We have always loved camping, so, in the 90’s, to satisfy the “crave nature” with limited budgets, we did the hiking thing, Otter, Whale, Fish River Canyons to name a few.
Student Days, Soutpansberg near Louis Trichardt, Mpumalanga, 1994
Geelhout Trail, near Newcastle, Natal, 1995
And in 2004, we bought our 1st 4×4 and went on our 1st “off the beaten track” expedition to Namibia – in our red hiking tent of course, armed to the teeth with our Minolta 2.1MP Camera, 64MB CF Card and around 10 sets of AA batteries. We were living the high life!!
Minolta empowered wife, capturing our Red Hiking Tent camp at sunrise, Twyfelfontain, 2004
This was also my 1st attempt at a camping improvement, the “doodskis” (coffin). It was terrible, let me say it again, it was terrible!! The legs would sway in and it would fall out of the bakkie with a huge slam, scaring anything wild and tame in close and not so close proximity. It had a lid that converted to a table-like arrangement. Cutting tough steak on a single paper plate on your lap was more stable than that thing. I suspect that the “doodskis” might have initiated my wife’s inadvertent swearing tendency when she sees me working in the garage. Having had to be the guinea pig for all the contraptions I have built during the previous 12 years, I suppose one cannot blame her.
Beloved Wife in Love/Hate truce with “Doodskis”, Halali, Etosha, 2004
Beween 2005 and 2010 we went through various tents and 4×4’s.
Nissan Safari, Paardeberg, Malmesbury, 2005
1st Hilux Surf and the 2 Room Tent, Richtersveld, 2006
2nd Hilux Surf at the most photographed Quiver Tree in Richtersveld, 2007, a truly spectacular view
And the Pop Up Tent phase, Kunene River Lodge, close to Ruacana, Namibia, 2010
We also had 2 additions to the family which prompted us to get off the ground and get something that sleeps 4. So in 2011 we bought a 4 sleeper rooftop tent. I built my first Aluminium Canopy, which was functionalish, not aesthetically pleasing and half completed when we left with it from Cape Town for the Botswana Caprivi Round Trip. The canopy’s structural side came flying colours through the trip and today we still use the same side door and base frame principles and extrusion forms with the Kamper 2 + 2.
First Aluminium Canopy, terrible asethetically, but functional, Ceres Calvinia Gravel Road, on our way to Caprivi, 2011
But I did not like the idea of crawling around in a tent and lying down to get dressed. I also did not want to tow a bush caravan for 6000km trips every year. So I started playing around with the idea of a contraption on the back of a double cab bakkie, that pitches and folds down quick and easily, sleeps 4, in which one can stand upright, and that has enough space for 4 adults for extended trips. And in 2013 I gave it my first shot.
Like many of my creations to this point, it did not disappoint, and it was terrible!! It was a monstrosity, a prototype camper that had a vague resemblance to the Kamper 2 + 2 of today. The camper had 2 single beds and 1 double bed, took around 10min to get up and around 30min to get down if nothing broke – some supports bent or broke almost every time. I miscalculated some stresses and used inappropriate design materials as well, it was just a mess. Fortunately I did take a backup tent along the trip, otherwise my trip and probably my marriage as well, would have been over.
Prototype camper having 1 double and 2 single beds, Drotsky, Shakawe, Botswana, 2013
The principle of how this camper’s beds functioned was good though, and this was carried over to today’s Kamper 2 + 2. And one day I will try my hand again at a 4 sleeper with 1 double bed and 2 singles. Right now, I do however not see an easy, dependable and cheap way to do it as yet.
This was also the 1st time I tried my hand at sewing, in particular, rip stop canvas material. The mutilation of Ouma’s Elna domestic sewing machine had started. I can clearly remember those “must be Nataniel’s prison break rough brother” looks the Elna ladies and customers gave me, bringing the sewing machine in, again and again, with my bike jacket on, helmet in the one hand, machine in the other, and complaining that the “tension on the bottom thread” was not right. The poor Elna was soon replaced with an industrial sewing machine.
Then, in 2014 I got it right – a camper that sleeps 2 and 2, on the back of a double cab, in which one can stand upright, with enough packing space for 4 adults for extended trips.
The 1st “Kamper 2 + 2” was born!!
1st Night in the 1st Kamper 2 + 2, Mabuasehube, July 2014
During 2014 and 2015, the test phase was done. We had to go camping!! We have spent more than a 100 nights camping, drove around 40 000km of which 15 000km was gravel (good, bad and terrible corrugated gravel roads), I have been in the air a few times, skidded a bit, been at awkward angles, lost 4 tyres, been through cold and heat, did some white knuckle 4x4ing, tied bicycles on top, slept 4 adults in the Kamper many nights, slept 2 adults and 4 kids in the Kamper.
Klein Aus Vista, Aus, July 2014
Hobas, Fish River Canyons, Des 2014
Etosha, Dec 2014
Nambwa, Caprivi, Jan 2015
Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Serowe, Botswana, Jan 2015
In the veld, South West of Duwisib Castle, Namib, Feb 2015
Between Brandberg and Messum Crater, Namibia, Feb 2015
Kunene River, between Epupa and Ruacana, Feb 2015
Mabuasehube, Botswana, May 2015
Mabuasehube, Botswana, Sept 2015, one of my favourate destinations
Around 50km north of Karasburg, Namibia, Sept 2015
Kuiseb River, Namib, Sept 2015
In short, I believe we have taken the Kamper 2 + 2 through very close to all the scenarios an avid camper will go through in his lifetime. There were many issues, alterations, improvements, none were big though, and as they came up, we engineered them out.
Then came the “elegant” phase – my nightmare!
I have a few enthusiastic camping friends, their opinion/experience/preferences/knowledge with design, structural and kitting out issues helped tremendously. One of them is a quality specialist. In my little world, his pet pleasure in life is to find fault with everything, and on the Kamper 2 + 2, he got trigger happy with his ace of spades card “it’s not elegant”. It drove me up the walls, like when you were a kid and your mom said “because I said so” – it was the end of the argument, irrespective of whether it worked well or not, it had to be improved. Thanks to this relentless “elegant” battering, the finishing on the Kamper 2 + 2 has been dramatically improved, and I am extremely grateful to him for his assistance, guidance and advice.
I am sure that within the next 20 years, there will be many small upgrades on the Kamper 2 + 2. I truly believe though, that right now, we have reached a point with the Kamper 2 + 2, where we have a solid product that compares very well with the quality and luxuries of Bush Caravans, but at a margin of the price. There are compromises yes, but the advantages are certainly to be taken note of.
Henk Blaauw, a camper