Canvas Is King

Alexandro Faria

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Hi guys,

New one, for your enjoyment. Some beautiful spots here. Forgot just how amazing some of these places are- was actually nice going through all the old shots.

Canvas Is King- A Look At Modern Day Camping Options

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(One of the reasons we camp- Segal Rieger)

A quick disclaimer before I get going: About 90% of my camping has been done in a ground tent and while I have spent a fair bit of time in rooftop tents,camping trailers and caravans, I do not (by any means) claim to be an expert on any of them.

With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Firstly, I’m a firm believer in “horses for courses” for just about everything- there’s a reason that there’s so much variety and it’s not just as a result of rampant consumerism. Tents, trailers, caravans and rooftop tents all have a place- there’s no denying it. However, which is most likely to best suit your needs?

To answer this question, we’ll be considering a few different categories and scenarios- just to make it fair- and seeing which is (arguably) best for which situations and under which conditions. This is not to say that the others won’t work, but there are usually preferred options for a reason and we’re going to do our best to expand on these a little.



(See- Canvas in the Kalahari!)



  1. The Caravan

Right, if you’re anything like me (a student) you probably don’t have the money for one of these bad boys as they probably cost more than your car. However, if finances allow, they’re an awesome investment to ensure a bit of homely comforts away from home. It’s likely that you’ll have your own little (in door) kitchen, a (reasonably) comfy bed and a slightly better security and privacy. You also don’t have to worry about packing it up everytime you want to go for a drive, which is a definite down side of the rooftop tents.

However, caravans do come at a cost (both literally and figuratively) that can not be ignored, both of which are pretty obvious. The one is fuel cost- if you want to see the maximum number of litres your car can do per km, pull a big caravan. With fuel prices what they are, this consideration is no joke and one that needs to be taken into account. The second is the effort involved- perhaps it’s because I have limited experience, but I find it really stressful driving around with a big trailer, let alone a caravan. Reversing is a pain and I stress everytime there isn’t ample space, regardless of the situation. In addition, it also limits where you can go (depending on the capabilities) as well as how you can get there.

All things considered, caravans are (in general) AWESOME if you aren’t doing anything too extreme, if you have ample money (and time) and if you’re a fan of your comforts. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesomely built caravans that can handle just about any road, but not every driver can handle the car and the caravan on those roads.

However, if you’re looking for a quick and easy weekend getaway, this probably isn’t the option for you.

  1. Ground Tents


(Merry Pebbles- a Sabi gem. A weekend spent discussing how photographers can play a bigger role in conservation)

Now for the complete opposite end of the spectrum- the good old tent. Not exactly the small, rickety tent thing most of us slept in as kids, but close enough. No, when I talk about tents, I’m talking about strong, reliable canvas tents.

As I said, tents are my niche- I’ve used a regular canvas tent in everything from 42°C desert heat to -10°C (almost) winter nights in the mountains. They weren’t the most comfortable, but they worked and I definitely survived. While not necessary, there are things you can do to make staying in a tent a little more comfortable- reflective coverings, for example. Otherwise, trees are your best friends, except in big storms… Oh, avoid sausage trees and any tree that’s dead. Just trust me on this.

If you enjoy simplicity, a tent is an outstanding option- especially if you can find a “pop up” tent that’s reliable. I find a 4 person tent is just about right for 2 people and minimal luggage.Trust me, you’re going to want that little bit of extra room. Another obvious advantage is price and while good quality tents can be a bit spendy, it’s nothing like buying a caravan or a trailer.

Security wise, all you have is the canvas and you’re not elevated. Theoretically speaking, this leaves you pretty exposed to both 2 and 4 legged predators, so it’s advisable to choose where you camp with a little more care. Bedding and such travel in the car with you, so extra space is needed, but that’s really not an issue if you don’t take unnecessary kit with you. I’ve found high-density foam mattresses to be a real back saver and they take next to no space in the car.

Honestly, camping with a tent is as comfortable or miserable as you make it. It’s awesome to have a camp to come back to at the end of the day and I always count my blessings when I get home to a bed waiting and the rooftop tent guys have to still get things up and going. You need to be a little more attentive and a little more organized, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it and you don’t have to worry about your tent getting stuck in the mud or sand when you're trying to tow it to the next campsite.
So if you enjoy simplicity, have a mistrust of late-night ladder climbing and like to keep things affordable, a good quality canvas tent is probably the best option for you.



(The convenience of a good pop-up tent- Dries Blignaut)


  1. Camping Trailers

Here comes my prejudice, so be forewarned. In my opinion, a small camping trailer is the epitome of camping awesomeness. Increased comfort, but with a reasonable price tag- what’s not to like about them? Whether it’s a long-weekend trip or a 45 day trip across borders, there’s not much that the trailer can’t be used for effectively.

The trick here is to try to keep things as compact as possible, without sacrificing too much space or too many comforts. Unlike most caravans, trailers are usually small enough to move and set up alone, if need be. They’re also not nearly as daunting to pull as they’re usually smaller than the car pulling them- I can’t overstate this point for the new camper. Yes, fuel economy does suffer in comparison to when you just have the ground tent, but it does free up space in the car itself and usually you’re going to have a more comfortable place to sleep at the end of the day.

(A mix of ground tents, trailers and rooftop tents all on the same expedition-Regan Carolissen)

As stated, price isn’t as bad as you might think, especially if you’re open to the second hand market. You have space for your fridge, cookers and so on AWAY from the car, meaning you can travel light, and breaking camp is usually pretty quick (as with caravans) as there’s an easily accessible spot for just about everything.

Security isn’t great as, once again, you’re surrounded by canvas. However, you are sleeping off the ground, so there is that. You do still need to pull something behind you and you do (usually) need to climb down stairs when, invariably, you need to go to the bathroom at 2am.

If you do a bit of everything, have a little extra cash and don’t have the reversing skills of a 17yo still learning to drive, the trailer is really a good option for you.


  1. Rooftop Tents

The absolute bane of my camping existence and not just because I might’ve fallen out of one on a cold, frosty night when, half asleep, I tried climbing down the stairs to get to the bathroom… Fine, that is the main reason and I feel like it’s a reasonable one.

In all seriousness, rooftop tents are awesome if you don’t mind heights and have a little more coordination than I do when still groggy (not hard, I must admit). They’re great for overland trips where you aren’t worried about staying in one place for more than a night or if you don’t have an issue with packing up your bed every morning.

(Fine, rooftop tents aren’t all that bad, especially with a view like this- Segal Riegar)

They do mean that you don’t have to pull anything behind you, but they’re usually quite heavy and having all that weight at the top of already usually tall vehicles can cause issues in certain situations. Keep in mind too that you’ll have to keep everything in the car with you- there is little to no base camp if you don’t take another tent with you and that kind of defeats the point. You’ll also need to set up anew every evening, so keep that in mind when choosing this option.

Despite all my issues with them, roof top tents definitely serve a purpose and many campers swear by them. You have the added bonus of being up high (away from the bumps in the night) and when done properly, they allow for a pretty neat and compact experience.

If you’re the type of “on the go” camper who isn’t too fussed with having to break camp everyday (just about) or if you’re the kind of person to set up camp and not move until the holiday is over, then this is definitely a good option for you to consider. It may just make your experience that much more enjoyable.

As has been said, each of these opinions has its own pros and cons and each are very much valid options. Despite our own preferences and prejudices, we hope we’ve given you a few points to consider and ideas which will help you in your search.


(Freezing our backsides off in the Drakensberg)
Remember, you can’t make memories if you aren’t out there doing it- it’s far better to take the journey with what you have. Don’t stress the details too much and don’t feel bad about making mistakes- it’s how we learn. Get out there, enjoy our natural world and all it has to offer- what you need will start to become abundantly clear.


Acknowledgements

A big shout out and thank you to Mr Blignaut, Mr Riegar and Mr Carolissen for the pictures and input- you guys are awesome and it’s just this kind of generosity that makes the Camping and Outdoor community so unique.



(The joys of friends, family and wilderness- Dries Blignaut)
 

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roverandbrew

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Great post. I’m currently using my roof top tent as I travel across the US. I agree that camping is as uncomfortable or comfortable as you want to make it.
 

Red Leg

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Unless I am hunting - I find it hard to express how much I hate simply "camping." Probably way too many years experiencing the great outdoors with C- Rations or MRE's.
 

Ravensview

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I use both tents and a small pull behind trailer depending on situation, my pull behind is a hard shell pop up made by chalet, real easy setup, tents vary from a simple tarp or poncho liner to a wall tent, I have never used a roof top tent and don’t ever see myself using one— I would probably break my neck trying to get out in the night to pee and my dogs would hate not being in the tent with us.
 

Mort Hill

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One of the few things that I actually am excited about at the end of a safari is returning to my own bed. So I relate to what @RedLeg stated. No camping unless hunting or fishing.
 

MarkB

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Same as Mort and Red Leg, camping without a gun, rod or both does not happen for me. Great thread, Covid so far has NOT stopped my annual BC safari that starts 6 Sept, will be in a tent until 26 Nov, following the species and seasons all over BC. No rooftop, do have slide in camper but trails in are too rough for that so wall tent makes an awesome home for 3 months. Those tent camps in Africa are AWESOME, thanks Wayne, nothing like sleeping in a Coleman tent and asking the PH what the hell is the racket outside, he states hopefully your big bull ele and it was his group. Nothing but great memories in a tent camp no matter where you are.

MB
 

WebleyGreene455

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You drive a defender in the US? That must be a pain regarding parts? Awesome 110- I drive a 90 here in SA.
Are Defenders as... I'm not sure what word to use. Not "unreliable" but...

See, I've wanted a 110 for a long, long time here in the USA (for their historic military application, mostly) but pretty much everyone I've talked to says they're not good vehicles and tend to leak profusely, for example. So I kinda put the idea of getting one out of my mind in favor of, if I could find one, an older model Mercedes G-Wagen or something similar like an American humvee. Plus if I can't find a used one here in the US, the only way I know of to get one is to have it custom-built and imported from England and that costs an exceedingly large amount of money for me.
 

Red Leg

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Are Defenders as... I'm not sure what word to use. Not "unreliable" but...

See, I've wanted a 110 for a long, long time here in the USA (for their historic military application, mostly) but pretty much everyone I've talked to says they're not good vehicles and tend to leak profusely, for example. So I kinda put the idea of getting one out of my mind in favor of, if I could find one, an older model Mercedes G-Wagen or something similar like an American humvee. Plus if I can't find a used one here in the US, the only way I know of to get one is to have it custom-built and imported from England and that costs an exceedingly large amount of money for me.
There is quite a second hand market in them here in the US. That tends to mean higher prices, but that would be nothing compared to a "custom built one" imported from the UK. A machine like that, particularly to American specs, would seem to fall deeply into the "if you have to ask category."

I have almost pulled the trigger on a couple over the last ten years. But they are, typically, a maintenance challenge, and if you aren't personally interested in playing around under the hood or along the drive train (I am not), then there are likely better choices.

What is beyond my understanding is why Toyota refuses to spec the 70 series Land Cruiser for the North American market. The Japanese are pretty astute businessmen, but they have been blindly ignoring a huge market in this country for years. I have even written them hate mail.
 
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Jfet

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Same as Mort and Red Leg, camping without a gun, rod or both does not happen for me.

Camping on the shore of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah.

61594641533__2F85D8F2-CE2C-42F9-889F-476F550B29FD.jpeg


To go fishing on the Green River.

IMG_1583D.jpeg


IMG_1590D.jpeg
 

Firebird

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Jfet-You found one of my favorite places on this earth!
 

WebleyGreene455

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There is quite a second hand market in them here in the US. That tends to mean higher prices, but that would be nothing compared to a "custom built one" imported from the UK. A machine like that, particularly to American specs, would seem to fall deeply into the "if you have to ask category."

I have almost pulled the trigger on a couple over the last ten years. But they are, typically, a maintenance challenge, and if you aren't personally interested in playing around under the hood or along the drive train (I am not), then there are likely better choices.

What is beyond my understanding is why Toyota refuses to spec the 70 series Land Cruiser for the North American market. The Japanese are pretty astute businessmen, but they have been blindly ignoring a huge market in this country for years. I have even written them hate mail.
Aha, well, I have asked, and last I checked, it was around $100K US for a Defender 110, even with some of the most basic stuff installed. Whereas I'm pretty sure I can get a refurbished Humvee for $10-15K at most, for example. But there is a specialty dealer, it seems, East Coast Rover Co. that could help me out, perhaps. But I do hear about the "maintenance challenge" stories, which is another reason why I'm not so sure about one.

But it would still be nice to have a classic British Army Green 110 among all the modern SUVs; you'd never have to worry about getting your car confused for another.
 

Jfet

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WAB

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Firebird

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Great waterfowling as well, but I like the hotel rather than a tent of any sort!
 

Dewald

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Taking a Land Rover defender to the bush is like wetting your powder intentionally.
Thank goodness for the Land Cruiser 76 in Africa.

As to the canvas and camping, I have spent many nights camping in the back of a Toyota pickup, just next to the fire, or in a tent of sorts - from a small bivvy to a canvas tent. Loved it all, but now I tend to want a proper canvas tent in which i can fit a comfortable camping matras, stand up while getting dressed, and hand a Coleman lamp in. Of course it doesn’t hurt if the camp has a kitchen tent or vidal sheet and a hot shower as well.
 

Tokoloshe Safaris

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There is quite a second hand market in them here in the US. That tends to mean higher prices, but that would be nothing compared to a "custom built one" imported from the UK. A machine like that, particularly to American specs, would seem to fall deeply into the "if you have to ask category."

I have almost pulled the trigger on a couple over the last ten years. But they are, typically, a maintenance challenge, and if you aren't personally interested in playing around under the hood or along the drive train (I am not), then there are likely better choices.

What is beyond my understanding is why Toyota refuses to spec the 70 series Land Cruiser for the North American market. The Japanese are pretty astute businessmen, but they have been blindly ignoring a huge market in this country for years. I have even written them hate mail.
Red Leg, You will even be more disappointed in Toyota, they plan on discontinuing the current 70 series in 2022 or 2023. This is the last year for the 4.5T V8. We have on order two 2021 Land Cruisers, with a tourism tax exemption they are just under $32,00000 each. My FJ45 (petrol or my wifes FJ47 (diesel) are still the best and the most dependable cruisers ever built!

I guess all good things are going to come to a end? What are the terrorist going to use for technical now?
 

Ridge Runner

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Alexandro Faria,

You left out another type of camper....actually 2 other types...make that 3.

The Camper Shell and the truck bed camper.

The camper shell comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, prices, colors, and materials.
It can cover part or the full length of a truck bed. Once a person decides which shell is right for them. Imagination is the limits on how to outfit the inside.

Easier on fuel than pulling any type camper, considerably much cheaper, and the "hard" shells are as secure as your vehicle. "Soft" shells are usually a canvas or man-made material like vinyl, PVC, plastic.

The full truck bed, full size camper,are somewhat cramped for two people. Still they are: secure, and easier than pulling a trailer, inside facilities, stove, fridge, pop up table that can be turn into a bed, although limited storage space.

Regardless because both are attached to a truck bed, maneuverability is nothing more or less than being able to park or drive a pickup truck.

Another nice thing about the camper shell and bed camper these types can be relatively easily removed so the truck bed for hauling or other purposes.

Then there is the custom conversion van. Whether a custom ordered van or a do-it-yourself. The custom van is convenient and secure as any vehicle, easily maneuverable.

The other advantage to truck campers and custom van it allows for towing the motorcycle/ATV trailer or boat or attaching the hitch type game rack.

Personally, I am not fond of the full size truck bed camper nor driving a van. I like the convenience of the camper shell.
 

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