Being thorough as I am, I decide to compare what I know to the infinite wisdom of Google, and confidently typed in “How to Choose a Tent for Camping in Africa”. Pages and pages of info comes up. All incredibly helpful and insightful – if you’re going to a caravan park on the south coast where your biggest issue is whether you have enough space to play ‘snakes and ladders’ should it rain, and whether the tent is waterproof. If I had been Joe Soap Newbie, I would have been completely taken in – rather fancying the somewhat startling array of colours available!
Ah well, back to experience we go!
As a starting point, we need to paint a picture of what it means to “camp” in, for example, Moremi, Botswana (our tent’s namesake). You are delegated a specific spot in the bush. That’s it. There are no fences, let alone electric ones. For an unorganised camper, it becomes a warzone – during daylight hours Vervet monkeys and baboons steal anything and everything they can. At night, hyaenas and badgers wander willy-nilly through the camp. The definition of “food” becomes infinitely broader to include shoes, kettles, dirty potjie pots… the list is endless. One evening in Third Bridge I witnessed a hyaena grab a fridge and leg it out of the camp – with the connected gas bottle bouncing behind! Hippos come out of the water at night to graze, and elephants wander freely through camps (day and night).
Many years ago, I heard a horrendous story of a pride of lion hunting at night, chasing a buffalo through one of the camps in Moremi, where the distressed animal went straight over the top of a ground tent – in the process ‘accidently’ standing on the guy’s head! He was rushed to hospital in Maun (hours of rough driving) and somehow ultimately survived the trauma. This saga inspired me to purchase a BIG canvas tent – you know, something a buffalo would go around! There was also advice generously given that it was much better than a rooftop tent, because you could leave it in camp whilst going on a game drive. Which I duly did. On my return, the inside of the tent looked like it was laundry day. A baboon had gone THROUGH the side of the tent (DUCT tape to the rescue), and carefully unpacked all clothes, eaten the toothpaste and exited. Once again, advice was not in short supply. Leave the tent OPEN they said, it will be SAFER they said. Which I duly did the next day. On returning from my game drive, the tent had been turned into Baboon Ratanga Junction, and now looked considerably more like a pretzel than the once proud, upright tent I had left hours before. The last little piece of advice from me to you on the subject of ground vs rooftop tent: if you have lain with mere millimetres of canvas between you and an adult male lion, smelling him and hearing his breathing, you will understand that primal feeling where you realise you are potentially a very real part of the food chain. And trust me, in that moment, you would give ANYTHING to be in a rooftop tent!
(On a serious note, having spent much time camping in Botswana, I am convinced that you are safe from predators in a properly CLOSED tent, whether a rooftop tent or a ground tent. Incidents have always involved half open doors / people opening a tent to look out / closing only the mosquito net.)
Let’s look at the general advantages of a rooftop tent. If the camping area is uneven, or too soft / hard to hold pegs, or there’s a bad wind blowing, a rooftop tent is infinitely preferable. Ground tents can be impossibly difficult to put up, and missing pegs and poles create their own special hell for campers. “Pop-up” tents are often really difficult to return to their original shape when packing away. A rooftop tent is all about unclipping a couple of clasps, and voila – your palace awaits you. Complete with a lovely mattress and no rock / sticks digging into your spine (there’s nothing worse than the traditional blow-up mattress in a ground tent going flat in the middle of the night!).
The Moremi Sport Version 2 Rooftop Tent is a particularly good tent, for some rather specific reasons. To start with, it only weighs 48kg, which is less than most. Made from lightweight aluminium and high quality 400mg canvas (in grey or olive green), this tent is designed to last a lifetime. It comes standard with a comfortable 80mm high density memory foam mattress and is quick and easy to put up / down, due to the gas struts fitted to the hardened inner shell. Duvets / pillows etc can comfortably remain inside when closed, and you won’t need to worry because it is both waterproof and dustproof!
It can be fitted to any make / model of vehicle / trailer / SUV. Custom sizes are available, but the standard Moremi Sport is 2.2m in length and 1.5m wide. Thanks to the 90 degree vertical walls, its internal space is 100% usable, and with 1.4m in headroom, you can comfortably sit up inside the tent! The tent has a very low profile of 225mm.
I love the fact that there are four doorways, one at each end and two at front (long side) – with ladder mounts at each door. It comes complete with its own multi-purpose aluminium telescopic ladder. All four openings have both a canvas door and a mosquito net.
What I find really useful is that you don’t need to unpack whatever is on top of the roof-rack (note: weight limit of 50kg) to use the tent – you simply flip it all up, and the tent appears “underneath” as it were.
Optional extras include a fly sheet, USB port, colour code exterior frame to match your car, roof rack, solar panel, lights, bike rack, spotlights etc. For security, the outer latches can be locked.
It has been my experience that products designed by people who actually make use of them in the field are superior. In my opinion, this whole design is very practical and infinitely user-friendly, which should come as no surprise when you discover that Jan Venter (owner & designer) is someone who lives this life, who goes exploring and camping in wild places. These tents have not only been a great hit in South Africa, but are now in demand and exported to a couple of countries around the world!