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Camping guide for first time campers

Camping in South Africa is a great way to de-stress and reconnect with nature. If you’re new to camping, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out what gear you need and what to expect. It can be quite an expense if you have to get everything at once. It can also be a huge disappointment if you are unprepared and things go wrong. The key to a successful trip is awareness and planning.

Tips to get you started

  1. The most important is some basic gear and equipment which include a tent, sleeping bag, blow up mattress, chairs, table and something to cook on. You could start out by renting the equipment to see if you will enjoy outdoor life this way, or you can go and buy everything you need from outdoor retailers or online stores. It is also a good idea to look at second hand equipment. Just make sure it is in a good working condition.

  2. The weather is very important when planning a camping trip. In South Africa the summer months are the most preferred time of the year depending on where you go. Check the weather conditions and forecast before you go camping and pack accordingly. You need to be prepared for hot as well as sudden cold conditions. Bring warm clothing, rain gear, and sunscreen.

  3. Planning your meals is another important aspect. Bring food that is easy to prepare and won’t spoil easily. Plan meals that can be cooked on a fire as that is the preferred way of preparing a meal when you go camping. Should rain hamper this choice ensure that you also have some non-perishable items like canned food, granola bars, dried fruit and other snacks. Purchase a good cooler bag for your perishable items like milk, eggs, cheese, yoghurt and meat.

  4. Choose a destination and campsite that suits your needs. You might want to go to a national park like the Kruger National Park, or a campsite at the ocean or some private campground. Most campsite have a website that you can go and check out and make sure what amenities are offered such as, restrooms, braai facilities and shops on the premises or close by. It is also good to know what activities are on offer, like fishing, hiking, horse rides, etc.

  5. Setting up your campsite you need to choose a flat and level spot. Make sure to clear the area of any debris, rocks, or sharp objects. Also ensure that campsite is on higher ground and not in a hollow area. If it should rain, you might end up being under water. Set up your tent according to the instructions and make sure it’s secure. Anchor everything to ensure you don’t get blown away if a strong wind starts to blow

  6. Safety is also important and you should check out you surrounding and ensure there are no potential hazards, such as wildlife, uneven terrain, or slippery rocks. It is also essential that you bring a first aid kit and know how to use it.

  7. Leave only your footprints. Ensure when you leave you trash has been taken care and you leave the campsite the same way you found it.


What gear do you need?

This will depend on the type of camping you are planning, how long you plan your trip to be, and the weather conditions you can expect. To start out you will need the following:

  • A tent that your family will fit comfortable into. Make sure it is easy to set up and have good ventilation.
  • Sleeping bags is maybe one of the most important items you will purchase. Ensure it is appropriate for the temperatures you expect to encounter. Sleeping bags that enclose you like a mummy are good for colder weather, but will not be a good idea for South Africa’s warm climate. Make sure it is comfortable. Sleeping in a sleeping bag for the first time can have its downfalls if you are not use to sleep in a confined space. If you don’t want to be sleeping in a sleeping bag your usual duvet and sheet will also do. Don’t forget your pillow.
  • Stretcher or blow up mattress. A stretcher provide insulation and lifts you off the ground, but a blow up mattress might offer more comfort. Choose the one that suits your needs and preferences. If using an air mattress but sure you pack in a pump as well.
  • Camping chairs and a table. This could be the last item you purchase as you can sit on tree stumps or a blanket on the ground. However, a good and comfortable camping chair can never be seen as an unnecessary item.
  • Lamps and flash lights. Unsure you can see what you are doing when it gets dark. If your campsite does not have electricity, there are a number of gas lamps available on the market. It is also a good idea to take along a headlamp or flashlight that make it easy for you to move around in the dark.
  • A camping stove is necessary for cooking meals and boiling water. There are many different types of camping stoves available, from simple backpacking stoves to larger models that can be used for every day camping. It can also be gas operated or use electricity.
  • One or even two cooler boxes for your perishable food items. One cooler box can be dedicated for keeping your drinks cold and be filled with ice.
  • A first aid kit that should include items such as bandages, antiseptic, pain relievers, and any prescription medications you need.

Camping check list

When going camping for the first time and even for regular campers it is a good idea to have a check list to ensure you have packed everything you need. Remember to pack according to the specific needs and conditions of your camping trip. This list is just a suggestion:

  • Tent
  • Ground cover and/or shade shelter
  • Sleeping bag
  • Stretcher or blow up mattress
  • Pillow
  • Camp chairs or stools
  • Cooking utensils, pots and pans
  • Stove
  • Gas bottles
  • Cooler box(es)
  • Ice or ice packs
  • Food and snacks
  • Water bottles
  • Water filter or water purification tablets
  • Plates, bowls, cups, and glasses
  • Multi-tool or knife
  • Liquid soap, sponges and dishcloths
  • Trash bags
  • Lighter or matches
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Lanterns
  • Extra batteries
  • Necessary clothing
  • Rain jacket
  • Warm jacket
  • Toiletries and towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Prescription medications
  • First aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Maps and compass
  • GPS device or smartphone with GPS app
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Books or games
  • Cash or credit cards


Setting up camp is not as difficult as it seems. Most tents come with instructions and be sure to follow the do’s and don’ts of the camp site you have chosen. With a little bit of planning and an open mind, camping can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience for beginners and seasoned campers alike.

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