Freedom camping has nothing to do with extravagant glamping parties or noisy campfire gatherings at campgrounds. It is all about getting closer to nature, clearing your mind and immersing in the world around you. There is so much to explore and encounter in such an experience.
Freedom camping, or boondocking, might not be suitable for anyone who is still new to the concept of camping or living in the outdoors. Since it entails venturing into the wilderness and abstaining from creature comforts such as hot baths and a full kitchen to cook meals, some travelers may find it too daunting. But perhaps one shouldn’t let their fear of the unknown and lack of relevant knowledge get in the way of finding out more.
Below are some simple recommendations that will help you stay safe during your campervan trips and derive a great camping experience.
1. Do Comprehensive Research
As with any travel destination, there are good camping spots and less-than-ideal spots to freedom camp. Read reviews and tips by fellow campers, assess the surroundings and ensure it is clean, safe and away from potential hazards. Natural elements like rivers, beaches or hilltops are more susceptible to things like waves, flooding, strong winds and heavy rain. If it’s possible, visit your intended parking place during daylight and carry out a risk assessment. Spend some time observing what’s going on in the surroundings. The spot should be far off enough from the main road and highway, hence safe from collisions with other vehicles who cannot see you.
Check if you have a working signal on your phone and make sure it’s stable. This way, you’ll know you’ll be able to call for help if need be. If the internet signal is important, do check for the data coverage and signal strength as well.
When it comes to parking, you want to ensure that the terrain is level enough for sleeping. Parking on the unlevel ground is not only uncomfortable, but it can interfere with the proper functionality of the vehicle’s appliances like the water heater or propane gas tank.
You may want to pay attention to the trash and litter lying on the ground. Gas cylinders, food waste, empty or broken bottles, and condoms lying about would be a clear warning that you should find somewhere to better. After all, your overnight parking places should be not only safe but enjoyable. What beats waking up in the morning to a breathtaking view of the surroundings and to capture some amazing sunrise shots with your phone. Here’s a album cover template if you need one.
2. Be considerate of others
It’s important that one is considerate when parking.
Ensure that your overnight parking does not create a roadblock to other road users.
The more severe cases can get you fined if you obstruct important vehicle access like fire engines, handicapped lots, breakdown or delivery services, etc.
If you block one of these, you might get a very rude awakening during the night. Also, look around to see if there are any food outlets, pubs, or clubs in close proximity that might attract rowdy people and ruin your serene getaway.
3. Pay Attention to Parking Restrictions
Make sure you check for any parking restrictions and avoid places that don’t allow overnight parking or sleeping in vehicles. There are stricter rules in certain states in different countries ( Eg. California rules are stricter than other states in the USA)
Pay special attention to any signs or CCTV cameras that state potential penalties or fines. The cameras should be pretty obvious to see. Some of these places you go to maybe stricter during busy summer times, compared to winter. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to risk a fine. But you would be well-advised to steer clear from any dubious places not to spoil your trip. Should you have any questions or doubts, just ask those who know more about the area better than you.
4. Be Danger-Conscious
Ask yourself if the place you are sleeping at is disaster-prone. Are there dead trees that could fall in high winds or hollow areas where flood water can collect during a cloudburst?
A quick look at the weather app or staying abreast of the news won’t hurt. Check out the weather forecast for the area in advance and save yourself a lot of trouble and stress.
5. The Nearest Emergency Point
Once you find your ideal site, consider spending a moment figuring out where your fallback place of safety will be. Check the map to know exactly where the nearest gas station, town or village is. If some emergency occurs, you’ll know for sure where to get help.
6. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Burglaries and theft do occur to campervans. If you’re sleeping and suspect that someone is tampering with your vehicle at night, what you want to do is make a sudden loud noise to scare them off. If they continue, however, the last thing you want to do is just lie there quietly without doing anything. Go to the front of the driver’s seat to horn for help or even drive off if it gets really serious.
Always have your campervan engine keys as well as a mobile phone at hand and use them whenever you feel endangered in given circumstances. Finally, make sure you know how to contact emergency services in every place you visit.
7. Have Something for Self Defense
Self defence is always a useful skill, though not everyone is trained in Jujitsu or self-defence.
You might be better off having something more tangible that can help you fend off unwelcome guests such as a pepper spray, taser, or personal safety alarm can save your day. Hopefully, you won’t even need to use those self-defence tools. But knowing that you have something in your van, which can help you handle touchy or overtly hazardous situations, will contribute to your peace of mind.
8. Be a Responsible Traveler
Last but not least, you want to make sure you are a responsible camper and leave the place untarnished. Do not litter, empty your RV grey water in inappropriate places, outstay your welcome or spoil your overnight stopovers for other visitors. Be considerate of the locals, and fellow campers and respectful of Mother Earth which created so many beautiful places for you to explore!
We hope this article, though not the best out there, gives a rough idea of what to prepare for before your first freedom camping experience. Do note you need to do way more research and understand RV life better before you attempt boondocking.