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New Zealand Travel Tips & Questions

What is a self-contained camper?

In short, a self-contained camper-van is one which has the capacity to store fresh water while also completely containing any waste and waste water created by its users. This means all 'grey' water (that which is produced from washing up or showering), septic waste (human toilet waste) and all litter and rubbish.

The major bonus of a self-contained camper is that you will be able to legally stay at hundreds of designated free spots and public land sites which those without self-contained facilities can't.

Even if a vehicle fulfils all the requirements to be considered self-contained it is not official unless it has a certificate issued under the NZ Standard for Self Containment of Motor Caravans and Caravans, NZS 5465:2001. If a vehicle has been deemed self-contained under this scheme it will have a warrant sticker displayed on the windscreen. If you wish to obtain this certification yourself this can be done for around NZ$55. See - for more information.

Aside from the convenience aspect being self-contained instantly makes you more eco-friendly. All waste is disposed of in designated places where it can be treated accordingly rather than just introducing it into the environment where it can contaminate soil and waterways or harm plants and wildlife. Designated dump stations are everywhere. They are often marked on maps and i-SITEs can also direct you to the area's options for disposing of toilet and grey waste.

The following are the exact requirements for a vehicle to be deemed self-contained: 

- It must contain a toilet which can be an integral fixture or the portable type.

- It must have fresh water tanks incorporated which have the capacity to store enough water for each person – 12 litres per person for 3 days.

- It must have a sink that drains into a sealed tank which ideally will match the fresh water capacity per person.

- It must incorporate an evacuation hose with a 3m length for fitted tanks or whatever is required for connection to a portable tank.

- It must contain a rubbish bin with a lid.