If you ask people in Tanzania what they do for short vacations, they’ll probably say that they visit family in their hometowns, go to the beach, stay home and watch TV or even travel to other countries like Kenya or South Africa. Rarely will someone say that ‘they go camping’.
In fact, to many, camping is like a punishment, “why would you sacrifice the comfort of a bed and a hot shower and TV, to sleep in the woods?” Many Tanzanians will tell you that this is an activity that only Europeans and Americans enjoy – “you can leave me at the hotel while you do your camping thing.”
However, it’s actually unfortunate that not enough Tanzanian’s take advantage of our country’s beautiful greenery, forestry and nature. Many cities in the world are affected by light and gas pollution, and you can’t look up and see stars like you can in most (if not all parts of Tanzania). And, there’s no better time to star gaze and appreciate the natural beauty of our country, then during a camping trip.
Additionally, camping is also beneficial to Tanzanian’s because:
- It’s affordable: You don’t have to go to the Serengeti to camp; there are camping grounds all over Tanzania that are located in the forest and even on the beach.
- It’s relaxing: When you are camping, you are forced to disconnect from your everyday life and all your electronic devices (your battery won’t last for 3 days). As a result, your mind gets to take a break and replenish itself. This reduces the production of, cortisol, the hormone that creates stress.
- It’s fun: Camping can be a blast if you get a good group of friends to come a long, bring some decent (easy to prepare) food and drinks, and also carry some cards, board games, a football, books etc. Since there are little distractions, you get to concentrate on the people you are with. It’s a great way to reconnect with loved ones, and just have a good time. Tip: Don’t go camping with people you don’t like.
Ok. So now you are interested in going camping right?
But since camping isn’t a popular or common activity in Tanzania, most people don’t know how to prepare for it. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, here are the 10 things you will absolutely need when you go camping!
Unless you are 100 percent sure it’s not going to rain, or you are in a camping ground that provides tents – you will need a tent to protect you from rain, wild animals (depends) and bugs (specifically mosquitoes).
If you choose to buy a tent, think about how comfortable you are sleeping in close proximity to the people you are going camping with. A rule of thumb: Always add one person to your tent size. For instance, if you are buying a tent for 3 people to sleep in, make sure the capacity is for four people – to give you more room and comfort.
2. Sleeping bag and pad
Even if you never go camping, a sleeping bag is a good accessory to have. It will come in handy when you go sleepover a friend’s house, or travel to the village and find that there isn’t enough beds for everyone.
When purchasing a sleeping bag for a camping trip, keep in mind how hot or cold it gets at night in the place you are camping. If the temperature drops a lot, make sure the bag you get is properly insulated. This will save you from carrying heavy blankets and duvets, which will add to your weight when you are hiking/walking to the camping ground.
In addition to a sleeping bag, getting a sleeping pad will add comfort and make you feel like you are almost sleeping in a real bed. If you don’t want to be uncomfortable during your camping trip, make sure you have a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad.
3. Mosquito repellent/bug spray
There is nothing worse than having an army of mosquitoes around you, and all you can do is hit them with your hands.
Moreover, you should research if there are any poisonous bugs in the area that you are camping, and what precautions you should take to protect yourself.
Whether you are on the beach or the middle of the Ngorongoro – the mosquitoes and bugs will be there. So, it’s in your best interest to be prepared.
It will get really really dark at night, and a good source of light will not only help you see, it will keep the wild animals (if any) away.
Whether or not you have a campfire, you will need the bonus lighting of a lantern. LED ones are cheap, bright and easy to use. You can also bring a rope and hang the lantern from a tree to illuminate a greater distance.
5. Head lamp
In addition to the lantern, during the nighttime, you are going to need a portable source of light when you go to the bathroom (in the woods), cook, look through your bags or do other activities at night. A cheap LED headlight will be more useful than a handheld torch.
Don’t pack your jeans or short shorts. Instead clothes that are good for camping include:
- Active wear (track suits, work out leggings, short sleeved t-shirts etc)
- Cargo shorts and pants
- Long sleeved t-shirts
- Light cardigan or sweaters
Also play close attention to the material of the clothes. Stick with natural fibers like cotton and linen, as they breathe better and don’t irritate the skin. Synthetic clothes are also fine, but they may cause some itching, and if it’s hot – they’ll make you sweat more.
7. Deodorant and breath mints
For many, hygiene is a key concern when they think of going camping and being away from services like modern day showers and toilets. While smelling is unavoidable if you haven’t taken a shower in 3 days, what will help the stench is having a consistent supply of deodorant and breath mints.
In addition, bring an air freshener spray for the moments when someone in your group releases a smelly fart and won’t admit it! You know it will happen.
8. Water and disinfectant
Even if water will be provided, make sure to carry plenty of bottled or boiled water to use for rehydration, hand washing and cooking. While you may be told that drinking water from a stream or waterfall is safe, if you are city-born and raised in boiled and sanitized water – don’t risk it.
Also, you will be able to use less water, if you have disinfectant. While you should always wash your hands with water and disinfectant after going to the bathroom, there are times (like when you want to clean your hands before eating) that you can substitute water with a disinfectant.
9. First aid kit
Anything from minor scratches to big bleeding wounds can occur while camping. You could scrape yourself on a tree trunk or fall on a rock, regardless of how you get hurt – you will be thankful that you have a first aid kit with you.
While you may purchase fully packed first aid kits, it’s an even better idea to make your own first aid kit tailored to your individual needs. For instance, if you have asthma, make sure you have your pump (or any other medication you take). If you know you lose energy quickly, make sure you have glucose. Other first aid kit necessities include:
- Plasters ( of different sizes)
- Alcohol-free cleansing wipes
- Gauze dressings ( of different sizes)
- Sterile gloves
- Eye dressings ( of different sizes)
- Sticky tape
- Bandages (triangular and rolled)
- Antiseptic cream
- Skin rash cream
- Thermometer (preferably digital)
- Mosquito repellent
- Bug spray
- Antihistamine tablets
- Painkillers such as ( panadol, paracetamol, aspirin)
- Cough medicine
- Safe water for cleaning wounds
10. A good attitude
Unlike lying on the beach or a hotel room, camping requires you to actively participate in creating your experience. So, if you go in with a bad attitude and complain about the bugs, the walking, the weather, the lack of Wi-Fi etc, you will prevent yourself from having fun and possibly also affect the experiences of those around you (no one likes a party pooper).
So, if you decide to go for it. Really go for it. Get yourself excited, and take it for what it is. It won’t be the same experience as a spa weekend, instead, you will sweat, smell bad and get a few bug bites but most importantly you will connect with nature, friends and yourself – and that is so worth it.
Where will you go?
So now that you know what you need to bring for your camping adventure, it’s time to find the perfect camping spot. Check out these 10 great camping destinations in Tanzania for some ideas! Even better, find a campsite on ZoomTanzania.