Winter Camping in South Africa

Here are some great camping tips on how to keep warm in the chilly South African winter

I smile as I share this with you but I often hear our international students say, “‘I didn’t realise that it could be cold in Africa”. South Africa may be popular for its golden sunshine and warm weather, but when the short African winters set in, it can get very cold.  Typically, during a winters day, when the sun has risen between 10 am and 3 pm, we normally walk around in shorts and t-shirts. It’s when the sun begins to set that you will feel the change in temperature slowly creeping in and it starts to get cold.

If you plan properly ahead and bring the right gear with you, then you will be set for whatever the weather throws at you. If not, we also have some tips to that might help you out!

(c) Julia Wheeler

This is what you got to know to survive living in the outdoors in wintertime:

  • Layers of clothing and plenty of them!

You want clothes that can keep you warm at night and on those early morning game drives. Start with a thermal base layer and then go from there, adding t-shirts, jumpers and a fleece or jacket. Don’t forget your hands and head. This is often neglected and makes such a difference, so put on a beanie and some gloves.

  • Sleep in your clothes that you will be wearing the next day

Yup, you heard me, wear the clothes you will be wearing that next morning to bed. Changing out of nice warm pyjamas in the cold morning air into cold clothes isn’t a lot of fun. If that doesn’t appeal to you then wear your thermal base layer to bed, under your pyjamas. That way when you wake up you will only have to remove one layer and put another layer on, helping to keep you warm. You can also, if there is space in your sleeping bag, put the clothes you will be wearing in the morning inside. That way they will be warmed up with your body heat during the night.

  • Get a good sleeping bag

Make sure you have a good quality sleeping bag, ideally one that is rated as suitable for 0-5 degrees. If your sleeping bag doesn’t do this, then consider getting a sleeping bag liner? Not only will they help to keep your sleeping bag clean but they will also give you an extra layer to keep you warm at night.  The aim here people is to be as snug as a bug in a rug!

(c) Julia Wheeler

  • Hydration in winter is important

Make sure you stay hydrated. You may not feel thirsty in cold weather, but staying hydrated is incredibly important in winter. Dehydration is not fun and is easily preventable. Don’t forget your water bottle and when you are back in camp to have a hot drink are two. Have some hot water and a slice of lemon or orange or just good Rooibos tea, the South African nectar!

  • Don’t wash your hair at night!

Trust me it won’t dry and all that will happen is you will be cold all night. Rather wash your hair during the day between breakfast and lunch. That way it will have plenty of time to dry during the warmest part of the day.

  • Moisturiser and hair oil

Your skin does become dry in the winter and it begins to look like an elephant’s skin. Stay moisturised with creams and lotions. If you have long hair, then some hair oil will also help to stop your hair from drying out and breaking.

  • Relax around a fire

There is nothing better than chilling around the fire in the evening, talking to your new friends and recapping on your adventures of the day.

  • Never go to bed cold

If you feel cold and want to go sleep, it will be harder to warm up. Go and sit by the fire, make yourself a cup of rooibos tea or maybe do a few jumping jacks to get the blood flowing before you go to sleep.

  • Remember your electric gear

Your electric gear gets cold too, which will impact on their battery life. If you don’t need them at night store them in places like your suitcase or in your sleeping bag. For camera batteries, first thing in the morning put them in your pockets, to warm them up before you put them in your camera and switch them on.

(c) Julia Wheeler

As you can see, it’s easier than you may think to stay warm while camping in the winter. I hope you enjoyed these tips and try them out on your next trip. After all, winter should never keep you from an adventure!