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Unseasonal hub - Camping and luxury tentage
I have never been one for camping in the great outdoors. Walking in the great outdoors, yes, and returning from the great outdoors to the warmth and comfort of my own home afterwards, of course. But staying out after the walk has been completed, and bedding down on hard ground with the sounds of nature's nightlife squawking and skittering right through my earplugs, and waking up to matted hair and sweaty pits knowing that the facilities to freshen myself properly do not exist within a ten mile car ride, no thank you very much indeed. I could never see the point in going to the trouble of erecting a canvas monstrosity for the purpose of spending a cold and uncomfortable night not sleeping. Dirty, smelly, achey, damp, itchy, greasy, numb. What for?? Stupid waste of time. Camping by choice sucks.
Or at least it did, until we purchased our reasonably sized bungalow tent. We got it in a half price sale, otherwise we never would have been able to afford it (and I wouldn't have paid full price for it anyway, my goodness, no!) But out shopping one day, fifty miles from home, we found ourselves at a tent show in this big outdoorsy kind of shop, and we decided to have a look at some of the little cloth homes. Well, of course, I'm sure you can imagine, that there was every shape and size of tent imaginable. There was the very small one-man type, which quite obviously would not do for a family of five, no matter how small the children. There was the mansion tent, with corridors leading to bedrooms with ensuite potty areas, with living areas, kitchen areas, and fine dining areas, with awnings galore catering for any eventuality of happenstance such as torrential downpour or impromptu party. Certainly these polyester castles were big enough to accommodate my little family, and possibly several others besides. But unfortunately they required a large team of architects and building labourers, and a medium-sized crane to erect them. And even with the fifty per cent discount, these tents were rather beyond our means - indeed, we could have purchased a small house for less.
We looked at the mid range options. I walked into one particular tent, without having to duck my head at the entrance, and I was struck by how spacious and light it was, with three little gables, and reasonable living space, and a porch; I knew that I had come home. But I squashed the idea of ever being able to own this lovely home from home for two reasons: one, my long suffering partner would never consent to fork out for something so expensive that he believed I would tire of within half an hour (he knew that I hated camping of course); and two, I knew the tent would still be too expensive for our budget. My sensible long suffering partner added more reasons to that little list, as he felt inclined to think that such a spacious polyester apartment was unnecessary, and even that it might be defeating the whole of object of camping to live in such luxury at a time when one is supposed to be suffering. Surely we wanted to camp in a confined space, all five of us squashed into an awningless four-man tent, two parents pushed to the very edges of the tent and of their wits, unable to sleep for fear of touching the sides and allowing the settling dew to seep through the fabric ('DON'T touch the sides, WHATEVER you do!')
But I was beginning to really warm up to the idea of camping now, and my counter argument was this: Why live in such cramped conditions, when, for the same price (while the sale is on) you can have a portable bungalow? I usually win, however lame my argument, once I make my mind up.
So we bought it. And we erected it in our garden that very same weekend. It only just fit on the bit of grass that we have, and some of the guy ropes had to be pegged into the herbaceous borders.
My long suffering partner was, I think, a little nervous that we had wasted our money and that I would camp once and then refuse to use the tent ever again. I could understand his fear, since I do have stubbornness issues, and it is very rare for me to change my mind once I have formed an opinion. Fortunately I had now firmly made up my mind to love camping. I took two of my boys into the tent with me on the night that it was set up in our garden, and vowed to stay in it until the morning. I took a book, sleeping bags, pillows and duvets. It was still rather cold, just at the beginning of Spring, so I didn't see the point of putting myself and the boys through a night of less than toasty warmness, because that would have put me right off.
So we read stories, ate cookies and drank hot chocolate until 9pm, and then decided to try to sleep. The boys fell asleep almost immediately. It is probably needless to say that I did not sleep. An unseasonal and freak storm localised on our back garden, and hammered down on the little tent. I had earplugs in my ears, plenty of duvet, plump enough pillows, and should really have been able to sleep. But the wind was battering the dwelling, and drowning out the loud snores of my two sons. At roughly 1.30am, I unzipped the opening of the pod we had chosen for our bedroom, to discover a scene of complete devastation. We had been unable to tether the front door and porch to the ground, because they were too long for our garden, so that for the four hours that I had lain awake counting sheep the wind and rain had ripped through the central living area, flooding the floor with dirty water, leaves and grass. Fortunately the two empty pods had been zipped up and remained dry and clean. A quick check of the ceiling told me that the water had definitely only come in through the front entrance, and that the tent had not leaked. Nonetheless, I decided that, since the storm showed no sign of abating, it was time to evacuate. Like the SAS, leading hostages to safety, I quickly and quietly carried my offspring into the house and into their proper beds. My long suffering partner and I wondered whether we should dismantle the tent at that point. But the thought of spending a further hour in the wind and rain, battling with gigantic sheets of polyester only to have to take them all out and dry them properly in the morning, was just too much. We decided to chance it, and only hoped that the tent would still be there in the morning.
Well, despite this unsuccessful attempt to spend the night in our tent, I was not discouraged. I knew that if we camped in a field, we would have the space to tie the whole thing down properly and securely, and that even if we happened to be unlucky enough to find ourselves in the middle of another such storm, we should remain warm and dry next time. And so we did. We had our first camping trip a couple of weekends later, and we did get stormed on, right wetly. We set up the tent in a puddle that had turned into a small lake by the time we left. It rained in the night, it rained in the day, and it rained torrentially when we dismantled the tent. By now, of course, you will be assuming that my mind had reverted back to its original stance, that of believing that camping sucks? Well, you would be wrong about that. I still loved it. I had rarely had so much fun as that hour that my long suffering partner and I collapsed the tent and forced it into its bag when the rain was lashing it down. We wore our waterproofs, and felt like big kids being allowed to play in the biggest puddle they had ever seen.
Undoubtedly I also still loved camping because our tent is massive. We had room in it for everything that I could need, I did not have to leave a thing behind. I had my hair straighteners (gas powered of course), I had my books, I had my suitcase full of clothes, I had my laptop, we had our camping stove, we had our large box full of food, we had our other large box full of crockery and cutlery, we had our comfortable collapsible chairs, we had our picnic table, and we had our pillows and duvets. Fortunately we also have a car with an enormous boot (trunk).
I never really thought that I would be a right softy, that I would need to have certain luxuries with me when enjoying the nature and the great outdoors and all that. (I know, need is a ridiculous word, I don't need any of the things I take with me - all I need is food, water and shelter. I know this, and I know that I am being spoilt.) But it's the difference between forcing myself to partake in this type of holiday because I feel like I'm supposed to because I have children and children are supposed to be taken camping, and altering the camping experience enough to make it enjoyable for me, and thus enjoyable for everyone else. I have camped a few times before, with the bare minimum, and I did not like it one bit. This tent has enabled me to love camping.
Actually, the best bit of our last camping trip was nothing to do with the tent. We were pitched in the corner of the field, next to the water tap. On our third day there I was desperate to wash my hair, but there was a ginormous, many-legged, hard-shelled and pincered beetle creature in the ladies' bathroom, and I absolutely knew that if I took a shower in there, that beastie would almost probably definitely drop onto my head and make me scream blue murder. So, on this very warm and sunny morning I decided to wash my hair under the water tap in the corner. It was icy cold, and I was rather concerned that drenching my head in that temperature of water might produce a scream of similar decibels to the beetle drop. But I braved it - my hair really was ever so filthy, you must understand. Well, that was the most divine hair wash I have ever had, to this day. It was icy cold, but deliciously so, and I have never felt as refreshed as that since. This summer I have a date with that tap again. I am sure that I woke up properly for the first time in roughly five years after that hair wash.
So, the Hi Gear, Sahara 6. Perfect for those pampered people who really actually hate camping, but will grudgingly go along if they're allowed to take their hair straighteners. Other portable bungalows are available.