May 26th, 2012

Camping equipment

Last weekend I went down to Bristol to buy a tent. I went cycle camping in France in 2010, which I enjoyed. I stayed in B&Bs/hostels during my LEJOG attempt last year, but I'm planning a short camping holiday in June: I'll cycle down to Portsmouth, go round the Isle of Wight, then come home via Southampton.

I've been doing some research online over the past few months, and Hilleberg have a very good reputation. They're expensive, but I'm willing to pay extra for something that will last, and several people have been using the same tent for 20-30 years. (Taunton Leisure describe these tents as an investment.) Also, these tents are made in Europe (Estonia) rather than being outsourced to somewhere like China; I see this being a bit like "FairTrade", i.e. the tents have to cost more in order for the company to pay the staff a fair wage. I'm not planning to go on an Arctic expedition any time soon, but I'd rather have a strong tent in mild weather than a weak tent in severe weather. Dave's Wild Camping tested a Hilleberg Akto in 80mph wind, which is quite impressive, and that was in the UK (Cumbria). I was out cycling last Tuesday (15th May), and I was pummelled by hailstones 3 times, so even in the British summer I may have to deal with unexpectedly bad weather.

My main concern about the tent purchase was my height. I'm 1.86m tall (somewhere between 6'1" and 6'2"), and I like being taller than average. However, it does have a few drawbacks, e.g. I sometimes wind up with my knees wedged against the seat in front when I go to the theatre. Tent manufacturers always list their dimensions, but those can be misleading. For instance, I used a Quechua T3 in Breton, which was supposedly 2.15m long, but I was pretty much jammed in there. So, I wanted to try some tents out before I bought one, i.e. actually lie down inside them. There were a couple of camping shows in London earlier this year, e.g. The Motorhome, Caravan & Camping Show at the Excel Centre. Unfortunately, they didn't include any Hilleberg tents there. Taunton Leisure have stores in south-west England, and they're happy to put up tents within the shop; the trade-off is that it's a long way to go. Since they offer free delivery, I considered buying a tent online and then swapping it if necessary (to save money on train tickets), but in the end I decided that it would be better to see the tents in person.

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