Leave a set of clean cloths and comfortable shoes at your vehicle as most campsites have showers to freshen up after your hike.
Rain gear is considered an essential item: A lot of so-called waterproof jackets on the market are only water repellent and not even seamed sealed. When buying rain gear make sure it’s seam sealed and waterproof, as it could be the difference between enjoying a hike or being totally miserable or even worse, a question of life and death especially in winter.
The Drakensberg can be cold, even in the middle of summer, so you need to come prepared. Pack a number of thinner layers instead of having just one thick jacket. Layers also enable you to add or remove layers to regulate your body’s temperature. When choosing a sleeping bag pick one that’s rated up to 5ºC lower than the lowest temperature you might encounter. Rather be too hot than to cold as you can always zip it open to vent hot air.
Sleepwear: Sleepwear is a personal choice however wearing long johns and a thermal top will keep you warm and covering your head with a beanie will keep you toasty in winter. Use an inner sheet with your sleeping bag, this will add a few degrees to your sleeping bags rating, but more importantly it will help keep your sleeping bag clean and extend the life of your sleeping bag’s life.
Keep your stuff dry: Remember that backpacks are not waterproof even with a rain cover on, and in a heavy rain storm it will eventually start to leak. To prevent your clothing getting wet use a pack liner or a thick plastic bag inside you backpack. Pack clothing in zip lock bags and try to get as much air out before packing. Pack your sleeping bag in a double plastic bag or even better a light weight roll top dry bag that you can compress to save space. Never tie your sleeping bag on the outside of your backpack. Make sure you can fit it inside. There is nothing worse than having to sleep in a wet sleeping bag.
Backpack: Where possible try to pack everything inside your backpack. The items dangling from your pack slowly saps your strength as it changes your centre of gravity and you also stand a chance of losing items. Refrain from tying sleeping bags or tents to the outside, it’s a sure way to lose pegs or poles or damage the items or worse get your sleeping bag wet in a rain storm.
Keep your water bottle in easy reach: If your water bottle has shoulder straps or belt loops, it will allow you to keep your water bottle in easy reach. Most of the newer back packs are compatible with hydration bladders, this makes it convenient as you have a tube that you can place on your shoulder straps within easy reach to drink from.
Lace up your boots: Properly laced up boots will provide sufficient ankle support; stop unnecessary movement in the heel means less chance of blisters forming.
Gaiters: This will help protect your shoelaces from hooking on the grass and coming undone as well as prevent debris from entering your boots. The full length gaiters also serve to protect your legs from scratches you might get from the scrubby bushes along the paths.
Hiking or trekking poles: They take time to get used to but can be very useful in slippery and steep conditions, even in very windy conditions they can help keep you upright. Using two poles will give you the most effective use however only using one pole is sometimes enough to help you navigate difficult terrain.
Food: Repack your food into zip lock bags to keep the contents dry and remove the extra packaging where you can to save space. This also minimises the amount of trash that you generate and need to carry out.
Cheese and other perishable items should be wrapped in several layers of newspaper to help insulate it from the heat.
Carry some extra spices and garlic with you to spice up your meals as most light hiking meals do not always taste great.
Salt and sugar are essential during strenuous activity especially on hot days. Salty snacks like chips are good but peanuts and raisins are better as it supplies sugar and salt.
Always carry a map with you even when hiking in a familiar area. It’s also a good idea to carry a 2nd map in case it gets damaged or blown away by the wind.
Although GPS and navigation via cell phones are useful it should not be the only navigation tools you rely on, because the major drawback is battery life and failure due to being dropped or some other malfunction. It is a good suggestion that the leader and maybe one other person should be well schooled in old fashioned map reading skills and the use of a compass.
Check the scenery behind you at regular intervals during your hike. If you don’t and you have to back-track, you may be amazed at how unfamiliar your route looks in reverse!
A tent is a necessity item and should be checked regularly for faulty zips, tears and stitching that may be coming undone.
Always dry your tent after a wet hike before storage as it will be damaged when mildewed starts to form.
When splitting a tent between the group, never tie it to the outside of your backpack as thorns and twigs can easily puncture it and cause leaks later.
Always use a groundsheet under the tent as this will provide protection for the bottom of the tent from stones, twigs and other objects.
Don’t wear boots inside your tent – leave them in the vestibules.
Anchor the inner tent with pegs to stop your tent from blowing away as you start to set it up. Dome tents are particularly prone to rolling away in strong winds.
Where possible never cook inside your tent unless the weather really dictates this. Tents are highly flammable and burn at an alarming rate, and spilt food or drinks can turn a cosy interior into a mess.
Always carry a few extra pegs with you to ensure you have enough to stake it down in windy weather.
When breaking up camp place unused pegs on a rock where they are visible and count them to make sure you have all of them.
In hard ground aluminium pegs especially, will bend easily. Try pressing them into the ground by using the front of your boot.
The flysheet usually gets wet overnight from dew, rain and condensation, use a small towel or micro fibre cloth and dry the outside of the tent before removing it from the tent. Alternatively you can shake the water off and let it dry on the ground. Remember to peg it down or place some rocks on it so it does not blow away.
Use an extra peg to help pull the other pegs out and don’t use the tents loops as this might tear the tent, and if they should freeze into the ground, first knock them with a rock to loosen them before pulling them out.