Freedom camping NZ: How to be a responsible vanlifer

“While freedom camping is free of charge, it is not free of responsibility.” – 100% Pure New Zealand.

Freedom campers can get a bad rap for their mistreatment of the environment around them – but we know that’s the opposite of the truth! The vanlifers and freedom campers we know are some of the most conscientious, considerate and environmentally-focused people we know. That being said, there’s always more we can do to be responsible vanlifers. Here are our top tips for freedom camping in NZ:

Leave no trace

I think this one goes without saying but leave no trace! This means:

  1. Travel on designated trails and camp on appropriate surfaces
    • Taking your campervan on unsealed roads is not advised
    • Nor is driving on the beach, though many freedom camping spots are right by it
  2. Take your rubbish with you & dispose of your waste at designated stations
  3. Don’t treat the outdoors as a toilet
    • All self-contained campervans have a loo in some form. And in NZ you’re never far from a public toilet
  4. No matter how tempting it is, leave that shell/rock/plant where you found it
  5. Respect the wildlife

Find out more at Leave No Trace.

Self-contained campervan

The easiest way to make sure you leave no trace is to have everything you need in your campervan. Strictly speaking, self contained certification is NOT a requirement to freedom camp in NZ but a small number of councils/regions do try to enforce it.

To avoid any issues, we’ve done the hard work for you and make sure our campers are self-contained and certified as such. This means the van you hire has a fresh water tank, wastewater tank, a toilet (all with enough capacity for at least 3 days per person) and a rubbish bin. So there’s no reason to leave any trace at our beautiful camping spots – no matter how far into the wopwops you are.

Go single-use free

Getting rid of rubbish can be hard when you’re in a van so why not make it easier by cutting down on single use items! Plastic gets the most attention when it comes to what we should cut down on – especially if it’s not recyclable. But let’s try and cut down on single-us metal, cardboard and paper too. Recyclable items might not going into landfill but it still takes a lot to make and recycle them. The easiest things to start with are:

  • Invest in a reusable water bottle instead of spending $3 on a single-use plastic one every day.
  • Support shops that have unpackaged fruit and veggies.
  • Go bag-free at the supermarket. It’s even easier when you’re in a van as you drive your kitchen right to the shops!
  • Buy dry goods (like rice, pasta, seeds and beans) in bulk. Find somewhere that’ll let you put them into your storage containers right there in store.

The less rubbish we all make, the tidier we’ll leave freedom camping spots.

5 bits of rubbish rule

When I was a kid, my mum had a rule that we weren’t allowed to leave the beach until we’d picked up 5 bits of rubbish – depending on how dirty the beach was, this would sometimes rise to 10 or 20 bits! Adopt the same rule in your adventures and pick up 5 bits of rubbish everywhere you visit. Be a tidy Kiwi!

Cut down on driving

If you’re able to, when you’re out exploring, find one parking spot for the day and then cycle, scooter or walk in between spots rather than driving your campervan all day.

Hire instead of buy

We’re a little biased here, but we think hiring campervans is the way to go. We’re all about a sharing economy! So many campervans sit unused on driveways for 48+ weeks a year.

Our UK team ran the numbers and worked out you’d need to be using your campervan at least 3 weeks in high season, 2 weeks in mid season and 1 week in low season each and every year to justify owning one, rather than just hiring one when you need it. Any less, and it’s just not worth owning one!

If you’re hiring a campervan, the same thing can be said for all the extra bits and pieces for your trip. Our vans come with the things you need (like cutlery and cooking equipment) and our owners have made extras (like bedding, camping chairs etc.) available for reasonable prices. If you can’t bring your own from home, please hire through us instead of buying just for your trip and then throwing away.

If you do own a campervan, why not rent out? It lets others share in the joy of vanlife, you make a bit of money, and your camper gets a lot more use than just a couple of weeks a year.