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15 Practical tips for camping, road-tripping and exploring

So far we’ve driven from Johannesburg to Cape Town in South Africa through Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda to Kenya and then back to Uganda again. Along the 13000km of this journey we’ve learnt a couple of things that we wish we known before we’d started…

If you're driving:

  • Stick your mandatory country identification sticker on your actual car and not the back windscreen otherwise if you lose your window you lose your sticker too! This happened to us in Namibia and we ended up having to pick pieces of broken glass off the back of our sticker and then super glue it to the car

  • Get several tyre repair kits and a mini compressor. The ability to fix a puncture on your own and then inflate the tyre regardless of where you are could save you hours and hours of time and frustration

  • Carry a bar of Sunlight soap with you at all times (the green bar). It can be used not only to wash you, your clothes, dishes and car but can also plug a hole in your petrol tank, radiator and exhaust pipe! Sure the soap will wear off after a few weeks but then you simply plug the hole with some more of this magical bar

  • Don’t forget to get 4 jack points installed on your car if you purchase a hi-lift jack. Not all cars come standard with these and yet sellers of hi-lift jacks conveniently forget to mention this when selling them

  • Windscreens and windows can shatter in severe heat – as already mentioned we lost our bank windscreen to the 45°C temperatures of the Namibian desert even though our car was parked in the shade. To avoid the build-up of pressure that causes this always leave at least one window open a little at all times (day or night) whenever the temperature exceeds 38°C. If something does go wrong think outside the box to solve the issue quickly and for as little money as possible. For instance when our back windscreen shattered we could find an original replacement but it would have taken 10 days to arrive and cost $2000. So instead we found a bush mechanic who created us a new one out of flat shatterproof glass, polystyrene and foam in one day for only $120!

  • Don’t forget you have a great set of spot lights on your car: the headlights. It may seem obvious but you’d be amazed how easily when in a stressful situation in the dark you forget this

Gear – what’s worth getting and what not?

  • Take a proper towel and not one of those ridiculously expensive ‘quick dry micro towels’. They are truly horrendous, don’t dry you at all and seem little more than a really expensive chamois. Take a normal towel – even a hand sized one will serve you better but if space really is that much of an issue then go to the hardware store and buy yourself a chamois, at least that way you’ll save yourself some cash

  • Get yourself a sleeping bag liner. The silk ones are really tiny and won’t take up too much of your precious luggage space. They are expensive but well worth the price since they can make your sleeping bag warmer which is occasionally necessary but not often enough to be cost – efficient or practical to get a warmer sleeping bag. They can also be slept in on their own when it’s very hot and of course perfect for protecting yourself if you’re forced to sleep in a particularly suspect or unclean spot

  • Pack a bread board. They make camp cooking infinitely easier and also act as the perfect camping desk for when you’re recording all your adventures

  • Between WD40, cable ties and duct tape there is nothing on your car, tent, pack or anything you can’t fix – at least temporarily until you can get somewhere to perform a more permanent fix

  • In terms of refrigeration there are 3 options available: full on mobile fridge and freezer; electric coolers and the good old fashioned cooler box. Either go the whole hog and get a full on mobile fridge or just get a cooler box. The middle option is nothing more than a cooler box anyway, costs a lot more, takes up much more space and gives many more problems

  • ‘Outdoor’ gear doesn’t need to come from an outdoor store, quite often you’ll find other items that do the job of much more expensive equipment just as well. For example a beach mat is a much cheaper alternative to a ground sheet and designed to do exactly the same thing! Soaking ordinary matches in turpentine for 5 minutes will turn them into water proof matches. You can even make your own natural tick deterrent by mixing 1 part tea tree oil with 2 parts water. Thinking outside of the box will make for much more affordable kit.

  • No set of pants can be too comfortable – whether you’ll be driving all day or trekking through the bush. Screw fashion and find a pair of paints comfortable enough to sleep in, that's our new measure of pants suitability!

  • If in South Africa, avoid 4x4 Megaworld when buying gear. This franchised company essentially just orders from a catalogue and one they don’t even know very well. Worst of all when they order you equipment (in our case tents and stretcher beds ) that don’t do what they said (in our case fit into each other – the tents were way smaller than the salesman said) they are uninterested in correcting the problem ‘because we are a franchise and so our branches are completely independent’

  • When temperatures exceed 40°C devices such as cameras, GPS systems and mobile phones need to be kept cool (we kept ours in a mini mobile fridge) or they will stop working – sometimes permanently.

Hope you find these tips useful and happy travels!

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