Wilderness, freedom, bush, stealth camping, whatever you prefer to call it, it’s about getting back to the real nitty-gritty of survival and life.
Wild camping in New Zealand is generally referred to as freedom camping.
So where can I freedom camp in New Zealand?
Freedom camping is permitted on public conservation land, except in areas where it is expressly prohibited. This is indicated by signage. But I found this is dedicated to vehicles. I had absolutely no problem.
I’ve been asked many a time isn’t it dangerous? Danger from what? Nature or perhaps man? I’d have greater concerns with man than nature.
Nature: Wilderness camping in New Zealand the most perilous critter by-far was the Sandfly!
You may laugh, Sandlfies! The natives will inform you there’s no predators in New Zealand, well, I beg to differ. The Sandfly is a top carnivore in my book.
Most, if not every repellent does not work. Only one thing that works beyond doubt is cover up.
But through the advice of a gold-panner from Haast, 3/4 baby oil and 1/4 Dettol. This does work for about an hour or so, plus you do smell nice along with soft skin!
Man: I observe, out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy.
Man is generally lazy, so if it’s hard for me to get to, then the chance of humanity been there also or finding me, is pretty remote too.
Tips for wilderness camping: Start the search before sunset. Look for signs of man’s presence; discarded drinking vestibules, worn paths, fire pits, toilet paper, condoms, you get the picture!
Get yourself as deep into the bush as possible. So you’re as out-of-sight, out-of-mind as practical. Also, as far away from the noise of traffic too is a blessing.
If I can’t find a wild camping spot it becomes a case of stealth camping. Then really hide!
It could well be a case of just slipping under the drooping foliage of a large tree. And with the sun setting you become untraceable.
Other times, find a corner of an unused area/building, and just act as if you’re allowed to be there. At times using the setting shade as ones cloak.
In this case with the tennis court, a guy rocked up to cut the grass, and soon apologised, saying he’d be out-of-my-way ASAP! I couldn’t believe it.
Then there’s times when you just need to get out of the weather if it’s really bad.
Fortunately, after trying a door on a rugby changing room, I had a dry night. If not a tad smelly! Showers also on offer.
Locating a wild camping spot can take time, so plan ahead. 3 to 4 hours before sundown is good. You’ll need water, and that’ll not necessarily be near or at your location. So it’ll have to be hauled on the bike before the search starts. And at the end of the day with an extra 5 to 6 kg’s, you’ll not want to be searching too far!
Other times when water is not a problem. Wash in it, cook with it and drink it, all on your doorstep.
Accessing some wilderness/stealth locations can be a very strenuous affair.
First thing on setting up camp will be to ensure the ground is level and clear of anything that is likely to pierce the floor of your tent.
Toilet duties will also need to be arranged. Carrying a lightweight trowel is the answer.
Don’t feel though it’s an easy life, cos its not at times.
After a hard day on the bike, the idea of finding water, hauling water, locating a wild/stealth camp spot, setting up camp, cooking, bathing in cold water, when all you want to do is lie down and wake up in the morning.
Breaking camp seems to just take forever. Even after months of doing the same packing again and again! I did though get 3 hours from wake up, till on the road, down to around 1 1/2 hours on a good morning. But I don’t like to rush, so normally 2 hours.
Other times one’s camp site becomes your workshop too. Again, I’m near water, so I’m able to fill up my Ortlieb folding water bowl to find a hole in the inner tube.
Wilderness camping may look tranquil, with the most idyllic locations. Don’t be fooled by this photo below. Sandflies were rampant here. It can soon become purgatory if not covered up heap-to-toe.
With this, everything takes a lot longer. Especially be careful with the call of nature, any exposed skin WiLL be besieged!
Most times wilderness camping spots are perfect.
Camping in the woods is the ultimate wilderness camping experience. Enjoying the protection of mother nature when embedded under its canopy.
You might say, why not paid camp sites?
Firstly, there is the cost. Paying £10 (US$15) will generally be my budget for the day. Next you could well be subjected to what I call the cacophony of the sliding-door-syndrome (camper vans) during the night, as inconsiderate campers go to the loo.
Not earning a good night’s sleep isn’t conducive to a full day in the saddle. This is enough for me to choose a wild/stealth camping spot any day. can offer this.
If you do fancy a rural camp ground the Department Of Conversation (DOC) are not bad. Not sure though about using them in peak season (Dec to Mar), a lot of camper vans!
When cycling through the day I’d always look out for potential wild camping spots. Thinking, I could camp there, there and there. It’s a good habit to get into, and keeps the eye in. You never know, you might just need to back track to the last place you’ve seen.
Any fool can be uncomfortable, it’s what you make it. Above all, wild camping is a perfect way to be with nature, good or bad!
My tent is a MSR Hubba Hubba
You can click on each photo for an enhanced Flickr view or the above Flickr slideshow for further photos for this post..