Over the years we as a family have streamlined our camping to a very minimalistic approach, less is always more when it comes to adventures.
There are certainly a few variables that come into play with all our adventures and it’s really dependent on how many kids are joining us, whether we will be moving around a lot and dangers that may present themselves.
Let me start off with sleeping arrangements, this generally provides the guidelines to how much to pack and defines the remainder of the packing list.
There are 3 trains of thought when it comes to sleeping arrangements for us as a family.
Rooftop tent, Ground tent or 4x4 Trailer. Each of these options present pro’s and cons. But for us, it’s simply a place to sleep, guard us from the elements and keep us somewhat safe from bugs etc. So with that in mind, it really just has to be “a warm place to sleep”
We tend to veer towards a ground tent mostly for local “safe” camping as they are compact, lightweight. It also leaves the vehicle open to going out exploring the area, this is important when we want to do night time game drives, star gazing with little to no light pollution, We can set up once we arrive and everyone can simply take a nap, grab some shade whenever they feel like it. The only downside in this option is that it isn’t suitable for more than 2/3 people, which means we need more than one if we are only doing ground tents, they can be pretty pricey.
This is the tent we make use of:
Its absolutely awesome but can these types of tents can be pricey. It’s a 4 season tent, which means it is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, fierce wind, and even snow. The fabric is durable. Warmth is always a concern in the colder months but it has mesh windows that can be sealed shut, specific vents to mitigate condensation and snow flaps around the perimeter to avoid cold drafts. Plus our sleeping bags are made for summiting Mount Everest:) This particular tent also has a fly sheet that allows you to pitch either with the inner or separately, (we’v pitched only the inner when we have been in +35 degree weather)
So it’s incredibly versatile.
In terms of the negative, there really isn’t too much I can say in this regard. However when we are doing wild camping with big 5 / predators, I personally don’t feel comfortable in a fabric ground tent. Many seasoned campers will disagree with me and say that a lion doesn’t know the difference between fabric and a brick wall… I will take your word for it but choose not to test that theory with 3 young kids.
Roof Top Tent (RTT):
OK so I have gone through my fair share of RTT’s and so far the ultimate has been the iKamper. It’s currently attached to my vehicle and is the easiest one to set up and break down at camp. I can set it up in about 2 minutes and its super spacious inside, it is pretty much the same dimensions as a king size bed, which can actually sleep our entire pod of 5. (Maybe not that comfortably, but it will do for short term trips)
The only issue I have with RTT is mobility of the vehicle. I often find myself spontaneously deciding to go explore the surroundings and with the RTT I then need to ensure I get all the sleeping gear out, whatever “stuff” the kids may have left in the tent and then start the process of packing away to explore, which to be honest, isn’t that bad of an exercise.
BUT I’ve have been caught in tricky situations with our youngest and/or middle child, they’ve fallen asleep mid-game drive, once I arrive back at camp, I have to set up a RTT and somehow carry them up a ladder without waking them (nobody wakes a sleeping toddler). This is not a fun experience at 11pm. Its do-able but unpleasant.
Side note: I might actually consider building some sort of Emergancy Pulley system to hoist them up in those situations.
Another area of concern or something to be aware of is bathroom breaks in the middle of the night, for us adults its not too difficult but when a 9yr old or 3 yr old decide they need the loo at 1am, it becomes quite a mission. (The rule here is no drinks after 6pm-ish for the young ones)
I personally feel more protected on top of the car against predators or big 5, something about having a 3 ton vehicle below me… So in areas where we are wild camping, a RTT is first option making the mentioned “cons” less of a concern.
Side note 2: ALWAYS KEEP YOUR TENTS ZIPPED CLOSED.