Tents has made great strides and has evolved from the old A-frame tent to geodesic designs that makes then a lot more stable in snow and high winds to tunnel tents that gives you good stability with great liveability. A tent is a big investment so look carefully at what you need before making a purchase, and stay away from cheap tents as they just don’t stand up to the weather conditions that you could encounter in the Drakensberg. Although tents might not be a priority when starting out, as you can sleep in caves and or huts, however on longer or escarpment hikes you will be needing to invest into a quality tent. For most hikers a 3 season tent with a capacity of 2 to 3 people, will be adequate for most hiking conditions in the Drakensberg.
Look for a tent with two to or three poles that cross with a vestibule over the main entrance. Mesh panels will help with ventilation and help keep you cooled during warm night but might be a bit colder in winter. You ideally want a tent with a seam sealed fly sheet that will make it waterproof, including a bath tub floor that will help keep water out. All of this features need to come in at a weight of less than 4kg. This allows you to share the weight of the tent comfortably in the group.
For a 4 season tent you should look at a geodesic or dome tent with 4 or more poles that cross over a number of times as this makes them far stronger in windy and snow condition. An options to consider is to look for a big vestibule as this helps with extra storages place for gear and a cooking area in really bad condition. A 4 season tent will also have less mesh panels to help retain heat, and will also weigh a bit more due to the extra features.
Unfortunately there is no perfect tent for all conditions and for lower Berg use consider the following:
Lots of mesh to help with ventilation and keeping bugs out, a fly sheet with vent or venting systems to help air flow and a light coloured fly sheet to help keep it cool and lighter in bad weather conditions. Look for a tent with a bigger vestibule for extra storage or to cook in during bad weather or rain. Look for a tent that gives you a bit of head room to sit up in especially in wet rainy weather.
For the high Berg you will need something a bit more robust and a 3 season tent will work but a 4 season tent will be better especially in winter and consider the following:
Look for a dome tent with 3 or more poles crossing for extra strength for high wind and snow, there should also be numerous guy lines for extra stability and high winds. A large vestibule for extra gear or to cook in and a place to keep you wet and dirty gear. A adjustable fly sheet will help you tie it down to stop it flapping in the wind and if it goes down to the ground is a bonus as this will help keep snow and rain out
Some other features (remember the more features the heavier it might be):
For a lighter tent look for tents with more mesh, smaller vestibule and a tapered floor plan. A hoop or tunnel design is usually also lighter without compromising on liveability and strength.
Easy pitch tents allows you to pitch the whole tent as one – or fly sheet first. One way pole sleeves and quick clip buckles at the corners.
Double doors for easy entry and exit, nice for when you need to get out at night.
For easy living look for high walls and ceilings making sitting up easy, big vestibule for gear and even other party members to sit in, sealable ventilation on the inner tent or on the fly sheet make ventilation control easy.
There is currently a lot of tents available so research them first and ask fellow hikers or friends what they use and look at what others use. Remember you need to buy a tent that should not only suit your planned excursion the best but also need to be able to stand up to the worst weather you might encounter. I’ve hike plenty of times in prefect weather but it’s that one time that you don’t expect it, that Mother Nature unleashes her full brunt on your camp site and then your gear gets tested to near breaking point.
Some extra information can be found here: