If you are thinking of setting off on the journey of a lifetime in New Zealand, hiring a campervan is a great option for anyone. It is not only the most fun and adventurous way to travel, but also enables you to camp amongst nature, and often completely for free! So, when doing your research for campervans in New Zealand, you might come across the term ‘self-contained’. This article will explain what it means, and why it’s so important.

People laying in back of campervan in sleeping bags

What does self-contained mean?

In New Zealand, there are plenty of opportunities to camp for free or ‘freedom camp’. This means parking in designated camp places for the night which don’t cost a cent. As this form of travel is so greatly popular in New Zealand, there are pretty strict laws on who can and cannot freedom camp, depending on what amenities your vehicle has on board.

Self-contained vehicles are more environmentally friendly, as they eliminate waste and store it in the campervan. This is extremely important to preserve New Zealand’s clean environment and ecology.

What does a campervan need to be classified as self-contained?

To be classified as ‘self-contained’, your vehicle will need to have a few particular items on board. When they have these items, they should be eligible to receive a ‘self-contained’ certificate. You will commonly see these blue stickers on the back of campervans in New Zealand. They are government approved and freedom camping without one will make you liable for a hefty fine if you get caught. To obtained one of these stickers, the campervan will need to have:

  • Toilet – either portable or fixed
  • Grey water tank
  • Freshwater tank
  • A rubbish bin with lid
  • A sink with water trap connected to a waste water tank

Even if a campervan has a toilet it does NOT MEAN that your campervan is self-contained. Ensure during the booking stage to book a self-contained campervan – to be self-contained you do require the self-contained certification plus a toilet. A toilet alone does NOT MEAN that you are self-contained!

Campervan driving through a forest in New Zealand

Are our campervans classified as self-contained?

If you do wish to freedom camp whilst in New Zealand, make sure you do your research which campervans enable you to do so. Our campervans in New Zealand come with the option to make them self-contained:

You’ll just need to add a ‘porta-potti’ which is a portable toilet – everything else is built into the van. Then, you’re on your way to freedom camping in some of New Zealand’s most spectacular locations!

Worried about not being self-contained? Don’t be! Due to new NZ regulations the Kuga Campervans will only be self-contained for travel up to 6th of of December 2024 yet there are plenty of campgrounds around New Zealand that allow you to Freedom Camp e.g. there are over 160 DOC Nature Campsites around NZ that cost you as little as $95 for a total of 30 nights!!! For more info check out our article about Non-self contained campgrounds

So where can I camp for free?

Just because you have a self-contained van doesn’t mean you can just pull up wherever you like and sleep the night. It does, however, mean there are plenty more spaces in which you can do this. We suggest downloading the Travellers Autobarn road trip app, which is a fantastic way of finding campgrounds in New Zealand – paid or free. The maps will locate paid campsites, free campsites, mid-range campsites, campsites for self-contained campervans only, and much more. Some of our favourites?

  • Rankers Koha Camping (North Island)
  • Long Beach Domain (North Island)
  • Lake Pukaki Rest Area (South Island)
  • Robin Hood Bay (South Island)

Freedom camping is the best way to travel New Zealand on a budget! We have plenty of freedom camping tips, check them out or check out our Freedom Camping article library here…

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your adventure of a lifetime, and hire a campervan with Travellers Autobarn!

Campervan in a campground next to a lake in New Zealand

About the Author

Bastian Graf

Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.

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