Top Tips and Helpful Hints from “Akela”
“It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.”
DAVE BARRY- AMERICAN WRITER
Any dreams we might have of an idyllic camping holiday under a warm, lazy summer sun have largely been washed away in the recent weather. But for all the inconvenience of relentless rain there is still plenty of fun to be had if you are suitably prepared…and there is nothing so soothing as lying in a tent, comfortable and warm, and listening to the gentle patter of rain on the roof above.
- You’ll need one.
- Most modern tents come with the necessary requisites:-
- A sewn-in “bathtub groundsheet” to keep you dry even when water is running across the ground.
- A flysheet providing additional protection from the rain
- Fly screens on the door to keep out those midges.
TOP TENT TIPS
- Unless you are into serious backpacking get a tent bigger than you think you’ll need. The more room you have the better- especially if you are forced to spend a lot of time inside it.
- Get a tent with a large porch in which to store all your stuff, wet or otherwise.
Akela uses a 3 man tent with a porch as large as the sleeping area. Luxury – with plenty of room for the cocktail cabinet and billiard table.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Never ever take a naked flame of any sort into a tent – e.g. stoves, Tilley lamps, barbecues. If you don’t manage to burn the tent down, without adequate ventilation you’ll almost certainly die from carbon dioxide poisoning. Don’t do it.
- In a spot sheltered from the wind.
- With the door pointing away from the wind.
- On gently sloping ground to ensure that rainwater drains away.
- In a field free of livestock, horses, ramblers (especially Janet Street-Porter) and heavy metal fans.
TOP PITCHING TIPS
- Do not pitch under trees. If you are not struck by lightning or falling branches you will be driven crazy by the constant dripping following any shower of rain.
- Avoid hollows, low lying areas and mossy green patches. They might look nice and soft now but after rain they will turn into a quagmire, a puddle or Lake Windermere.
- To avoid being struck by lightning do not pitch on exposed skylines, hill tops or summits. If you are in the hills pitch on the lee side of the ridge well below the summit.
Akela remembers camping on Ben Macdui in Scotland during a thunderstorm. There was so much static electricity in the air that his hair stood on end and sparks ran up and down metal equipment. Scary.
CAMPING COMFORT – SLEEPING
Akela remembers days when campers would sleep on the ground with only a groundsheet between them and the inevitable cold and damp. Hypothermia and goose bumps were fashionable lifestyle choices.
Remembering that 90% of body heat is lost through the ground Akela would recommend the following in ascending order:-
- Inflatable mattresses. These are comfortable but do not prevent heat loss. They are also bulky and require either a pump or a fantastic amount of puff to inflate.
- Foam matting bed rolls. These keep the heat in and are comfortable but can be bulky. Children like them because they absorb wee. They are cheap.
- Thermarest Mattresses or equivalents. These are self-inflating bed rolls which are highly insulated and easy to use. They are compact, super efficient and cost about £50.
Akela camped out last winter in 5 degrees of frost on a Thermarest Trail Lite mattress and would have slept like a top were it not for the Black Dyke Mills Band who were practising next door.
TOP SLEEPING TIPS
- Before turning in check that the tent is properly closed up and all the pegs are secure in the ground. Tidy everything away apart from those things you might need in the night, e.g. torch, shoes, a bottle of gin, a set of earplugs (see above)
- A decent pillow can make all the difference between nirvana and nightmare. Don’t bother with the ones that they sell in camping shops. What you need is something familiar. Pinch one off the bed when the wife isn’t looking.
CAMP COMFORT – OUT AND ABOUT
When Akela was a boy wet weather campers were advised to wear a waterproof top with short trousers, plimsolls (remember plimsolls?) and no socks. If your feet and legs got wet – and they were sure to even in heavy morning dew – they would quickly dry. Remember! Mottled blue/red legs are a badge of honour.
Assuming that the bulk of camping is done in warm summer months Akela would recommend:-
- Lightweight and separate waterproof trousers and top. They need to be ventilated to prevent condensation and as compact as possible. Remember that the trousers must be wide enough to slip on over hiking boots.
- If you are not going down the plimsoll route then Akela would recommend waterproof hiking boots.
- I suppose you can wear wellies if you must but they are bulky, not good for walking any distance in and look a bit girly.
TOP ‘OUT AND ABOUT’ TIPS
- Crocs are a modern equivalent of the old fashioned plimsoll and absolutely perfect for pottering about the campsite or quickly slipping on if you need to pop out in the middle of the night to strain the greens or to tell the Black Dyke Mills Band to “Shut Up!”
- The secret of happy camping is to be organised. Take along plenty of sealable plastic bags to store your dry clothes in and plenty more to put your wet clothes in until that happy moment when you can hang them out to dry. Remember the motto of the King of Camping, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement -
Akela once asked a Scotsman for advice on the weather in the Highlands. This is what he was told:-
“When you can see the hills in the distance it is going to rain. When you cannot see the hills in the distance it is raining already!”
— from Martyn Day