Camping For beginners

Alexandro Faria

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So I wrote a (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- I don't take stuff personally.


Weekend Warrior- what you’re gonna need


We’ve all been there- it’s the end of a tough day at the end of a rough week and the end of a rubbish month. You’ve managed to leave work without the boss getting the chance to do the “before you leave…” and you’re off to the campsite for a well-earned few days away from traffic and the office. You know it’ll be a rough drive- Friday afternoon madness is no joke- but you’re 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 can’t make sense of anything. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve been in both boats and having too much with you can detract from a trip just as much as not having what you need.
13770312_10154464910957369_5516771027739698028_n.jpg

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

So what’s too much and what’s not enough? Well, the only person that can answer that question is your- it’s very subjective. However, what we’re 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 doesn’t lend itself to hours for setup- you don’t want to spend half of day 1 getting it all prepped when you only have 2 nights. It’s 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 won’t want to spend the weekend wishing you had brought that extra blanket or an electric kettle- it’s likely that you’ll 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 I’ve 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 “camping” bag or box is awesome as it saves a lot of time and frustration, so too does having a list of what’s in it pasted on the top of the lid.

Pick it up, toss it in the car and that’s half the job done- just don’t forget to top it up as you use up the items within.


2) Have a camping checklist

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

I’ve had it happen more than once: I’m 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, it’s just better to have the list. You can go off experience, or you can print one off the interwebs, there’s a lot of good lists online- make use of them.

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(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. I’ve 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 “repair” the other enough with cable ties and duct tape- both of which NEED to be in your “essentials” bag- to get us home.

It’ll save you time, frustration and wallet-ache… Just do it.
70878211_10157747366307369_2546647102352523264_o.jpg

(My Sabi dilemma)


4) Cook beforehand and embrace one-pot meals

It’s hard to enjoy your limited time off if you’re constantly doing the “prep, cook, clean cycle” and nothing ruins a chilled evening (for me) like dishes do. Whether it’s 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. It’s 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 it’s 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 don’t need them. Nor do you need those silver spoons. I admit I’m biased here- I hide it well, but I really despise washing dishes at a campsite. I know, you weren’t aware.

The word of the day is “simplicity”, so make it work for you. 2 prep knives (one cerated) are all you need, mugs work for all drinks (tea to vodka) and paper plates are your best friend. You’re not trying to impress the in-laws, you're trying to have a good time, don’t 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 shouldn’t 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 (que 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 don’t forget it (see point 2).

Third, BUY A DECENT GAS COOKER. On the odd occasion that you do want to cook something from scratch, it’s 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 can’t explain how useful it’s been over the years. If you can’t 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 that’s more than enough for a weekend. We use our phones for everything from emails to music, so they’re used a lot, but the 2 banks (20000mAh) are more than enough.

  2. A jumpstart kit- Cool little gadgets which aren’t actually too expensive. The one I currently use seconds as a battery for my computer on weekends where it’s impossible to escape my studies. It’s also nice knowing that you have a way of jump-starting your car if the situation arises, and it has.


8) Play it safe

Don’t 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 don’t 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 ment 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 don’t always know how close the nearest hospital might be.


9) Let there be light

You’ve stumbled out of your tent, navigated the chairs and bottles left outside your tent (it happens, but it shouldn’t) and you’re approaching that sweet spot where it’s okay to empty your bladder. All of a sudden your little toe feels like it’s going to explode and you’re on the floor cursing like a sailor- you forgot the table.

This can be avoided by having a headlamp on hand and you really should have a good one. It’s tempting to think you can just use your phone’s light- it’s not enough and you don’t always have your phone to hand, please don’t 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). They’re cheap, light and rechargeable, they’re awesome and they can be used at home when Eskom does their thing.
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(Fire!.. and light)

10) Keep cool

Your cooler box holds your beer and your beer needs a good home. You care about your beer, it’s been there for you through thick and thin, so don’t stick it in an el cheapo cooler. Jokes aside, a good quality cooler will save you from many a headache- I’ve had too many leaky coolers (think about your car) or coolers that just don’t 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 they’re thawed out- you really don’t need a car fridge for a long weekend trip.




So that’s 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, it’s 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 haven’t covered it here!
 
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CoElkHunter

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Great information! BTW, you can freeze canned beer and it will last several days inside a cooler without ice. I’ve done this a few times when ice wasn’t available.
 

Tanks

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Well, good points.

My approach is a bit different in regards to tents. I like rooftop tents as shown below. When opened up it is 42 square feet of space. Big enough for me and a couple of my close friends. ;)
It also has a built in two inches of memory foam so unless one wants to no sleeping pad is needed.



The car actually provides 110V power by default through the plugs in the back (car needs to be running though). I do use a folding table and comfortable folding chairs.

Like you said meal prep is important. I fix Sous Vide steak etc., so I just need to brown it 90 seconds a side on a portable grill if a fire is not allowed. If allowed I just use the fire that is built.

I have various lists that I update (Safari checklist, NA hunting checklist, pistol competition checklist etc., etc.) and a camping checklist is one of them.

For lights I have https://gofsr.com/products/readylight . They gave one to me for free when I bought my tent. It has removable small lights with a hook that one can bring inside the tent and it can be recharged via a solar panel that is built in or by just plugging it into the cigarette lighter if one is traveling between campsites.

One thing I have found invaluable is an entrenching tool that can do multiple duty. I have this one and have been happy with it.
https://www.amazon.com/Mempa-Multi-...ds=trenching+tool&qid=1594763976&sr=8-17&th=1

Of course, most important is also having the ability to defend oneself. I carry my pistol on me and have a shotgun loaded with #00 buckshot within easy reach.

 

Ridge Runner

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Great topic to start and there should be a lot of good responses.

There are two types of packing lists no matter where one lives:
Spring and summer/ fall and winter.

Or perhaps three:
Spring/fall, summer, winter depending on where one lives.

Then there are three categories of camping:
1. Rough camping
2. Trekking camping
3. Home away from home

Inside the about 3 categories are sub categories:
location
activities related (ie. hunting, fishing, climbing, etc)
rest and relaxation (ie. just getting away and out of the house, city)
short or long camping trip

Although several good recommendations/ suggestions have been covered, no matter what kind of camping one is planning these items should be on everyone's basic packing list:

Hatchet, machete, multi purpose folding shovel (aka entrenching tool) (for firewood, brush clearing, general purpose use)

At least 1 preferably 2 knives

Cordage, (paracord, rope)

Matches, lighters, fire starters

Really good medical/first aid kit

A plastic or vinyl tarp (8 ft x 8 ft minimum)

At least 6 chemical lights

A compass and topographic map of the area. (If your camping trip is somewhere other than a camper parking lot at the local park or lake)

Some sort of light blanket

A tin cup

At least 2 dehydrated meals, granola bars, 2 quarts of water, roll of toilet paper, flashlight with 2 extra set of batteries, small mirror, small magnifying glass, and a whistle.

Any other items required are packed according to the type and purpose for the camping trip.

Things like tentage, portable gas grill, propane tank(s), food, drinks, water, sleeping bag(s), blankets, cot(s) and/or air mattress(es), skillet, cooking utensils, paper plates and cups, paper towels, wet wipes, cooler(s), ice, lanterns/flashlights, clothing, wash clothes and towels, toiletries, porta potty, generator, extra fuel for the vehicle, emergency vehicle battery charger, tow rope/cable, cable ties, duct tape, firearm and ammo, bug repellent, sun screen, hiking gear, fishing gear, hunting gear, various types and sizes of bungee cords, camera with accessories, binoculars, etc. etc.

Camping items as OP mentioned, can be pre packed and stored. As a suggestion pack these items accordingly:

1st container for tentage and sleeping gear,

2nd container for cooking equipment, paper plates, plastic ware, paper towels,
dish soap and other cleaning items

3rd container for lighting, toiletries, first aid, emergency vehicle items, cordage, bungee cords, cable ties, sun screen, bug spray, wet wipes, duct tape, other small items

By having these containers labeled one can easily pack everything into their vehicle and go, or can pick and choose what is needed if just putting together a backpack for a day or weekend trail hike.
 

Zambezi

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Good list and only two things I would say:

Unless I missed it, chairs... those fold up spider chairs take no space and a weekend without a chair usually sucks.
Secondly, tourniquet... unless you KNOW how to use them rather don't.
Download the African Snakebite Institute app on your phone
Take extra water... can never have enough for drinking, washing and diluting other liquids;)

You're spot on with the lists, prepared meals (unless it is just the boys then it's meat and bread rolls and not much else) and camping bag / box... if those are refilled and used properly it takes five mins to pack and go.
 

Tanks

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Good list and only two things I would say:

Unless I missed it, chairs... those fold up spider chairs take no space and a weekend without a chair usually sucks.
...

Both the OP and my response mentioned chairs. I do agree weekend or longer without a chair sucks.

One thing though, most camping locations that one would take a car are pretty close to civilization so there is no need to take everything but the kitchen sink. Last year I camped for two weeks in Northern CA with my dog while getting certified as a dog trainer. Obviously, I did not pack two weeks worth of supplies as I could replenish the basics from local stores.
 

Zambezi

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Sorry must have been distracted by people asking me work related questions while I'm at work :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:

Also agree with the over packing thing... one can't pack a full cruiser inside a short wheel base Landy.

Also forgot, make SURE you have enough cigarettes. then double that!

And take along a toolbag and spare fan belt, etc... and kit to get you unstuck such as snatch straps, tow ropes etc.
 

CoElkHunter

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You guys are scaring me now! When I finally make it to Africa, I guess now I’ll have to bring my 30lb elk hunting pack minus the extreme cold weather gear! Water filter, numerous lighters and flint, first aid kit and survival kit, compass , GPS, hammock with mosquito fly( if I won’t get eaten by lions, hyenas or Tasmanian devils) compressed sleeping bag, emergency pancho and sleeping bag, jerky, sardines, trail mix, numerous bottles of water (they actually won’t burst in minus 0 degrees), etc., etc. I WILL be prepared to be lost in the bush for awhile!
 

Ridgewalker

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All great info! Alexandro, I didn’t know Defenders leaked oil! I always heard any UK vehicle suffered from “electronics by Lucas...Prince of darkness!” My personal experience was an MG Midget that was constantly getting shorted wires!:LOL::ROFLMAO::eek:

Good thread you came up with! I just had to wise off.
 

Tanks

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You guys are scaring me now! When I finally make it to Africa, I guess now I’ll have to bring my 30lb elk hunting pack minus the extreme cold weather gear! Water filter, numerous lighters and flint, first aid kit and survival kit, compass , GPS, hammock with mosquito fly( if I won’t get eaten by lions, hyenas or Tasmanian devils) compressed sleeping bag, emergency pancho and sleeping bag, jerky, sardines, trail mix, numerous bottles of water (they actually won’t burst in minus 0 degrees), etc., etc. I WILL be prepared to be lost in the bush for awhile!

I think we are talking general camping on our own. For Africa, the gear an outfitter brings to a camp far exceeds what I would take to any camping adventure anywhere on my own and I would just bring what would fit in a small suitcase. I am paying him to take care of those details instead of me. :LOL::LOL::LOL:
 

sambarhunter

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1991 iirc on a walk in hunt in Victoria Australia.
We pre cut the wood and stored our gear when vehicle access was open then walked back the 23 kilometres after the gates were shut to our camp...we ate deer! Note the double bread tin for cooking our bread.
Life under a simple tarp for me is the best.

camp wood supply.jpg
 

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Did a fun backpack trip for a couple nights with my teenage daughter. She loves to fish and we were targeting grayling in the high uinta mountains. Backpack camping could use it’s own thread But one thing we really loved were inflatable, solar charging lanterns.
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RuthMorrisonMR

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Planning a trip next summer in Africa! So your tips are on time! I started to make my checklist and I follow all your top camping tips hints and reviews. Oh my Gosh, I don’t know how I will withstand the hot weather. I also thought to buy a roof tent, maybe no lion would visit me. I think I will get along with giraffes, fortunately they are vegetarians. Just kidding! Wish me luck guys. It will be my first trip on another continent! It's challenging, at least I won't be single. Thhanks once again for your pieces of advice an see you with another post with pictures!
 

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