There had been four days of clear skies and soaring December temperatures preceding our weekend of camping by the sea. We’d even spent a balmy Thursday evening on the front porch, packing our ever-growing collection of gadgets into the designated ‘camping crate’.
Excitement bubbled in my belly. Perhaps, for once, we’d actually have a delightfully uneventful camping trip. No relentless rain, no floods, no gale force winds. Sunny days and calm nights. Imagine!
Of course the universe had other plans… as usual. On Friday morning, we woke to heavy clouds looming overhead and, as we took the turn-off from the N2 toward Still Bay later that afternoon, the first droplets started splashing against the windscreen.
“We’re just unlucky campers and there’s nothing for it,” I muttered to myself.
Unlucky campers. Hmmm. The phrase had a ring to it and seemed like something that required unpacking. Plus, if we were the ‘unlucky campers’, what other types of campers were out there and where would you find them?
Later that evening, as we clinked our brand new, whisky-charged enamel tumblers and toasted to the good fortune we had in managing to pitch the tent and braai before a next cascade of drops, we indulged in some fireside entertainment: defining and analysing the five types of campers we’d come across on our travels.
Starting, of course, with ourselves.
The unlucky campers
Traits: Suitcases full of soaked clothes, wind-snapped tent-poles, sweat-drenched afternoons trying to fight off heat exhaustion – these are inconveniences all campers face at one point or another. Every single time you pitch your tent, though? That’s whack! Welcome to the life of the unlucky camper.
While they invest in quality gear and have an insatiable appetite for the outdoors, weather conditions never really seem to play along. Planning their trips well in advance, they are no longer surprised when the seven-day forecast leading up to their time of departure, predicts either hurricanes and lightning or singeing heat for the exact period and location of their vacation.
While desperation does initially set in, their supernatural resilience and unquenchable idealism keeps them going strong. After all, you never know when luck will change, do you?
Interestingly, their unluckiness is often interpreted as pure badass bravery to those on the outside.
Where to find them: In any campsite across the country experiencing the most extreme weather conditions you can imagine.
The learning-as-we-go newbies
Traits: These are the doe-eyed newbies.
The adventurous urban parents wanting to introduce their kids to the wonders of outdoor holidays (in many cases, a joy they didn’t really get to experience themselves growing up). The retired couple, healthy enough to make the most of their golden years in this daring fashion. Students setting out on their first-ever, post-family camping trip – no dad to help hammer in tent pens, no mom to organise the make-shift scullery.
The learning-as-we-go campers are characterised by a jovial acceptance of the fact that they really don’t know what they’re doing. At the same time, they are determined to flex their muscles and get better with each new adventure.
They are list-makers – jotting down the equipment they sorely missed and always coming up with innovative ideas for meals and entertainment.
Their freshness and wide-eyed wonder are the envy of many more established campers, whom we will get to shortly.
Where to find them: Relatively accessible campsites that are also exceptionally beautiful. Since most learning-as-we-go campers are either young in age or young at heart, they will often opt for locations that have an element of fun: next to rivers to explore on rentable canoes, close to the beach or in reach of various hiking trails.
Think River Goose in Bonnievale, Ebb and Flow in Wilderness, Algeria in the Cederberg and Victoria Bay near George, Midmar Dam in KZN and Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast.
The gadget gurus
Traits: The gadget gurus are super organised and approach camp setups with military precision. Taking great joy in their hobby, it’s curiosity that drives them, more than habit or tradition.
They’re always ahead of the curve when it comes to camping gear, eager to test out their latest purchase in the most challenging terrain possible.
You will recognise them by their fully kitted out vehicles first of all, mostly with a roof tent perched on top. They are friendly and approachable and enjoy nothing more than talking camp.
They are an inspirational bunch – a source of encouragement to less experienced campers. The ones the rest of us aspire to.
Where to find them: Gadget gurus enjoy far-flung destinations such as Bitterpan in Kgalagadi, Pyper se Boom in Tankwa Karoo, De Hoop in Richtersveld/Ai-Ais Transfrontier Park, Mabibi on the Elephant Coast and Rooihoek in the Baviaanskloof are all popular options.
Traits: Inspired by the myriad of gorgeous #adventure and #campvibes photos on Instagram, these guys are wide-eyed wanderers and aesthetes at heart. Their camping gear is not only good quality, but also exceptionally pleasing to the eye.
Their love for the finer things in life extends beyond the material and you will often find them cooking up the most imaginative dishes in rustic cast iron skillets over perfectly packed fires. Morning coffee is a ritual not to be disrespected – they will whip out their enamel percolators and stainless steel bialettis while you’re gulping down your Ricoffy. These kids live for adventure… or maybe more for being able to share their stories afterward.
Where to find them: Anywhere with a breathtaking view – if there were more snowy mountain peaks in South Africa, they’d flock there constantly. However, with weather conditions as they are, Grootvadersbosch close to Heidelberg, Glen Reenen in Golden Gate National Park and Silverstreams in the southern Drakensberg are highly Instagrammable locations.
The home-away-from-home campers
Traits: Last but not least, we have the home-away-from-homers. They are the guys who go camping for an extended period of time once a year – mostly for about three weeks in December - and pull out all the stops.
Their holiday luggage looks more like a full-blown move, as they load trailers with each and every home convenience you can imagine - beds complete with white linen, microwaves and TV sets.
Their goal is to be completely comfortable while enjoying the simple things in life – good food, cold drinks, pleasant company, long beach days and reeling in a fish or two. Traditionally, these campers would be farmers and their families enjoying a well-deserved break after a year of hard toil.
Families return to the exact same stand year upon year, booking next December’s three-week holiday before even getting sand between their toes on the current one. This means it’s practically like having a holiday home – you will have the same neighbours, same view… no surprises.
Where to find them: Mostly in relatively large campgrounds somewhere along the sea – Tietiesbaai on the West Coast, Ellensrust in Still Bay, Ilanga Resort on the KZN South Coast.
So, what kind of camper are you? We'd love to hear from you - email info@Traveller24.com