Caves or tents?

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Poll:Do you prefer sleeping in caves or tents?

26 Jul 2011 20:29 #3404 by dunmor
Caves or tents? was created by dunmor
I'm new to hiking in the high Drakensburg. Looking for advice on whats better to stay in:
1. Cave or
2. Tent

If you have a tent, why would you want to stay in a cave? Is there something that i'm missing?
Can you also tell me about:
1. Warmth issues
2. Wind

Are there always places to pitch a tent?

Thanks
Duncan

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27 Jul 2011 06:02 - 27 Jul 2011 06:13 #3406 by JonWells
Replied by JonWells on topic Caves or tents?
Recently Ive come to the conclusion that caves are better in summer, tents better in winter.

Summer- Often rains, and when sun is out it burns you to a crisp so I find caves are best.

Winter- The last thing you want is a big patch of icy shade, so tents are awesome in the winter sun!

In terms of warmth, a cave is probably a little warmer, but with a decent sleeping bag you should be fine in a tent. Some caves can be a little windy, so at least inside a tent you're generally out of it.
Last edit: 27 Jul 2011 06:13 by JonWells.

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27 Jul 2011 06:31 #3407 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Caves or tents?
Its a bit like asking how long a piece of string is, if you are hiking up the Hidden Valley at Garden Castle you will have your choice of around 10-15 good caves which are well drained and fairly warm, if you hike up towards Blind Mans Corner but don't plan on reaching Nkosozana Cave on the escarpment on the first night, then I am not aware of a cave that you could sleep in.

Tents are much warmer than caves (although some caves are surprisingly warm, Sleeping Beauty Cave in the snow was oddly warm considering its size and the fact that it has a descent sized river flowing through it, I believe Rat Hole Cave is also pretty warm all year round, Spare Rib Cave on Bannerman Pass is freezing in, even in summer). The best approach is to research caves before the hike, ask people on this forum what they think about the cave. Every cave is different, Upper Injisuthi Cave is known to have snow at the back dispite its size due to it facing straight into the wind, Spare Rib Cave has a horrible drip from the roof (I think you can get the picture that I really don't like Spare Rib Cave!). However, until you know an area well or unless you are hiking with someone who knows the area, always carry a tent, if other hikers have beaten you to the cave (even if you booked it) it may be difficult to get them to leave the cave to you (especially if they didn't carry a tent), caves are also higher theft risks as a person can walk in and take your things during the night, its a bit more difficult in a tent (not that that stops them).

The reason people prefer caves to tents is the simple fact that you don't have to carry a cave and the inside of a cave is rarely struck by lightning.

Be careful when you get a tent, I have heard of R6000 tents being destroyed by Berg weather (although this is unusual, but many cheap tents are crushed by the Dragon when people dear to use them), if you plan on sleeping on the escarpment stay far away from cheap tents (unless you would like to spend some time in hospital or a morgue after your hike), don't underestimate the importance of a good tent, it should have atleast 12 connections (by both pegs and guide ropes) to the ground and should have 2 layers. An IsoDome or K-Way Treklite are the cheapest tents that should withstand a firm escarpment wind.

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27 Jul 2011 06:50 #3410 by dunmor
Replied by dunmor on topic Caves or tents?
Wow, was not aware that the wind was that bad! I have bought what i think is a good tent: a Stormtrack Tent from black diamond. Its an expedition 4 season tent with 2 layers. Hope this is fine. The salesman at Drifters said that its a really good tent. Hope his right.
I prefer the tent and warmth. Is there always flat places to pitch a tent?

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27 Jul 2011 07:26 #3414 by ghaznavid
Replied by ghaznavid on topic Caves or tents?
A few years ago a statistitian proved that it is probable that a table on a floor that is not entirely flat would be perfectly flat at atleast 1 point if rotated 360 degrees. Unfortunately this proof does not cover the scenario of a concave (or sometimes convex) slope!

Once again, it depends on where you are, in the small berg and on the escarpment there is usually some flatish ground, but naturally unless you are on the small berg escarpment or the high berg escarpment, there generally isn't flat ground. The problem is that in most other scenarios the flat ground is right next to a river and it doesn't take much thought to realise that the worst place you could pitch a tent is in a dry river bed (yet people still do it, and their body bags tell the sad tale of a hike gone wrong). But if you do some hunting around you will usually find a descent place to stay.

Always remember, point the bell end of your tent North West as this will result in the shortest side of your tent pointing straight into the wind.

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27 Jul 2011 07:30 #3415 by dunmor
Replied by dunmor on topic Caves or tents?
Why North West? Does the wind always come from the North West?

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27 Jul 2011 08:17 #3417 by thomas
Replied by thomas on topic Caves or tents?
Good questions but loaded with contingencies: length of hike, location, season, outdoor skills you possess, accompanying gear, etc.

This question reminds me of when I used to be a regular guest speaker on an SABC radio motoring show with a particular focus on Drakensberg driving (usually Sani Pass). While everyone always spoke of their "wow" 4x4 cars and technical specs, I always asked what kind of a DRIVER came with the car because that would make more difference whether the car goes off the road or not (I have driven clunky Sedan cars up and down Sani; just look at all the current cars crashed and wrecked in the recent snowstorm). Likewise for hiking in the Berg, the hiker is all the difference. I hike without a tent because the weight of my pack makes a huge difference in my hiking enjoyment (a bivvy bag is a good option) and I can handle myself anywhere in the Berg under any conditions (see my forum topic on winter gloves, e.g.).

This question is also loaded with potential forum topic possibilities, in an age when cell phones and GPS's seem to lead the inexperienced and unknowing into dangerous environments and create false securities (not implying you are that, dunmor - I think your specific question is excellent and wish more would inquire before venturing forth). There is a huge collective wealth of substance and experience on this website that our Intrepid leader commands and many are willing to share. Tent or cave? I respect a hiker who knows his/her abilities and limitations and decides from there. Might suggest that you give us a location and timeframe and you will find much to recommend depending. I hope this is useful.

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27 Jul 2011 08:34 #3418 by dunmor
Replied by dunmor on topic Caves or tents?
The reason this question came up was that:
1. I don't have the experience
2. All over this forum people talk about the caves. No mention of tents

This made me concerned. Why the talk about caves... no mention about tents.
My logic told me that a good tent was better than a cave. But I felt uneasy.
Sure its weight, buts its your shelter.

Maybe I should pose the question like this:
If you had the right gear, good tent and it was winter, would you use a tent or a cave and why?

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27 Jul 2011 20:02 #3438 by Boerkie
Replied by Boerkie on topic Caves or tents?
Check out the "caves" section at www.berg.co.za to get a better picture of what is offered by the berg. Rolands cave is a must!

Try out both and see what you like. A tent can at time be the key factor in surviving, don't leave it until you experienced in "the berg" hiking.

Sleeping in a cave you feel part of the mountain whereas you can pitch your tent in your backyard and pretend to be on the escarpment.

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28 Jul 2011 07:23 #3441 by dunmor
Replied by dunmor on topic Caves or tents?
Thanks Boerkie
The images of the caves was a great help

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