If you are just starting out with camping, you can feel confident in knowing that camping is also a safe and fun way to spend a weekend. Here are tips and activities you can enjoy while camping.
The most common mistakes people make when camping
1. Choosing the wrong size tent
Never trust the manufacturer’s sizing when buying your canvas, especially if doing so online. For a “three-man” tent, read one man and his kit, or a happy couple prepared to spoon. Unless backpacking, always go two or three capacity ratings higher than the actual number sleeping in it.
2. Not testing all your equipment beforehand
The last place you want to discover missing tent pegs, a broken sleeping bag zip, a snapped washing line or a leak in the air mattress is when you’re four hours drive away from any means of sorting out the problem.
3. Arriving late at the campsite
Plan to arrive in good time so you can spend a while looking for a good patch of flat, dry grass that won’t flood if it rains, with no overhanging branches. Familiarising yourself with the site and its important conveniences – such as showers and water supplies – is best done in daylight.
4. Relying on a campfire for cooking
Everyone loves the pleasure of outdoor cooking, but don’t let it go to your head. Even the most staunch braai fan will be sick of flame-charred meat after a few days. Pack a decent gas cooking stove and spare gas canisters too. Oh, and matches, ideally kept in a waterproof container.
5. Going too basic in the bedroom
Going too survivalist is a mistake. You won’t sleep well and you’ll hate going to bed. If you know you’ll long for pillows, pack them. Ensure sleeping bags are going to be warm enough for the weather forecast and that you always have an air-filled layer between your bag and the ground. Earplugs and eye masks are also a good idea should you want to sleep past 7am.
6. Going too Gordon Ramsay with dinner
Well before you set off, sit down and plan out your daily meals. But whatever you do, don’t make them too complicated. Cooler boxes have come a long way, but they won’t keep meat for four or five days. Sticking to “one pan” dishes is not a bad idea to lessen sink time.
7. Cooking in your tent
At best, cooking inside causes condensation; at worst, death. There have been some tragic cases where people have asphyxiated themselves using a stove (sometimes even temporary barbecues) inside tents for cooking or warmth. Obviously there is the risk of fire, but carbon monoxide poisoning is a swift and silent killer in unventilated spaces. It’s wise to never cook inside your tent.
8. Bringing insufficient lighting
The nights can get pretty long under the stars and unless you want to turn in as soon as it gets dark, battery-powered or solar lanterns are a good idea. At a minimum, a head torch is indispensable and leaves your hands free to do other things – like reading or (more likely) the washing up. Again, check that it works before leaving, and pack extra batteries.
Colour-code your tent or gazebo poles
Colour-coding each pole of your tent or gazebo can make camping a lot easier. There’s nothing worse than having to stumble about in the dark while trying to figure out which poles go where.
Simply attach the same colour stickers to the poles that fit together for easy assembling.
• Fill empty Tic-tac holders with spices so that you can add flavour to your potjie!
• Zip two single sleeping bags together to create a double.
• Battling to get your braai going? Doritos make for great kindling!
• Use giant foam floor tiles for a softer floor for your tent.
• Strap a belt around a tree and use hooks to hang up camping pots and cooking implements.
• Make a natural tick repellent by mixing 1 part tea-tree oil to 2 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray onto shoes, socks and
trousers to keep ticks at bay.
The things we easily forget:
• Mosquito repellent • Multi-tool • Sunscreen • Gas lamp/ battery- or solar-operated lamp/ flashlight • Binoculars for the birdwatchers • A small tool kit with the basics of screwdriver, cable ties etc.
• Extra rope, some pegs and washing detergent (you never know when you’ll want to do a bit of washing)
• Hammer (in case the soil is too hard for tent pegs)
• Medical kit with the basics
• Extra toilet paper (for when nature calls often)
• Power supply (a lot of campsites have power but don’t pitch up with your regular three-pronged plug – it might not work. Make enquiries as to whether or not you’ll need a caravan adapter)
• Air pump for your mattress
How to eat outside by Genevieve Taylor – Nothing tastes better than a meal eaten outside. Genevieve’s brilliant new book is packed with recipes, inspiration and practical advice for pain-free delicious cooking, eating and having fun in the big outdoors. R410, www.takealot.com.
Kids camping activities:
Capture the flag: This game can be as simple or complicated as you like. Split up into teams, pick a flag, pick a base and let the chasing begin.
Nature Noughts and Crosses: Use sticks, rocks, pine cones, or anything collected around your campsite for a quiet and fun game of noughts and crosses!
Firewood building blocks: Before lighting up your campfire, let the kids stack the firewood. Build towers and structures. Let them use their imagination before setting it all ablaze!
Target practice: Nerf guns and empty toilet paper tubes make up this easy camping activity. If you have sling shots (catties) bring them along.
Tin can lanterns: Let each camper make his own little lantern to hang around the campsite. The best part is … tin cans are FREE!