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Road Trip USA compare Tent camping USA and SA

Updated on May 12, 2015
Typical camp site in South Africa-Hamburg near East LOndon
Typical camp site in South Africa-Hamburg near East LOndon
KOA campsite in USA
KOA campsite in USA
Great Site in NW USA
Great Site in NW USA
Outdoor cooking USA
Outdoor cooking USA
Bear warnings read often but no bears seen!
Bear warnings read often but no bears seen!
Another great sunset over African veldt
Another great sunset over African veldt | Source

USA road trip: tent camping in two continents.

During our 6 month road trip in the USA we as hardened campers in South Africa have more than enough experience in these two vastly different areas of the world to make some meaningful comparisons. Our other tent camping experiences were in the European continent and mainly in France, Holland and England.

Tent campers are a peculiar people. Either because of economic necessity or a primeval desire to return to a more basic existence they find themselves pitching a tent in a designated camping area, often in some wild or semi-wild area with only basic facilities. Tent campers must not be confused with another species, also called campers in the USA, but who travel carrying their luxuries with them in large motorized homes.

Tent campers cook their food on an open fire and actually experience the elements as they sit in their deck chairs under a starry sky warming their hands on their coffee cups while the coals in their campfire glow in the night. They hear the call of an owl or the distant sound of a wild animal, rather than the news broadcaster rattling off the latest sport results or explaining about other crises in the Middle East.

While there is much that is similar about camping in the USA and South Africa there is also a lot that is different. The National Parks in South Africa have better facilities in the camp grounds than those in the State and National Parks in the USA. In South Africa they provide a basic kitchen area were two plate stoves are available and also boiling water and washing up areas. Most camp sites also have an electricity point so that a light, kettle, portable fridge or computer can be plugged in or camera batteries charged.

Bathroom facilities are very much the same in both places with toilets and hot showers being the norm. Primitive camping in both areas is sometimes permitted and then the camper must provide everything including water and a spade for toilet usage.

Cost of camping in the USA and South Africa is very similar with South African National Parks offering a pensioners discount for SA residents at certain out of season periods. The main difference is that the USA charge per campsite while SA charge per person. There is a standard charge in SA National Parks but in the USA the charge varies from area to area and generally Florida is the most expensive Most National and Provincial Parks in South Africa, often being in rather remote regions, have small shops that provide with basic food, drinks, curios and equipment.

Free camping in some Forestry areas in the USA is a real bonus even though facilities there are primitive, i.e. a pit toilet only and you have to provide your own water.We found a great site on the Oregon Coast and stayed an extra day because of the beauty and the good price. Some campers we met at that campsite told us that they travel all over the States in their small camper and only use these free facilities. They are not usually well advertised and often have a 2 week limit. Many Wal-mart stores allow you to stay overnight in the far corners of their parking areas if you have a camper, and we sometimes used this facility (sleeping in the back of our van) with thanks. We did this if we arrived late in the evening or could not find a camp site in the area,

A word about the USA 'camp host' system seems needed as this is an excellent idea that works well and makes a difference to the general quality of service provided. Here retired couples are allocated a camping spot free.of charge and then provide assistance to the park staff.This assistance can either be working in the reception area, general supervision or helping to keep the camping areas clean.

In a country like South Africa were unemployment is so high SAN Parks employed citizen from the area where the Park is allocated who also see to the provision of good services, and this gives an important boost to the local economy. Honorary Rangers in South Africa are also used. Recently we met an old friend who has been working as a volunteer for 25 years during his annual vacation, Now that he is retired he works there full time. These volunteers assist in many ways in the camps or as guides depending on their skills and experience. They also act as eyes that watch out for those who abuse the Park rules.

What then is the bottom line as we experience camping in different worlds? Both areas are great places to visit and the experience of camping in the Olympic Forest, the Rocky Mountains, the Oregon Coast, the Gulf of Texas or Florida Everglades is highly encouraged. In South Africa the Kruger National Park, Golden Gate, Giant’s Castle, Table Mountain, West Coast Flower Kingdom, Tsitsikama Coastal Park, Addo Elephant Park and the Wild Coast are just a few ‘must visit’ places.

We would seriously recommend an extended visit like our one to the USA in 2009 that lasted 6 months, and then seemed to be too short. Book you tickets, buy a second hand vehicle and basic tent/camping equipment and then 'hit the road', You will not regret it! As you sit around your camp site at night in one of the National Parks you could very well hear the call of an hungry Hyena or the roar of a group of Lions out hunting. During the day the call of a Fish Eagle will move your soul. Be amazed by the horizon to horizon stars in the night sky or another amazing sunset or sunrise as you clasp your coffee mug in your hands and your heart smiles in contentment because you have stopped to experience this wonderful world close up!


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    • Gill Harris profile image

      Gill Harris 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Could you explain what the USA host system is? Thanks.


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