Advice on Buying your Own Camping Gear

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Pitching tents in wind can be … interesting; photo by Marcus Westberg

Last week we talked about the beauty and challenges of camping in the Gorilla Highlands and promised we would move a level higher today: into buying your own camping gear. We are still helping an East African beginner enjoy the thrill of sleeping in nature, but now we will be guiding your tent shopping in Kampala (Kigali should be avoided due to higher costs and more limited selection).

So what do we need?

1. something to stay in
2. something soft to lie on
3. something to cover yourself with

Let’s move from the bottom up.

3. Assuming you have enough room in your luggage, a warm blanket (or two) and some bedsheets will suffice. A sleeping bag is optional, its only benefit being that it can be packed small.

2. Yap, you could theoretically roll your good old mattress and move with it. However, mobility is among the main attractions of camping and if you don’t have your own vehicle with ample space, you should look further than that.

Perhaps a half inch mattress would be enough? Visit a foam factory and have it cut for you if you don’t find it in any shop. If this is not your thing, you could as well bring something inflatable, the best combination of portability and comfort. Finally, a real camping mat is not a bad option either.

Whatever you choose, try it out before purchase. Yes, literally. Lie down on it. And imagine spending many hours like that…

1. The tent. Tents come in very many sizes, and the general rule is the smaller the cheaper. A tent tall enough for you to stand in will make you feel more comfortable. A tiny tent might be more cosy and surely more easy to carry around.

Do not focus only on how it looks when pitched, the weight and size of a packed tent must be something to consider as well.

Check out the zippers and assess their strength. That’s the critical part, the part most likely to go bad.

Do not get scared when running into a canvas tent that costs millions of shillings. Such tents are meant to stand somewhere for a long time and brave the sun. What you need will cost a fraction of that. A decent tent for two should cost USh 150,000-300,000.

The best place in Kampala to buy camping gear is Game at Lugogo but there’s an important rule: keep an eye on their promotions. There’s a different tent on discount at almost any time, the price difference is significant and if you can afford to wait it’s better to be strategic…

text: Miha Logar