10 Tips on how to Survive Hot Summer Camping in South Africa

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A hot summer’s day in Africa

South African summers are a beautiful time of the year. The skies are blue, the African bush is green and there are plenty of gorgeous baby animals to swoon over. If you are lucky, you will get to witness Mother Nature put on a show of powerful thunder and lightning storms. One thing to keep in mind is that South African summers can get very hot. How hot you might ask? It’s not unusual for it to get as high as the mid 30 degrees to low 40 degrees Celsius.  If you are not used to or have not been exposed to these extreme temperatures, you might wonder how you will ever survive this scorching heat. Well, if you prepare properly then you should be able to handle anything that comes your way.

Here are 10 tips to consider when preparing for your summer camping trip:

1. Keep water bottles and hydration packs close by

Did you know that by the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated? Did you know that you could even get dehydrated in winter? Our bodies need water to survive. In summer, your water bottle and hydration pack will become your best friends and you will carry them everywhere with you.  While you are out on an activity you need to plan that you will be drinking anything from 2 to 3 litres of water, so please make sure that you bring reusable and washable water bottles/hydration bladders with you. In addition to drinking plenty of water, bring rehydration sachets or powdered / liquid sports drinks with you so that you can add them to your water.  If you are on a course with EcoTraining and you are experiencing any dehydration symptoms please let the staff know so that they can help you. Dehydration symptoms include not urinating frequently, very dry skin, dizzy feeling, rapid breathing, lack of energy, fainting or feelings of confusion.

Always have proper hydration packs at hand (c) Cara Pring
2. Sunscreen, reapply, reapply and reapply

The African sun is stronger than you might think. If you want to avoid looking like a lobster, always wear sunscreen and reapply it several times throughout the day. Bring at least an SPF 30 with you and keep it in your backpack at all times. Remember, this includes a high SPF lip balm as well. Don’t let cloudy days fool you, people get a proper sunburn during cool, cloudy days too.

3. After sun, moisturiser, lip balm, hair oil

Oops! You forgot to apply your sunscreen and now your body is a little bit sore from sunburn. Be sure to pack some after sun or lotion to save you in a crisis like this. It happens so easily especially when you are having fun and forget to reapply sunscreen. Applying hair oil also helps prevent long hair from breaking and sun damage

4. The mighty Insect / Mosquito repellent

Mosquitos and ticks are very active during the summer months. Insect repellent will help to keep them at bay. Whether you use natural repellent or a chemical insect repellent, it is up to you. Depending on what you decide to use, make sure you apply it in the morning when you are going for a walk in the bush and in the evenings to help keep these insects away from you. Just remember that you need to apply your sunscreen first, give it 15-20min to be absorbed into your skin and then apply your insect repellent. If you forget to bring it, don’t panic, it is usually sold at most stores around you. Whilst it won’t stop that annoying sound that mosquitos make, it will prevent them from biting you.

5. Select your wardrobe carefully

The sun is attracted to the colour black so it is best to leave that colour at home. Always pack light and natural coloured (beige, khaki, green and brown), loose-fitting clothing. White clothing is not preferable if you want to spot wildlife. They will see you from a mile away and hide. Don’t forget to protect your shoulders while you are out on a game drive. Always keep them covered as they are often the first thing to get sunburned. Also, don’t forget to bring something warm. When it rains it can become chilly and having something warm to wrap up in, is a must!

Don’ t forget to bring something warm (c) Julia Wheeler
6. The right sleeping bag or cotton sleeping bag liners that won’t leave you tossing and turning at night

You won’t need a thick winter sleeping bags for your trip. Look for a sleeping bag that is rated as being one season. These are the thinnest sleeping bags and the best suited for summer nights.  You could also look at bringing a thin cotton sleeping bag liner for the nights when it is just too hot to use your sleeping bag, but you want something to cover you.

7. Hats, caps and sunglasses

The African sun is really bright so don’t forget to bring a pair of UV protection sunglasses to shield your eyes. A hat will help to protect your face from the sun and prevent your head from getting sunburnt.

8. The unacknowledged Waterproofs

This item is usually not at the top of anyone’s ‘to pack’ list but is a must. Anyone who has experienced the mighty power of an African storm knows that you can go from bone dry to rain-drenched in a matter of seconds. A good lightweight, waterproof jacket will help keep you dry and comfortable until the storm has passed. Also, don’t forget that electronic gear generally isn’t waterproof. On many occasions, I have been caught in a rainstorm and have had to decide between keeping my DSLR camera or myself dry…needless to say the camera always won. Invest in a waterproof bag that you can keep in your backpack and use if it looks like it’s going to rain. Don’t worry if you forget this. Go to the nearest supermarket and grab some ziplock or plastic supermarket bags. These aren’t as durable as a proper waterproof bag but they will help to keep your electronic gear dry.

Always have a waterproof jacket handy
9. Lightweight scarfs, travel towels, bandanas, ice towels

Keep a wet absorbent scarf, towel or bandana around your neck and shoulders to help you stay cool. You could also try wetting your hat or your t-shirt (just don’t wear white) to give you some instant natural cooling relief.  These days you can also get ice towels that you can soak in water and wrap around your neck to help keep you cooler for longer. At night you can also consider dampening your t-shirt/ towel/cotton sheet/sleeping bag liner, this will help to keep you cool and make it easier to sleep.

10. Baby/talcum powder, the solution to reduce chaffing and sweaty feet

If you thought talcum powder is just for babies, think again. Rub it over your feet before you embark on a walk or hike in the bush as it will help keep your feet dry and stop your shoes from smelling. Try dusting some powder between your thighs, this will help reduce chafing caused from walking and it will make your legs feel amazing.  If sleeping in a wet shirt at night doesn’t appeal to you, then try sprinkling some talcum powder in your sleeping bag. It can help to make your bed feel cooler and will help to absorb any sweat during the night.

By following some of these handy tips you should be able to get out there and enjoy all that the bush has to offer.


About the Author:
Picture of Emma Summers

Emma Summers

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