Camping in the bush # 3 – kit

Generally camping in South Africa is quite easy.

On my trial run in the South of England the week before I left, I had to contend with rain, gale force winds and ground so soft it was like pegging our tent in soup! I’d used 2 sleeping bags, a hot water bottle and a double layer of thermals to keep warm!!  Compared to that, South Africa is simple.

My main problem this trip was being too hot to sleep – can’t say I’ve ever encountered that in the UK!!

A potential problem could have been that the ground was too hard for pegs, but my holiday-buddy had read up on that – and had packed nails for both herself and me! (We had 4” ones, 6” would have been even better).  We also took a mallet, even though it was heavy…with baked hard ground it was well worth its weight in baggage allowance!!

My buddy had a ‘lunar’ tent by First Ascent.  In the picture below she’s left off the outer shell to be cooler.  Great idea… until it started raining in the night!!!

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I slept in the ‘spaceship’ (AKA hyperlight ultamid-4 ) and if felt luxurious having it all to myself on my comfi new sleeping mat!

Being as the northern part of Kruger Park is a malaria zone, I bought myself a mosquito net.  I went with this Sea-to-Summit net because it was chemically treated and has a mesh size of 516 holes per inch. (The WHO recommends a minimum of 156 holes per square inch).

I used a bent paperclip hooked into the holes of our adjustable tent pole to hang it, which worked well.  Fortunately I’d had a practise run and realised that tucking it under my lightweight, mummy-shaped mat wasn’t going to work.  To get round this I used the loops at the bottom of the net (designed for pegging it out) and tied a piece of elastic between the two at the head-end and the same at the foot-end.  This gave me a net which I could suspend from my improvised hook and then loop under my mat securely.  After a few nights I learn to take my water-bottle, book etc inside the net with me.  By leaving them at my ‘bedside’ it held the net out a bit, meaning it wasn’t so near my face.

The only bit of kit that didn’t work well was my sleeping-bag.  I couldn’t bring myself to go camping without it, but even in a compression sack, it took up a lot of suitcase space, and I didn’t need it.  A couple of times I pulled it over me, but a thin blanket or even a jumper would have sufficed.  More often I woke up sweating and wondering how it could be so hot even though the sun had also gone to bed!

L

Camping in the bush # 2 – neighbours

We may have been in the middle of nowhere, but that doesn’t mean to say we didn’t have neighbours.  Some nights it was really quite noisy – frogs, insects, birds and hippos can all be quite talkative at night!!

I was fortunate enough to camp all over Kruger National Park – starting in the South and working our way North over 12 days.  My holiday buddy had planned it carefully so that we would get to experience all different sorts of habitats.  At the start of our trip we had an amazing sighting of a rhino and on our final nights we were woken up by lions roaring in Mareola!

Our constant companion were the hyenas.  We had two good sightings of them on the roads in the south.  They are much fluffier than I expected.  I quite liked them!!  Yet in the souvenir shop there were stuffed fluffy elephants, griaffes, lions and leopards… but no hyenas!

In Shingwedzi I woke up at 4am as we were booked on a bush walk.  I unzipped my tent, peeped out… and peering  back at me was a hyena, just 10 m away.

The hyena was just the other side of the fence

Mareola went one better than that though!  Below is a picture of our tent set up.  Just the other side of the fence was the hyenas’ path.  In the evenings they would walk very purposefully backwards and forwards sometimes just 2 or 3m away.  It was difficult to tell whether we saw the same animal several times, but one time we saw two at once.

Suffice to say I was very grateful there was a fence!!

L

Camping in the bush # 1 – packing

We’re all familiar with back-packing, but suitcase camping – that was a new one for me!

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Turns out that by the time you’ve packed your tent shell, your tent inner, your tent pole, your sleeping bag, your sleeping bag liner, your sleeping mat and your mosquito net, your suitcase is pretty much full!!  Fortunately my kit is fairly lightweight for backpacking, so I was able to stay within our 20kg weight limit and still squeeze in some clothes!

The trick was in careful packing…including squeezing all the air out of the compression sacks.  Most of our compression sacks are waterproof ones for backpacking.  For this trip I left the tops open as there was no danger of them getting wet and that way as I pulled the compression straps the air was able to escape easily and I could squash them smaller.  Then everything was carefully organised to make use of all the funny little corners of my suitcase.

For a bit of ‘luxury’ we bought a cheap pair of folding chairs when we landed and then donated them to the campsite staff when we left.

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More about my adventures will follow!

L

Putting a spring in your step #3

I know I previously told you how much I love my scarpa leather boots, but there are occasions when you don’t want to wear something so bulky and you don’t need ankle support… yet you do want something waterproof and with decent grips.  I didn’t have anything that fitted that description so I recently took myself shopping.

I did try on the things in the sale, but of course the ones that gave me that ‘ahhh’ feeling weren’t in the reduced section!  Typical!!  Anyway they weren’t too expensive – ‘Belfour women’s walking shoe’ from Mountain Warehouse.

Mountain warehouse Belfour walking shoe

I’ve never had any Mountain Warehouse own brand shoes, so I’ll keep you posted how I get on!

L

The camping season has begun!

This weekend saw the start of our camping season… shame we didn’t realise there was a yellow weather warning for wind today in Sussex!!  Both goats survived the experience ok, but sadly our gazebo less so!

However, before that rather over exciting end to our trip this morning, we had a very  pleasant evening cooking on our campfire.  Neither of us had any pancakes on Shrove Tuesday last week, so we made up for it by trying out fire pancakes – very tasty!

L & R

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Cooking drop-scone pancakes on the fire!

Putting a spring in your step #2

I have spent many hours thinking about shoe options!!

Depending on your activity, I think sometimes lightweight is more important than sturdiness.  In fact there are two schools of thought about sturdy walking boots – some people think they give your foot and ankle more protection, others that the muscles don’t work as hard when they encased, so they don’t strengthen and remain vulnerable to injury.

And then there is waterproof vs breathability. Personally I prefer shoes that let my feet breath and I’m willing to get damp feet in the knowledge that if the shoes are breathable my toes will soon dry out again.

The other thing that I think is important is letting your toes spread out, it’s not good for your feet to be squashed, especially if you’re expecting them to carry you a long way!

And then you need to consider what terrain you’ll be covering ….and what sort of gaiters you want to put with the shoes….

… all in all I’ve tried out many shoes – none of which I wouldn’t recommend!!

The brand that is currently my favourite is ‘altra’ because it is zero drop – which means there is no incline between foot and heel which is better for my neuroma and because their shoes have a wide toe box, as don’t like squished tootsies .

I did the Pembrokeshire coastal path in Altra ‘lone peak’ shoes – and unlike the other goat, I didn’t get any blisters!!  Sadly those shoes now have holes in the mesh, the mesh wears out fairly quickly where your toes rub against it.  That said they did walk many miles!!  I’ve now replaced them with  the new model of the Altra lone peak – which is pink & pretty!!  Will have to see how I get on with them now that the good walking weather is here!

R

Putting a spring in your step #1

The sun has been shining, the daffodils are out, so it’s time to dig out your walking boots and put a spring in your step!

I love my walking boots!  They are scarpas.  I don’t like wet feet, so after some bad experiences I decided to get boots which are both leather and goretex to make doubly sure!

Scarpa boot - leather & goretex

They have been comfortable since the day I got them.  I generally think you should think ‘ahhh’ when you try shoes on, and if those ones cost a little bit more, it is money well spent!  I always wear them with an extra pair of socks to improve the fit and avoid blisters… although I confess I did get a little blister by the end of walking the Pembrokeshire coastal path, but that’s a long way!

So, now Spring is here, I decided it was time to give my boots a bit of TLC.

First I cleaned them with Nikwax cleaning gel and a toothbrush

cleaning my leather boot

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Then I rinsed them off and applied this waterproofing wax for leather. It feels completely wrong to put it on when the boot is wet, but it seems to work!

Waterproofing leather boot

And then after a good buff, I’m all set for whatever adventures Spring holds!

L

PS – tell us about your favourite pair of boots and any associated stories – use the ‘contact us’ form.

For swampy adventures

This post might be a disappointment…. I googled for ‘gater’ images and this was the top result:
this gater needs gaiters
Sadly, this post is not about that sort of gater… more the sort that keeps your foot dry and your trousers clean when you’re walking! And I now realise…spelt slightly differerntly!!  More useful, but more boring! (Curiously the aligater picture is from a website selling those things that stop your children from shutting their fingers in the door – also more useful and also more boring).
This post is dedicated to our newest follower.  She and her handsome dog Skye were walking with me at the weekend and we encountered a lot of mud.  Equipped with my gaiters, I could enjoy that childish pleasure of squelching through it… and we’ve decided she needs some too!  (Skye the dog on the other hand could not see what the fuss was all about!)
Gaters don’t need to be expensive.  Key features to look out for are:
– you must get ones that open all the way down. (Trying to pull the on over your muddy boot is never going to work!)
– front fastening, ideally a zip
– velcro factsning over the zip to keep the wet out. (Velcro is much better than press fasteners – the studs get mud in them & stop working and can go rusty.)
– a clip at the front to latch onto your bottom lace (to prevent the laces getting caked in mud and the water getting in the top of your boots)
– a stirrup that goes under your foot and keeps the gater in place
I have ‘trekmate’ gaters and I’m pleased them.  They weren’t expensive and they are easy to put on – L
I have lightweight ones… I didn’t fully appreciate that one of the ways they are ‘lighter weight’ is because they aren’t full length!  They are fine, but another time I’d get ones that go further up my legs – R
Hope those tips are sufficient to get you kitted out for any swampy adventures …. see you later aligater!
L

It’s only polite to bring a gift…

It’s only polite to bring a gift… and only someone who knows me well would bring me this as a gift when they come to stay:

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What is it?!  (not the apples, although they were also given to me!) Newspaper logs made with a special newspaper-log-making gadget!!

We tried it out and they are easy to light and burn for about an hour and a half.  They didn’t have great flames, but were definitely a good way to bulk out the wood logs… and they have the advantage of being free whereas we need to buy the real ones.

Now who would know me well enough to give me such a thoughtful gift?!!… my Dad of course!!

L

What does 2019 hold?

Happy new year!  Apologies it’s been so long since we last blogged.

What does 2019 hold?   God only knows – listening to the news this morning, every aspect of life feels a bit uncertain at the moment!!  However, the goats are hopeful of plenty of camping opportunities in the year ahead.  We’ve already started making plans for camping with friends later in the year… and one particular goat is very excited about her first camping trip abroad!  Kruger national park in South Africa no less!

And hopefully 2019 will also mean a return to more regular blogging, so keep your eyes peeled for more post!

L & R

goat by kevin