camping under a bridge

HOW TO FREE CAMP WITHOUT BEING DISCOVERED

Back in my early-twenties, I knew I loved camping and the outdoors but had very little funds with which to do it. I set off on a 3-month hitch-hiking trip with a couple of hundred bucks to my name.

Every cent had to be counted and I couldn’t afford to spare any money on camp sites or accommodation. Over those 3 months I perfected the art of stealth camping, sometimes in more urban environments. I would pitch up late at night and leave early in the morning leaving no sign of me ever being there.

It is important to note that camping without a permit is generally not allowed or condoned across Australia these days. When you are way in the outback, it is not so much of a problem but it certainly isn’t allowed in many, if any, national parks these days. Mind you, camping in Australian national parks is very cheap and there are still plenty of campsites that are offered for free.

I am providing this information for informational purposes only based on my experience in the past. Nevertheless, free camping on Crown land does date back to Australia’s first settlers. I know from people I have met on my travels that it was very normal to camp by the roadside back in the 1960s.

CAMP HIGH

It’s far easier to remain undetected above busy roads than below. People don’t look up. When I was hitch-hiking long distances with multiple drivers I would often have to camp at the roadside. I didn’t want to be seen by every car passing throughout the night and advertise my position in case of some opportunistic delinquents up to some mischief in the night. Climbing up banks near the road allowed me to camp out of sight. It is rare for someone to bother climbing an incline to come looking for you.

LOOK FOR ANIMAL TRACKS

I once woke up to some pretty hefty and noisy feral pigs having a good old sniff at my tent. I would recommend avoiding areas where lots of animals visit.

DON’T CAMP NEXT TO A RIVER

While this is very tempting, it’s not a good idea. Sudden surges caused by rain at the source could lead the river to flood overnight, washing away your camp with it.

BEWARE OF DIRT ROADS

If you have found a nice spot down a dirt road, be sure it’s not going to rain. I have made this mistake myself and had to spend a morning wallowing in the muddy, washed out path, trying to make it back to civilisation with both shoes still on my feet. In the end one fell off and I had to walk back to it barefoot and pry it out. Needless to say, I learnt my lesson.

GET CONFIDENT WITH YOUR TENT

Knowing how to assemble and disassemble your tent swiftly is key. Sometimes the authorities move you on just as the sun is setting and you need to disassemble your tent, find a new location and assemble it before the sun goes down leaving you in darkness.

NEVER PITCH IN THE DARK

Not only is it difficult to put everything together, but you have no idea of your surroundings. You don’t know what’s around you or how secure the area is. Also, if you are using a torch to put a tent up, everyone will be able to see you a mile off and know what you’re doing.

DON’T MAKE IT EASY

The more difficult it is for you to reach your camp, the more difficult it is for everyone else. Most people aren’t willing to navigate through a dark path or a thorn bush just to tell you to leave or to relieve you of your possessions. The more out of the way the spot, the safer you will be.

DON’T GO THROUGH FENCES OR GATES

Don’t camp over fences or gates. They may be locked when you wake up leaving you trapped. Crossing a fence normally means you are entering someone’s property. The last thing you want is to jump a fence and be face to face with is a nasty guard dog who is there to keep people like you out, not to mention none of us want to be blatantly breaking the law.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK

Sometimes it’s best to just ask someone if you can camp in their garden or near their property. Most people are helpful and once you tell them your story they usually welcome you with open arms.

STAY TIDY AND CLEAN

If you make a mess, you are just asking for trouble. If you are going to camp anywhere in Australia, the least you can do is look after the environment.

 


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Oli Ward
oli@dinga.com.au

Oli has camped and hiked his way around Australia and most of Europe. He also loves writing about his experiences and sharing his knowledge.