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Jul 28, 2019

Camping for beginners.

Camping for beginners

So you have decided to give the great outdoors a try. It may seem like a very basic task to get done. Pitch a tent or set up you caravan, and you are styling. Well not so much if you don’t know where to start and what basics you need to check on the list. We have put together a quick start guide for camping for beginners. This will make your first camping trip a breeze.

Remember to book your camping site well in advance.

South Africans are extremely passionate about camping and it goes without saying that our camping sites are almost always full. So if you are planning to just pitch up and pitch your tent, you are in for a surprise. It is also advisable, if you are very new to camping, to check out what the sites have to offer so that you can prepare yourself and pack in all the equipment that you may need. A good place to start your search for your perfect get away would be this comprehensive list of South African camping grounds, They also have a full list of grounds in our neighboring countries

Be prepared for any weather

So you have set up and are relaxing in front of your tent sipping on a fine wine from one of the farms you have visited and the heavens open. You dive for cover in your tent only to realize that the special price you went for is not that special at keeping the rain out. I can promise you there is nothing worse than a wet and cold tent having dealt with that first hand. So be very sure to check the waterproof rating of your tent.

When out for the day it is wise to close your tent window covers. This is particularly important on South Africa’s High veld. They day may start out  without a hint of rain but those storms can brew up at a mighty fast rate and could leave you paddling around your tent on return from your adventures.

Check out the fire restrictions

South Africa is a beautiful country that and has a bit of every type of environment for you to explore. A big portion of this is forested and many of our finest attractions are in areas that are heavily wooded. Most of the regular campsites and caravan parks have dedicated fire areas or individual braai areas, so it is advised that those be used to keep your blaze under control.

The same cannot be said for the more wild at heart camping experience where there are no facilities and your off road camper is the only made man item for 100’s of kilometers.  These are the areas where fires are often not allowed. So in order to stick to the “good camper code” it is important to know where you can or can’t have an open fire. Many of our national nature reserves have a no fire policy, so if you wish to avoid a hefty fine, stick by the local rules.

Monkeys and baboons

These critters provide endless hours of entertainment with their shenanigans in someone else’s tent. Not so much when they have gone through yours.  These are crafty little (and sometimes very large) animals that have learnt over time just when and how to reap the benefits of your unlocked grocery cupboard when you are on the river or on a trail run. An unsecured campsite is just up their alley when it comes to an early morning buffet.

These marauding monkeys are quite active in the early morning and in the evening, at about the same time the early risers are heading out for their daily adventure or when you are trying to catch the last bit of sun on the water, so be  careful around those times to have your caravan or tent secured.

 Check your checklist

Arriving at your paradise without a sole in site and be particularly satisfying after spending hours on a dirt road to reach your spot.  Better hope you have been watching Bear Grylls if you have not checked your gear. That lamb chop that you were so looking forward to braai while having your beer will not taste very good raw if you have forgotten your firelighters and matches. Now it is down to rubbing two sticks together.

The same will apply for all of your basic gear, especially if your are in an isolated camping area with no neighbors to borrow from.  So make a check list of all of your essential items and double check it. There is no bigger frustration than not having the right gear for the job. Camping beginners often make this basic mistake

Sleeping arrangements

The very reason this website exists is because of a sleep experience that was, to say the least, one from hell. We had decided that we were going to take up camping for the amusement of our five year old. We got the tent, the cooking gadgets, sleeping bags and the trusty old blow up mattresses.

All went well and we snuggled into our new “holiday home”. Come 10 pm and I was bushed from the days activities but the kids in the play area were clearly not. Tip 1- if you like a quite space, avoid pitching near the play area. Come midnight and the river cowboys came out to play. Whether they were allowed to or not I am not sure, but having them speed up and down in their boats did not help matters. Tip 2 – If you want to sleep peacefully, avoid the riverfront if boats are allowed to run during the night. Or pack in some earplugs. Come 3 am, the inevitable deflated mattress. Tip 3 – If you don’t want to be sleeping on the cold, rocky floor, invest in a stretcher or better yet, hire a caravan from Explorent. I can assure you that the creature comforts are well worth it.

Camping comforts

There a lot of additional items to consider and they can often make for a more relaxed camping experience. Things like camping chairs and tables. A really good alternative to stabbing yourself in the leg through your paper plate is a surface that you can eat off as well as prep on. A small solar fan can keep you cooler and blow away pesky mosquitoes. Lights, lights and more lights. In some camp grounds they kill the generator at 10 pm leaving everything pitch black. The more lights, the less chance of stubbing your toe on a tent peg or falling over a stray bicycle left out by your little camper.

There are a heap of other items that you can take with, the important thing is to decide what type comfort you would like to have on your trip, and add those to your checklist.

For the camping cook

My camping cuisine usually consists of two options, braai or potjie.  But that may not be every ones cup of tea. There are after all some salad lovers out there (somewhere). So it is essential to consider your fresh food storage options in either case. Keeping your perishables fresh if you are far into the bundus can have its difficulties . Most caravans and some off road trailers have a fridge that can be gas or electric, some have a combo of those. If however you do not have that option there are some 12 volt cooler options that can be hooked to a solar set up or a battery bank. Be sure to check on these options though as some do not actually cool things down enough and just keep the hot air out.

If you are on a short stay, you may want to freeze some of the items and keep them in a cooler box. They will generally thaw out enough  over a weekend so that you can use them when needed. If you are in a no fire zone, you would need to look at some form of cooking surface like a gas stove or induction plate. The latter can also be run off battery or solar. If you have made your fire on the ground and not in a braai, make sure that all the coals are dead before leaving your site

Camping for beginners should not be a nightmare experience if you follow some of the basic outlines. This guide is not the whole or complete “camping for beginners bible” but just some useful tips on some of the things you would need to consider. But hopefully these tips will get you on the right track for your future adventures.

Camping for beginners – A rough guide

Category: Camping tips

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