New Zealand

Wilderness Camping

Wilderness, freedom, bush, stealth camping, whatever you wish to call it, it’s about getting back to the real nitty-gritty of survival and life.
Wild camping with a cuppa near Lake Tekapo. NZ
Wild camping in New Zealand is generally referred to as freedom camping.
So where can one freedom camp in New Zealand?
Freedom camping is permitted on public conservation land, except in areas where it’s expressly prohibited. This is indicated by sign-age. I found this is mostly dedicated to vehicles. I though, had absolutely no problems.

Camping off river nr Alexandra. NZ

I’ve been asked many a time ‘isn’t it dangerous’? Danger from what? Nature or perhaps man! I’d have greater concerns over man than nature.
Nature: The most perilous critter by-far in New Zealand is the Sandfly!
You may laugh … Sandfies! 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.

Wild camping Shipwreck Creek sundown. NZ

Most, if not every repellent doesn’t work. Only one thing that works, beyond doubt, is to fully 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 well before sunset. Look for signs of mans presence: discarded drinking vestibules, worn paths (dog walkers), fire pits, toilet paper, condoms, you get the picture!
Cardrona River wild camp spot. NZ
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 is a blessing for a peaceful night.
If I can’t find a wild camping spot, it becomes a case of stealth camping. Then really hide!
Stealth camping Millars Flat rugby pitch. NZ
It might well be a just a case of slipping under the drooping-foliage of a large tree. And with the setting sun, you soon become untraceable.
Mataura tennis court stealth camping. NZ
Other times, find a corner of an unused area/building, and just act as if you’re allowed to be there. Again, using the cloak of shadows.
In this case, with the tennis court, a guy rocked up to cut the grass, and soon apologised, saying: “I’ll be out of your way ASAP”. I couldn’t believe it!
Centre Bush rugby club stealth camping! NZ
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. Three to four hours before sundown is good. You’ll need water (washing/cooking), 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 five to six kg’s, you’ll not want to be searching too far!
Arundel river wild camping. NZ
Other times when water is not a problem, you can wash in it, cook with it and drink it. All on your doorstep.
Accessing some wilderness/stealth locations can be a very strenuous affair.
Camp spot up the hill
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.
Preparing tent ground
A toilet facility will also need to be organised. Carrying a lightweight trowel is the answer. At least six inches deep and bag the paper up or burn it in the hole. Be conscious of dry heath or woods (Fire risk). 
Morning latrine prepared
Don’t feel though it’s an easy life, because it’s 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.
Sweet wild camp spot behind Greymouth Gun club! NZ
Breaking camp seems to just take forever. Even after months of doing the same packing again and again. I did though, get three hours from wake up, till on the road, down to around one-and-hours on a good morning. But I don’t like to rush, so normally two hours.
Afternnoon read wild camping highway 6. NZ
Other times, ones camp site becomes your workshop too.  
I’m near water here. So I’m able to fill up my Ortlieb folding water bowl to find the hole in the inner tube.
Wild camping spot off highway 6. NZ
Wilderness camping may look tranquil, with the most idyllic locations. But, don’t be fooled by this photo below. Sandflies were rampant here. It can soon become purgatory if not covered up head-to-toe.
Wild camping. Pleasant Flats towards Souther Alps. NZ
With this, everything takes a lot longer. Especially be careful with the call of nature, any exposed skin WILL be besieged!Morning rise wild camping Daisy Bank. Otaqo Rail Trail. NZ
Most times, wilderness camping spots are perfect.
Wild camp set Poolburn gorge. Otaqo Rail Trail. NZ
Camping in the woods is the ultimate wilderness-camping-experience. Enjoying the protection of mother nature when embedded under its canopy.Forest wild camping. Methven, NZ
You might say: why not paid camp sites?
Firstly, there’s 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 campers go to the loo or just drunk!
Not earning a good nights 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. 
If you do fancy a rural camp ground the Department Of Conversation (DOC) are not too bad. Not sure though about using them in peak season (Dec to Mar). A lot of camper vans!
Eyre Creek wild camping. Athol. NZ
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..



2 responses to “New Zealand

  • john

    Awesome! I’m going to be doing the same thing in a few days in New Zealand. Glad to hear there is freedom camping for those who aren’t afraid of a little work.

  • Nigel Francis

    Yes, it’s all there to be had. Just takes a bit of searching. Once you get your eye in you’ll soon see everything open up.

    All the time in the saddle I’d look around and think, I could camp there, there and there. I still do it on my commute!

    Going to be a tad cold, but neither less fun too. Enjoy.

I look forward to your comments

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