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 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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!
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..