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The Most Essential Packing Items On Our Lists

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The Most Essential Packing Items On Our Lists

"If you could name the most important piece of gear you pack, what would it be?"

A friend asked us this the day we flew back from Finland after 4 months of traveling Europe.

We scanned our memories and packing lists. At that time, we'd been traveling for over three years living out of small backpacks and luggage. We'd traveled the US living out of a tent and our car, then campervanning New Zealand, to backpacking South East Asia, to then RVing the US, and just recently campervanning Europe.

We both had our answers pretty quickly and our friend was shocked they weren't electronics.

We call these items our MVP's of Gear.

 

The one thing we always pack with us and why:

Lindsey's Most Valuable Piece of Gear:

Perfect as a headband, ear warmer, and a neck guard on the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand.

Perfect as a headband, ear warmer, and a neck guard on the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand.

A BUFF

What is a buff?

A Buff's a continuous loop of fabric you can use for anything!

Here's why it's my #1 packing item: 

I can use it in so many ways in both hot and cold weather! This is important, because when Adam and I set out on a trip, we have a general idea of where we're going but no set plans and no itinerary. We figure it out as we go. This means when I'm packing for months worth of travel, I have no idea what weather I'm getting myself into. So, when I'm packing I cover myself with clothes for both hot and cold weather.  

I love my Buff! It covers me for everything and is so tiny to pack. In hot weather I use it as a hair tie, a head band, and as a rag. And for cold weather I use it as a hat, an ear muff, and to cover my neck. This simple piece of fabric is essential for me!

 

Adam's Most Valuable Piece of Gear:

Epic wipes were needed after cruising muddy trails in West Virginia with no water hookups for showers in the camper!

Epic wipes were needed after cruising muddy trails in West Virginia with no water hookups for showers in the camper!

BABY WIPES

Why is it Adam's #1 packing item? 

They're a showerless way to clean every nook and cranny on your body-- I mean every nook and cranny;) 

After experiencing South East Asia's toilet hygiene habits for six months, Adam was converted. And it makes total sense--- we heard this from our friend Daranee who's a doctor in Thailand. She put it this way (I'm paraphrasing here): "When you go out to work in the dirt in the garden, you don't come inside and wipe your hands with dry paper towels to clean off-- ew! You wash your hands to clean yourself. Same goes for doing your duty. Why use just dry toilet paper to clean?" Interesting point. Very interesting point. We know:)

 

Be Prepared!

You can snag both of these on Amazon so you're ready to pack them away on your next trip.

 

You'll Also Like:

 

Lindsey's Packing List

Adam's Packing List

 

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Buying a Campervan in New Zealand: Should Your Campervan be Self-Contained or Non Self-Contained? or Certified Self-Contained

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Buying a Campervan in New Zealand: Should Your Campervan be Self-Contained or Non Self-Contained? or Certified Self-Contained

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Buying a Campervan in New Zealand:

Should Your Camper be Self-Contained, Certified Self-Contained, or Non Self-Contained?

 

This is a really important question to ask yourself when you're thinking about buying a campervan in New Zealand

Your campervan’s status of being self-contained or non self- contained determines how easy it’ll be for you to find designated campsites each night.

 

What's the Difference?

The difference between self-contained and non self-contained is about your waste situation.

Self-contained vehicles have their own toilet and tanks to hold the waste inside (everything's self-contained). With this kind of camper, it's easy to park up and camp for the night. 

Non self-contained means your vehicle is not self-sustainable and does not have a toilet or holding tank inside. This means you have to have a public toilet available at your designated campsite each night. 

This was us. We bought a non self-contained minivan that was converted to a camper. We always had to find a designated campsite for non self contained vehicles each night. 

Our biggest help with this: the app CamperMate! The app shows you campsites near you and categorizes them as self-contained or non self-contained campsites. It'll also show you dump sites for self-contained campers. Whatever campervan you get, download the app! It'll be your best bud in NZ!

 

OUR EXPERIENCE BEING NON SELF-CONTAINED

Klondyke Corner Campsite in Arthurs Pass

Klondyke Corner Campsite in Arthurs Pass

We campervanned NZ for five months in our non self-contained camper, Bernie. He was a minivan with a bed in the back:)

We always found a campsite, but for non self-contained campers, it's difficult to find designated campsites in the popular areas like the Coromandel Peninsula, Queenstown, Auckland, and the Franz Joseph Glacier.

In those areas, we found ourselves spending more time and gas money driving further out to campsite locations and passing many self-contained sites on the way. We had our moments of jealousy and wanting our own loo!

Other friends have campervanned NZ after us, and we always suggest to them to buy a self contained camper. 

 

THE SELF-CONTAINED SITUATION

Why is this a big deal? New Zealand has a ton of tourists coming in and they're on a mission to protect their landscapes from tourists dropping their pants relieving themselves everywhere. Totally understandable.

So, many communities prefer tourists in self-contained campers than tourists in non self-contained ones. I totally get it.

So how do you become self-contained?

Officially, self-contained means your van is in accordance with specific standards to protect the environment and public health from bad waste disposal. Essentially, this means a self-contained campervan has a toilet, holding tank, and fresh water for doing your duty.

Self Contained Photo from Backpacker Guide

Self Contained Photo from Backpacker Guide

Self-contained vehicles show proof of being self-contained with this blue and white sticker on the back of the campervan.  

However, folks were finding these stickers and illegally slapping them on their non self-contained vehicles to have more camping options.

To combat this, district councils have designed a new level of proof of certification where self-contained vehicles need to be inspected, approved, and show certification on the windscreen with a green label like the one shown in this picture.  These vehicles are Certified Self-Contained.

Certified Self Contained Photo by CamperMate

Certified Self Contained Photo by CamperMate

If you're leaning toward a self-contained vehicle, make sure the vehicle is Certified Self-Contained. This way, you’ll be able to camp at any campsite in NZ. Campers with self-contained vehicles without certification need to pay close attention to signage at campsites to make sure they’re in a designated area for their vehicle. Some campsites only allow certified self-contained vehicles to camp.

 

Requirements to Be Certified Self-Contained

As of October 13, 2015, New Zealand Motor Caravan Association Inc. stated on its website the specific requirements a vehicle has to have to be certified self-contained.

The vehicle must have “sanitary and safe installation of the following:

  • Fresh water supply: 4L per person per day (i.e. minimum 12L per person)

  • A sink

  • Toilet: 1L per person per day (i.e. minimum 3L net holding tank capacity per person)

  • Holding tank: 4L per person per day (i.e. minimum 12L per person) and monitored if capacity is less than the fresh water tank

  • An evacuation hose

  • A sealable refuse container (with lid)."

 

Types of Self-Contained Vehicles

We saw all types of self-contained vehicles. There are large caravans specifically designed to be self-contained and there are minivans out there modified to be self-contained.

For normal backpacker campers, you have a higher chance of finding a utility van or pop-top that’s self-contained, than a sedan, hatchback, or minivan, simply due to the design and available interior space in the campervan.

 

SHOULD YOUR CAMPER BE SELF CONTAINED OR NON SELF CONTAINED?

Like we shared, when friends ask us what they should buy, we give them our guide book and always tell them to find a self-contained camper. These are more expensive, though, so it's your decision. 

If you're still not sure, here's some benefits and limitations to both choices we found in our five months campervanning NZ. 

 

SELF CONTAINED pROS & CONS

 

BENEFITS OF BEING SELF-CONTAINED

  1. You’ll have more camping options, especially in popular areas of the country.

  2. You won’t have to drive as far to find a campsite each night.

  3. You’ll save money on petrol, since you don’t have to drive as far to find campsites.

  4. You’ll have fewer late night arguments with your travel partner when you’re both tired and desperate to get settled at a campsite.

 

LIMITATIONS OF BEING SELF-CONTAINED

  1. Self-contained vehicles are normally more expensive than non self-contained vehicles.

  2. Most of these vehicles are big and bulky. Some campsites may be difficult to get into and navigate through.

 

NON SELF-CONTAINED PROS & CONS

 

BENEFITS OF BEING NON SELF-CONTAINED

  1. Vehicles are normally less expensive than self-contained vehicles.

  2. These vehicles are smaller, allowing you access down less traveled roads.

  3. These types of vehicles allow you to blend in more like a local instead of standing out as a tourist. Non self-contained vehicles are vehicles local families and local businesses would drive; sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and utility vans.

  4. There’s less maintenance to worry about. With self-contained vehicles you have to worry about fixing the plumbing if anything should go wrong.

  5. You don’t have the added worry of dumping and cleaning the holding tanks on your holiday.

 

LIMITATIONS OF BEING NON SELF-CONTAINED

  1. You have less camping options than self-contained vehicles, especially in popular areas like Queenstown, Auckland, Franz Joseph Glacier, and the Coromandel.

  2. You may find yourself spending more time and money on petrol getting to a designated non self-contained campsite each night.


Ready to Campervan New Zealand, but Not Sure How?

We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide to save you money, time and stress figuring it out yourself. Let's get you on the road exploring right away. 

We guide on where to buy, how to get one on a budget, what to look for when test driving, tips to negotiate the price down, what government forms to complete, how to find free and cheap campsites, and heaps more. 

Your book was soooo stinkin helpful!
— Brooke M.

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Campervanning New Zealand: Should You Get a Petrol or Diesel Campervan?

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Campervanning New Zealand: Should You Get a Petrol or Diesel Campervan?

Photo by Jake Melara

Photo by Jake Melara

 

Campervanning New Zealand:

Should You Get a

Petrol (Gas) or Diesel Campervan?

 

When we arrived in New Zealand and were on the hunt to buy our campervan, we noticed diesel prices were a lot less than petrol (gas) prices at the pump. Seeing this, we started specifically looking at diesel campers to buy to save money on gas.

After doing some research, we realized we were being mislead by the prices shown at the petrol stations.

 

PRICE DIFFERENCE = ROAD USER CHARGE (RUC)

The difference in the prices at the pump is due to when New Zealand has petrol and diesel drivers pay their Road User Charges (RUCs). 

 

WHAT'S A RUC?

A Road User Charge (RUC) is a tax to drive on New Zealand's roads. 

 

WHEN DO YOU PAY YOUR RUC?

New Zealand has petrol drivers pay their RUCs differently than diesel drivers. 

 

PETROL

Petrol drivers pay their RUC taxes when they're paying at the pump for their petrol. The tax is included in the price of the petrol. So, you pump your petrol, pay, and you're on your way.

 

DIESEL

Diesel RUCs aren't as simple because they're not included in the price of diesel. That's why diesel prices are lower on the signs than petrol prices. As a diesel driver, you have to take an extra step and purchase a RUC distance license separately.

 

HOW TO GET A RUC AS A DIESEL DRIVER?

For diesel vehicles, for every 1,000 km you drive, you must pay for a RUC distance license prior to driving the new distance. So, driving a diesel camper requires more work to stay on top of your RUC licenses.

 

WHERE TO GET A RUC? 

Here are some places you can pop in and buy a RUC distance license: 

  • www.nzta.govt.nz/online

  • Automobile Association (AA)

  • BP truck stops, and some BP service stations

  • Post shops

  • Vehicle Inspection New Zealand

  • Vehicle Testing New Zealand

 

PRICE OF A RUC?

Effective on July 1, 2015, NZTA stated that a vehicle less than 3.5 tonnes owes NZ$62 for each 1,000 km license

Depending on where you purchase the RUC license, there may be transaction fees added to the cost of the license, ranging from NZ$4.80 to NZ$7.80 per license.

 

Which is Cheaper: Petrol or Diesel?

Okay, so you pay more for petrol at the pump. But, diesel has all these license fees and seems like more of a hassle. 

Which one saves you money in the long run?

We learned from our research, there’s been a long-standing argument by local Kiwis of which one is cheaper in the long run: petrol or diesel? Many people say the long-term cost is the same.

 

MAINTENANCE COSTS

We also heard a diesel engine is more complicated and expensive to get repaired than a petrol engine. 

 

OUR EXPERIENCE

What did we do? With all this informaiton, we went with petrol. All of our research said the long-term cost was the same, so neither would save us money.

And, diesel seemed like more of a hassle to track of your kilometres and staying current with your RUC distance licenses. It was one more thing to have to think about on our road trip. And, we heard a diesel engine is more expensive to fix if something went wrong.

So, we decided to buy a petrol campervan. You can see more of our experience buying here


Ready to Buy a Campervan, But Not Sure How?

We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide to save you money, time, and stress figuring it out yourself. Let's get you on the road right away in your own camper. 

We guide you on the whole process from where to buy, how to get one on a budget, what to look for when test driving, tips to negotiate the price down, what government forms to complete, how to find free and cheap campsites, and heaps more. 

Your book was soooo stinkin helpful!
— Brooke M.

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Our Top 10 Free & Cheap Campsites in New Zealand

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Our Top 10 Free & Cheap Campsites in New Zealand

Photo by Christopher Jolly

Photo by Christopher Jolly

Our Top 10 Free & Cheap Campsites in New Zealand

We traveled New Zealand by buying a campervan and traveling both the North and South Islands for five months.

These are our top 10 favorite campsites in New Zealand and they're all on the South Island. 

Make sure you download the app CamperMate. You can find each of these campsites on the app along with more information, pictures, and comments from other travelers. The app is also a huge help in finding public toilets, showers, wifi, places to do laundry, fun things to do, markets, and heaps more! The app will be your best bud while you're in NZ:)

We hope you experience these awesome campsites and others like them on your own road trip!

1. OTTO/MACDONALDS CAMPSITE

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location: South Island | West Coast Region | North of Franz Josef Glacier | Off of SH6

GPS: -43.29865, 170.22528

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite sits on Lake Mapourika with the mountains in the background. The bathroom and dish washing area was pretty nice.

Why it’s a favorite: Most of the campers went out in the morning to the lake and went swimming. There was a misty fog hanging over the lake, so it was always a surprise to see the mountains peeking through the fog every little while.  It was a beautiful spot.

2. PURAKAUNUI BAY CAMPSITE

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 17.05.07.png

Location:  South Island | Otago Region | Catlins | Off of Purakaunui Bay Rd

GPS: -46.54605, 169.61319

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non-self contained vehicles

Description: The grassy campsite is right off the beach with views of the deep blue water and huge cliffs to the left.

Why it’s a favorite: The view from this campsite is incredible and a top favorite! The cliffs look like a castle. In the morning the sand and water reflected the cliffs from below.  There were huge sea lions chilling on the beach, too. It was a really cool place, a great surf spot, and we didn’t want to leave! It was also close to two of our favorite spots in New Zealand: Nugget Point and Purakaunui Falls.

3. PAYNE FORD’S HANGDOG CAMP

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Tasman Region | Golden Bay | Off of Takaka Valley Hwy

GPS: -40.88228, 172.81351

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is next to Payne Fords Park with a lot of rock climbing. The campsite is like a parking lot, but the hang out areas and bathrooms are really eclectic. Plus, it had a great shower!

Why it’s a favorite: We enjoy rock climbing, so we got to try new routes in the park. We didn’t have any climbing gear, so we rented from the campsite. The community at the campsite was really great!

4. KLONDYKE CORNER CAMPSITE

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Arthurs Pass | On SH 73

GPS: -43.00205, 171.58941

Cost: Free

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is on a grassy area surrounded by great views of the mountains! The train goes through this area, too.

Why it’s a favorite: One night it snowed on us. The next morning we woke up to a 360˚ view of sparkling white mountains all around. The view was stunning! Then, we hiked the Bealey Spur Track to the top of the mountain.  The view from the top was even better!

Another night, we had a rowdy group of kea (mountain parrots known to be very cheeky) kicking us out of our campsite. They huddled under our camper squawking. We could also hear them biting on the metal parts underneath. It was pretty funny, but keas have been known to cause damage to cars, so we drove across the campsite to another area and they all followed us! The night was a memorable one.

5. WHITE HORSE HILL CAMPGROUND

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park

GPS: -43.71855, 170.09319

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area having you sleep at the base of the mountains and glaciers. The bathrooms and sinks for washing dishes were also clean and great!

Why it’s a favorite: The view of the mountains and the glaciers from the campsite were stunning! We could actually hear the glaciers cracking throughout the evening. We loved this site because we were so close to some of our favorite spots in the country: Tasman Lake, Mueller Hut Hike, Hooker Valley Hike, and Lake Pukaki.

6. FRENCH PASS CAMPSITE

Best Campsites and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Marlborough Region | End of Croisilles-French Pass Rd

GPS: -41.03219, 173.77061

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The camp spots are right on the beach overlooking the water. There’s a dock for fishing and boating nearby.

Why it’s a favorite: The drive out on the windy road was incredible and well worth the mileage! The views of super green paddocks, the deep blue water, and bright blue sky were stunning! The campsite felt like our own and we had an incredible sunset. Huge stingrays were fishing right up on the beach and we went fishing ourselves off the dock with new friends, too!

7. MOKE LAKE CAMPSITE

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Queenstown area | Off of Glenorchy Rd west of Queenstown

GPS: -44.99864, 168.57386

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type:  DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a grassy area next to the small lake and surrounded by mountains.

Why it’s a favorite: This was a cool little nook in the world surrounded by mountains on the way to Glenorchy. The road to Glenorchy is a dream and we would’ve loved to stay longer!

8. SYLVAN CAMPSITE

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You Campervan New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Near Glenorchy | Off of Kinloch- Routeburn Rd

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is in a grassy area surrounded by mountains. It’s a great spot to stay before and after hiking the Routeburn Great Walk.

Why it’s a favorite: We stayed here a few nights and did the Routeburn Track and Conical Hill twice just to see the view from Harris Saddle. Harris Saddle is one of our favorite spots in NZ! The second night when we got back from the hike, we saw the southern lights at the campsite! An unforgettable experience!

9. ROUND BUSH RESERVE LAKE OHAU

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Lake Ohau | Off of Lake Ohau Rd

Cost: NZ$8 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is right on the beach of Lake Ohau with the mountains as the background.

Why it’s a favorite: This area felt like our own and was a lot less traveled. The lake is a stunning turquoise with the mountains as the backdrop.  We met some great folks here who transformed our lives. They invited us into their RV’s to hang out and we were sold. It was at this very campsite where we decided to change our lifestyle. We decided to live in a RV long-term in the USA and continue traveling.   

10. ALBERT TOWN CAMPGROUND

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Wanaka Area | Albert Town | Off of SH6

GPS: 44° 40' 45.5484" S 169° 11' 22.9596" E

Cost: NZ$7 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area outside of Wanaka next to a river.

Why it’s a favorite: The site is only a short drive from Wanaka and from one of our all-time-favorite hikes: Roy’s Peak. We made great friends here at the site and even saw an eclipse through our moon roof in Bernie!

11. GENTLE ANNIE SEASIDE CAMPING GROUND

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location: South Island | West Coast Region | North of West Port | Off of De Malmanche Rd

GPS: -41.52139, 171.94019

Cost: NZ$12 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area on the beach with a cool coffee shop on the property. The pizza is highly recommended.

Why it’s a favorite: We watched the sunset from the campsite’s beach and it was incredible! After the sunset, we met other travelers hanging out around the fire pit next to the coffee shop. The next morning, everyone met again for breakfast in the coffee shop. The awesome location, vibe, and great company made it one of our favorite campsites!


Ready to Campervan New Zealand?

Campervanning is the best way to travel NZ! Buying one is the best way to keep your costs low.

Don't know how to do it? We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide showing you how to buy a campervan to save you money, time, and stress figuring it out yourself.

We guide on where to buy, how to get one on a budget, what to look for when test driving, tips to negotiate the price down, what government forms to complete, how to find free and cheap campsites, and heaps more. 

Your book was soooo stinkin helpful!
— Brooke M.

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