave, but also while you are travelling. That way you will always find a safe and suitable campsite. It will also reduce the chance of you scrambling for a plan B or C as the light fails.
It must be said though, that I have rarely come across undesirables who made my freedom camping experience unsafe. You are more likely to be affected by a natural event such as fire, floods or wild weather or wild animals than a person who is feral.