Dear Hiking South Africa Members,
I have recently completed the Otter Trail with my partner and we absolutely loved the experience. We are very keen to embark on some other hikes and adventures that will also be more rustic and need a tent.
The tent market is a Mine Field, and if you are like me, with a small obsession on details, technical specifications and reviews it becomes a problem
I am hoping that you could push me in the right direction, details as below:
People: 2 of us, was thinking a 3 person tent to ensure ample space.
Conditions: I am Durban based which means Drakensburg will probably be our playground – giants cup, Injasuthi etc.
Types of hikes: expect anything from single nights to multiple and also being based somewhere like Cobham where we can do multiple day hikes. I have heard that the Cederberg is also incredible so we would like to branch out and try different routes outside of KZN.
Flysheets – how does one work out what is required in terms of water resistance? More is better? is 2000mm perfectly ok?
Shape – from what I can see a Dome style tent is simple the best and worth it.
Brands – I do prefer to support Local (K-Way/First Ascent) but I will consider all.
my absolute Maximum on price is in the range of R 4500-5000
look forward to your opinions
The things I would look at when looking for a tent are: Weight, awning size, ease of setting up/tearing down and the size of its storage bag.
You definitely want the weight to be under 4kg, preferably under 3kg. With a 3 person tent or bigger you usually split up the tent between the people sleeping in it, or arrange for one person to carry the tent and for their gear to be split between the other people so that the individual carry weight is about is about the same as for a 1 or 2 person tent.
The awning should be big enough to cook under when its raining or the wind is strong enough to blow your stove out. You also might want to be able to leave your pack or your boots outside with some protection. Ease of setting up/tearing down is important because you don’t want to have to figure out a complicated construction after a long day’s hike or keep other hikers waiting while to tear your tent down in the morning. The size of the storage bag should fit inside your pack or be easily attachable to it.
The season rating on tents determines the seasons a tent is considered suitable for, 3 seasons is usually considered good enough for South African weather since our winters aren’t that cold and we don’t tend to get heavy snowfall very often.
The way water resistance is measured for flysheets is using a water column, this means that if a tent has a rating of 2000mm it can withstand 2000mm of water pooling on top of the flysheet before water starts to dribble through.
thank you Philip, appreciate your insight.
i loved the article, particularly the part below which gave me some perspective:
“For example, 1500 mm means that the fabric will withstand a 1500mm (5’) column of water for more than one minute before a single drop might appear through the fabric. That’s strong enough to prevent rain from leaking in a 75 mph hurricane-force storm.”
This is correct (not sure about that hurricane though…). One thing you need to keep in mind though is that this is 1500mm when it is new. Over time the material will begin to degrade. Starting with a higher rating should theoretically increase its lifespan. This does depend on what sort of waterproofing it uses though - make sure you are comparing apples to apples (PU to PU or silnylon to silnylon for instance).
In terms of actual tents, the 3 person spec makes it a bit harder, there is a much greater range in 2 person. How tall are you and your partner? A generously sized 2 person (MSR Elixir, Naturehike Mongar) could be spacious enough if you are average or under. For 3 person, the lightest in SA is probably the Naturehike Cloud Up 3, followed by the First Ascent Eclipse. Sure I’m missing a bunch, but there are some to look at so long. I definitely wouldn’t get anything over 4 kg if I could help it.
I am 182cm and partner is 150 something so we are not big people!
If you want a good breakdown of tents read the thread under Gear Shed called " the good the bad and the ugly". It covers all the tents currently available.
With what you are looking for I would take a look at a couple.
For two people with a bit of room the Nature Hike Mongar (R3200) is pretty light and solidly built. I run a similar one (Star River) that I have had no trouble with at all, in fact the Mongar improves some things. Light, particularly split across 2 people and having two entrances and vestibules can be a god send. The Drakensberg isn’t my playground, so can’t say in terms of weather there but has handled the Cederberg well.
For something a bit more 4 season and localy made try the First Ascent Helio 2 (R2500). A bit heavy for my taste and with only a single entrance, but that does give it a larger vestibule if you need to cook out of the rain. Well shielded and might be a good call for the Drakensberg.
And if you are just trying to get into this cheaply and easily while you learn what you like give the First Ascent Starlight 2 (R1600) a look. A bit heavy and not brilliantly rigged, but reasonably sized, cheap and quick to put up. Serves a bunch of people I know well for most of their hikes.
My two cents
Everything US made is staggeringly expensive here, K-Way doesn’t seem to have much that stands out versus the First Ascent and Nature Hike stuff. The other major one here seems to be Vango, a British make I have no experience with but could be suited to the Drakensberg. The other option if you are adventurous and want to go light and use trekking poles to replace tent poles is looking at 3F UL Gear on Aliexpress, they make good stuff.
Also looking around - I have extensive experience in tents and own quite a few, ranging from my dinky Cango single skin A frame tent weighing in at 1.2kg to A Trailer set up and various dome tents, steel and Canvas to fiberglass to polyester. including a few cheap caracal type dome tents.
Im looking for a light weight strong tent to hike through hot country. its main requirement is to provide shelter from Hyena’s and mosquito’s whilst at the same time being as cool as possible in 30C plus temperatures
Ventilation brings me onto condensation: in cold conditions particularly found in Africa at altitude you’re exhaled air contains a lot of moisture. you need to open vents to allow this moisture to escape (with the heat) Alternatively you’ll have condensation gathering on the inside of the outer sheet. in my single skin 1 person tent it was snowing outside and I closed the vent above my head. In the morning I collected over 1.5l of water at the foot of my tent.
My point is that tents cover a multitude of roles: most reviews are aimed at the durability on mountain tops; that’s only one aspect that we need them for.
Most double-wall hiking tents (the norm) will cover your needs, except for the Hyenas - not sure what the requirements are for keeping those guys out… canvas?
Arno my need is for the Kruger Trail.
Nothing will stop a Hyena, but having it inside the tent prevents is grabbing your bag and dragging it out the vestibule.
I brought the 1st Ascent Lunar and its good to go for 1 person with kit inside or two intimately close people with kit outside. Going to take it up Cederberg in December see how it does there, but Awesome on a motorbike trip up the West Coast. Survived a couple of falls and a skid down the road with damage only to the carrier bag and corner of the floor, so Im impressed with the build quality.
As a note to anyone buying Lunar - check it actually fits together in the store. Mine came with three of the four needed corner clips, its not like the clip was missing they’d sewn it up wrong - Quickly replaced so Im still happy
The Lunar will do for Wifey and I on the Fish (she doesn’t like getting bitten and I don’t like sand in my sleeping bag
But I really need a newer three man tent for two people gear inside to replace my old Cadac hexagonal tent.
Wish there were a Mongar 3.
I think the First Ascent Eclipse would be a good option - solid and roomy.
Alternatively, check out the Vango Helvellyn 300.