We always intended to take a roof tent but the extended nature of our trip means that there will be times when we will want shelter from rain, insects or inquisitive locals and somewhere to relax in at ground level.

The obvious choice would be an awning from one of the roof tent manufacturers which fits to the vehicle roof rack. These come with optional sides but these are time consuming to fit and have to be taken down before you can drive away.


After a lot of consideration, we decided that an OzTent gave most of the benefits offered by an awning with sides but with the advantage that we could make that all important early morning start for game drives etc without having to pack everything up first.

For the uninitiated, OzTents are Australian made tents with an ingenious aluminium frame. They pack down into a 2 metre long sausage which in a few minutes (the 30 claims of a “30 second erection” is typical Antipodean bravado and exaggeration) turns into a sturdy tent which you can stand up in and has an awning you can sit under.

The downside is that lugging 18 kgs on and off the roofrack everyday is a bit of a chore and the OzTent takes up a fair bit of roof space but our initial experience of the OzTent is that it is a really good alternative to an awning.

February 2011 Update

The Oztent was OK but not baboon proof! In Chobe National Park, Botswana, a troop of baboons used it as a trampoline and wrecked the aluminium frame. The design of the folding frame makes the Oztent easy to put up and down but is not something which is easily fixed in the bush.

We replaced the frame in Jo’burg but eventually got fed up with the hassle of getting it down off the roof rack and the weight and space taken up by the Oztent camp beds.

We took the Oztent and camp beds back to the UK with us when returned to the UK for Christmas/New Year 2010/2011 and brought back a cheap two man ground tent and foam sleeping mats for when sleeping in the rooftent is not an option.   

MyWay Roof Tent

As well as great views, there is something quite reassuring about camping two metres off the ground in a roof tent on top of your vehicle.

Most 4x4 roof tents originate from South Africa and 4x4/overlander internet forums are full of heated debates regarding the merits or otherwise of Howling Moons, Hannibals, Eezi-Awns etc.

The tent on the Land Rover we hired for our 2007 southern African trip was old and a bit tired but using it gave us a good idea what to look for in a tent. Before choosing our tent we spent more time than is healthy climbing in and out of tents at Land Rover shows and pestering owners to show us how quickly and easily they could put their tent up or down. This may sound daft but features such as uncomfortable steps, fiddly covers/zips etc. which would be mildly irritating in a tent that is only used a few times a year would become a major annoyance if the tent is being used every day for a year. In addition once we leave South Africa “main dealer” support if something breaks is likely to be limited!

After exploring all the options (several times), we chose the MyWay tent made by a small South African company but rather than buy it in the UK we decided to wait until we get to Cape Town and buy direct from the maker.

February 2011 Update

We have had to replace the tent cover which perished after a couple of years unprotected under the harsh African sun. We also reconfigured the tent so it opened off the back of the Landy rather than the side. There are benefits of having the tent opening to the side but opening off the back means that the tent can be put up and down without having to climb on the roof.

We have added a lightweight MyWay awning to give us shade/shelter from the rain.

The MyWay guys both in South Africa and the UK have provided us with very friendly and helpful support.

Engel Fridge

A good fridge is essential for keeping beer, wine, steak and other less important consumables cool. There are a range of super-efficient (and expensive) fridges available which will keep their contents cold (or frozen) even in very high ambient temperatures. These fridges also use much less power than a conventional 12 volt cool box to minimise the drain on your vehicle battery.

The Engel fridge with a Danfoss compressor has a reputation for being efficient and unbreakable. The 42 litre Engel fridge we used during our 2007 southern African trip was certainly efficient but did break!

Despite this we decided to go with an Engel fridge for our trip and have it mounted behind the passenger seat to allow easy access via the rear passenger door. Foleys modified the profile of the rear wheelarch (so that the fridge sits lower to provide easy access) and made a custom mounting to keep it secure.

February 2011 Update

So far the Engel has performed flawlessly. There are times when a bigger fridge or fridge/freezer would have been nice but no complaints.

Coleman “Dual Fuel” (Petrol) Stove

I have used a small MSR petrol stove for backpacking and wild camping for years. This has always done the job but the process of lighting it always seems to be a bit more exciting than it should be. I was therefore wary of using a petrol stove for our trip and most South African 4x4 expedition vehicles have the ubiquitous blue CADAC gas cylinders strapped to their backs. Gas is certainly easier and cleaner than petrol but we were not sure how easy it would be to find once we left southern Africa.

Having seen the Coleman “Dual Fuel” stoves in use during the Woodsmoke expedition training course I attended in Cumbria in July and read many positive reviews and reports on “outdoor” forums, I decided that this was the way to go.

Ideally these stoves should be run on very pure “white gas” or Coleman fuel but this is expensive and unlikely to be available so we will just have to see how it fares with low grade African petrol.

February 2011 Update

The Coleman stove is a bit more fiddly to start than a gas stove and the generators get clogged up and need to be replaced after 6-8 months but the ability to cook on a stove without the worry of having to find gas refills (increasingly difficult the further you get from South Africa) has made it invaluable. 

Coleman “Dual Fuel” Lantern

It gets dark early and quickly in Africa particularly near the equator and good lighting is essential for setting up camp, cooking and relaxing in the evenings. We have 12 volt lights but to minimise the drain on the battery a gas or petrol lantern makes sense.

The same gas vs petrol issues apply to lanterns as for stoves but having chosen a petrol stove the choice of lantern was a no brainer.

Despite being well packed, I was a bit nervous about the robustness of the lantern glass and mantles but both survived a test drive over the Moroccan High Atlas mountains and Sahara over terrain which destroyed the suspensions of several vehicles on the trip. So far so good!

February 2011 Update

As with the stove, the Coleman lantern is a bit more fiddly than a gas lantern but has been invaluable. If we start breaking mantles too regularly it is a sign that we should slow down a bit!

Kelly (“Volcano”) Kettle 

These are clever retro-style aluminium outdoor kettles which have a central “chimney” and outer sleeve where the water goes. You light a fire at the bottom and the heat goes up the chimney and heats the water much more efficiently than using a conventional pan.

Available in 1 and 2.5 litre sizes, these Irish made kettles have become quite popular amongst fisherman etc. My first reaction was that they looked a bit gimmicky but they really do work – a handful of dry paper, cardboard, grass, twigs etc. really does boil a litre of water in about 5 minutes. Great if you want a brew but don’t want to unpack a stove or make a proper fire.

February 2011 Update

No complaints about the Kelly/Volcano kettle, we just didn’t use it enough and it was shipped home.

Water Purification - Millbank Bag and Steripen

Cheap bottled water is widely available but there will be times when we may need to drink water we cannot be sure is fit to drink.

Boiling is an option (and the current opinion seems to be  that this does remove all organic hazards) but is time consuming and uses a lot of fuel.

We were tempted by the sophisticated filtration systems made by Brownchurch and others which can be plumbed into your vehicles onboard water supply. These are expensive, can be bulky and rely on potentially fragile ceramic filters to remove any nasties. We opted for a combination of a low-tech filtration system and a hi-tech UV sterilisation system.

Developed decades ago for the British army and available from army surplus shops, the Millbank bag is about as low-tech as it gets. It is simply a large “sock” made out of heavy duty but porous cotton which filters out large impurities. The filtered water looks clean(er) but may still contain bacteria, viruses and cysts, which is where the Steripen comes in.

The Steripen is a battery powered “pen” which zaps the contents of a litre of water with powerful UV rays. These rays fry the DNA of any organic hazards in the water leaving them inert and harmless.

We also have conventional iodine and chlorine purification tablets.

We both aim to lose a few pounds during our trip but hopefully our strategy for pure water will work and dysentery and cholera won’t be the way we achieve this!

February 2011 Update

We have only had to use the Millbank bag once but the Steripen has been used very regularly to sterilise water we have not boiled. So far we have not suffered from any real stomach bugs.

A Steripen (plus a spare) and some decent rechargeable AA batteries is all you need for safe water on an African trip and from our experience, it is difficult to see the justification for expensive plumbed in water purification systems.