Everything in nature is perfect, from the decor (think of the swathes of summer’s vibrant green leaves and the warm rust of autumn, stunning rock formations, swirling eddies and tumbling waterfalls, to mention but a few) to the fresh air, open skies and starlit nights.

This is why so many South Africans – and Lowvelders in particular – love nothing more than to pack up their tents and head for the wild. But as any intrepid camper will tell you, there are certain spoken (and unspoken) rules for getting it right, because, let’s be honest, camping isn’t for everyone, and the thought of braving the elements (wind, rain, mud? No thanks!) is more than many people could bear. This is why you have to think smart and work with the elements, making sure that your camping experience veers more towards a relaxing family holiday than a nightmarish outdoor experience. While it’s not always possible to anticipate bad weather, there are other ways to ensure a certain modicum of comfort, from gadgets that make life easier to the ideal positioning of your tent, camper or caravan.

One of the first things to take into consideration is the position of the sun. The last thing you want is to be caught in full, blazing afternoon sun, especially in the Lowveld summer months. Take a compass along (or download an app) and check where the sun rises and sets. You want gentle morning sun and dappled afternoon shade in which to relax and enjoy those ice-cold beers. It goes without saying that if you want the prime spot, get there early. Hopefully your neighbours will be considerate and not set up camp on top of you, but if needs be, you can try to set up your tent in such a way that you face the bush and not the people, unless of course you want to socialise.

It is also prudent to check the general direction of the wind. An upwind spot with a gentle breeze will deter insects as well as keep your tent cool in the afternoons. Unexpected strong winds can be kept at bay with storm nets, which also offer a little privacy if the
campsite is busy.

Something else to take into account is the power point. If you rely on electricity (for example, for your fridge) make sure you are close enough to a plug and have a durable extension cord. Remember, generators are an unwelcome sound in peaceful surroundings, so keep the noise to a minimum. It is also practical to be close enough to the ablutions to not have to walk for miles, but also, for obvious reasons, the least of which are chatty and nosey fellow-campers to not be too close. Set up camp in such a way that you don’t have anyone traipsing through your campsite to get to the loo; ill-mannered though it may be, there are people who will do it regardless.

Camping has come a long way from the days of rustic based on necessity, and whether you are in a caravan or tent, there are plenty of gadgets that make life a whole lot easier, from
torches to portable hammocks. A gas stove is a must for rainy nights when you can’t braai, and a gas light to hang up in a tree over your table and chairs casts a lovely glow and helps you to see what you are doing. Candlelight is lovely, but doesn’t always show the muggies that have landed in your wine! Don’t forget the essentials – first-aid kit, sunblock, insect
repellent, towels, torch, mattress and collapsible/recyclable kitchen utensils. Remember to check if the campsite has a braai or if you need to bring your own (it is always advisable to
take your own grid anyway), as well as chairs and a table.

If all of this sounds like too much work and no amounts of gadgets are going to change your mind, there’s always glamping, which is on the rise in SA. If experiencing the bush in
all its rugged glory without having to give up the creature comforts of home is more your thing, have no fear, there are plenty of options to choose from. So get on your proverbial bike and head into the great outdoors to appreciate what we have right here on our doorstep, from world-class hikes to breathtaking scenery.

Gadgets you can possibly do without (but are really great to have):
• Multipurpose tool (one that folds out into a screwdriver, scissors, knife, bottle opener, corkscrew, etc. Invaluable.)
• Portable hammock
• Two-way radio
• Binoculars
• Compass
• Headlamps
• Car chargers
• Solar panels
• Solar lights
• Power banks
• GPS system
• Portable loo
• Water purifier
• Portable fridge.

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