January 20, 2007 GMT
Camping Equipment

Camping equipment appears to me very much a matter of 50% personal choice and 50% common sense. Obviously if Iím going down to Wales on the Spring Bank Holiday for a weekend and my tent blows away, Iím gonna be pissed off, but I seriously doubt if my life will be in danger. On the other hand if it happens in late Autumn on the Russian Steppes, hmm, I think we can all figure that one out.

Tents of all shapes and sizes

Tent. After spending a few weekends away in a small one man tent loaned to me by my son Adam, I had enough information for what was required to satisfy me as and individual. After a little more research on the climates I would encounter, (much hotter, much colder, than I expected.) I had a mental picture of what I wanted. The HU Weekend at Ripley gave me the opportunity to go and ask questions about peoples experiences with their tents, something you cannot get from books. Two comments stand out in my mind. One from Chris, desperately trying to get his laptop to work for a presentation, but still happy to give me half an ear; ĎThis tent is top of the range, mountaineering gear and cost plenty. Three years later the zips are knackered, the netting torn and a couple of anchor points dodgy. I could have bought a good cheap tent every 3 months and chucked it for the same money. Next time thatís what Iím going to do.í

I must admit I felt less embarrassed about my borrowed cheap little igloo, until everyone had left and a local scamp looked at it and said. Theyíre good those tents arenít they, weíve got one just like that but itís blue; eight quid in the Co-Op.í

At Ripley there were tents in all shapes and sizes, and watching them go up and come down was also interesting. The easiest has to be the hammock tent.

Hammock Tent. Slung between two trees in the background.

Just sling it between two trees. It is ideal for hotter climates with creepy crawlies everywhere. ĎWhat if you donít see two trees ten feet apart?í I asked thinking that there may be a single fold away mast or perhaps even using the bike somehow. ĎKeep riding until you do.í Good advice in Brazil, but not much use in the tundra.. Another unfolded like a sleepy octopus and was up in a minute or two while still more used more traditional aluminium or carbon fibre poles to stretch them into the many geodesic designs I saw there. In the end I decided that if it was to be my home for the next couple of years, one person needed a two man tent to stretch out in. This also gave the advantage that if I found a buddy, then if speed was required, we could just erect the one tent. Talking of buddies, at this time I was due to travel with my brother Norman who found himself in similar circumstances to me, but did not have a bike licence. He had booked an intensive riding course later that summer, but after a mornings theory and driving around cones, fell off in heavy traffic during his first ride out that afternoon, and sadly vowed never get on a motorcycle again. I have found rarely are you unequivocal about motorbikes, you either love them or you donít. Better to find out now that you donít than in downtown Labrador. Back to my choice; a two man tent then, quick to erect, good for both cold, wet and windy places as well as hot, dry ones. I have chosen an American design that has good undercover storage at one end for my gear, without it intruding into the living area, and a covered area at the front for my domestic needs. The only controversial thing about it, and Iím sorry about this but it appears to be true from all accounts, is the stars and stripes logo printed on the side.
tent flag.jpg
Iím going to cover that with a St.Georges flag to take away any chance of uninformed opinion taking reprisals against it in some far flung land. I donít want to come back one day and find it burnt to the ground!
The old red 'weekend tent' and the new silver ATW tent

Rock Pegs.
Like most tents mine came with thin aluminium tent pegs, fine for Englands green and pleasant land, but not in other more hostile climes. Rock Pegs are made of steel and you can get them into harder terrain where an alli peg would just hold up.

Hammer. As a hammer is also an essential part of my toolkit, it can double up to knock the pegs in with, as I donít think a mallet would give the Rock Pegs enough of a clout to get them in if the ground is that hard.

Sleeping Bag. A good 3 or 4 seasons sleeping bag has got to be a must. You can easily sleep on top of it if it gets too hot, harder to find anything to boost it up if it gets too cold. If I were buying again I would probably go for a traditional oblong one rather than the mummy style I have purchased, as there is more room to fidget about in. I have got used to finding a good sleeping position and sticking to it though.

Sleeping Bag Liner. Keeps your sleeping bag from getting smelly, as you can wash and dry it quickly in a motel room, or at a camp site when it is sunny. Available in silk or polyester/cotton mix, your choice, I like polyester/cotton myself. You can use this on its own in hot weather, or inside the sleeping bag in cold. I often use the sleeping bag as a Ďthrow overí quilt, as you can adjust the temperature that you sleep at easier

Sleeping Pad.
As important is the sleeping pad or mat. This not only makes your bones more comfortable, but stops the heat leaching out from under you. I chose a self inflating ĺ model from Artiach that rolls up really tight, but make sure you store it opened out, or it will try and curl up when you come to use it.

Camping Stool. I do like something to sit on and one of the lightweight folding stools should be ok. I may reinforce the seat though, as a couple have shown the anchor points to be vulnerable. Sometimes, {often!) I also like to rest my back against something, and have found that you can put a stake in the ground and prop your bike seat against it to make a comfortable back rest and sit on your sleeping mat.

Cooking Stove.
Light, compact and quick to get going was my brief on this one, but like most things associated with long distance motorcycle travel, there are additional factors to take into account. I therefore made good sense to me that the fuel to power it should be petrol as I could get that anywhere, whereas a gas canister or solid fuel tablets might not be available. I have made my own spirit stoves before out of a small tin can and metal bottle cap, and they work well in an emergency. I bet they will even work using vodka as a fuel, hmm might try that, but if you get in a pickle check out this photo to see how to make one in an emergency. homemade.jpg

If wood or dried dung is available an open fire makes sense, but try not to burn down half of Canada like that tourist did last year!!! Especially be aware that global warming is making some places tinder dry in the summer that are not usually so.

Cooking, drinking and eating ware.
A nesting stainless steel set is best in my opinion, but cooking a full meal is an art with only one stove. An open fire gives more opportunities to get everything to the table hot. Coddled eggs stay hotter than fried ones and you can use the hot water to make a drink or wash up with. Just boil some water set it aside and drop them in, still in their shells, for about ten minutes While on the subject of washing up, I store some gear in a Ďsandwich cool bagí and have found this makes an excellent camp water carrier and washing up bowl. It keeps water warm for hours.

Thermos Flask. Not one with a glass interior, thatís asking for trouble. A stainless steel one is much more robust and as I intend to stop about once an hour for a drink, to me it is an essential piece of kit.

Torch. The new wind up torches have come a long way in the last couple of years with LEDs instead of tungsten filament bulbs, and mine has the added advantage that you can plug other devices in, like cell phones, to give them a short charge if required.

Camp knife.
Now this is a Knife knife1.jpg

but Crocodile Dundee cutlery is not necessary, A medium size Bowie knife should be adequate. knife2.jpg
It need to be stout in order to cut through branches should you be forced to make your own bivvi. A good stout knife is a must for survival, but with all of the security and hassle surrounding them at the moment I shall purchase mine when I reach Canada. I can hear someone saying I've never needed a knife that size for survival, well I never needed a life jacket until I got washed overboard! TBO

Nappy Sacks. No Iím not incontinent yet. These are for storing waste material until I reach somewhere that I can dispose of them with consideration for those following me.
Burn, bash and bury is the old Boy Scout philosophy, but sometimes thatís not always possible. I look with sadness at the trash left behind in some remote beauty spots by uncaring travellers. trash.jpg
Try not to be one please, not only does it look unsightly, but can injure the wildlife. Even throwing a plastic coffee cup into the sea can lead to a cod or other big fish dying when, thinking itís a small fish as the upended cup bobs along the bottom with the tide, it gets lodged in its throat. Not nice. TBO

Hot Water Bottle. I have cold feet!! Any old soft drink bottle filled with hot, not boiling, water will do. It works fine.

Next on the list is Personal Gear

Posted by Derek Fairless at January 20, 2007 02:28 PM GMT

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