When I first told my friends and family that myself and my girlfriend would be camping during our overland trip in East Africa they were horrified.
All of the countries in Africa can often get lumped together in some people’s minds, and so if there are robberies and kidnapping in Nairobi or Johannesburg, that must happen everywhere else in Africa too right..?
Perhaps our friends and family imagined that we would simply get carried off in the night by gangs of thugs, still sleeping in our tent, but really they needn’t have worried.
Every campsite we stayed at was well protected and they all had guards with AK47’s or some similar weapon to deter any thieves.
Camping across many parts of Africa can be so rewarding, and is above all, ridiculously cheap. Even if you can’t find a campsite, many hotels will let you pitch up discreetly on their grounds.
What qualities to look for in a tent for camping in Africa?
Finding the right tent to camp in Africa is probably the trickiest purchase I have ever made. It’s so important to get a comfortable an durable tent..if you are unhappy with your tent there aren’t going to be many places in Africa you can buy a better one, and you will simply end up ditching your tent and have to stay in more expensive accommodation.
There are so many things to consider, and the continent has such a variable climate that you need to find a hardy tent that will stand up to all of it.
Your tent must be totally waterproof – everywhere! Seams, canvas, zips…everywhere! Rainy Season in Africa is brutal. Heavy downpours can last all day and you might even be unlucky enough to encounter hailstones. There is nothing worse than having to put on, and pack-up wet things and then to then sit on a long bus journey feeling uncomfortable whilst your clothes in your backpack start to grow mouldy from the damp and the heat.
In most parts of Africa, malaria is prevalent. Even if you are on anti-malarials, mosquito bites are itchy and uncomfortable so it’s best to avoid them as much as you possibly can. Mosquitoes tend to feast at night,when you’ll be sleeping in your tent. Make sure your tent has some way of preventing mozzies from entering your sleeping compartment, and if not – buy a mosquito net that you can hook up inside.
Some parts of Africa can be really hot- which sounds obvious, but when you are inside a tent, and it’s humid, and you can’t open the doors to let any breeze in for fear of the mosquitoes…well then you really know what HOT feels like! One solution to this option is to find a tent where the poles attach to the inner so that if it gets too much you can just take the outer off. Another is to ensure your tent has a sleeping ‘compartment’ that zips up, but which still allows some ventilation – that way you can open the main tent doors to let some breeze in but keep the mozzies out.
Not too heavy…
You’re going to be carrying this thing around on your back for a considerable amount of time so you don’t want to get anything too heavy. But don’t just go for the tiniest, lightest tent you can find because it’s unlikely to do the job, and unless your going to be walking long distances with your tent you will find that you don’t carry your luggage for long periods of time.
Not too short…
If you are planning on camping within a national park (which I highly recommend, on specially allocated camping spots of course), you won’t be able to use a tent that is too low to the ground. The reason being, elephant’s eyesite isn’t too great and you might get trampled.
If this tent is going to be your sleeping quarters everyday for long stretches of time, its a good idea to have a tent that gives you a place to store your luggage and stretch out for a good nights sleep. Roominess is especially important if going to sharing your tent with others. There is nothing worse than having to sleep on your partners dirty socks!
So, in summary your tent needs to have these qualities:
Completely waterproof, breathable, mozzie proof, lightweight, at least over 1m tall and roomy!
Take a look at a couple of these tents that have all the features to make great tents if you’re thinking of a camping trip around Africa.
The aptly named ‘Jackal’ person tent from UK manufacturer OEX ticks the box for all of the key points I mentioned above, plus has some extra bonuses.
The tent is lightweight- just 3.25 kg, and all OEX tents come with a waterproof splitter bag, meaning you can separate the tent into two parts and share the load with your partner (you theoretically do this with any tent by buying a second waterproof bag and splitting the tent up, but it’s nice that this is already sorted and shows OEX understands how couples/friends usually carry tents in the real world).
The tent is 1.2 meters tall, so you’re not going to get trampled in the night by those pesky shortsighted elephants.
The inner is made of breathable polyester, and there is a separate sleeping compartment and porch, with the sleeping compartment having a fully meshed, and solid zipped door so you can let some breeze through. There are also vents in the front and back to keep condensation out.
The OEX Jackal 2 person tent tent is also really spacious for two people, and the porch means you can store your belongings out of the sleeping compartment.
This 3 Man Omega tent from Vango is super spacious, so you’ll be able to spread your stuff out and not feel claustrophobic – even if you are sharing the tent with a friend or partner.
Although it’s a 3 man tent, the weight is only 5.15kg, so once split each person will only be carrying 2.5kg. I wouldn’t recommend using this as a 3 man tent if you are planning to use it whilst travelling around Africa…although it’s roomy, people plus backpacks and other luggage might feel to crowded, especially over long periods of time.
This one has plenty of protection against the elements with rain gutter zip-covers, taped seams and a riser groundsheet.
Another spacious tent from Vango that weighs just a little over 3kg. The canvas of the Vango Nova 300 is super waterproof, and the poles of this tent are designed to form a pointed arch shape which means rain will always run off the sides of the tent, rather than gathering on the top of the tent and slowly seeping through the canvas.
The inner fabric of the Vango Nova 300 is mad of breathable polyester, and the mesh inner door means you can open up the porch door to let some air in, and still be protected from the mozzies and other bugs.
An added bonus to this tent is that it only has two poles, and comes with an oversized compression sack style of tent back – so it should be fairly quick to erect and take down.
This 2 man tent is an upgrade from an original, and North Ridge have managed to maintain the space inside this tent whilst making it considerably lighter – just 5kg…which is fantastically light when you consider the quality and space.
Other things to take with you…
As well as a good tent, we found these things totally indispensable…
Duct Tape – to repair tears in bags, tents, clothes etc. You can buy small rolls of this from most outdoor shops.
Portable washing line – we wouldn’t have survived without this stretchy washing line from LiveVenture. It was super stretchy and has hooks on each end so we could attach it to trees, window seals, our tent. The washing line is made out of two pieces of twisted elastic so you can tuck your clothes in between the two cords so it doesn’t blow away
Water Filter Bottle – This bottle is a little expensive, but totally worth the price. The water bottle has an inbuilt filter which can be used in hotel rooms, lakes, streams and wells. The bottle filters out pathogens cysts, bacteria, viruses and dirt. There is likely to be occasions where you can’t get hold of bottle water, and this bottle will save your life. Also it can save you having to spend money on bottle water, so is well worth the £35 pounds!
Head torch – A head torch will come in handy even if you aren’t camping as you will face power cuts frequently in many parts of Africa. Spend a bit of money on a head torch that has a long battery life, and try to avoid anything too heavy.