Gear Reviews

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!

Tentipi: Camping for the spacious at heart

Whether you're heading out on a micro adventure, a long-distance expedition or have a garden party to organise, here's a look at what Swedish outdoor experts Tentipi have to offer this season.

 Hiding out with a 1000 miles of Norwegian coastline under the belt

Hiding out with a 1000 miles of Norwegian coastline under the belt

As the warmer months approach it's natural to spend more time outside, which for me means figuring out a variety of different ways to sleep in nature. I've always loved the Scandinavian approach to camping and since meeting a super chilled-out Torsten Gabrielsson midway through my Hobie kayak trip from Oslo to Helsinki in 2014, I've been a big fan of the company he runs marketing for, Tentipi. 

I should say up front that while there are cheaper tents on the market I've always preferred spending a little bit more on a product that lasts. The cheap tents of my twenties always ended up with broken zips, torn tightening-straps and a cluster of snapped pegs, so a tough waxy rainfly, bomb-proof pegs and a zip that two rhinos couldn't pull apart always gets my vote. 

With this in mind, when Tentipi asked if I'd like to write about their range I was more than happy to do so, they've been in my adventure bag for the last four years and I can't be more of a fan.


OLIVIN 2

My Tentipi love affair began with the first iteration of the Olivin 2, the smallest tent in their range and a reminder that a little extra space makes for a more comfortable wind-down after a long day's work. Made for two people + bags, the Olivin 2 is plenty high for sitting upright and getting changed in, boasts a built-in inner tent and vents in the roof and sides. At a gentle squeeze you could sleep a 2 child family or swing three cats in there; your choice. 

 Stockholm, September 2014 - Image by Torsten Gabrielsson 

Stockholm, September 2014 - Image by Torsten Gabrielsson 

In fact, during the first year of the YesTribe, the Tentipi crew challenged us to break the 'world record' for the amount of people that could fit inside an Olivin 2. Believe it or not, we managed 25!

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The Olivin 2 weighs in at 3.4kg with the inner tent so it's not a backbreaker, and I'm still surprised at what comes out of that bag. There's such a power in carrying a temporary home on your back (or in a kayak or panniers) and I love that process of creating a basecamp. Turning a bag into a shelter is beautiful, and there's nothing more simple than putting up a tipi like an Olivin. Eight pegs, one pole. Welcome home.

Read more about the Olivin 2


Erecting a tipi

One of the factors that draws me to a tipi is the ease of putting it up. No longer are there multiple stringy poles to feed through tight sleeves, instead you peg out the octagonal tent first and then give it some shape with just one chunky (but lightweight) pole. The process is just delicious, I adore simplicity (it goes very well with my intelligence levels) and a 90-second put-up average makes bad weather and fatigue days more bearable. 


The Zirkon

The Zirkon family of tents is seven strong. There are four CP tents, which are heavier and built for comfort, and three Zirkon light tipis are exactly what they say on the tin - they're lighter and more manageable. 

 A northern Norway camp. Photo by Yellow Matilda

A northern Norway camp. Photo by Yellow Matilda

Last Summer I decided to carry a Zirkon 5 Light tent for a 9 week expedition along Norway's coastline. It gave me loads of room to spread out clothes dampened by a long day on the water, and even without the inner tent it provided more than adequate shelter for those moments when I got sick of the gorgeous views outside (*this never happened). 

View the full run-down of the Zirkon range


Hekla Firebox

I rarely came off the water dry in Norway, so the option of enjoying a fire inside was a big attraction to the Zirkon. In full transparency, it was a fairly warm Summer/ Autumn in Norway so I barely used the Hekla firebox, but it's pretty cool to get a fire going inside and I'm looking forward to some cosy winter camping with this set-up in future.


Why a tipi is worth considering over another type of tent

  • They look really, really good
  • Plenty of space inside
  • Hard-wearing
  • Simple to erect
  • Stoke up a fire inside (model and size dependent)

OTHER TENTIPI PRODUCTS

 

The Canopy

Adding a Tentipi canopy to your Nordic tipi gives you more room to hang out and it works great as a stand-alone too, if you really want to pack light.


Rucksack Frame


Okay, some of Tentipi's larger tents are a bit heavy so this year they built a rucksack frame to easily carry them to base camp. Of course, you can use it to transport logs, water containers or your best buddy as well.


The Half Fleece Floor

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Tired of cold feet and dirty shoes? Tentipi's new half fleece floor has a cosy surface, even for bare skin. 

It is fully damp-resistant, like all their other floors. Having half a floor in your Nordic tipi means you can have a surface with floor to sleep and hang out on, and one without floor where you put your dirty shoes.

They are also fitted with Velcro so you can join two half fleece floors together to make a whole floor, or combine a fleece floor with a half ordinary floor.


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Where do you put your dirty shoes when camping?  The new half innertent from Tentipi creates two rooms inside your Nordic tipi, one to sleep in, and one for cooking, wet dogs and smelly socks.


Safir 7 CP

This is the classic Safir 7 cp from Swedish tent maker Tentipi. You can have an open fire inside or fit it with a stove for really cold nights. It's made out of cotton and polyester which keep rain out while letting condensation vent away. You can fit up to seven people in this one and it's full standing height even for tall guys, at the same time as packing down into a kayak or rucksack.


Stratus 72

Okay, I know that you're not going to bring this one on your next kayak expedition around the Shetland islands, but in case you discover true love on that trip you might need somewhere to celebrate your wedding! You can rent these amazing Stratus 72 tents all over the UK and in many other countries.

And in case you're tired of your 9-5 at the office, why not change careers and start your own Tentipi rental? Just sayin'...


The Zirkonflex

For basecamp or for garden parties, the Tentipi Zirkonflex can be folded up half way for panaorama views or all the way to use as a sun roof on warm days.

And finally, for a full rundown of Tentipi's products or just a sumptuous browse of gorgeous pictures of tipis in beautiful places, check out www.tentipi.com


The Schiller Bike - fit for travel

The Schiller Bike - fit for travel

I'm a week into this Schiller bike journey around Norway's coast and the unusual craft that I first tried one week ago today has now become familiar, and seeing as 90% of the questions I've faced so far revolve around my waterbike, here's an attempt to outline just how fit it is for travel.

The Ultimate Microadventure Kit

The Ultimate Microadventure Kit

If the idea of a Microadventure has appealed to you but you haven’t yet enjoyed a night sleeping wild in the great outdoors, the answer is to keep it simple. I always keep a Microadventure bag packed and ready to go should I take the fancy, so I thought I'd share with you my choices for a perfect lightweight Microadventure set-up . Enjoy, then head out with some friends to enjoy a night under a clear, star-filled sky.