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  #1  
Old 10 May 2008
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Coolabah Swag Bag Video and Written Review

So I've been at the camera again and after the simple tents guide I was really taken by the rather large, but also rather small ;-) Coolabah Swag bag... I've made a short video review and written a rather more detailed review too :-)



Coolabah Swag Bag

Choosing a tent to take overland is never an easy task, do you go for weight? What about material? Cost? All very important questions, but ultimately I think it boils down to how you work with the tent and how it works for you in return.

I know, slightly strange to be talking about forming some sort of bond with something as silly as a tent, but after all this small, insubstantial shelter is going to be your home for the next goodness knows how long, why not take some care in what you chose? Why not take into account how you feel about your home?



With that in mind may I introduce the first tent that has made me feel something about how it’s put together - the Coolabah swag bag from Burke and Wills - distributed in this country by The AussieShop

It’s completely made of canvas, both it’s best and worst point. I remember when I was a kid camping with my dad, a massive six person tent that took up the entire rear of the car, and took about a week to put up. It smelt bad when it rained, if it rained for more than a couple of hours you’d get a fine mist working its way through the material. But it seems even with the oldest tent material in the world we can have a bit of an update.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is, but it’s more ‘waxy’ and even though I’m yet to test it in the wet I can quite believe the claim from Burke and Wills that once it’s been wet, the seams expand and it’ll deal with everything but the worst of the weather. They suggest before you use it you take it out and give it a good hosing. Makes sense.

It’s certainly a ‘choice’, once I’d decided that I didn’t want to take a tent that took a lot of time to put up, and decided that I didn’t need a tent that I could get changed in etc, then the one man options became more sensible, the problems as ever boiled down to how you get in and out when it’s raining and where do you sit if it rains.

I’ve looked at a lot of one and two man tents, but all the modern ones just seem to be far to complicated. I’ve been looking for something that I can pull off the back of the bike un-roll and get in - complete with sleeping mat and bag. With the Coolabah I’ve finally found it. It ships with a foam mattress that frankly I’d be comfortable with as my main bed, but practically it’s just too big and doesn’t roll to a sensible size. I’ve now replaced that with my Exped Downmat (from Traveldri-Plus) and my sleeping bag - it now rolls up to half the size but it’s still fairly wide. If you’re on a narrow bike with no panniers you may struggle to find a way to fit it on. My bike, just like me, is quite wide and with 54 litre panniers on either side this isn’t going to cause me a problem.



The attention to detail is superb. As you get into the tent through the very accessible top door and put your head on the pillow you notice immediately how well put together it is, how close all the stitching is and how good the material is. I was very impressed when I saw a handy little loop for my torch and a series of pockets just above my shoulder for those little things like phones and glasses. I was slightly concerned about storage for things like my camera, but actually there’s so much room down by your feet that I stowed both my stills and video camera there without noticing them during the night.

There’s enough space inside to comfortably move around during the night and even change your undies and put some trousers on, but putting a top on is a bit difficult and you’ll need to poke your head out to achieve the more space conscious dressing activities.

The design is perfect, rather than the usual crawling into your tent you use a door on the top of the tent, very coffin like. In reality this means you can lie down and look out at the stars, either directly or through the mosquito net before pulling the canvas door over your head for a totally dark night. There is a door at the very end you can crawl through - but frankly - I don’t fit - I do like the fact you can leave the canvas on the end open with the net down however.



In summary, a great tent, very well made and once you’ve pulled out the supplied foam mattress and replaced it with a more sensible version just right for putting up each night very quickly. The only issues are with the size once rolled up - if you can deal with that and can find a sensible way to cover yourself in the rain (think tarp and poles off your bike) then go for it.
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Last edited by mattcbf600; 10 May 2008 at 11:14. Reason: formatting
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  #2  
Old 10 May 2008
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coolabah swag bag

a tiny tent that packs up enormous, takes longer to put up than my decent sized khyam eiger, is made out of heavy canvas that 'is waterproof once the seams have expanded' and costs a whopping £215?

even "the biker swag" is £125, and its just a bivvy bag.

great video as usual though Matt, keep em comin
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Old 10 May 2008
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nice review matt, but i honestly cannot see many bikers going for this one , it look,s like a huge, and i dare say fairly heavy setup , what with it being made of canvas, also it look,s like there is not a lot of space inside , that,s important when you have to spend a lot of the day inside due to lousy weather . i think i will stick with my trusty old kayam dome tent .
ps ... are you going to do a video review of your new Eeepc ? .
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  #4  
Old 10 May 2008
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Great review Matt.I think most people outside of Australia miss the point concerning the swag although I can't blame them as we live in "the dry country".If I were to live in a wet climate I would probably not consider the swag either.Easy to erect,easy to pack down,you could'nt ask for more than that after 600kms in the saddle and ready for some rally partying.If you were travelling the world in a wet climate then this is'nt the accomadation your looking for even if it is totally water proof.I own both a tent and swag and I like the choice depending on what I have planned.Anything up to a week and the swag is fine,anything longer and a tent would probably be my best option.Weekend travelling is probably the swags best attributes,arrive at your destinaton,throw the swag down then go exploring or hang out around the fire with your friends,simple.Did you know that you can also get a double swag for you and your loved one to share.I spent a week travelling with a swag and had no problems what so ever.
Nev and A2 ride the High Country - ADVrider

Although on my next trip I took he tent.
Ride To Recovery (Australian High Country) - ADVrider

To summarise,if your looking to throw your "sleeping quarters" down quickly then the swag is hard to beat for the short haul.If your looking for space for the long haul then a tent might be for you.

Cheers
Andrew
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Old 11 May 2008
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Hey guys - yes I know exactly what you mean - all problems I initially had with it until I took it out and just saw how easy it went up, with everything inside.

I'm genuinly not concerned about getting it wet on the trip to Russia more than a couple of times at most, and as I'm crossing fingers that wet will be the exception I'm hoping my little shelter idea (tarp, bike, poles ;-)) will provide somewhere dry where I can sit and keep the worst of the weather off the tent.

I've still got loads of tents to test before I go, but I do have to say how impressed, and surprised I was by the Swag bag - I think it must be a little like Marmite - you either love it or hate it!

Andrew - yes I take your point about how long you're on the road - if things go to plan we'll get to see how it works over four weeks in most of Western Europe and Russia.... (double swag... I don't think Mrs C will like that very much - she much prefers these things she calls 'hotels' I don't understand the concept myself but there you go!)

m
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Old 11 May 2008
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Matt, great video as usual. I enjoy watching MattTV on the HUBB! ha ha. However I think it should only be shown after the 9pm watershed as the "Blair witch" section is still giving me nightmares!!!

Surely if you take your sleeping mat and bag out it'll pack really small. What does it look like when packed a seperate items? Although I suppose that defeats the object of it at least the width would be reduced.
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Old 12 May 2008
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you should be on telly matt, i cant think of any programmes on at the moment that do anything like this. i suppose the caravan show does, but we need a caravan show type "bike touring show featuring Mattcbf600"
anyone remember a show on beeb2 called 'no limits'? [phoar jenny powell......] apart from that i remember a certain ray mears starting off here with little 5min skits
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Old 14 May 2008
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Hey thanks guys

Packed up in sep items is a good idea - I gave it a try last night - but it didn't really work - my sleeping bag is massive, I am a rather large chap! - but the exped (get it from TravelDri Plus) goes down really small. In three sep packages I still couldn't get it into the Ortleb - the problem is the Swag doesn't really fold in half, and I'm trying to avoid folding the canvas.

However, I'm just happy with the pack as it is, it's not wider than the bike and the ability to just roll out my 'home' each night and have it ready to go in under 30 seconds with one peg just sells it to me.

Blair Witch? Me? Thought you'd all like that - there's actually a lot more of it but I cut it to keep the video sub 10 mins.

DAVSATO - thank dude I really enjoy making the short vids - but I have no ambition to be a TV person - there are much better people at that than me - I'd just be happy to get a format sold into TV which I could produce - now that would be fun! There's a woeful lack of this kind of thing out there right now.... I'm working on a treatment for BBC Four, but I don't hold out much hope... and let's be honest.... I'm no Jenny Powel!
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Old 14 May 2008
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I'm not convinced

But if you like it mate...

Looking at the video it seemed to take you about 1.5 minutes of faffing about to get it up. Now admittedly you were on cam and talking, but it still seemed a fairly long time. I can get my two man single pole tent up in about the same time and when it's up I've got a nice porch to sit under in the rain.

So as far as I can see the only perk to the swag is the fact that everything's stuffed inside it, but that makes it big bulky and heavy, and if you have to faff around for a couple of minutes outside anyway I don't see the point.

Nice for a dry climate yes, but not I think as versatile, nor as easy to pack, nor as light as a more conventional tent, mat and bag.

I'm sure it'd be possible to come up with a "EuroSwag" though, which would be somewhere between the two.
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Old 14 May 2008
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going off on a tangent, but bear with me....

anyone read julian may's "many coloured land" sci-fi novels?
theyve got it all sorted out in the future you know, they have an indestructable inflatable material called 'decamole' and you just pull out a pingpong ball sized lump and press a button and in a few mins its a log cabin with built in furniture, or a sailing boat or a bridge.
i cant wait
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Old 16 May 2008
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Originally Posted by Alexlebrit View Post

So as far as I can see the only perk to the swag is the fact that everything's stuffed inside it, but that makes it big bulky and heavy, and if you have to faff around for a couple of minutes outside anyway I don't see the point.

Nice for a dry climate yes, but not I think as versatile, nor as easy to pack, nor as light as a more conventional tent, mat and bag.

I'm sure it'd be possible to come up with a "EuroSwag" though, which would be somewhere between the two.
I know what you mean - I've now decided I'm definitely taking it to Russia with me ...

Looking back at the video - you're quite right - it took me 1.5 mins - didn't feel that long! I'm going to have a little crack at it over the weekend and time how long it takes from pulling up on the bike, to having the tent and mat ready.... perhaps in Derby we could have some tent races! Now that would make good telly.

I'm going to combine the Swag with a basha for those times when it really is wet, which will obviously increase my put up time, but gives me greater flexibility - and allows me to give the bike some measure of protection - in all honesty though - if it really is throwing it down - I suspect we'll be in the local hostel rather than out in the woods... but one has to be prepared. (oh yes - bought this too - Army Issue Poncho from Surplus and Outdoors / Waterproof Clothing)

Euroswag is a really interesting notion though - I was talking to Les over at TravelDri-Plus (go buy things from him, he's amazing) - and he recommended the Tatonka Narvik - it's a small tent, really quick to put up, made from modern materials and packs really small - everything you'd look for in a new tent - but you can't leave your stuff in it and I suspect it doesn't go up as quick as the swag.

But when it comes down to it - like I say in the first part of the review - buying a tent is an incredibly personal choice, much like buying a house - I can't understand for the life of me why some of my friends love their tiny little flats in the centre of London with all the noise and fuss going on around them - but they love it. Me on the other hand? I got as far out of London as I could to a place a near fields as possible.
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Old 16 May 2008
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going off on a tangent, but bear with me....

anyone read julian may's "many coloured land" sci-fi novels?
theyve got it all sorted out in the future you know, they have an indestructable inflatable material called 'decamole' and you just pull out a pingpong ball sized lump and press a button and in a few mins its a log cabin with built in furniture, or a sailing boat or a bridge.
i cant wait
Can I order one now?
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Old 16 May 2008
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This may be defeating the point but a mate that I often go away with also uses a swag but what he does if the weather is 50/50 is roll his cheap $40 tent up with his swag.Horses for courses I guess.One thing to remember is we have a large choice of swags in Austarlia.

Swags
Mine is fairly light weight compared to some others but that is all I need.I think it cost me $149 on special.

Cheers
Andrew
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Old 16 May 2008
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One perk to the swag though, if you're catching a ferry you can take it on board and just find a quiet corner to doss down in in private.

That said I did that with a 2 Second tent, but they're a bit hard to transport on a bike I think.
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Old 17 May 2008
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Funnily enough Stace is taking one of the 2 second jobs to Russia - it doesn't quite fit properly on the bike but he's found a way to fix it securely without it looking like an early warning radar aircraft.



We've just booked the ferries over to Holland - and because we're on the overnight crossing they've made us have a cabin - wont let you dos down in the corridors any more we weren't counting on that and it's hit the budget slightly.

Andrew - yes that's quite a range! The AussieShop here in the UK seem to be the only people stocking the Burke and Wills kit which seem fantastic. I'm totally sold on the idea and I'm pretty sure it's going to prove itself on the trip to Russia.
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