Travel

New Tent

Introduction

In view of the current corona virus issues, Pat and I decided that we would prefer going camping rather than stay in chalets. In a tent, everything is your own, and no-one touches anything inside the tent, except you, which means you can be reasonably certain that the virus cannot transmitted from anything inside the tent.

We are (were) very experienced campers, having travelled to many countries in Africa, south of the equator, and camped at just as many places in South Africa itself.


Camping in Kasungu, Malawi in the 1990s

On our Africa tours, we mainly used a rooftop tent, as shown in the picture above. It was very convenient when breaking camp, just to fold the tent away and drive off. However, with us getting older, climbing up and down a ladder to get into the tent, was no longer appealing. Also, the tent had taken some damage during a severe storm in Shingwedzi in the late 90s, so we felt camping on the ground was a better option.

On this page, I hope to share with you the thought processes I went through in making a decision in making a decision as to which tent to buy.

Choices

What I was really after, was a tent in which you stand. I still have my really antique Backpacker Kestrel tent and a just as antique Saunders Mountain Dome. These are hiking tents, and I think we are long past the stage of backpacking with tents. With this in mind, we started looking at what was available on the web. Another thing we had to keep in mind was that Cindy and Ray might also be travelling companions, so did we need one or two tents?

Unfortunately, as with all these web-based things, they have a very short life span, so I will pirate a pic of the tent, and include a link, but the link will more than likely be broken.

Oztrail Sportiva 8 Dome

The Oztrail Sportiva 8 Dome was one of the first tents that tickled my fancy. It is a two room tent high enough for me to stand up. This tent is no longer available from the parent company, Oztrail, in Australia, so I doubt that the link I have given will last for long. No brick and mortar store in Pretoria had one for me to view, so this was eliminated from my list pretty quickly.


Oztrail Sportiva 8 Dome

What I did like about this tent was the awning.

Coleman Fastpitch Cabin 8

Similar to the Oztrail Sportiva 8, the Coleman Fastpitch Cabin 8 is a two room tent with plenty of headroom. The layout on this tent looked a bit better then the Sportiva 8, but I was not sure that I liked the high flysheet. Again, no store in Pretoria had one for me to look at.


Coleman Fastpitch Cabin 8

Natural Instincts 9 Person Cabin

Of course, while doing our research, we had to chat to Proffie and Hannalien, our long time travelling companions. They had recently purchased a Natural Instincts 6 Person Cabin. Proffie was reasonably happy with the tent, and said it held up well in windy conditions. However, this is a single room tent, and as I said before, we were more interested in a two room setup. Outdoor Warehouse in Centurion had the Natural Instincts 9 Person Cabin on display in their store, so we went to have a look (we actually went twice, to look at things that bothered me).


Natural Instincts 9 Person Cabin

On our second visit to the shop, I looked at everything in more detail - the whole quick-pitch mechanism bugged me most of all. If something broke there, you can throw the tent away. The second thing that bugged me, was that I could see the poles through the top of the inner. My experience with my Kestrel tent was that moisture would condense on the open metal, and drip down on you. Finally, as with the Coleman Fastpitch Cabin 8, this tent also had a high flysheet, so I decided against the tent.

This was a pity, as it had really nice headroom.

Tentco Range

While in Camp and Climb in Centurion, Siya (an extremely knowledgeable salesman) recommended that we look at a canvas tent, rather than a nylon tent. He said he had far fewer comebacks on canvas tents than nylon tents. The Tentco range was on display in the shop, with various add-ons for the tents and he recommended that we look at these.


Tentco Junior Bow

The biggest disadvantage of the canvas tents were the massive amount of packing space they required. When I do overland trips, I dislike towing a trailer, and unfortunately, you will need a trailer if you want to use these tents (and more especially so with any add-ons). The tent shown above comes in at 20kg, with two bags, one at 72x28x35cm for the tent, the other 112x16x8 for the poles. If you want to add something to the tent, to give you more living space, this will take up even more space and add weight when packing your vehicle.


Tentco Junior Bow: flysheet with an awning

This flysheet will add and extra 5kg to the weight you need to load. If you want space for a kitchen/living area, you can get an extension room.


Tentco Junior Bow with an extension room

Like the tent. the extension room has two bags, one for the canvas outer (74x36x36cm), and one for the poles (120x23x17cm). It weighs 26kg.

In spite of these tents being highly recommended by the 4x4 community, the size and the weight were just too much for me to lug around.

Oztrail Seascape 10

Another tent we considered was the Oztrail Seascape 10. The design is similar to the Bungalow 9 discussed below, but quite a bit cheaper.


Oztrail Seascape 10

What put me off with this tent, was that the middle room was quite small, it only had two windows (one on each end wall) and one door (off the central room).

Oztrail Bungalow 9

The Bungalow 9 was one of the first tents we looked at while in Camp and Climb. Siya was very kind in allowing us to pitch it in the store. As it requires the four corner tent pegs to get the dome to stand, we couldn't see the tent in all its glory, but we could at least see the footprint, and by holding up two of the composite poles, we could get a very good idea of the headroom. What I especially liked about this tent, was the three rooms in one package. I was all for buying this tent then and there, but Pat (and Siya) wanted us to look at other options first.


Oztrail Bungalow 9

Where this tent beats the Seascape 10, is that it has four windows and four doors (two doors to the central room, and a door on each end of the tent). The flysheet cover on each door could also be used as an awning.

The tent purchase was put on hold while we looked at other tents, such as those mentioned above. The crunch came when Takealot sent me a notification that this tent was on special for R1500 less then the price from Camp and Climb. I bought it immediately. Unfortunately for Siya, after his hard work, he lost the commission on this sale (he has, however, made the equivalent commission from subsequent purchases we made!).

Ray was visiting us after the lockdown travel restrictions were lifted, when the tent arrived, so he was roped into helping with the first pitching of the tent.


Pat and Ray inspecting the Oztrail Bungalow 9 after pitching for the first time in the garden

From the picture above, you can see there is ample headroom in the tent for an adult to stand in.

Awning poles are not included with the tent, so this was an additional purchase. These are extremely hard to get in South Africa, but fortunately we found one set at Camp and Climb. I would like another two sets, but am not going to import it from Oz at this stage.


Oztrail Bungalow 9 pitched in the garden with the awning up

The first time we used the tent to test it out was in Willemsrus Camping Site in the Dinokeng Game Reserve. (I will do a review of Willemsrus shortly.)


Oztrail Bungalow 9 pitched at Willemsrus

In the pic above, you can see one of the end walls in the flysheet being used as an awning.

Concluding Remarks

The tent is quite large, with a footprint of about 6x2.5m (all doors closed, without guy ropes). It's comfortable with Pat and I on our own, but I suspect it could be a bit crowded with four adults. I would hate to pack nine bodies into this tent on a rainy day!

Pitching the tent is very easy. Unroll the inner, knock in the corner pegs, and fit the poles (thicker ones on the sides, thinner ones for the roof). The flysheet is pulled over the inner, clipped to the relevant poles on the inner and pegged down. With a bit of practise, this can be done in under 10min.

Folding the tent can be tricky, but what we have found to work for both the inner and the flysheet, is to fold it in half by folding the outside edges to the middle (widthwise) and repeating that once more but overlapping at the middle line so that it is just narrower than the bag. This is then rolled up to fit into the bag. Rolling up can be a bit tricky as air gets trapped inside (especially with the flysheet). Rolling the poles ahead of the bit being rolled up does help, so this is definitely a two man job. (I will take some pics when we camp again.)

The tent's bag is 70x40x27cm and weighs 17.1kg (which includes a set of awning poles, a rubber mallet and a roll of duct tape in addition to the tent, poles and pegs).


The bakkie packed, with the tent bag in the right foreground

Updates

Tent Pegs These are really poorly designed (and manufactured). These pegs have a bend in them that is marginally off 90°, which means if you do not hammer the pegs in at 45° or less, whatever you are trying to peg down comes loose in the slightest wind.

If you happen to hit a root or a stone while knocking them in, they bend unbelievably easily.


Bent peg

My forty year old hooked pegs do not do this.

(updated: 18 December 2021)