Whether you’ve chosen to self-drive Africa or join in on an overland safari, chances are you will be camping in Africa at some point. Africa is not as developed as the rest of the world meaning hotels, guesthouses, and hostels are few and far between.
We’ve had a lot of trial and error with basic camping and Africa, but here are our top recommendations to get you through Africa camping!
The Africa Camping Basic Essentials
A comfortable tent: We bought our tent at Cape Union Mart in Cape Town before we left. We opted for a 3 person even though there are only two of us so we weren’t cramped and paid about $120. Needless to say this has proven to be a fantastic decision, as we love the extra space. You can find cheaper ones at Supermarkets, but be wary of the quality. Here is another great tent for camping in Africa.
Sleeping Bags: We also purchased high quality sleeping bags at Cape Union Mart to camp in Africa. Our intention is to take this around the world with us so we both ended up spending about $100 on our sleeping bags. You can definitely get cheaper ones online before you land, or at any supermarket. If you are traveling Africa in the summertime I don’t think a sleeping bag is necessary. Just get a sheet and you will be good, as it gets unbearably hot. Here is a good sleeping bag almost identical to ours.
Pillows: Buy them in Africa. You can find cheap ones at Mr. Price all over Southern Africa.
Sleeping pads: Buy them in Africa. Since we have a car we decided to get big comfortable pads at Cymot in Namibia for $50 each. My back is worth a lot of money to me. However if you want to go cheaper and lighter than a yoga mat will be just fine. We found many people with inflatable air mattresses also which are found at any large supermarket.
Headlamps: I recommend getting these before you leave home. They are tiny to pack and I never saw any great deals in Africa. Get one for each person in the group – you don’t want to be the person to step on a scorpion. These are the ones we have.
Mosquito Spray: Buy it in Africa. Can be found at any supermarket. Tabloid and Peaceful Sleep are the most popular brands.
Sunscreen: Buy it before. It is very expensive in Africa.
Table and Chairs: Will make life so much easier and more enjoyable.
Leatherman: Good for just about anything and always nice to have
First Aid Kit: Our first aid kit was nothing extensive, but including things like plasters in a variety of different sizes and shapes, 2 sterile eye dressings, band aids, triangular bandages, safety pins, disposable sterile, thermometer, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, cough medicine, throat lozenges, gloves, tweezers, antihistamine cream, ibuprofen, and malaria tablets.
Cooking Gear for Campers
Cast Iron Skillet
Cast Iron potjie pot
Stainless steel coffee mugs
French Press for Coffee (Very cheap in South Africa)
Kettle with a foldable handle: the foldable handle is a must. We got a kettle that has a sturdy non-foldable handle and it almost always gets in the way and takes up valuable space in our car.
Braai Grid and tongs
Bucket: We got a collapsible one like this so that it takes up no space. Good for washing dishes, bathing, and many other times when you wish you had a bucket.
Dish Soap and sponge: Purchase as you go, available everywhere.
Recommended Africa Camping Items, but Not Essential
Ear buds: Didn’t think I would need earplugs camping in Africa, but when staying at campsites in cities these come in handy. Also many of the birds of Southern Africa are incredible, but you will want to throw a pillow at them to shut up at sunrise every morning.
Bungee cords: Good for securing things and also for hanging laundry.
Laundry Hooks: It helps to be able line dry your clothes after getting them dirty on a safari in the bush.
Fishing line: We got this tip from an experienced South African camper. He recommends getting fishing line with a bell on it and wrapping it around your campsite while in the bush. That way you will know if when an animal is around your tent.
Solar powered lamps
Cooler or fridge: We went with a cooler because we are not big meat eaters. However, ice isn’t available everywhere in Africa so if you want to be absolutely certain that your food will stay cold then purchase a fridge for your vehicle.
Ammo Boxes: We steered away from cheap plastic tubs and went for some heavy-duty ammo boxes to store our camping gear. This decision proved to be a good one as the lids have never popped off our busted and they are as sturdy as can be.
Camping Shower: You never know when you’ll arrive somewhere in Africa and there won’t be proper ablutions.
Bags of Rice: The humidity in parts of Africa is no joke. We travel with bags of rice to store our electronics in and keep the humidity out of them.
Extra plastic bags
Fly swatter: Pick it up in Africa, everyone sells these on the sides of the road.
Umbrella or Tarp: Nothing makes camping suck more than a rainy and muddy day.
Water tank: If you are driving I would highly recommend purchasing a plastic water tank for any Africa camping. If you ever get stranded you know you won’t die with 25 liters of water in the back.
I started off traveling Africa not really a camper, but after a few months it started to grow on me. I don’t mind sleeping in a tent anymore and waking up to beautiful views like these beat any morning in my boring bedroom. I’m a firm believer that camping is as comfortable or uncomfortable as you make it. This is just a bare bone camping experience, but we are still very comfortable with all that we have. Obviously, camping (or glamping) can get much more luxurious with a lot more dinero.