Sunday 23 September 2018

Blow up your tent, not your budget

No need to go overboard with the camping gear, says John Cradden

The great outdoors: The recent weather has been perfect for camping. Stock Image
The great outdoors: The recent weather has been perfect for camping. Stock Image

John Cradden

If you're holidaying at home this year, the fine weather we've been enjoying is likely to have whetted your appetite for the outdoor life.

If it's been a few years since you've camped, you'd be surprised how far tents have come in terms of user-friendliness and ease of assembly, and the sheer range of equipment you can stock up on to make the experience as luxurious as possible.

And thanks to retailers like Halfords, Decathlon and, of course, Aldi and Lidl, camping gear can be picked up quite cheaply these days. Seasoned festival goers will know that a two-person tent can be bought for as little as €25.

Of course, there will be those who say that buying a tent or a gas cooker at the lowest price can be a false economy. It's true that better-quality tents, for instance, can vastly improve your comfort by employing more breathable materials or by being more intelligently designed for ease of assembly. It's worth doing some research to find the best option for your budget. There are also a few summer camping sales worth checking out, too. In terms of tents, inflatable ones are the latest thing, according to Mairtin O'Meara of Dublin-based camping specialists O'Meara Camping, which also has an online store (Omearacamping.com). "What is unusual is that the frame of the tent is an air tube, not metal or flexible rod." he said.

Inflatable tents generally come as a single large-ish unit that you roll out, plug in a pump and in a matter of minutes you have a solid free-standing structure to peg out and you're done. They can be just as stable as traditional pole tents as long as they are well pegged down. They will flex more in windy conditions, but there is said to be less risk of damage compared with pole tents if the wind gets too strong.

O'Meara Camping is running a summer tent sale, with high-quality air tents such as the Royal Atlanta 8-man Air Tent reduced from €1,138 to €799. A sale is also on at Outdooradventurestore.ie, with the Vango Orava 600 family tent for €680, down from €790. A mid-range option is the Urban Escape 6-man inflatable tent from Halfords for €450, reduced from €960.

Royal Atlanta 8-man blow-up tent
Royal Atlanta 8-man blow-up tent

At the ultra-budget end of the range, Aldi's Quick Pitch Air Beam Family Tent is €150 and sleeps four. There's even a cheaper version for €100 that also sleeps four. A soft fleece ground sheet to carpet the tent will set you back €35.

If you're a stickler for a good quality traditional pole tent, Basecamp.ie is selling an award-winning MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent for €359, a 20pc discount.

It would be easy to get carried away in a camping gear shopping spree, but the three essentials folks seem to always get (besides the tent) include a cooker, an icebox or fridge, a folding chair and a windbreak, according to O'Meara. If you're planning on an extended family barbeque, you can get a complete package of a Campingaz Folding Chef cooker and grill with gas cylinder and regulator for €130 at O'Meara's. But if your camping culinary ambitions are simpler, there's always the widely available Campingaz Bistro version for just €25.

You can buy iceboxes for next to nothing, but the cheapest ones won't stay cool for that long. Investing around €100 or more on a 3, 5 or 10-day cooler is a better option unless you go down the road of a portable fridge powered by the 12v power supply in your car. You could feasibly blow your budget here, but you can find a cheap 24 litre electric coolbox for around €60-€70.

Foam mats can be notoriously uncomfortable, so investing in a lightweight self-inflating mattress can make all the difference to a night spent under the canvas, such as the Thermarest Trail Lite Reg for €80 from Basecamp.

A tent is for life, not just for a festival

Cheap tents that can be bought for just €20 might seem ideal for the rough and tumble of an outdoor music festival campsite. Such tents can be so cheap, in fact, that you may be inclined to leave it behind come the Monday morning after the show is over.

But environmental campaigners and organisers of events like the Electric Picnic and Body and Soul have once again been urging festival-goers to take their tents home with them because they contribute hugely to the waste left behind that organisers will have to clear up. Research has shown that over 80pc of music festival waste comes from campsites. This waste includes other camping gear, such as chairs, sleeping bags and broken poles.

According to Body and Soul festival director Avril Stanley, tent fibres can clog up recycling machines, and so all tents that are left behind end up in landfill.

Some festivals in the UK have signed up to the Love Your Tent campaign, which encourages festival-goers to invest in high-quality camping gear and to reuse it. Others have facilitated schemes whereby pre-pitched tents can be rented rather than bought.

Irish Independent

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