Why are Fuel, Power and Water essential for free camping?

Glenn Marshall — 21 June 2022
One keeps your vehicle running, one keeps your fridge running while one keeps you running, and together, they enhance your free camping experience

One keeps your vehicle running, one keeps your fridge running while one keeps you running, and together, they enhance your free camping experience

We are blessed to have so many free camping opportunities in Oz, from the coast, to beside a river, atop a mountain or in the desert. Free camping also gives you a sense of adventure, freedom of choice and is the icing on the cake for the camper lifestyle. And when it comes to making your free camping experience better, there are three essential things that you need to consider. 


You want to check out that remote free campsite, but the current setup doesn’t have the fuel capacity to get there. What can be done to solve this problem?

1. Carry jerry cans — Jerry cans containing fuel are not permitted to be carried inside a vehicle or camper due to the risk of the vapour igniting. They can be carried securely on a roof rack or jerry can holder on an aftermarket rear bar or in jerry can holders on the camper. If your camper doesn’t come with jerry can holders, there are aftermarket options that can easily be fitted. 

There is an Australian Standard for the design and manufacture of jerry cans: AS2906 Fuel Containers/Portable/Plastics and Metal. Ensure when purchasing a jerry can that is has the ‘AS2906’ sticker clearly attached. You should not use AS2906 marked containers for water nor use containers marked for water to carry fuel. Fuel jerry cans are formulated to be resistant to attack by Petro chemicals. Water containers are porous and will allow vapour to pass through the plastic.

2. Fit an aftermarket long-range fuel tank — This is an expensive solution and may not be available for your 4WD, however, if setting the 4WD up as an overlander, it is worth considering.

Adding a larger or additional aftermarket fuel tank will get you further


You’ve been relaxing in the shade of the gum trees by the gently flowing river for a couple of hot days, when you discover the beers are warm as the fridge stopped running overnight and the battery is looking sad. There are a couple of options to prevent this ever happening to you; one suits that pristine free camp, the other can become frustratingly annoying to fellow campers. 

A solar blanket is a lightweight, portable solution

1. Solar Panels — Solar panels come in all shapes, sizes and solar cell types. There are three types of solar cells used on today’s solar panels: monocrystalline that work best in direct sunlight, polycrystalline that are better suited to low-light conditions and amorphous cells that are used in the thinner, more flexible panels. 

Selecting the right panel depends on a few things, such as are they going to be hard mounted or portable, do you need a solar regulator (an MPPT is the best option), and your budget. Take your time researching solar panels as the cheapest ones often don’t perform as well as the sales jargon says they do. While hard mounting solar panels is a good option, it may mean you need to park in the sun to pump charge into your battery. Portable panels or solar blankets enable you to follow the sun while you camp in the shade. 

2. Generator — While this is a good option for recharging your batteries or running electrical gear on 240V, it is a bulky item to store and a noisy option. Some free camps don’t allow them to be run or only allow them to be used at certain times. You’ll need to carry fuel for it too. 

A petrol generator is effective but noisy


Water is the elixir of life; without it, your body will shut down and you’ll die within days. If you go by the rule of 2L of drinking water per person per day, then additional for cooking, washing, and showering, you should be able to calculate a rough estimate. There are ways of reducing water usage for washing and keeping clean, such as baby wipes, so it may pay to think about options like this if your estimate is more than you can carry. 

Thankfully, there are a few solutions for carrying water:

1. Jerry Cans — Where you store your water jerry cans is flexible, with options such as inside the vehicle, on the roof rack, in a jerry can holder if you have an after-market rear bar, inside the camper or on the drawbar. Care will be needed with plastic jerry cans as they can degrade over time or suffer stone damage, causing cracking. 

It's important to buy a jerry can that is specifically designed to carry water

2. Bottles/casks — Easily purchased in most supermarkets and service stations, water bottles and casks are a good way of separating your water sources in case of breakages or spillage.

3. Water tanks — In your 4WD, whether Poly or stainless steel, these aftermarket water tanks are a good solution with options to connect to a 12V pump and tap for accessing the water easily. A water bladder is another option, however, the water does tend to taste like rubber. I have a 40L poly tank that sits in the footwell behind the front seats, and it serves me very well. 

If a camper doesn’t come with water tanks as standard, see if they can include one or two (space permitting) before you buy, otherwise you may be able to install the tanks yourself, or take it to a camper manufacturer or service centre. 

4. PVC Pipe — An easy DIY solution is using PVC pipe with the ends sealed, a filler pipe or a gravity-fed hose, and when mounted to the roof bars/rack or camper, it can provide as many litres of water as the size of pipe you use. 

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