Skip Navigation

Sleeping bags in Southern Africa?

Travel Forums Travel Gear Sleeping bags in Southern Africa?

1. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hey folks, a very simple question, but one that potentially has several sub points. Basically, is a sleeping bag recommended/useful/required if backpacking around Southern Africa?

I have no fixed plan yet, except that i will be arriving in Namibia in late Feb*, and am currently planning on spending roughly 6-8 months wandering around Southern Africa before ending in South Africa, so i'm basically looking at the winter period. I'll probably be hosteling/couchsurfing where possible, with some hotels where not, and probably at least a couple of Safari's/nights roughing it etc. I will be carrying a silk sheet sleeping bag anyway.

The question has several knock ons - I have a very good, small, lightweight sleeping bag (with inbuilt mozzie net), although it is only a 1/2season. So if i do need a sleeping bag, will that be sufficient, or do i need to go out and buy a thicker/winter one?

The other big knock on is that i am a light packer - My bag is a trusty 26l backpack which has perfect pockets/bungees/straps etc for my existing needs - and thus if i would need to carry a sleeping bag I would probably need to start trying to find a new backpack as well, which brings on more complications/cost (my loaded bag normally has some spare space, but squeezing in a small sleeping bag as well will be a bit tight).

I have no problem taking a sleeping bag if it's likely to be needed with any vague frequency, but am also prepared to put up with cold etc for occasional nights here and there, and if i am only likely to need one in certain places/things (eg on a safari or if i climb kilimanjaro), I would assume that with a bit of planning at least, i would be able to rent/beg/steal/borrow one, or buy a cheap one hat i can then dump afterwards?

I suppose what i'm asking is in the average hostel/hotel/hut etc in Southern Africa, are you provided with sufficient/good covers not to freeze to death between Feb and Sept?

PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A QUESTION SPECIFIC TO SOUTHERN AFRICA; AND NOT A GENERAL "SHOULD I TAKE A SLEEPING BAG" QUESTION Though I would never even consider taking a bag to Asia/Oz/Americas etc my experiences in North Africa suggest a sleeping bag is a good idea, but as i've never been to Sub-Sahara Africa which is completely different, I am looking for first hand comments.


* know that's a long way ahead. However I actually leave in about 2months time. I don't need the sleeping bag until then but also don't have to carry it, so it's no problem to bring it along unused for 6months first. I also am not looking beyond Africa at this point, but would be dumping/posting etc all "extra" stuff from South Africa before i left.

2. Posted by Makini (Respected Member 80 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!


I personally think you should take one. My trips to northern as well as sub-saharan and southern africa always reminded me of the extreme differences from hotel to hotel and from hostel to hostel. Some places offer the clean standard, but others are completely indifferent to leaving you with nothing but torn sheats on a woody bed.

The lightweight one should be enough though - no problem. If you're thinking about hiking in say, Cape Town or up to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania you need much more - but I guess you figured that one out yourself. For hosteling and the occasional night on the savanna plateu your lightweighter is enough.

And as long as you get on a moderately priced guided tour from some mayor company anywhere in the savanna areas, you can almost always rent gear.

3. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Thanks, Makini. I admit to increasingly leaning towards taking one, and probably will end up doing so, assuming i can find a replacement backpack that fulfills all my needs

4. Posted by Jennig (Budding Member 12 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi Gelli,

I am in southern africa at the moment and have been since April this year. Which means i just did a winter season. I would respond that a sleeping bag is useful AND recommended. The thing is that it can sometimes be just like it is in northern africa, really really cold at night. That being said, if you pick up a blanket along the way then that will do the trick. I have travelled Africa with a 1-2 season and silk liner, and i have to admit to being really really cold sometimes. But i wouldnt get a warmer one, i just wear a jumper to bed. Lesotho and Namibia were much cooler than i was expecting, they were like north africa at night. THe other thing is on Safari, you only really go in the early morning or at sundown, it can get cold and it is nice to wrap up in a blanket or sleeping bag.

I am only travelling with a very small backpack - completely recommend it - and with all the public transport i have been on i would say that rather than buying a bigger backpack just tie your blanket on or attach a sleeping bag to the outside. It is easier to travel with something attached to the backpack than with a big backpack. I attach a small tent to the outside of mine and it is never a problem.

On that note, if you have a small tent, you save a lot of money in SA, Moz, Swaz, Lesotho, Bots, if you are camping. But it is weighing up whether it is worth carrying it. For me yes, but i understand it is not for everyone.

Good luck,

5. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi Jenni,

Many thanks for your comments. You have given me the final confirmation that i should take my sleeping bag, and so I will. I'll also have a silk liner as well, so the combination of the two and wearing clothing should get me through most things. I've spent a chunk of time in Scandinavia and Siberian winters, so can generally cope with colder weather if needed for a few nights. Lots of people seem to be suggesting the blanket idea, which sounds like a plan to keep in mind if i get a cold winter.

I don't generally like leaving on a trip with stuff tied to the outside of my bag as it cuts down on later options, but if i don't find a suitable rucksack, i am happy to do that and tie my sleeping bag on. Having said that, the 2 options i am closely looking at for replacements are only 32 and 34l anyway, which are still not exactly huge. As you have a small bag, out of curiosity, what size/make of bag are you using?

The tent comment is an interesting one - I did ponder that, but had kind of decided against it as I would have to go out and buy one: My trusty small tent had to be abandoned a couple of years back when I had to, erm, leave somewhere in a big hurry, and i've not yet got around to replacing it. I only used to carry it periodically anyway, and have since got used to always being without, but it's something perhaps i might look at as saving money is definitely good...

thanks for your advice!

6. Posted by Jennig (Budding Member 12 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi Gelli,

Unfortunately i had to go for a bigger pack than i wanted, 35L. Only because i am travelling Africa for 12+ months and cover lots of climates, but more than that it was my medical kit that took up the room! However it has been handy on more than one occassion! Because of camping i also fit a roll mat and sleeping bag inside which takes up space. I am using a Gregory pack ( And i have got to say, i love it. The only thing i worry about having pinched is the actual pack itself. It is a non-rip fabric which is essential for the way your pack gets pushed and squished onto all the different forms of transport. It is a hiking pack so it is not heavy. And it has a roll top not a zip which means no broken zips and it is a little more time consuming to get into (for theives i mean not for me). The down side is that because it is a hiking pack it is top only entry but that doesnt bother me, personal choice really. There is also an expandable front, i think they call it a bucket pocket. And i can put all i own in this backpack and not need to carry a day pack or handbag/shoulderbag.
I picked up a tent in SA. It was cheaper than buying one in the UK, where i left from, and it is really light. Mine weighs 1 or 1.5kg and has survived snow, rain, wind, etc. Also it has saved me on more than one occassion when transport didnt show and i put it up by the side of the road, but you know all that stuff.

One thing i would recommend is wrapping up whatever you tie to the outside (especially if it is a tent) in a rice sack (available everywhere here) so that it doesnt get damaged when squished onto public transport/trucks etc.

Goodluck and if you need any other info about southern africa let me know