If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 20 August 2010

New Tent

Vango Beta 350.

I was camping in my Eurohike Backpacker (called my 'sleeping condom' by my Danish friends) at the Aberystwyth show. I have made a few adjustments to my kit and methods, mainly a better sleeping mat and bag, and I had a pretty comfy night there. However, I was berthed next to a couple who had a tent I really liked - the Vango Beta 350. Not only did it have bags of room in the sleeping area, which I like, but the porch was huge. They managed to get all their bike gear in there (my panniers had to stay outside overnight), but there was also room for a couple of camping chairs and the nice lady who agreed to give me 'the tour' demonstrated that there was easily enough room for an adult to sit upright in the chairs and have some headroom.

This is something I have been looking for in a tent since last year. I love being out in the open, I loove the cameraderie of camping, but even when my bones were younger I didn't like the constant kneeling and hunching that a traditional tent makes you do. Being able to sit in a proper chair to relax with a beer would make the world of difference. The Beta seemed to be a good compromise between that level of comfort and a reasonable size for putting on the back of a motorbike. So I started looking. The RRP is £95, but I didn't want to pay that. There were eBay sellers offering them new for less, but research into their feedback didn't inspire confidence. Eventually I found one from a private seller, which was little used, in perfect condition and open to offers. I made one very silly offer, which he rightly declined, but my next offer of £38 was accepted. The tent arrived last week.

I've got it up on the lawn right now. I put it up when it was dry, just as a trial run, and it went up easily. It's the cheap end of the Vango range, but it's a Vango nonetheless, and the quality is good. Everything is well-though-out, well-made and as it should be. Then we had a couple of days of heavy rain. Excellent!

(Digression: I have a funny thing about rain. I love being under a shelter when it is pouring down outside. Not indoors, but in some kind of shelter where I can see and hear the rain and feel the cool air, but not get drenched. Tents fulfil this set-up admirably. Or sitting by an open window in a thunderstorm. Or hunkered down in the back of an estate car with the hatch open, checking in people on a rally I organised. Or under the verandah outside our local supermarket while the rain hammers down on the car park. Even a humble umbrella scratches the itch to some extent. I can trace this feeling back very precisely, to being very small, and taken in a pram by my mother on a shopping trip. The hood was up, and a blue cover was over the pram itself, with a small lip at the head end to keep water away from the pram's valuable contents. It was raining hard. Meanwhile, I was in there, wrapped in blankets and totally dry, watching everyone scurrying through the wet streets. It was the apotheosis of 'cosy'. We moved from that area before I was a year old, so that my first real memory. And at 56, it still gives me a kick. Funny, huh?)

So when the rain came, I scurried out and sat in the tent. I told Anna I was checking that it didn't leak, but we know better, don't we, children? Of course, it was 100% waterproof.

Last night we had some strong winds. Wooden garden furniture was blown over, and all the bin lids were scattered at random round the garden. In the middle of the night I remembered that when I put up the tent it was only a temporary trial thing, and I had only pushed the pegs lightly into the ground. Amazingly, it was still there this morning, but as I was having breakfast a huge gust came along, ripped the pegs out at one end, and the tunnel structure gracefully collapsed. It was easy to re-erect, and the pegs are now in at full depth. The dog loves the porch - I can't go in it without an escort these days.

In short, very pleased with the tent and looking forward to going away somewhere and using it properly. I don't know when the next opportunity will arise, but when it does I will post a performance report.

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