Glyn Demmer once did a training course and, over lunch, the topic of camping came up. One of the students was quick to say that she liked five stars (as in a luxury hotel) but had absolutely no time for a starlit sky. Shame!
It’s that simple – you either like camping and the outdoor life or you don’t. Most of us outdoor folk like sleeping under the stars.
Camping is simply about unrestricted freedom in being outdoors under an African sky and sharing in the glories our country offers. No stringent rules, set times or hotel style regulations. Obviously there are rules to camping and camping etiquette, but they are far less restrictive.
There is nothing that beats the sounds of the bush, the sunrise and sunset and the smell of a wood fire. With a decent tent and the right equipment, campers will always take home those unforgettable memories.
I have camped all over Africa. On one trip to Namibia, we did not even bother to put up tents. We had a laager of vehicles and simply put out our stretchers and sleeping bags. It was a fantastic way to spend a night.
I have had a share of mishaps, though. The most notable concerned a quickly purchased tent that I did not even take out of the bag before departure.
Arriving at the campsite in the Richtersveld after dark produced a few surprises. The tent was indeed designed to accommodate three people, but it was a hiking style tent made in Italy. It was lightweight and about 900mm high, which made for some interesting contortions when going to bed and trying to get dressed. Add to that the over-inflated air mattresses and the first night in the new tent was hellish.
The lesson? It is important to know your equipment, test it and buy the best value for money. It makes things a lot easier.
I have slept in the open, in luxury tents and in roof top tents. They all offer various benefits and the experience of being outdoors.
My most memorable camping venture was perhaps on the Lebombo Trail in the Kruger National Park. Just being able to sleep out in the park was unforgettable, as was the way we travelled, stopping around 10h00 each day to prepare “brunch”, with the endless vista and wild animals around.
Showering is a problem on this type of trip, but fortunately I can usually take a portable unit that provides a quick hot shower.
Always use biodegradable “earth friendly” soap and shampoo, and avoid any run off into rivers and streams.
Learn to pack light. Assess exactly what you will need without sacrificing comfort and wherever possible, look for equipment that has multiple uses.
My favourite is a “Kershaw Blade Trader” – a single rubber handle with six different blades for use in preparing meals.
Stainless steel cups are great for juice, water and even wine in the evening as you take in the sunset. Then there is the coffee early in the morning as the bush comes to life. What more could one ask for?
- Choose suitable equipment within your budget.
- Test equipment before travelling.
- Be sure that you know how everything works, and how to repack it.
- Look for equipment that has multiple uses (cutlery, pots, glasses and lights).
- Look at various options for personal hygiene. Often a roof top sack or container draws enough heat from the sun to provide a warm shower.
- Carry spare mantles for paraffin or gaslights as a rough trip can damage them. Spraying mantles with hair lacquer often keeps them intact.
- Ensure that you have adequate water for each day.