Family Adventure

From Wild Camping to Comfort Camping with Go Outdoors

When travelling light is second nature it's easy to forget that life's little comforts are easier to take camping than you'd expect. Emma Taylor teamed up with friends and puppies to test out some comfy Go Outdoors gear for their brilliantly titled #GoOutpaws campaign.

[This is paid advertorial content, which we totally enjoyed!]

Wild camping has become second nature to me now, whereas a couple of years ago I would have had to look up the term. I remember my first ‘wild camp’, which was on my friend Anne-Laure’s rooftop in Shoreditch (hardly what you might call ‘wild’!) and my second was a few weeks afterwards on the night of the Summer Solstice with The YesTribe.

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I enjoyed sleeping ‘out’ without a tent so much (my friends thought I was bonkers) so I went alone to Hadleigh Castle with a bunch of people I didn’t know, just to sleep out under the stars and it was utterly magical. So much so, that I have done it countless times since and now don’t even need to think about what to pack, I’m already out the door.

So now it’s time for a new challenge - camping in the traditional sense of the word. I had no idea that camping could be so comfortable without becoming (that wonderful combination buzz word we all love) ‘glamping’. When asked by GO Outdoors to test out some of their equipment, we thought we’d set ourselves a new challenge - camping in comfort! With more and more of our friends starting families, we set aside our usual considerations of how much we could personally carry on public transport, and started venturing outside the box into the realms of ‘what if we had a car and weight was no object?!’.

We started with the largest item on the list - the tent. We had no idea they came with so many interchangeable options! After much deliberation on the GoOutdoors website and using their super handy comparison tool, we decided to go for their own brand of Hi Gear Voyager Eclipse 6… or as we lovingly dubbed it, ‘The Spaceship’.

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After getting over the initial shock of how big and heavy the pack was (a whopping 22kg!) we realised that one handle each made it pretty easy to manage. We were slightly skeptical of the store’s own brand at first but perceptions were blown out of the water once it was up - this was a well designed piece of kit. Being one who is usually happy to rise with the sun on a campout, I am now definitely a fan of the Eclipse style bedrooms, which keep the morning rays out with a blackout blind to allow some extra snooze time. Another very cool feature of this tent was the bedroom configurations and how flexible they were - you could choose to have not only one but two or three bedrooms - perfect for group camping. We invited some friends to join us camping and there was plenty of room for everyone, even the dogs.

We couldn’t believe how much room there was in there, including an enormous porch, which will come in very handy for those unexpected downpours we’ve been getting recently - we were even thinking ahead to Yestival planning later this year and upgrading the staff quarters in the festival field! The tent had plenty of little (and large) pockets to keep gear, hooks to hang lamps and clothes from, options to open and close doors and windows, along with flysheets to keep the bugs at bay and power access points if we ever needed to plug in our widescreen, Playstation and blender for a truly luxurious escape from the city.

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Next largest on the list was the sleeping situation and Dave and I have never tried out a double sleeping bag - it had to be done. Opting to trust the GO Outdoors own brand Hi Gear again, we went for the Divine Double in blue and I must say, that nights’ sleep was divine indeed! There was plenty of room in there, it’s super soft and we were both toasty all night. The only disappointment was not to have a zip on either side so you can escape without having to assault your partner trying to get out. Otherwise though, this is a perfectly cosy duvet substitute for a night under the stars with your bear.

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Normally ones for lightweight inflatable roll mats, we decided that we needed to upgrade to a full on double airbed to match our new comfy double sleeping bag. We went for the Coleman Maxi Comfort Double Airbed - go big or go home, right? The reason we opted for this one over the other potentials was because of it’s unique Dual Chamber Inflation, which means that no matter how fidgety I get in the night, Dave won’t feel a thing on his side - and it works pretty well in that respect. Weighing in at a sizeable 3.7kg, it packs down pretty flat into a bag and is totally worth the effort - speaking of which, we definitely recommend investing the extra £3.99 on the Hi Gear Bellows Foot Pump to save you from going lightheaded when blowing up this beast. My past experience with air mattresses is that they always deflate a little during the night but I was surprised to see this one hold it’s own. It’s strong, the double lock valves are simple to use and they actually work, and the ultimate test was inflating it outside the tent on a bed of thistles (we only spotted them afterwards!) and having the dogs wander all over it and it still lived to tell the tale.

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One job which is a guaranteed chore for us every time we go to The YesBus now is filling large 20 litre containers with drinking water and transporting them to the bus in a wheelbarrow, unless we’re lucky enough to have a car on site. As you can imagine, this task can be quite a lengthy one as the tap is 500 metres away and filling five containers and transporting them across campus is no easy feat. For this reason, when we saw the 40L Aquaroll Rolling Water Container, we were overjoyed at this potential new solution to our water carrying dilemmas! It’s a brilliant bit of kit and does exactly what it says on the tin and with a handy additional tap and and stand, it’s a perfect and essential kitchen sink, water fountain and shower source in one.

So, now we had our water source and a mega comfortable bedroom in our giant spaceship sorted, this adventure called for some fun outdoor activities that the pups and kids (big and small) could enjoy. GO Outdoors have a pretty cool range of giant versions of games and toys I used to love when I was a kid so I was in my element choosing from an Aladdin’s Cave of Nerf Guns, Super Soakers and lawn games. Always the child’s entertainer, I opted for the Handy Heroes Giant Bubble Making Kit. I have always wanted to try it after seeing them wow the crowds on London’s Southbank and it did not disappoint! It comes with everything you need and even the bubble mix is non-harmful to the environment.

To fuel the creatives among us, we also go the Handy Heroes Stone Painting Set, which comes with a bunch of colours and a tiny brush. I was super impressed on finding that the kit even includes the stones, but then a little abashed on discovering that the ‘rocks’ were created with moulds with evidence stickers stating they were ‘Made in China’. This kit did the same for our mental health as colouring books do for adults, it was very therapeutic, it’s just a shame the stones weren’t natural.

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Now for the real laughs, when the Handy Heroes Giant Racket Set and the Pop Up Football Net came out. Both really inclusive, everyone could join in the fun and it was great quality gear that will keep coming out throughout the summer. You don’t need to construct anything or fit parts together, they are instant and ready to go. The rackets are massive and there’s a choice of playing with the ball or shuttlecock, even with the size of the rackets, I still managed to miss the ball! The football net comes all twisted into a clever little flat packed bag and just pings into action when you take it out. I thought getting it back in there would be a mission but it came with simple diagrams and instructions that made it easy.

And no lawn party is the same without a comfy picnic blanket to save from unwanted prickles and a damp bum - we chose the Hi Gear Fleece Picnic Rug as it was a great size, was soft on the top size so the kids and puppies were happy, and has a waterproof backing to prevent moisture from getting through.

All in all, we loved discovering how comfortable family camping can be and aside from the heavy tent, there really wasn’t too much compromise on weight and bulk in order to have a much more luxurious camping experience. This is the perfect collection of gear for a family who are new to camping. It’s all super simple to use, really comfortable and fun with no concession on quality.

Would I take all of this on a trek up a mountain on my own? No. But with a group of friends and family escaping for a few nights making fun memories in nature and in comfort, then it’s a big YES from me.


nb. This is a sponsored post, but the experience and views are authentic!

A sneak peek around a brand new GoOutdoors store in Reading

With the warmer months approaching, Emma Taylor visits Reading's newest outdoors store for some inspiration and a cheeky bit of shopping.

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I've always been of a minimalist mindset when it comes to owning stuff. Creating surplus waste or filling space with items I’ll rarely use isn't a hobby, so like many other nature lovers, it takes a very specific mood to motivate me to go shopping. Occasionally this is brought about by a chance encounter of something exciting and I just can’t help myself! 

As you might guess, this is what happened this week when Dave and I were invited to get a look behind the scenes at the new Go Outdoors store in Reading, which opens its doors to the public at 9am on Saturday 17th March.

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The new store is a massive Aladdin’s cave of outdoor wonders spread over two floors and when an outdoor tent village is part of a store, you know you're in for a treat. Any adventurer’s dream! We happily got lost in there for a couple of hours browsing everything from solar-powered gadgets, to expedition gear, geeking out on all the camping essentials and checking out outdoor cooking options for The YesBus. 

We do differ slightly on our ideal new toys in the new Go Outdoors store though; while I was skipping off happily day-dreaming of the horse riding gear I could invest in (for my non-existent but very gorgeous horse!), Dave’s attention was captured by the gorgeous neon yellow fat bike suspended up on a pedestal, just waiting to be played with! It got us thinking of where he could take it off on an adventure worthy of those epic beast tyres; Iceland, Canada, or maybe somewhere in the Middle East…? 

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Besides the vast amounts of gear to fit even the pickiest adventurer, the overwhelming positive of visiting the new Go Outdoors store at Reading was the staff. Every staff member we spoke to not only had in-depth understanding of all the products but had their own tales of adventure to tell and a wealth of knowledge that can only be earned by having a background spent in the great outdoors. It was so lovely to see so many people truly enjoying their job because they get to encourage more people to get outside and share the happiness of being in nature. 

Of course, as we're doing just that with SayYesMore and the YesTribe we were lucky enough to get a bit of pocket money to spend at the store, so walked away with plenty of new bits and bobs which we decided will live at the YesBus and help people get their outdoors fix, even if they can't afford their own gear.

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If you get the chance this Saturday to visit the new store on opening day, you won’t be disappointed. Not just because you can get a balloon giraffe and your face painted like a tiger if you want, or even the fact that Ross Kemp will be cutting the shiny blue ribbon, but it might surprise you with inspiring a new passion you never even knew you had.

And with all this done, I'm going outdoors!

The Adventure Mindset: Tiny Adventures with Tiny People

The Adventure Mindset: Tiny Adventures with Tiny People

As a parent of two young children (1 and 3 years old) I strive to foster a creative imagination and a spirit of adventure in my wee ones. Not only do I believe this will become a great asset for them as they grow, but it also means that as a time-poor, energy-sapped, sleep-deprived, cash-strapped parent, it provides me with an adventure ‘fix’ of my own.