After preparing the vehicle and getting things rigged for long-term travel, the next priority is adequate shelter from the elements.
As with the vehicle, I have to keep my camp setup light and simple. Since I’m travelling alone it must be manageable for one person to set up and take down. At the same time, I have to be prepared for any weather, from scorching heat to freezing cold, protected from strong winds and heavy downpours.
I’ve already mentioned that I don’t want to tow a trailer or caravan as it would be a handicap on rough roads. For this reason, the only option was a tent.
For this trip, I packed two tents and a gazebo. With this combination I can cope with most situations, setting up whatever arrangement is suitable for where and for how long I’m staying.
My main tent is a Howling Moon Strata 2 Dome Tent.
Made of strong but lightweight ripstop polyester canvas, it’s 3x3m size is large enough for a comfortable living space. Even in rainy weather I can stand, sit and sleep comfortably. It’s sturdy and has kept me dry and protected in some pretty bad weather.
Why specifically the Howling Moon?
There’s a huge selection of similar-looking tents available on the market. Larger, smaller, cheaper, more expensive, at a quick glance they all fulfil the same purpose. I bought the Howling Moon some time before the trip and I had plenty of time to shop around and consider all the options. My final choice was based on a number of factors:
- Firstly, the stitching and general finishing of Howling Moon products is excellent. This should make for longevity and strength.
- The Howling Moon has awnings covering the windows and the main entrance. This means the windows can be left open in hot but wet weather. Also, the awnings keep direct sunlight out and keep rain away from the zips where tents often leak.
- The windows can be opened and closed from the inside. Some tents have the window-flap on the outside and the fly-screen on the inside. Howling Moon is the other way round.
- The fly-screens are made of a very fine mesh, keeping even the smallest creatures out. Some tents use a kind of shade netting with a coarse weave. It may keep out mosquitos, but the smaller things manage to find their way through.
- The roof has a mesh vent underneath the covering fly-sheet. This prevents moisture build-up in damp conditions. Some cheaper tents don’t have this, causing condensation to form and drip down from the roof.
- The Howling Moon has three windows, allowing a breeze through from all sides. Most other tents don’t have a window opposite the door so airflow is restricted.
- Howling Moon uses fibreglass poles for the bow frame and aluminium for the awning supports. These are lighter than the steel poles used by some manufacturers. Replacement fibreglass poles are readily available at most camping stores.
But there is a downside! The tent is not as easy to set up as some of the others, especially when you’re alone. But with a bit of practice and perseverance, I’ve managed to get the hang of it.
The smaller tent is an Oztrail Genesis Dome Tent
I bought this tent on impulse on a Black Friday special deal, not really knowing why I wanted it, but the price was irresistible!
At first glance, it’s light weight and flimsy-looking material doesn’t inspire confidence for durability. But this little tent has surprised me!
It has lasted far longer than I ever expected and it’s such a pleasure to pitch after a long day of travelling. Taking only a few minutes and minimal effort, it’s perfect for a one-night stopover. In good weather, it’s even fine for longer stays.
The Gazebo is a Howling Moon Safari Gazebo
Once again, I already had the gazebo before I started this trip so I took what I had. Its 4.2x3m size is big enough to accommodate a small crowd. If I’d had to choose again for the trip, I’d go for the smaller 3x3m size. This would be perfect for a solo traveller.
After buying and trashing several pop-up gazebo’s, this is one of the best camping investments I’ve ever made!
With a full set of front, back and side panels the gazebo can be configured to offer maximum shade or protection for any weather. Durable canvas and aluminium poles make it strong yet light. It’s also easy to assemble and take down. Securely pegged and roped down it can withstand strong winds.
Why not a rooftop tent?
Many readers will probably be asking why I chose ground tents and not a rooftop tent? Here are my thoughts:
- Rooftops tents are expensive
- Rooftop tents are heavy
- Rooftop tents increase wind resistance / fuel consumption
- Rooftop tents need to be packed up for even the shortest drive
- One cannot stand or sit in a chair in a rooftop tent
- Climbing up and down ladders is an added accident risk
- The extra height makes setting up under a shady tree difficult
- With a rooftop tent I couldn’t use the roof for solar panels
For my personal needs a ground tent just works better.
In a later post I’ll give more information on bedding, chairs, tables and other furniture.