This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of the ‘Caravan and Outdoor Life’ magazine:
Having just spent a week camping at Mahai in the Drakensberg, all I can say is – thank goodness we have a caravan.
It was a week of rain, storms and then some more rain, from fine drizzle to downpours so heavy I thought it was hail. The rivers were all in flood and the field in front of our campsite was an under an inch of water – I kept expecting to see fish swimming in the grass! But we were snug and dry through it all, even if cooking on a fire was a problem.
Through it all, I watched the tenters. Shame – they really suffered. It’s grim to be in a tent when the weather is relentlessly bad. The tenters I admired the most, though, were those camping with toddlers and tiny babies. I watched one group of well-equipped and experienced tenters cope with about six toddlers and a baby of four months. That’s intrepid!
The only time I camped with babies of my own, was when my son was four and my older daughter was eighteen months. We went to the Kruger Park with a borrowed monstrosity of a tent – it was an ordeal. The last straw was finding my toddler with a sharp knife in her hand, stabbing the tomatoes.
Of course, camping equipment has come a long way in the last 25 years, as has baby equipment, so maybe it’s easier now – but not when it rains for days on end. The sight of small naked toddlers running madly on soggy fields of grass was too cute, but pity the poor moms trying to keep the inside of their tents dry and comfortable with damp bodies in and out all day.
If one is going to camp with babies, my advice is – buy a caravan. You can pick up an old caravan for not very much more than it will cost you to kit yourself out with everything you need to be comfortable when tenting!
But if you are going to tent – buy one that you can stand up in, at the very least. Also, make it a big one. Tent manufacturers may say a tent sleeps four, but that would have to be four very easy-going, consenting (and possibly kinky) adults with no gear at all.
Another thing – make sure your tent is dark, since it will be cooler. The tents with light roofs are hot in the day, and make sleeping later than dawn light impossible. Oh, and you must have an outdoor sheltered living area too – usually a gazebo or something. Then there’s all the other stuff – fridge, kitchen stuff, ammo boxes to store everything.
Caravan versus tent? For me, a caravan, thanks!