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10/08/2015

A quick kit list for newbie Campers.

This list is specifically for a couple, who are thinking of throwing a few things in the car and heading off on a mini adventure, It is inspired by an overnight camp I did in Corgreggan Mill, near Dunfanaghy. The nicest, craziest, most ill prepared couple came along and camped nearby me and I nearly wet myself when they tried to get a double airbed into a tiny, single skinned pop up tent. They were like an upturned turtle and the pair of them were in fits of hysterical giggles. We parted friends and it is in tribute to them that I write this post. 

Tent

Editors Choice Camping Magazine Awards 2014 chose this tent for good reason. It costs a shade under £120.

The Quechua 2 Seconds XL is double skinned, so it will keep you nice and snug in an inner pod which is breathable, will wick away all the condensation from your breath and will prevent your bedding from coming into contact with the waterproof outer tent. The tent is a pop up, so is easy to put up and although there's a knack, just as easy to put away. 

It's small enough you can probably dry it out in your living room when you get home. It's big enough to let you sit up in comfort, and gives you the space to get changed. It's super strong, even a strong wind will only flatten it but it will not break it. This particular one even has a built in light. 

It's a three berth tent which makes it better for two people because tent manufacturers are always a bit on the mean size when it comes to calculating how much room a person needs, and it has a porch for your smelly shoes, your clothes bag or for storing that little backpackers stove you've picked up to make a cuppa with. 

QUECHUA 2 SECONDS XL III ILLUMIN FRESH POP UP TENT - 3 MAN, WHITE/GREEN




Argos Ready Bed Double

This is a budget solution (about £40 but often on sale) to a double sleeping arrangement in a tent. It is not the best airbed on the market, but then even the most expensive ones are prone to leakage, as anything inflatable is. I'm a fan of Ready Beds because they are one of the few sleeping solutions that have a sleeping bag built in to the design. It is essentially a double sleeping bag with an airbed slipped in to a big pocket on the underside. That means that when you turn around, the bedding stays put, and I find this far more comfortable than struggling with individual sleeping bags that twist around you when you turn. The bed is sealed all around which makes it a better option than taking bedding from home as you will have gaps around the sides which will let warm air out, and cold air in. 

The cons of this bed are that the bedding is quite flimsy. This can be offset by taking a big throw or fleecy blanket from home. And you'll be together, so you can keep each other warm. 

The dimensions of the bed are 180cm by 132cm. Considering the above tent has a sleeping area of 210cm by 210cm there's plenty of space left over. 

Ready Bed Double from Argos currently £28
Extra Insulation

As airbeds are essentially a big bag of cold air, if you have it adjacent to cold ground then the result will be that you will possibly get quite chilly. Counteract this by using a layer of insulation underneath the airbed. This can be something like cardboard from a local shop, or a foil backed picnic blanket. A few pounds spent on foam camping mats, or even yoga mats will help enormously.

These Yellowstone mats from Amazon are foil backed which will help reflect your body heat back at you. They are about £6 each and you will need two for putting under a double airbed.

A free alternative, other than the aforementioned cardboard, is if you are installing some laminate flooring at home keep a bit of the insulating layer that you put below the laminate for under your airbed. If you really have nothing else, a couple of newspapers spread out will be better than nothing.

Seating

A very basic seating area can be achieved with a picnic blanket. I think that if you are just trying this camping lark out and you are young and reasonably fit, you can't go far wrong with a picnic blanket as your seating solution for your first camping adventure at least. Then, if you really like camping you can start to look for camping chairs. 

These picnic blankets, from Home Bargains are £4.49 each.



I haven't touched on cooking or basic tea making facilities, because in my eyes you start to get in to a whole lot of extra equipment. However I would recommend taking snacks, drinks and a picnic and store food in an airtight container to minimize attracting wild life into your tent. You will probably find you eat out in the evenings at least. Just go, enjoy and if the weather turns bad shove it all in the car and go home. There's always next weekend! 






05/08/2015

Sunflower Festival 2015

The Sunflower Fest has come of age. No more are we the punters struggling with unnecessary hardship, the place was clean, the portaloos were plenty, the mud was minimal despite some rain. The bands were fantastic, the food was plentiful and varied, and the outer corners held some special little spaces that you came across by surprise such the Coconut Water Bar, a lovely little chill out spot.






There were lots of little tweaks. The main stage used to have an undercover area to one side that was VIP only, now opened up to all who needed it as a shelter from the rain. A Marquee right beside the sound tent (mid centre of main arena) that used to be occupied by a frankly dodgy burger vendor who took up most of the space for his customers, has been vacated with just a few simply constructed low tables that served as seating and/or coffee table, under cover and out of the elements. The hot food vendors lined the sides of the field in the main arena and the prices were reasonable.No more is the guy that served one slice of pizza and a can for a fiver - now you can get a whole pizza, any topping for a tenner. Also on offer was barbecue sticky ribs, a Burrito Bar, traditional Chippy, Thai and down in the 'Bliss' Valley vegetarian Falfatel.

The band of the whole weekend, in my opinion, was a band called The Screaming Eagles. They are a bluesy rock band that are sharing stages these days with such big name bands as Airbourne and Black Star Riders. 




The second best band was called 'The Love Street' hailing from Cornwall, with a surprisingly celtic rock flavour and who won over the crowd with a rousing rendition of 'Whiskey in the Jar', always a winner in my book.



The Camping Bit

My eldest son and I carried everything in on one run, using a decent trolley and a crap one. The crap one really let us down and will be replaced before we take this type of thing on again. The little wheels just weren't up to uneven stones and grass. We'd worked really hard to condense all we'd need down to as little as possible, and decided to take the Quechua Base Seconds with the optional inner you can buy, to serve as our 'home' for the weekend. In hindsight, considering the weather could only be described as iffy, it would have been better to take something a bit more spacious. 






In all it was a lovely weekend and although we were tired at the end we were happy and a bit smelly. I met a lady called Denise who I'd corresponded with on Facebook prior to going and who turned out to be camping right beside me. She was working hard as a volunteer and I would consider doing volunteering there in the future, now that they seem to have sorted out all the teething problems five years in to the start of running this festival. 
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