We’ve all done a few of these and have learnt the hard way, but seriously I hope these tips will help, I have been there a few times.
- The first mistake is to pack too lightly, mountains are colder than urban spaces and deserts get cold at night. We recently visited Kenhardt in The Northern Cape where short sleeves were the order of the day but night-time saw us wearing jackets and beanies. Prepare for the unexpected, for example, the area around George can experience 4 seasons in a day so pack accordingly. Being cold is uncomfortable especially at night. So pack base layers, thick socks jackets and fleeces. You need to be comfortable and able to dress for the weather.
- On the other hand, avoid packing too much. Look for multipurpose jackets that can keep you warm when it’s cold but also offer protection from rain, jackets with underarm zips to allow the jacket to breathe.
- Then assess the location and look at your footwear. One way to slow yourself down if hiking or even moving around is to pack the wrong boots, don’t pack heavy boots if you are contemplating less strenuous activity – lighter trail orientated shoes are better and give you the option to pack more than one pair. Don’t sacrifice on traction look for a good sole as you don’t want to slip and injure yourselves. When it comes to socks look to lightweight merino will and possibly wear two pairs.
- Then you need to layer, base layers keep you dry by wicking sweat, mid layers insulate and top layers keep you dry.
- A common error is not to practice, a while ago I acquired a new tent, all things being even we should have made camp by four in the afternoon which allowed adequate time for sundowners alongside the Orange River while we made camp, sadly though I had to stop to assist two vehicles in our group and we only arrived at the camp in the dark, this with a new tent that I had to struggle to pitch, luckily it did not rain as that would have compounded matters. Then don’t stint on the tent pegs, on one trip to the Koranneberg one of our group only used four pegs, whilst we were in the dining room a storm broke out and his tent ended up in a tree. Not funny when the rain continued throughout the night.
- As you get older you feel the ground and experience aches and pains, pains, so don’t try sleep on a rubber mat, rather invest in a decent blow-up mattress, you will appreciate it. Try sleep without a mattress and you won’t sleep a wink.
- Be prepared for bodily functions, wet wipes and toilet paper are important and can be burnt afterwards- don’t forget your spade though- larger if on a 4×4 trip and smaller if hiking (garden trowel).
- Sharing information also limits your packing, whether hiking or on an overland trip. Rather meet as a group before and adventure and decide who brings what, this will ensure that you have all you need but reduces duplication. If time allows preparing a spreadsheet will avoid duplication, excess weight and additional cost.
- Running out of stuff is an epic fail, plan your food, water and clothes by the number of days you will be away from home, this even applies to your drinks, no sense in running out of wine two days into an excursion, if space is a problem pack whiskey as a bottle can last a considerable period and takes up far less space than a case of wine or beer. If hiking decant into hip flasks and space then around your rucksack. We advocate a no drinking and driving/hiking policy but understand that it’s great to be at one with nature, sundowner in hand once the day’s activities are over.
- Then the worst are those folk who insist that it’s best to sleep naked, clothes are insulation and they keep you warm, simple, and they also mean no embarrassing moments if you have to go to the ablutions. Wearing base layers to bed also means that it keeps sweat and body oils off the down of your sleeping bag, which will prolong its life. If you have to cut weight take a lighter sleeping bag and wear a bit more clothing to keep warm.
- Another big no-no is not knowing how to use an axe to chop wood, careful here you could seriously injure yourself with haphazard technique. And please see that your axe is sharp.
- Don’t forget bug spay – enough said. Lighter long sleeve shirts and trousers are recommended after dark as they also make it difficult for mozzies.
- Then to stay dry avoid cotton, silk, wool and technical fabrics are the best when it comes to staying dry. Save up and invest in good technical clothing, it works well and lasts.
When you get home unpack and dry your stuff out , even if it did not rain tents and sleeping bags get wet from perspiration, take the sleeping bags in for appropriate cleaning and erect your tent and let it dry in the sun, otherwise it will just get mouldy and difficult to clean before the next trip.
Lastly never forget the essentials such as Duct tape and cable ties, they have so many uses around the camp and on the trail.