Remember this picture of me when Katja first introduced me as a new Travelette? I had just attempted my first ever official camping trip. Well, trip sounds a bit too grand, it was one weekend, but nevertheless I was proudly wearing my borrowed headlamp and drinking my pink champagne. The headlamp would be useless a few hours later as I was fumbling with the clip and lost all batteries in the process and the champagne lasted all but an hour, because while a few people were giving me funny looks, a lot wanted some and I gladly shared. Mind you this was the first time I actually enjoyed this thing called camping…

me camping

When I was little I was utterly fascinated with the idea of camping of any sorts. The kids magazine Mickey Mouse ran a competition with bingo scratch cards and the grand price of a motorhome. You would get the bingo cards for free at any shop and obviously the more you had and scratched the bigger chances of winning. So I sat with my stack of about one hundred cards and watched the TV commercials between certain cartoon shows each night, religiously scratching away for an hour or so while dreaming of winning this motorhome. Needless to say I didn’t win and we continued our holidays as per usual.

Then came along Grey’s Anatomy and Mc Dreamy made the idea of actually living in a camper not only cool and manly, but coming out of a cubicle shower hot as hell. With that idea in mind I was more than delighted when my friend in Cape Town gifted me a night in a silver streamer on top of the Grand Daddy Hotel for my birthday. This hotel has an entire park of these streamers permanently parked on the roof and decorated by different designers. While an awesome idea the insides are tiny and for someone who is 5.8” showering was nearly impossible. So is privacy, something I obviously didn’t consider when I almost won my family the Mickey Mouse motorhome. In hindsight I am glad it didn’t work out, because to survive such a trip would need a more normal family than mine.

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Obviously you can camp without a camper van simply by pitching a good old tent. Oh, how I begged my father to pitch one in our garden and spend the night outside with me. My dad being a good sport complied, but not considering that our garden is set on a slope. Either one of us would roll onto the other or we would get soaked when putting the tent closer to the pond where the ground was even, but wet. I decided then and there that a good night’s sleep was more important than ‘adventure’ and have ever since gone for something with a bed.

That was till I moved to South Africa and I had to learn the art of camping. Even if you don’t opt for a full on camping holiday as many South Africans do and love, there is many music festivals around Cape Town to be found and an integral part of a the festival experience is always camping. Not for me I thought and with the words I don’t camp! I decided that I would simply take my own car and sleep in it too for my first ever festival attendance. In hindsight the whole thing had already written disaster all over it, because regardless of where you sleep you always need camping essentials i.e. food and snacks. So my number 1 tip for successful camping:

Always take food and snacks. Do not rely that there will be food after midnight, because apparently a lot of festival goers can survive on alcohol and drugs love alone. If like me, you require food when partying, make sure you have your own supply stash. Also don’t count that there will be hot water for two-minute-noodles, so rather prepare a cold midnight supper in advance.


The night that followed in my car was more uncomfortable than I could have ever imagined and after my cousin, who is a master at not only camping, but glamping, told me about a very blissful night in her tent, I decided it was time to learn.


For the next festival I had it all: a proper big tent set up by some friends, a big blow up mattress, and most important of all – a cooler box well stocked. I even had a little torch to lead me back to the campsite after a night of dancing, but it wasn’t good enough and couldn’t prevent me stumbling over some uneven ground and twisting my ankle. A lucky star had it that my friend who had left the dance floor shortly after found me on the ground and helped me hobble to the medics tent. They couldn’t do much but wrap up my foot and send me off with some pain killers. Now tip number 2: do not twist your ankle while camping, because this will make for a really uncomfortable night if you are trying to sleep in a tent with a twisted ankle. Worse than sleeping in a car.

Also squatting is impossible and hobbling to the toilets very dangerous. Learn to not pee.

On the other hand you can still sit on a haystack with your friends dancing circles around you, serving you chilled white wine while your foot gets the leftover ice.

Rocking the Daisies 2

With my ankle painfully in mind I tried to stay clear of camping afterwards for a few years. That was till I got engaged with Greenpop, an initiative that plants trees to re-green Africa. Once a year they have a so called Reforestfest at beautiful Platbos Forest close to Hermanus, which is a weekend of tree planting, dancing, and of course camping. My friends Claire and Gareth took me under their wings and here I was to learn the ropes of proper camping. My tips number 3 – 10 in no apparent order of importance:

  • Do not ever take a pop-up tent. While easy to set up, they are almost impossible to break down. I once observed a family of 10 trying to wrestle their pop-up tent back together for over thirty minutes. Unsuccessfully I should add.
  • Pay someone in beers to set up your tent for you. Even better learn how to set up a tent yourself, set up tents for other latecomers, and get paid in beers yourself.


  • As a girl it is perfectly acceptable to bring champagne on a camping trip. Don’t forget ice. Even the best of champagne is useless when warm. Or in my case – drink quickly and share.
  • Wet wipes are your friend.
  • Don’t mind mocking looks – taking a duvet and pillow will increase your sleeping comfort immensely. Or at least have a friend who is a geologist who will let you borrow a down feather sleeping bag.
  • Get a headlamp. In pink. Call it your unicorn headlamp. Make fun of yourself all you want, but get one – it is the most practical thing I own.
  • Take an electric air pump. Believe me blowing up mattresses with a manual pump is time not well spend.
  • I prefer my own room in a hotel so I also prefer my own tent when camping. Mind you, on the last trip I made a concession and let a friend crash on my mattress and while boys may stink after a night of beer drinking and sitting by the fire, they are also awesome for keeping you warm.
  • With these things considered I spent my first successful nights in a tent. And while it may not become my preferred type of holiday accommodation, I am happy to know I can get decent shut eye in the middle of nowhere if needed.


Learn all of this and you may just survive a wedding in a tent and will manage to crawl out of a tent ready for the ceremony in a cocktail dress. But in case you are still worried about your overall comfort and sleeping in particular in a tent, I recommend you start in a luxury tented camp, the peak of glamping.

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Especially in South Africa, these can be found all over the country, in and out of game farms, in the forest or next to the ocean. My favorite is Botlierskop, a beautiful game lodge in the Western Cape, that has luxury wilderness written all over it. Tents come with minibars, canopy beds, outdoor showers, and a bath tub that was made to re-enact Out of Africa. Just don’t forget your heels for this camping experience!

Images 2 + 3 via Grand Daddy

Images 4 + 6 via Rocking the Daisies

Images 5 + 7 via Greenpop

Images 9 + 10 via Botlierskop

Images of Annika camping taken by Claire and Natalie.

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!