Newbie to retirement

Submitted: Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 20:27
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Hi everyone,

May I ask a couple of questions of you seasoned travellers?

I am about to hire a motorhome to test the waters of permanency in retirement prior to buying a home on wheels.

I am of the belief that one has time limits of stays, regardless of location, free camping, or otherwise.
This suggests that we need to keep moving. I'm hoping that you can advise to the contrary.

Should I find a shady gumtree by a river, under which to read those books I have intended to read for years, can I expect to stay for say a fortnight before moving on?

I understand the need of limitations, else we might see satellite 'towns' of tents, RV's etc. set up all over the place.

I very much like the idea of leaving a bush site better than when you first arrived. No rubbish, no tracks - and don't remove anything. This makes lots of sense in respect to our fragile grounds and waterways.

I too have realised that such an attitude will make it more welcoming, especially in small country towns to our community of travellers.

Any genuine advice will be most appreciated.

My kind regards in considered thought, in anticipation of your responses,


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Reply By: Athol W1 - Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 20:53

Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 20:53

Most of the 'free' sites, and a lot of the paid sites, do have time limits, just how much that is policed is I guess your question.

I have personally found only a few where there were rangers in attendance every 48 hours ( the beachside areas north of Townsville), however I would normally stop a maximum of 3 nights, and I can not recall ever seeing a ranger at any other 'free' stop.

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Reply By: Member - Core420 - Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 20:58

Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 20:58
It totally depends on where you are. Usually the closer to town, or settlement, the more restrictions there are. Off the beaten track I have stayed for as long as my supplies lasted.
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Follow Up By: Phil O7 - Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 21:21

Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 21:21
Thanks for that,

Makes so much sense. I'm looking for autonomy. I don't want to plug in somewhere
every three days.

Seems that it is feasible to have a solar blanket and solar generator to maintain
a long trek. A mate suggested that it can be done. The only need, which I gather from you, is that
we need only seek civilisation for supplies and water.

Thanks so much for your input.


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Follow Up By: RMD - Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 22:42

Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 22:42
Phil 07
You mentioned a solar blanket AND a solar generator. Aren't they one and the same? If staying off grid for a cumulative long time the solar panel and regulator you have must be able to keep up with the daily demand of DC power you will use. It can be done, but it seems you need to fully understand the gear you need and the limits too. Presumably a house on wheels will have some solar charging feature but it has to be sufficient.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 23:38

Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 23:38
There are many travel planners you can use. Many of us here gravitate toWikiCamps. It costs you $8 for each operating system you wish to use it on (you can download it to several phones/tablets/computers of the same operating system for that $8.) Camping sites that have time limits have that limit listed on each site.

Most of the free campsites we go to do not have time limits.

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Follow Up By: Phil O7 - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 06:07

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 06:07
Thanks RMD and PeterD,

RMD... good point. I do need further understanding of the gear.
I guess I will start to learn more of what you have described
when I hire the motorhome in February.

Peter... that's great news thanks regarding longer stays at
most free camping sites.

I appreciate your input here.

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Follow Up By: Phil O7 - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 07:27

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 07:27
Thanks again everyone for sharing your knowledge and advice with an unknown.

Wishing each of you all the best for Christmas.

Kind regards,


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Reply By: Phil O7 - Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 21:17

Monday, Dec 20, 2021 at 21:17
Thanks Athol,

Your practical reply is exactly what I'm after. Thanks so much.
Hopefully we may converse again.


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Reply By: Member - McLaren3030 - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 09:11

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 09:11
Hi Phil,

Water and power are generally the deciding factors when it comes to “off grid” camping. Many places do not have a limit as to how long you can stay. The WikiCamps app is a great tool, I use it as well, however you need to be aware that it is user updated, so may not necessarily be accurate.

Refrigeration is another consideration. Whilst an absorption (3 way) fridge may seem to be a good choice, they do have their limitations. They are not as efficient as a compressor fridge, particularly in hot humid conditions, even the tropical rated ones. There are more questions on forums about issues with absorption fridges than there are with compressor fridges.

The biggest drawback with a compressor fridge is maintaining your power supply. With LiFePo4 batteries and enough solar capacity you can quite easily stay off grid for as long as you have water. Of course, this is reliant on having enough sun for that time as well, something that you cannot guarantee. A backup generator comes in handy for those occasions. A good rule of thumb is that for every battery AmpHr, you need double the watts of solar capacity. In simple terms, if you have a 100 amp battery, you need 200 watts of solar capacity. Solar Panels need to be in direct sunlight to be efficient.

I mostly camp off grid, and have sat stationary for up to 4 weeks without much problem. I do carry a backup generator, but have only had to use it a couple of times. My caravan has a 180 Ltr. Compressor fridge, no inverter, 200 amps of LiFePo4 batteries, 490 watts of fixed roof mounted solar panels. I also carry a 290 watt folding solar blanket that I can use as backup, although this is mainly used for the auxiliary battery for the fridge in the back of the car. The van has 2 x 80 Ltr. Water tanks, and the ability to have 2 x 40 Ltr. Jerry cans on the back.

Wether you choose a motorhome or caravan for you mobile home, will come down to your personal choice. The biggest drawback with a motorhome is that if you want to go into town, or have a look around the area where you are, you have to pack up your entire camp.

Hope this information has been useful.


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Reply By: Keith B2 - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 10:36

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 10:36
I agree with everything that's been said, but would like to add three extra considerations.

1. You probably with need to fit a good (30-60 amp) DC-DC charger to the bus.
This will speed up charging on the road and will fill in for a generator if batteries get low and there is no sun .

2. You may well find that a good electrical system - 200-400AH lithium, BMS, 500-1000 watts solar, 30-60 amp DC-DC charger, inverter and mains charger or inverter/charger of maybe 1.5KW/40-80 amps - will be the most expensive part of your bus. I would get someone reputable to install an integrated system. My own Victron system is at the top end of these and has been bulletproof. But I hear Renogy is just as good.

3. Which brings us to the delicate subject of the dunny. You can't go crapping in the bush every place you go and may not want to. So one limitation is your need for a dump point. You may get 4-5 days or more out of a cassette on your own and you can certainly carry a spare. But maybe give some thought to one of the new composting dunnies (Airhead or Nature's Head). We have one and it does the two of us for weeks and can be emptied in a plastic bag in the garbage, or even in a remote location in the bush. No smells and no nasties. But if I had my time over I would go for a thing called a Separett Tiny.


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Follow Up By: Member - DickyBeach - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 15:14

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 15:14
I agree with everything all other responders have said and I'm putting forward only the suggestion that if you are forced to have a dump in the bush that you not only first dig a shallow hole but when finished then burn the paper so that when animals inevitably dig it all up there'll not be "confetti" blowing all over the countryside.
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Follow Up By: OzzieCruiser - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 16:10

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 16:10
Keith all good advice for whatever he ends up with in the long term but a bit hard to put in his hire camper.
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Follow Up By: Member - Cuppa - Wednesday, Dec 22, 2021 at 10:52

Wednesday, Dec 22, 2021 at 10:52
Re the Separett Tiny.

We have the larger version, the Separett Villa 9000 in our shed at home. It works very well, but certainly is not a composting toilet. Airflow does dry & reduce the bulk of solids a bit , but at the end of the day you are still just pooing into a plastic bag & when the bag needs removing it is still a bag of poo & paper. Ours goes into a large , 6'deep purpose built covered hole , in compostable bags. Urine is diverted into a conventional covered grey water dispersal trench. Whilst travelling & needing to dig a hole to bury our waste, I think I prefer the idea of a portapotti or casette toilet used with sodium percarbonate. Liquified waste (including the paper) poured into a hole tends to largely soak away & will not be dug up by animals & spread around. I don't think the same could be said of a bag of poo & paper taken from a separett unit, & digging a deep enough hole would rarely be possible & when it was would be really hard work. The bag could be put into a long drop toilet but the dropper may need to explain 'compostable' to any concerned looking onlooker. It could not be emptied into a flush toilet (like a casette/portapotti can) & nor could in be put into a rubbish bin (like the contents of a composting toilet can), so the disposal possibilites of the separett are somewhat limited when on the road. In addition we have our separett vent exit at the very top of the shed's 4m high walls. Occasionally when outside and the wind is right we can smell an odour outside. (never inside). Not really an issue in our location, but with the vent on a vehicle & surrounded by others it could be a problem unless a SOG type carbon filter were fitted which may necessitate an upgrade of the vent motor. So despite Separett products being good, I think their 'mobile' advertising needs to be taken with a pich of salt.
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Reply By: Member - Cuppa - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 14:49

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 14:49
Phil 07,
You have received some good advice so far. I'll add a few thoughts too. My wife & I have been travelling fulltime for a number of years & free camp most of the time. We are in our mid 60's. Our style of travel is without a timeframe & with a preference for the bush, viewing towns only as places to resupply. Not everyone does, for many towns are destinations.

First is about vehicle. If you buy a standard 2 wheel drive motorhome aimed primarily at travel on sealed roads you will find that a *far* higher percentage of the camp spots you can access will be more likely to be time restricted & also quite likely crowded. If you want to bush camp in peace for longer periods you would be wise to purchase a vehicle with preferably 4wd & at a minimum with higher ground clearance. You don't need to go 'hardcore' 4wding to make 4wd worthwhile. The extra capability mutiplies the number of available camp spots to you exponentially. At the very least it enables you to ho that extra half a kilometre along the river bank to that idyllic spot away from the crowds, but once you get out into the bush & the outback you will find places to camp everywhere. Your choices will be so much greater & you can still go to the popular spots along the 'grey nomad routes' for a bit of company now & then too.

In order to do what you want you will need a good solar system. What constitutes that is subject to a wide range of opinions. What you need is a system which meets your needs, & can replenish your batteries to full every 24 hours regardless of whether you are driving or not. Without that you will end up travelling to meet the needs of your batteries rather than what you want to do. There ae different ways to achieve this, some better than others. Don't get sucked into thinking that whart works for someome else will work for you. All of our needs are individual & we all travel in our own way. It makes it hard, but if someone says you need XYZ equipment without asking you about details of how long you like to drive for, what sort of places you prefer to spend time (north or south) type of country (desert , beach, shady forest etc etc) , what appliances you consider essential & how you use them (day or night, how long for etc etc) & a host of other 'user details' chances are that they are recommending what works for them , which may or may not work for you.
Without specifying details I will say that more rather than less solar is good, sufficient battery power to get you through a few days of poor solar weather & a dc to dc charger to properly charge your batteries as you drive in addition to the solar.

Toilet - yes you'll need one, but when you are out bush, (not at popular camp spots) there is always an opportunity to dig a deep hole & bury the contents - this is perfectly acceptable away from where folk camp, & away from any water course. So you'll need a shovel.

The limiting factors to how long you can remain out in the bush are water & food (once you have a power system which can sustain you indefinitely - which is what you need). The larger your water holding capacity the longer you can remain out in the bush. Best spots are by a creek , lake or other water supply. Save the water in your tanks for drinking & cooking whenever you can. River water is fine for washing - clothes, yourself & dishes. Save water when you don't have an external source by not showering - a flannel & a couple of litres in an ice cream tub work well, as does a swim (not with soap). Get creative with re-using & saving water. It our travel outfit we can carry a maximum of 220 litres in two tanks. Two of us have no problem making that last us 3 to 4 weeks if there is no external source - usually there is though. We like stay bush for as long as we can between re-supplying & commonly manage up to 6 weeks, could go to 8, but the diet would be getting fairly 'innovative' toward the end. It is rare over that sort of time frame for us not to come across somewhere we can buy a bit of fresh (or not so fresh) fruit & veg now and then - little stores in small communities. Costs more than in major centres but supports the small communities & is often a good way to connect with locals. If you are in no rush this can be an excellent way to find out about places to stay. More than a few times we have been invited to 'camp down at my billabong'. Travelling slowly without an itninerary helps in finding opportunities & fexibility enables you to take them up.

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Follow Up By: Member - Cuppa - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 15:35

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 15:35
We didn't set out to, but we have also fallen into another means of 'slow travel' over the past 3 or so years. A means of both staying in one place for longer periods & having experiences not available to those who simply 'pass through'.

Conveniently doing what we do saves us money as well as enabling a more immersive ecological, cultural & comfortable means of being somewhere. But we still prefer to do this in remote, rural and interesting (to us) country.

We house-sit & caretake places .

Pender Bay, Dampier Peninsula (coastal north west Kimberley) for 7 months.
Daintree Rainforest for 4 months.
Currently we're on the banks of the Wenlock River, Cape York for the Wet Season, in a house with all the comforts including internet, & all our food supplied, on our own , & fresh fruit & veg delivered weekly via the mail plane. Access to the RFDS in an emergency if required, but cut off via road for several months. Not everyone's cup of tea I guess, but we love it. Apart from those who live & work up here, few get to experience tropical Australia in the wet season. We agree with those who live up here - it's the best time to see the country.

When Covid hit we secured a farm sit 30kms west of Mareeba, rather than returning home to Victoria. It was 'for as long as you like' . We stayed 15 months until the Cape re-opened. Again all the comforts of home in a re-purposed & renovated tobacco barn, the main requirement being our presence, with occasional lawn mowing & counting of the 20 head of cattle to make sure they were still there. As things turned out down south it proved to be a good decision.

Basically there are opportunities out there everywhere for folk with the time. Time to meet locals & time to take up an opportunity when it arises. We don't look for paid work, we don't need to, but it's also out there for folk who want it.

For us each 'sit' fits between our 'moving travels' rather than the other way around. Lots of shorter term possibilites too from a few days to a few weeks, but we are generally only interested in a couple of months plus.

If interested check out our blog, detailing our travel experiences in many areas of the country over the past few years.Blog
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Reply By: Rod N - Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 16:03

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021 at 16:03
You need to consider the GVM, ATM and GCM of your setup. You need to take into account the weight of everything you want to load. Most important to remember that one litre of water weighs one kilogram.
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