Summer Camping Essentials

Contract tracing. Flatten the curve. Herd immunity. Alert levels. I don’t think so!

How about: Backcountry? Backpacking? Car camping? That’s more like it!

2020 has been a year to forget, and what better way to do so than a spontaneous (or expertly planned) summer camping trip to somewhere remote. Off the beaten path. Away from civilisation. One thing this year has been lacking, is a healthy dose of the outdoors. Whether you’re car camping at Tranquilitas, trekking through the Drakensburg, or longing for a night under the stars in Magaliesburg, the only state of national disaster will be leaving these essentials at home.

Let’s start off with the absolute bare essentials.

The first is a place to sleep. First prize is a good tent! What tent do you need? How long is a piece of rope? Your choice in tent all depends on your choice in adventure. For the hiking hermits who like to spice things up and sleep somewhere different every night, you might want something that is lightweight and easy to put up and take down. Local is lekker! The First Ascent Helio 2-person tent is the trekker’s trump card, whether you’re hiking or biking this tent will fit like a glove!

If your tent doesn’t travel well and is literally only going from the car to your very carefully chosen sleeping spot, then a Vaude Campo 3-person tent is ideal. This bad boy comes with some prime, camping real estate – 2 aptly sized vestibules for gear storage or even cooking during the conditions when the weather isn’t on your side.

Speaking of the weather.

Summer in South Africa means a few thundershowers are inevitable, and staying dry means staying comfortable. That’s where a hard shell comes in. We have a rain jacket that has a higher water column than most tents – the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell will have you covered. If you’re a casual car-camper or a hardcore, ultralight purist looking for some milage on the legs, this crucial piece of gear will find itself at home in any camping or hiking kit.

So, now you’re dry, and well rested. Well almost.

A bomber tent without a sleeping bag and a mat is basically a high-tech lawn ornament. Our friends over at Vaude have some great all-round options when it comes to sleeping bags. Ideally, you want to be looking for something that you can tuck into without cooking yourself well-done. The Vaude Sioux 100 is a synthetic bag that packs up really small and takes advantage of being synthetic for that extra bit of longevity. Synthetic bags will never be as warm as down bags, which makes this the perfect addition to your summer camping setup.

Pair this with a bomber sleeping mat, and you’ll be golden. Now, my opinion will tell you to NOT embrace your inner ancient Egyptian and get a ‘mummy’ shaped sleeping mat, unless you’re going to be filling your tent to capacity. If you want something that you’re not going to roll off at least 25 times a night, the JR Gear Venture XL will have your mummified camping partners green with envy.

And remember, the only thing as difficult as your first multi-day hike through the ‘Berg is washing your sleeping bag. A liner is the perfect way to avoid sweating into your bag too much and it also adds those few extra degrees of comfort for when the temperature happens to drop below comfortable. Just be sure to get one that doesn’t add too much heat to your setup – your favourite online gear store has a great line(r)-up.

So, you’re sleeping like a king?

But you’re not living like a king. Yet. When you go camping – whether trekking, hiking, or car-camping – it’s always good to take those few pieces of kit that improve your quality of life.

The first item I usually pack is my Jetboil. I am a coffee snob of note – which might make you think: “what does a Jetboil have anything to do with that?!” Your trusty Jetboil is essentially a high-tech, lightweight, French press coffee maker, and I never go anywhere without mine. Grab yourself the newly upgraded silicone Jetboil coffee press and start your day right with a good old cup of Joe! And when that’s done, you’ve got yourself an all-in-one cook system that boils water before your morning boskak even hits the floor – don’t forget to cover that sucker up, check out this flow-chart on leaving no trace when nature calls in the great outdoors.

If espresso is more your cup of tea – erm, coffee, then be sure to pick up the Bialetti Moka Express – a handy, stove-top percolator. The only thing stronger than your well-trained fingers, will be your morning cuppa.

Coffee is a luxury, but water is a necessity.

Make sure that you stay hydrated with a Nalgene. These huge, plastic vats, when filled to capacity will almost drain the Vaal of all of its water. The guys over at Nalgene have released these tried and tested vessels in some quirky colours, and they come with a lifetime guarantee to make sure that you’re hydrated on all your future adventures. Just make sure that if you’re out on the dirt roads trying to spot some prime game and you need a drink of water, you either need to be wearing your rain jacket, or your wide-mouth Nalgene should be equipped with an easy sipper – otherwise the rain on the outside of the car will be the least of your worries!

If your ice-cold water does happen to evacuate your wide-mouth Nalgene, you can ensure that all your non-waterproof valuables are safe with the Sea to Summit range of dry sacks. I recommend one big enough to stuff your sleeping gear into – the last thing you want, is to be sleeping in a soaked sleeping bag! Your liner won’t save you from that.

For those moments of the day where water rushing onto your person is more acceptable – and almost welcome – those snazzy outdoor showers at Tranquilitas are extremely liberating! I think their only downfall is the fact that you can’t take them everywhere – that would involve some expert demolition and some very unhappy adventure farm owners. Avoid all this by putting your shower in your pocket. How, you might ask? Sea to Summit makes some amazing gear to keep the wet out, but they also make some pretty handy gear that serves the sole purpose of making things wet. Stay clean with the 10L Pocket Shower and take that liberating feeling of showering under the stars with you everywhere.

Now, the only thing we’re missing is somewhere to put all this. If you’re hiking or trekking, you can skip on some of the luxuries to make sure that you don’t over-fill your backpack.

If you’re not into roughing it, then all you need is a duffel bag – for your clothes of course! The size of your duffel depends on which side of the spectrum you are – “I need an outfit for every occasion, just in case!” or “I’ll just turn all my underwear inside-out, that way I can get at least two wears out of them.” The North Face has some great options for both sides of the spectrum and everyone in between!

Lastly, if, like all major metros in South Africa, you don’t have electricity where you’re going, Goal Zero will keep you powered up. The Nomad 7 solar panel is great for solo missions, but more than one Nomad 14 all joined together harnessing the power of the sun will keep all those electronics going while you’re out in the wilderness.

Remember, at the end of the day, there is no limit to what goes into your pack (or car). If you think you’ll need it, pack it. These are just some of my top priority gear items to keep me going – and have fun doing it. So, if you’re lacking any of the above, be sure to head on down to your favourite gear shop or get those fingers moving and surf over to your favourite online gear shop and stock up!

Oh ja, and don’t forget your headlamp! Simon and Garfunkel would not have conceived one the greatest ballads of all time if they remembered to pack their headlamps – and extra batteries!

Until next time, see you guys out there!