Lift your camping game with Thule, plus some of the best local camping spots

Date:28 September 2021 Tags:,

With the warmer weather, lockdown levels lifted slightly, but still a limit on international travelling, it means one thing. Camping in and around our beautiful country should be at the top of your wanderlust list.

Whether you’re a solo adventurer, a family or a group of friends, Thule’s ingenious rooftop tents give you the option of a weekend adventure whenever you want it, plus are a massive space saver if you have a lot of gear. Here’s the lowdown on how Thule can help to lift your camping game (quite literally), plus some of the best camping spots around the country to try.

If you love camping, but think it’s time to ditch your tent on the cold, muddy ground, there’s an easy solution. Rooftop tents elevate your camping experience and are made for campers who love adventure. These tents mount onto your vehicle’s rack system and are an alternative to a ground tent or caravan. They allow you to easily convert any vehicle – car, SUV, crossover and others― into a mobile adventure basecamp and are more affordable than a caravan. But the benefits of a rooftop tent don’t stop there.

The benefits of a rooftop tent (vs traditional ground camping):

Quick and easy setup: Rooftop tents can be opened and packed away within minutes. You don’t have to connect a bunch of poles and secure them in the ground like a ground tent. All you have to do is unfold the tent and you’re done. This means more time exploring and less time setting up camp.

Get off the ground: Most rooftop canvasses are waterproof, so you can keep high and dry in any weather. Also, rooftop tents keep you safe from animals, track less dirt in, and allow you to enjoy the enhanced view that camping above-ground gives you. Some roof top tents even have built-in sky panels, so you can drift off gazing at the stars.

Stay comfortable: With built-in memory-foam mattresses, a guaranteed flat surface to sleep on, plenty of ventilation, and places to stash your gear, rooftop tents mean a comfortable night’s sleep no matter where your adventure takes you. Rooftop tents are also built to last. They handle bad weather better than ground tents and can be used in tricky terrain, unlike caravans.

Hard-shell or soft-shell tent? 

The next decision is to work out whether a soft shell or hard shell rooftop tent would suit you best. Every Thule Tepui rooftop tent is purpose-built, made with high-quality materials and designed to be used in a variety of environments. Choosing the right tent for you – soft shell or hard shell ― depends on how many people you want to sleep, and what environments you will be camping in.

Soft shell tents These are the most common type of rooftop tent. They fold in half and expand the tent’s canopy as they open, making setting up a breeze. One half of the tent mounts to your vehicle’s roof rack; the other half is supported by a ladder that extends down from the tent to the ground. Tearing down is easy – fold the tent over, collapse the ladder, and replace the weather-resistant travel cover.

Soft shell tents come in many different sizes – 2, 3 and 4 person tents, up to 290kg – and varieties for different weather conditions. The Thule Tepui Explorer Series soft shell tents have thick, coated ripstop canopies, made to endure all conditions and seasons and there are four large internal pockets for storing gear and camping accessories. The Thule Tepui Autana 3 also offers an annex that provides an additional private room below the tent, perfect for getting ready for the day’s adventure.

Hard shell tents These allow you to quickly pop-up your tent with the release of a few latches. The quick setup and tear down make them ideal for the stop-and-go camping that is common with overlanding and off-roading. This style of the tent does not hang over the vehicle like a softshell tent, but rather, extends upward, making them great for lifted/ taller vehicles and tight campsites.

Although hard shell tents can hold up to 2 people (180kg), in some cases they can double as a cargo box to transport gear as well. A hard shell tent allows you to set up camp quickly and easily, while giving you space to haul extra gear, as the versatile design converts from a cargo carrier to a rooftop tent in minutes. The interior is lined with reinforced insulation to help control the temperature inside the tent.

What’s the best roof top tent for me?

For families

The largest roof top tents usually max out with a weight capacity of about 290kg, which is perfect as a 4-person tent for families. A roof top tent annex also gives you extra space to get the little ones ready in the morning, or even a separate place for them to sleep. The Thule Tepui Autana 4 is ready for any season and provides protection in all types of environments.

For weekends and short trips

If you’re the type of explorer who likes quick weekend getaways or a short stay at a campsite, a compact lightweight car roof tent is a must. A tent like the Thule Tepui Foothillfrees up space on the roof of your car. This makes it ideal for smaller vehicles like crossover cars and means you can bring along extra equipment like a bike or kayak.

For the adventurers

If you have a long trip planned out in the sticks, choose a roof top tent that is designed for where the road ends. Hard-shell rooftop tents like the Thule Tepui Hybox Ahave hard material, which makes them really good at withstanding rain and wind. A tent like this is perfect for your 4X4 trailer or off-road rigs.

Best local camping sites:

Best for friends: Meiringskloof Nature Park (Free State)

Just over three and a half hours’ drive from Joburg, and surrounded by sandstone cliffs and open caves lies Meiringskloof Nature Park. Set in a beautiful kloof, amidst thick indigenous bush, the birdlife is prolific. Numerous short hiking trails allow you to explore the kloof and caves, and there’s a swimming pool to cool off in afterwards. The 4×4 trails will challenge both the experienced and novice driver and the reserve also offers horse riding and abseiling at an extra cost. There’s plenty of trees that offer shade, electricity at all of the 24 stands and braai facilities – just bring your own braai grid.

Best for the family: Berg River Resort (Western Cape)

Berg River Resort is located in the midst of the scenic and spectacular Cape Winelands in the Paarl Valley, just 60km from Cape Town. The campsite offers 150 stands with grass for tents or caravans, most of which also have electrical outlets. Close to the campsite are various facilities including an Olympic-sized swimming pool, children’s pool and waterslide as well as the river itself, where guests can enjoy swimming and canoeing. There’s a café for daily essentials, a play area where kids can enjoy ball games, an animal farmyard, trampoline and tractor rides for the kids. There’s also volleyball and putt putt for older kids. For the best of both town and country, the area is amazing to explore, with a number of museums, art galleries, restaurants and wine farms nearby as well as the Drakenstein Lion Park, Bien Donné Herb Farm and the Paarl Bird Sanctuary nearby.

Best for solo adventurers: Cape Vidal (KZN)

If you really want to get away from it all – and everyone – then camping in the exceptional beauty of Isimangaliso Wetland Park is for you. As this little campsite offers just eight sites, you can really experience the magic and beauty of your surroundings. There is snorkelling, swimming, fishing, hiking and bird watching… or you can simply laze on one of the pristine (sheltered) beaches.  View hippo, crocodile, elephants and buffalo, loggerhead and leatherback turtles, playful dolphins and elusive whales. The Cape Vidal campsite offers shady spots, ablution facilities and electricity plug points. It is located about 30km from St Lucia.

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Picture/s: Supplied

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