How To Choose .....

How to Choose a Tent
How to Choose a Tent
Before you dash out and grab

the nearest tent from a supplier,

please consider the tips under



Choose the right tent, already!                                                                                                   

Get ready for some serious reading. 

Should you find it too intense, take a break. Have some coffee. Try it in bite-size chunks.

Thing is, if you buy a tent and it turns out to be "unsuitable"... well just spare yourself the disappointment. Avoid someone, somewhere telling you: I told you so.

Here we go...

  • If the picture on the box says the tent   sleeps 6 - it does.  As long as nobody tries to move while sleeping.  Nobody will be able to anyway. 
  • Those little pictures of mummies are a good indication of the entire floor space.
  • Consider not only where everyone will sleep, but a spot for a bag each, as well as a little bit of manoeuvring space  too. Take it from someone who’s been   there – you don’t want to end up storing  all the gear in the car because the tent is too small.
  • Our advice is to choose a tent that sleeps at least 6 if you are a family of 4 – conservatively speaking!
  • Another very important feature is the height of the tent when erected.  Mom  and dad – probably the tallest in the family – should be able to stand upright. Having to dress oneself while lying down on an air mattress is NOT funny.  Ok it is funny, but nobody’s allowed to laugh, so what   is the point.
  • See if there are material loops, or at least a pole on the ceiling, inside of the tent, where lanterns or flashlights can be hooked onto.  Might not sound like a biggie, but if you don’t have it, you will miss it.
  • Many tents offer storage pockets on the side walls.   They come in very handy for storing keys, tissues, spare batteries and Jelly Tots.
  • Most manufacturers are sensible in their designs, but here and there you might find one that offers a tent which was obviously designed by a person who has never, ever, camped.  Such a tent is normally identified by the positioning of  the window zips.…. The zips are sewn on the outer side of the mozzie net, which means you have to get out of bed to go and zipp’em up from the outside if it starts raining.  Go figure.  (Ching-chong- cha does not work well at 3 in the morning).
  • Ventilation, ventilation, ventilation.  Get it?  You have no idea what hot is until you lie down in a tent for an afternoon snooze and the tent has poor ventilation.  Dude, the snooze will not happen for you. It is as if tents- even caravans and trailers have a silent conspiracy against campers and afternoon naps.  Apply some logic when looking at the ventilation the tent offers.  Nylon tents mostly come with a double layer so there is a space between the ceiling of the inner tent and the outer sheet.  Besides this, the more windows   there are to unzip, the better.
  • Privacy:  how awesomely cozy a Christmas bed might sound, after the first three nights it will become less appealing.  Some tents offer “rooms” that can be zipped off and on, into compartments.  I find   these great, because it not only offers privacy, but you also don’t have to see  the mess the kids leave behind in “their room”.  If you take a peak and can’t make out the clothes from the mattress, just zip it closed, hook it on or tie it off. Sorted.
  • Some tents offer dividers that can be attached with either Velcro or strings to create privacy.
  • Built-in ground sheets are a given these days.  However, they vary greatly in quality.  Inspect the ground sheet; the weaving should be tight, and not flimsy.   Not all campsites have lush grass spots.
  • Staying with ground sheets for a moment; besides all the fabulous advantages built-in ground sheets offer, a very  important function it fulfills is allowing rainwater to flow underneath the tent, when the monsoons descend upon you, while camping in a notoriously dry area of our country. With no rain forecast.   This feature is identified by the ground sheet rising up on the sides of the tent   about 10cm to 15cm.  The only problem is the little step-over at the entrance.  If you’ve had a few dops too many, you WILL trip and either fall into your tent, or out of your tent, depending on the direction you are trying to negotiate yourself into. 
  • Pegs:  most tents come standard with a handful of straight pegs.  They normally   work well, but fall short terribly if you pitch your tent in soft turf or sand.  Ask the sales person to point out the latest technology in pegs specifically for sand and soft turf and buy some.                       
  • A hammer is as important as the tent itself.  Duh – obvious!  I am mentioning this because the hammer is the one thing that is left behind often.  If there are teenagers in the family, buy them each a hammer so they can help with the tedious task of pegging the tent after a long trip. 
  • Have a good look at the seams; they   should be properly sewn and sturdy. 
  • Inspect the zips and the way they are   sewn.  There should be no overlapping of seams that could be caught in the zips when operated.
  • After deciding on which tent to buy, take the tent out of the box and make sure all the poles, guy ropes and other accessories are included. 
  • Check the instruction paper.  Some of    the instructions you get with a tent are written in a version of English which no English Professor would understand.  Ever.  Some instruction drawings are so difficult to figure out that no matter how many times you turn   the paper around, the right way round remains elusive.  Solution;  ask the sales person to give you some pointers and please, no matter how much you don’t want to do it, pitch your tent in your yard before you go on your first trip             
  • TIP:  let the sales person show you how to get the tent back into the bag again.  This is probably the biggest challenge of  the whole tent business.
  • Last but not least – do yourself a favour   and buy a patch and solution kit. 



Your best bet is to browse what is available  on the sites we recommend.  Make a list of    the tents you like and where to find them. 


It is not recommended to buy a tent without seeing it pitched, so go to the outlet and see the tent pitched.



The debate of all debates:  Polyester/Nylon tent or Rip-stop canvas. 


Every person you ask for advice will give you a different answer.  We hope
to help by jotting down a few things to take into consideration:


Canvas tents are heavy and take a lot of space because they are more bulky.  Generally they last longer, and are more practical if you intend camping in environments where the tent will be exposed to the elements for extended periods of time.  Canvas tents can take a little longer to pitch.



Polyester/Nylon tents are more lightweight and take up less space.  They tend to be less durable when exposed to harsh elements for prolonged periods of time. 
As these tents are lightweight and usually have graphite poles, they pitch more easily.




  • Tip: mark poles with different colour insulation tape.  This can make it a lot easier when pairing the poles.

  • Both tents have pros and cons and choosing one or the other will predominantly depend on individual needs and taste.


Choose Right

Binoculars for birding
Should you not own a pair of binoculars yet, use the following as pointers and go get some.

For Birding that is. For Fun.


It's about birds.  It's for the birds.

Binoculars are one of the handiest and most widespread of all optical instruments. Virtually anyone who spends much time outdoors owns
(or should own) a pair of binoculars. They are almost a necessity
for the birder, hunter, fisherman, boater, sports fan, experienced traveller. Space cadet.


How to choose Binoculars for Birding:

Ok, first of all:  if you are an experienced birder and you are
reading this, stop.  You know it already, so we would gently
like to re-direct your attention to the wonderful feature on how
to make sure you don’t die of fish-poisoning. Simply click on the homepage, scroll down to “Chilling Facts” and there you go. 


This feature is dedicated to those of us who have no idea where
to start when it comes to Binocs, and even less when it comes to  birding.  We want you to go out and buy a pair of Binocs for
birding, but we want you to go shop with gusto, self-confidence
and knowledge.  Even if it is Binocs education grade R standard. 
It is still better than not knowing the front from the back. 
(Do Binocs have front and backs?).



First Numbers:

On all binoculars, you’ll find two numbers with a cross between them, for example

8x30, 7x21, 8x40.

The first number is the magnification, so an 8x pair will magnify
eight times, or make things look eight times closer.   

However, the higher the number does not mean the better the binoculars will be for bird- watching. With a high first number,
it will be more difficult to hold it steady.

For birding, it is not advised to go higher than 10x at the
very most. In fact, you might feel more comfortable with 8x. 

Many are of the opinion that variable-power (Zoom) binoculars should be avoided as they don’t let enough light in for bird-watching.

The field of view (FOV) is the width of the view at a particular distance. Generally speaking the greater the magnification, the narrower the field of view.

FOV becomes especially important when you are following
fast moving objects (such as birds), or running mammals
(like a cheetah chasing its prey).  In this case, do not consider magnification greater than 8x.  

Fast moving things cannot be followed easily if your
magnification is too big.


Second Numbers:

The second number is the width of the largest lens in millimetres, called the objective lens.

In our examples, these numbers would be x30, x21 and x40.

So an 8x30 magnifies eight times and has an objective lens
30mm in diameter.

The larger the objective lens, the more light the binoculars let in and, usually, the more of any scene you have in view. 
(If you lost us; the higher the second number,
the more light it lets in).

The larger the objective lens, the heavier the set tends to be.
This means that an 8x30 is better in dull weather or at night than
an 8x21, and it’s easier for finding and following individual birds.


Near and Far:

How close a binocular focuses depends on how it is made rather than on its power. Try focusing as close as possible in the shop and see if you think it’s close enough. 

While you’re looking at focusing, see how far you have to turn the central wheel to get the image sharp for different distances.
The less you have to turn it the better because it makes
finding and following birds easier and quicker.


Feeling Comfortable:

It is important to try ‘em out in the shop.

Make sure you can look through them with both eyes at once without strange black shapes looming at the side of your vision.

Some binoculars don’t fold closely enough together.  
It might be the make and model, not you… consider it.

What you see should be in a sharp, black circle, without any unusual colours around the edges of what you are looking at.

The image should be clear right to the edge. 
Have you noticed when someone looks through binocs in the movies there are TWO black circles? Huh?

Make sure you can reach the central focusing wheel comfortably so you can follow flying birds. The set you buy should feel well-balanced in your hands.

We don’t want to put you off – being a beginner birder and all -
you may carry your binoculars all day, so buy a light pair
if you can.

Check the strap… most straps are too long, and many are so thin you might end up decapitated before the sun goes down.  Find out about replacement straps.


Take care!

Binoculars look sturdier than they are. Their insides can be easily broken if dropped. Looking after them is kind of common sense
but we feel obliged to help you out some.

Don’t take them swimming. Keep them dry. Basics. 
Unless you have waterproof binocs, of course. 

A rain-guard over the eyepieces will allow you to bird-watch in
light rain. Unless you have waterproof binocs, of course. 

Keep the lenses clean. Blow any dust or sand away and then
wipe them gently with a soft cloth. Be doubly careful on the
beach because sand can badly scratch lenses. 

Please don’t go bashing them about.

If you start seeing double, drink less, but should the problem
persist, get them fixed or they could damage your eyesight
or even give you headaches. 

Again, it could be the optics and not you. 

Where to buy:

Wherever you go, make sure the sales person knows about birding.  Buy from a specialist store.  Many outdoor shops and camping stores stock binoculars.  Remember the brands. 

What to buy:
Wherever you go, make sure the sales person knows to point out the following brands:

Celestron, Leica, Minolta, Nikon, Pentax, Steiner, Swarovski, and Zeiss.

Because they have spent decades earning a reputation for high quality optical products, and they are unlikely to produce a clearly inferior product.

Binoculars, Bifocals & Eyeglasses:

With practice, it’s easy for eyeglass and even bifocal
wearers to use binoculars with your glasses on—after all,
you don’t want to miss quick-flying birds in the second or two it takes to remove or push up your glasses.

Whether you have progressive bifocals or ones with a line,
or even if you have trifocals, your eyes will quickly adjust
to looking through the glasses and the eyepieces to get a clear look if you match the right binoculars with the right eyewear.


If you wear eyeglasses, make sure to choose a set with
enough eye relief. 

Should this leave you perplexed…  the things you put your eyes against when looking through binoculars should be big enough to accommodate your eyeglasses. 

The eye relief is the optimal distance between your eye and the eyepiece (combination of lenses at the viewing end of your binoculars).

When your eyes are either too close or too far away from the eyepieces, you cannot see the whole picture and part of the
image is blacked out. 

For people wearing glasses, it is advised to have an eye relief of at least 15 mm (not applicable for people with good eyesight).



Quick Facts:
  • For bird viewing, use binoculars with a magnification of 8x maximum (8 x 42 for better results).
  • For general animal spotting and optimal game viewing (or when you need to scan the horizon), consider buying 10 x 50 safari binoculars.
Binoculars for birding
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