Our 'Canvas Cottage'
Extreme glamping was clearly the way to go. A weatherproof, robust refuge was essential. It needed to allow comfortable living for two plus two dogs. Use of a good sized trailer (8x4 ft) negated any worry about the size of our car boot – that was already full of (four legged) ‘woofers’ anyway!
I took another wander around our local camping store and decided that a tent sized for 6 people would be the way to go. The current method of sizing tents seems like assessing how many sardines you can get in a tin. At advertised capacity, you would need to be very friendly with your fellow campers.
Choosing the right tent is a compromise. It can be more difficult to find a pitch for a tent with a larger footprint in high season. Therefore issues such as size, ease of pitching (airbeam or poles) packed weight, type of canvas, thermal qualities, ability to accept power, defence against bugs and beasties, ability to withstand summer storms, pestilence, disaster, and cost needed to be considered.
We decided to go for a used tent, looked on Ebay and got very excited having ‘won’ a camping package that included a Vango Homestead Tent. We got the tent home and opened the bag to be confronted by what looked like the inside of a Bavarian salmon poachers worm sack! We pitched the tent hoping it would be recoverable but it had been packed wet three years before and was in a really dreadful state. The seller was brilliant. We sent him photos and invited him to come and take a look but he apologised profusely and immediately refunded our money. So ………. it was back to the drawing board.
Having been 'bitten’, we decided to look for a deal on a new tent. We found a package with a company called Winfields Outdoors and ordered a Vango Keswick II TC Air 600 DLX; but this wasn’t plain sailing either. The delivery arrived on time as promised but one box was damaged and we could not see if all the items were present. The Driver was really helpful, he told us to accept the goods as damaged so that if necessary the process of replacement would be easier. Concerned that I was not able to unpack and pitch the tent for a couple of weeks, I contacted Winfields to ask how the items were packed. It became clear that we were missing two items. Winfields could not have been more apologetic nor responded better. The missing items were delivered the following day.
Vango's Technical Cloth (TC - cotton and polyester) is hard wearing. It is supposed to keep you cooler in the sunshine and warmer in cold weather but it does require weathering before its waterproof. Having consulted the local weather forecast and being promised rain the next day, we pitched the tent in the back garden - just in time for a high pressure system to establish itself over the country! The elusive sunshine had finally appeared and there was to be no sign of rain for the next week!
The tent is heavy (about 50 kgs) but it comes in a roller bag and is pretty easy to manoeuvre. We took our time pitching it the first time and after a couple of hours still didn’t have it exactly right. This probably sounds a bit ridiculous but for example, we got the laying out of the ‘Footprint’ upside down so the ‘leg’ for the side ‘annex’ was too far to the back of the tent. This is why you should take the time to pitch a tent at home first. It reduces the probability of making an arse of yourselves at a campsite!
The advertised pitching time is 20-30 mins. I guess that supposes a guy of lesser years with the back of a rugby forward, the lungs of a race horse to operate the hand pump and two good knees able to leap around the guy lines like a young gazelle with a mallet and pegs. The truth is that the real challenge is unlikely to be the pitching time, but rather repacking the contents of our inflatable canvas cottage.
The first pitch should include furnishings. Finding out what fits and exactly where things should go, saves considerable time when you're tired after a long drive and it's pissing down. Doing all the silly stuff like where the galley and stove should go and finding a good solution for lighting, can all save grief later. Perhaps most importantly, it drives how equipment should be packed to make the pitching and 'moving in' a much smoother process.