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  1. #1
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    Default Camping for beginners

    So I wrote a ( what was meant to be) short article on tips for the weekend camper and I thought I would share it with you guys. I'm really enjoying this process and I would obviously appreciate any comments or criticism you guys may have. No links or mentions, so I shouldn't be stepping on toes this time ;)


    Weekend Warrior- what youíre gonna need


    Weíve all been there- itís the end of a tough day at the end of a rough week and the end of a rubbish month. Youíve managed to leave work without the boss getting the chance to do the ďbefore you leaveÖĒ and youíre off to the campsite for a well-earned few days away from traffic and the office. You know itíll be a rough drive- Friday afternoon madness is no joke- but youíre itching to pitch the tent, crack open a cold one and chill (not necessarily in that order).


    However, what is meant to be a weekend escape from the usual insanity can quickly turn miserable if you 1) Forget a piece of essential equipment (a kettle in the middle of winter), or 2) Take so much stuff that you canít make sense of anything. Perhaps itís just me, but Iíve been in both boats and having too much with you can detract from a trip just as much as not having what you need.

    (Sometimes it's okay to overdo it, but not always...)

    So whatís too much and whatís not enough? Well, the only person that can answer that question is your- itís very subjective. However, what weíre going to try and do (and hopefully not completely suck at) is share our ideas and experiences with you in the hope that it makes your next (or first?) weekend trip that much more comfortable.


    First, and most importantly, we need to strike that balance: A weekend trip doesnít lend itself to hours for setup- you donít want to spend half of day 1 getting it all prepped when you only have 2 nights. Itís also unlikely that you want to spend most of your time cooking and cleaning- we already spend too much time doing that at home. In contrast, you also wonít want to spend the weekend wishing you had brought that extra blanket or an electric kettle- itís likely that youíll end up going home grumpy and unreasted, which kinda defeats the point.


    All that considered, here are our top 10 suggestions for that life-saving weekend trip. This coming from the guy who forgot his tent poles at home on a 2 week trip to Kruger, so know Iíve suffered for my art.


    1) Be prepared

    Tent poles aside (fool), my first suggestion is this: have a camping box or bag and keep it packed. This bag should have all your essentials (matches, firelighters, paper plates and towels, cutlery etc) and a few extras you would usually pack the night before (jocks, socks, a blanket and a shirt).

    Speaking from experience, having a dedicated ďcampingĒ bag or box is awesome as it saves a lot of time and frustration, so too does having a list of whatís in it pasted on the top of the lid.

    Pick it up, toss it in the car and thatís half the job done- just donít forget to top it up as you use up the items within.


    2) Have a camping checklist

    Youíre stressed, youíre tired and youíre overworked. All you can think about is is how awesome this weekend is going to be and itís so easy to forget something really important, even if itís something obvious (like tent poles, perhaps?).

    Iíve had it happen more than once: Iím on my way to my venue and all of a sudden my heart falls into my stomach, followed by my gracing the immediate vicinity with wonderfully colourful language. Why? Because I forgot a pillow or my shoes (yes, my shoes) or the gas canister (which sits next to all the other cooking stuff I remembered to pack?).

    Trust me, itís just better to have the list. You can go off experience, or you can print one off the interwebs, thereís a lot of good lists online- make use of them.


    (no pillow= painful neck)

    3) Keep up to date with services

    Please, for the love of all that is beautiful and mysterious, make sure your car is serviced. This applies to life in general, not just camping. Iíve had 2 major issues occur while driving back from a trip, both of which were close to petrol stations (one of which was the first we had seen in almost 200km) but both of which could have been seriously problematic. As it was, one of them ended up costing me an extra 10k and 3 days. Thankfully, we were able to ďrepairĒ the other enough with cable ties and duct tape- both of which NEED to be in your ďessentialsĒ bag- to get us home.

    Itíll save you time, frustration and wallet-acheÖ Just do it.

    (My Sabi dilemma)


    4) Cook beforehand and embrace one-pot meals

    Itís hard to enjoy your limited time off if youíre constantly doing the ďprep, cook, clean cycleĒ and nothing ruins a chilled evening (for me) like dishes do. Whether itís a bean salad, sausages or malva pudding, just do it at home. Invest in some good tupperware and thank me later.

    Having cooked food that just needs to be heated through makes the world of difference- you finish a 90 minute task in 15, tops, and you have far less cleaning up to do. Itís near heaven when you get back from a day of hiking or fishing and all you have to do is warm up the soup you made at home.

    Finally, if you do need to cook, keep it simple. There are some awesome camp cook books around and itís amazing what you can achieve with minimal items and effort- leave the 3 course meals for when you can actually load the dishwasher.


    5) Kitchen simplicity is your friend

    Wine glasses are great, but you donít need them. Nor do you need those silver spoons. I admit Iím biased here- I hide it well, but I really despise washing dishes at a campsite. I know, you werenít aware.

    The word of the day is ďsimplicityĒ, so make it work for you. 2 prep knives (one serrated) are all you need, mugs work for all drinks (tea to vodka) and paper plates are your best friend. Youíre not trying to impress the in-laws, you're trying to have a good time, donít let your ego get in the way of that- only take what you need.


    6) When not to be cheap

    Bargains are awesome, but there are things you simply shouldnít skimp on as they make things so much easier.

    Firstly, get yourself a really decent thermos. Whether you use it to keep your coffee hot on that early morning game-drive or for hot water once the fire dies down (a good trick), a good thermos goes a long way to making things comfortable and enjoyable.

    Secondly, a folding camp table. I drive a defender (cue oil leak jokes) and we have a small folding table that fits perfectly into the bottom of my boot. It takes next to no space and it definitely makes a difference when I donít forget it (see point 2).

    Third, BUY A DECENT GAS COOKER. On the odd occasion that you do want to cook something from scratch, itís handy to have instant fire available to you. It also means you have a way of heating up the kettle in the morning when the coals are cold and the side of your tent is frozen.


    7) Power is king

    I have a second battery in my car and I canít explain how useful itís been over the years. If you canít spring for a second battery, fret not, there are other options, each of which are awesome in their own right, but put them all together and you have another beast entirely- it makes things much easier.



    1. Powerbanks- We have 2, neither of which were cheap, but we get 4 full charges out of each and thatís more than enough for a weekend. We use our phones for everything from emails to music, so theyíre used a lot, but the 2 banks (20000mAh) are more than enough.
    2. A jumpstart kit- Cool little gadgets which arenít actually too expensive. The one I currently use seconds as a battery for my computer on weekends where itís impossible to escape my studies. Itís also nice knowing that you have a way of jump-starting your car if the situation arises, and it has.




    8) Play it safe

    Donít kid yourself, you need a good first aid kit- buy once, cry once. Stick it under your car seat and keep it there. Ours gets a fair bit of use- burns, splinters and cuts happen fairly often and it can get nasty quickly if you donít have a way of dealing with the wound.

    I once had a (tipsy) friend slice through his leg with a skinning knife while opening a bag of wors. We had all been partying a little too hard to get him to an emergency room safely, but the disinfectant, wound closing strips and bandages meant we could treat it effectively enough to allow us to wait till morning.

    Lastly, make sure it has a tourniquet and make sure you know how to use it. Be responsible when you have fun- you donít always know how close the nearest hospital might be.


    9) Let there be light

    Youíve stumbled out of your tent, navigated the chairs (you NEED to have comfortable camp chairs) and bottles left outside your tent (it happens, but it shouldnít) and youíre approaching that sweet spot where itís okay to empty your bladder. All of a sudden your little toe feels like itís going to explode and youíre on the floor cursing like a sailor- you forgot the table.

    This can be avoided by having a headlamp on hand (or head) and you really should have a good one. Itís tempting to think you can just use your phoneís light- itís not enough and you donít always have your phone to hand, please donít kid yourself.

    Another good option is to invest in some decent hanging lamps. We have 4 (1 for the tent, one for the table and 2 to hang in trees or place on the ground outside). Theyíre cheap, light and rechargeable, theyíre awesome and they can be used at home when Eskom does their thing.

    (Fire!.. and light)

    10) Keep cool

    Your cooler box holds your beer and your beer needs a good home. You care about your beer, itís been there for you through thick and thin, so donít stick it in an el cheapo cooler. Jokes aside, a good quality cooler will save you from many a headache- Iíve had too many leaky coolers (think about your car) or coolers that just donít keep things cool (think about your beer).

    I usually use frozen water bottles- pick your favourite size and go with it. They hold a lot of water (and cold) and you can drink them when theyíre thawed out- you really donít need a car fridge for a long weekend trip.




    So thatís our lengthy list and we hope it helps, even if it just shows you what not to do. Spending time outdoors is always worthwhile and while it may take some time to find what works best for you, itís all part of the experience. Get out there and enjoy our beautiful country- you owe it to yourself.

    As always, we would love to hear what you have you have to say on the matter and please feel free to let us know what makes it onto YOUR essential camping gear if we havenít covered it here!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Camping for beginners

    Thanks a lot! I've glanced through your article quickly and it seems quite useful. I'll spend some more time with it when I get the chance. For me the biggest issue is the time it takes to set up and pull down and pack up. I hope to get some ideas here.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Camping for beginners

    I agree with your post in general, but I have found myself tending more towards minimalism the more I've been camping.

    I've realised I enjoy camping to get away from everything we have in the city. Thus my camping rig often is a tent, a sleeping bag, a small braai grid and pot and a headlamp (things like first aid kit, matches etc are permanently in my car).

    Everything I eat is cooked on the fire, if it needs more than 1 pot or a braai grid, it's missions. Food while camping is sustenance, not a gourmet restaurant.

    I prefer no power, no lights (head torch for emergencies), if it's too dark to see by firelight what I'm doing, I shouldn't be doing it, either I'm sitting watching the fire and listening to the night sounds or I'm sleeping. I don't see the point of sitting up until 11 using artificial light to do something when I can do that at home. This essentially helps to reset my natural rhythm, sleep when the sun goes down, awake when the sun comes up. Nothing better than waking up without an alarm, making coffee on the fire while watching the sky turn from black to blue to orange.

    I can attribute this to doing backpack trails, where you carry everything on your back, so you quickly learn what is essential and what didn't need to come along. Many of them we don't even take tents, which I much prefer to the tented kind, but I digress.

    My favored setup obviously changes depending on how long I'm camping and if people not inclined to minimilsm are joining, but essentially I prefer to spend my camping trying to connect with the wilderness I'm in.

    With regards to ease of setuo, if you are looking for ways to minimize put up and take down time, those instant pop up tents are awesome, they just take up a fair bit of space. But if you're in a car, this isnt an issue.


    Sent from my VTR-L09 using Tapatalk

  4. #4
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Roguemeister View Post
    I agree with your post in general, but I have found myself tending more towards minimalism the more I've been camping. I've realised I enjoy camping to get away from everything we have in the city. Thus my camping rig often is a tent, a sleeping bag, a small braai grid and pot and a headlamp (things like first aid kit, matches etc are permanently in my car).Everything I eat is cooked on the fire, if it needs more than 1 pot or a braai grid, it's missions. Food while camping is sustenance, not a gourmet restaurant. I prefer no power, no lights (head torch for emergencies), if it's too dark to see by firelight what I'm doing, I shouldn't be doing it, either I'm sitting watching the fire and listening to the night sounds or I'm sleeping. I don't see the point of sitting up until 11 using artificial light to do something when I can do that at home. This essentially helps to reset my natural rhythm, sleep when the sun goes down, awake when the sun comes up. Nothing better than waking up without an alarm, making coffee on the fire while watching the sky turn from black to blue to orange.I can attribute this to doing backpack trails, where you carry everything on your back, so you quickly learn what is essential and what didn't need to come along. Many of them we don't even take tents, which I much prefer to the tented kind, but I digress. My favored setup obviously changes depending on how long I'm camping and if people not inclined to minimilsm are joining, but essentially I prefer to spend my camping trying to connect with the wilderness I'm in.With regards to ease of setuo, if you are looking for ways to minimize put up and take down time, those instant pop up tents are awesome, they just take up a fair bit of space. But if you're in a car, this isnt an issue. Sent from my VTR-L09 using Tapatalk
    I like your mindset towards camping. I'd like to be more minimal, but my wife and daughter always join, and then friends get invited etc etc. I want to go camping alone sometime.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Camping for beginners

    The rich man’s way to live like a poor man for a while...

    Just kidding.

    We vary from quite well equipped to adventure biking and also hiking minimalistic.
    Having a choice, I go minimalistic.

    Still a great post

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Camping for beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by Katlagter View Post
    Thanks a lot! I've glanced through your article quickly and it seems quite useful. I'll spend some more time with it when I get the chance. For me the biggest issue is the time it takes to set up and pull down and pack up. I hope to get some ideas here.
    It used to take me almost 2 hours to break camp, I understand fully. There are a few things that will always take time, like setting up a tent. You can get efficient at it, but only to a point. I found I wasted a lot of time looking for things I need in boxes full of stuff I never used- so I scaled down. High-density foam mattresses are a lifesaver too, I won't waste my time with blowup mattresses again.

    I hope it helps. This is by no means an extensive list and I have no doubt that there are guys (and gals) here who can give you some great advice!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Camping for beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by Roguemeister View Post
    I agree with your post in general, but I have found myself tending more towards minimalism the more I've been camping.

    I've realised I enjoy camping to get away from everything we have in the city. Thus my camping rig often is a tent, a sleeping bag, a small braai grid and pot and a headlamp (things like first aid kit, matches etc are permanently in my car).

    Everything I eat is cooked on the fire, if it needs more than 1 pot or a braai grid, it's missions. Food while camping is sustenance, not a gourmet restaurant.

    I prefer no power, no lights (head torch for emergencies), if it's too dark to see by firelight what I'm doing, I shouldn't be doing it, either I'm sitting watching the fire and listening to the night sounds or I'm sleeping. I don't see the point of sitting up until 11 using artificial light to do something when I can do that at home. This essentially helps to reset my natural rhythm, sleep when the sun goes down, awake when the sun comes up. Nothing better than waking up without an alarm, making coffee on the fire while watching the sky turn from black to blue to orange.

    I can attribute this to doing backpack trails, where you carry everything on your back, so you quickly learn what is essential and what didn't need to come along. Many of them we don't even take tents, which I much prefer to the tented kind, but I digress.

    My favored setup obviously changes depending on how long I'm camping and if people not inclined to minimilsm are joining, but essentially I prefer to spend my camping trying to connect with the wilderness I'm in.

    With regards to ease of setuo, if you are looking for ways to minimize put up and take down time, those instant pop up tents are awesome, they just take up a fair bit of space. But if you're in a car, this isnt an issue.


    Sent from my VTR-L09 using Tapatalk
    You make some good points and I agree. That said, I know a lot of people haven't tried camping because they think it's uncomfortable and I want to do what I can to squash this idea. It can be, sure, but having the right things with you can make a huge difference, even for the most decadent "glampers".

    One of the best camping experiences I ever had was on a trail in Drakensburg- very minimalist, unbelievably beautiful. I'd never suggest it to my mother, however. She and many like her need their comforts and they are the ones I tried to keep in mind with the article.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Camping for beginners

    Cheers for the support, everyone. I'm glad that we're having these conversations- we should really be doing what we can to encourage people to embrace camping and all the awesomeness it has to offer.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Camping for beginners

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw View Post
    Cheers for the support, everyone. I'm glad that we're having these conversations- we should really be doing what we can to encourage people to embrace camping and all the awesomeness it has to offer.
    I respectfully and selfishly disagree with this.

    We should discourage people from camping and share it with a select few, resulting in quiet and clean campsites.

    Again just kidding, I get what you are saying

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Camping for beginners

    Thank you for the post!

    In preparing for our first family camp this was helpful!

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