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Camping and Caravanning Tips for Beginners

  • Tips/Guides-Tips/Guides

It’s often not hard to spot a seasoned camper. They’re the ones with the super cool cooler box (literally) that keeps ice frozen for days. They’re the people who arrive and set up camp in minutes instead of hours, have settled in with an ice cold beverage in one hand, the braai tongs in the other, while other campers around are still struggling with tent pegs and blow-up mattresses.

rest camp

According to, there are over 700 caravan and camping resorts scattered across South Africa. It's a camper's playground alright, but camping and caravanning is no child's play. It may be why some people prefer not to. But if you’re a novice and love to play in the great outdoors, you may appreciate having a few handy hints to make you look like a more “experienced” camper.

Know your environment

When it comes to camping, surprises are not generally welcome! A successful camping trip is dependent on the amount of planning you do beforehand. The more time you spend sharpening the proverbial axe, the more efficiently you’ll be able to chop down the tree, so to speak. You want to be as prepared as possible – while also not packing everything along with the kitchen sink.

Begin by finding out as much as possible about the venue and campsite you’ve chosen. Is it a large resort or a small family-owned farm? What are the amenities like and what facilities are offered? What type of creatures roam in the area? Then, just as important, what is the climate in the region like?

All of this information you gather will help determine what you should pack for the trip.

Travel light

When camping, the bare minimum you need is a tent, sleeping bag, ground mat, food, and water. But you’re not out there to rough it and might desire a little more homely comfort in the bush, which is perfectly normal, but to reiterate, be well-prepared and only take what you need. Too many gadgets, accessories, bits of equipment over-complicates things when camping should be a simple commune with nature. At the end of it you’ll be thankful you kept it lean because packing up will be a breeze. 

Camping kit checklist

While packing light is your aim, at the same time there are the essential utilitarian items every camper must have and somehow one or the other gets left behind. 

A real time-saver is to keep a box with all of these in one place. All you need to do every time you go on a camping trip is pick up the box and pack it into your car.  Bear in mind that your camping checklist relies on your personal preferences and unique requirements. However, this one should help you cover all the standard basic items you might not have thought of:

  • First aid kit
  • Lighter
  • Matches, stored in a small, waterproof plastic container
  • Torch and headlamp
  • Mallet
  • Pegs
  • Can opener
  • Natural firelighters or make your own by recycling candle wax
  • Small bottle of dishwashing liquid
  • Cloths and a rag or two
  • Mozzie repellent
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Small sewing kit
  • Duct tape
  • Cable ties
  • Elastic bands
  • A few plastic bags of various sizes
  • Spare car keys

Other items to consider, depending on the campsite facilities and how minimalist or not you want to go are: Pillow, blow-up mattress (instead of a mat), camping chairs, camping table, cooler box, cooking and braai utensils, gas burner, water bottles, rubbish bags, firelighters, wood, toilet paper, etc.

Bonus tip:

Inflatable mattresses best used for extra house guests are best left at home. Use it if you already have one but let it be known that a mattress made for camping will be less inclined to get punctured at the slightest brush against a thorny bush or over sharp klippe.A good quality mattress is pricey but worth it if you’re going to get serious about this outdoor thing, you’re less likely to end up with your bones on the hard ground in the middle of the night, they’re smaller, lighter, and more versatile.

Having said that, you need to think about how often you’ll be out camping, which times of the year, and where. This will determine whether you’ll need a mattress that provides insulation from the cold, whether you’ll want to take it on overnight hikes, and so on. This applies to sleeping bags as well.

Whether manual-inflating, self-inflating, or closed-cell foam mats, each type of mattress traps air and separates your body from the ground. Ultimately, it’s  up to you to choose a mattress and sleeping bag that are best suited for your needs, but spend on the best quality you can afford.

Be an eco-conscious camper

It’s better for the environment to avoid disposable, non biodegradable items like wet wipes and single-use plastics.

When it’s time to pack up, if there are no bins, take your rubbish with you. Don’t leave anything lying around that can pollute water bodies. Campers are generally nature lovers, so tread lightly on the Earth and she will reward you and future generations with continued beauty to enjoy. 

Related articles:
Exploring Some of SA’s Popular Caravan & Camping Spots

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.


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