One of the best things I know to do is to go camping. I particularly like the notion of freedom camping where you are not confined to an designated campground. Freedom camping allows you to find out of the way spots where you can really enjoy nature close up. Camping does not have to be in a tent, although that is my favorite way to camp. At times the climate or locality, or even your time frame don’t lend themselves well to tenting. In that case I use my van for camping trips. I can park up where I want and I usually find a spot beside a river or lake to spend the night. The camper van is good for all weather conditions and lets you move about quickly.
There was a time when I thought real camping was done in a tent and anything else was nor proper camping at all, but a couple of winter trips changed my mind. I live in New Zealand and we have some quite remote places, especially here in the South Island. On a winter trip I had to pitch my tent in pouring rain. I got soaking wet and while this was fun in the summer, this was winter and I became dangerously cold. Fortunately this was to be just an overnight stay, so I was close to my car. Although I couldn’t dry my clothes I could use the car heater to warm up. It was not pleasant being wet, but I felt the sound of the rain on the tent in the night made up for it. There is just nothing to compare with rain on a tent – provided you are dry and in your sleeping bag, of course, for good gear take a look at http://www.freedomcamping.net
On that same trip I took a wrong turn late in the day and ended up at a lake after several hours negotiating a four wheel drive track in my car. It
was four wheel drive, but some of the ruts could have swallowed it up. Rather than try to negotiate the track at night, I decided to camp there for the night and so erected my tent. I have an excellent down sleeping bag, but took the precaution of wearing all my clothes and covering myself with a down duvet for extra warmth. With my beanie (woolen knitted hat) on my head I went off to sleep. I woke a few times in the pitch black night with a pain in my hand. I had poked my hand out of the bag and it was cold, seriously cold. The rest of my body was not too bad and two pairs of socks kept my feet warm. When morning came I rose to feel strangely heavy-headed. There was a weight on my head. I reached up for my beanie to remove it. It felt strange. It was hard. I took it off and saw it was pure white and frosted. It stood up when I placed it on the floor of the tent. It was frozen solid. I opened the tent and peered outside to see a wilderness of whiteness. This was the hardest frost I had ever seen. The Southerly storm of the previous day had cleared to leave a cloudless sky and bitter cold. The grass crunched under my feet as I looked back on a tent almost pure white and looking like it was covered in a fur of sparkling crystals. Everything about was the same. The car was encrusted, the fence wires, the trees, the grass and my water bottle bulged from its frozen contents. I decided breakfast would be nice and set about to remove the stove from the trunk (we call it the boot) of my car. It was frozen shut. I couldnâ€™t even put the key in the lock. Fortunately the keys had been in my pocket and were just warm enough to free the lock. I fugured I could melt some ice and make some coffee. Wrong! It was so cold the gas would not even come out of the canister. It was a new one I had put in the previous day, but not a sound from it and my match just flickered uselessly. By now I was getting really cold. The only thing was to start the car. I drew a breath and turned the key. It turned over slowly, slowly and fired. It stopped. Again I tried and it turned even slower, over once, twice and on the third time it sprang to life. It would take a while to get warmth from it so I jumped around in the
cloud of steam from the exhaust trying to warm up.
I looked at the tent and looked all around. I just wanted to leave. The ground was frozen and the tent pegs were hard to get out, but I managed to get it down. I shook what I could of the ice from the fly and bundled it into the car. I like freedom camping, but thereâ€™s a difference between freedom and freezing. That was what set me to thinking about getting a camper van. I like to travel at any time of the year and actually prefer the winter because there is no one else about. I sometimes use the tent and I always take it with me, but I usually sleep in the van these days. However I still think the best place to sleep is in a tent. I can take a bit more gear with me and that suits because I like camping equipment. I am always buying some sort of new cool camping gear that I probably donâ€™t need, but I enjoy anyway. It is still freedom camping, but perhaps not for the purist, but let them freeze themselves while I just get out of bed, climb over into the driverâ€™s seat and go. I still like a basic set up. with just a small cooler, a stove, the fold down bed and some food. I have more recovery gear than camping gear, just in case I get stuck somewhere remote. So far so good. So can you combine freedom camping and a bit of comfort? I think so.