So here’s a blog post I never thought I’d write, the last time Jim and I had a discussion about buying a tent was 9 years ago and the result of that conversation was that I very quickly persuaded Jim to buy an RV instead! After a series of adventures on the Canadian prairie (and even one night in Montana!) we sold our mobile home when we left Canada and for the last 7 years we’ve been out of the camping game.
During that time we’ve talked a lot about how we could change that, but never found quite the right solution, for one thing mobile homes and caravans are not quite as exciting or as plentiful this side of the Atlantic and we had nowhere to store one. Then two weeks ago on a rare night out at our local pub, I got hijacked by some of my neighbours and taken to an impromptu communal camping supper and there in the field was a bell tent.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought of bell tents as things you hire, not things you buy and it was a revelation that you could actually own one, complete with the associated glamping comfort. I sent Jim a text that evening and told him we had to buy one and so a week later we actually did. A very rare example of me making an impetuous purchase!
Even though it was a speedy purchase, we spent a fair bit of time researching not just the tent, but the stuff to go inside it, having taken the bold step of deciding to sleep under canvas, I really really didn’t want it to be a bad experience.
The tent itself is a 5 metre with a zipped in ground sheet and we bought it from Boutique Camping. We debated for a long time between 4 and 5 metres and although I am usually the one who prefers the smaller option in any given scenario, in this case I am really glad we opted for 5 metres, it is in no way too big.
Inside we chose two single Coleman durarest air beds, made up as a superking with a fleece topper and duvet and pillows. Theo got a more basic cheaper Intex junior airbed (also with his duvet) and Alice had her travel cot with a blackout blind that fits over the top.
I was pretty sure we could heap on a load of duvets/quilts/blankets and keep warm whatever the weather but I was really worried about taking a baby to sleep out and after a particularly chilly night last week (where it got down to 12c) I caved in and let Jim buy a logburner for the tent….and almost immediately a heatwave happened!
Our first camp out was this weekend for the school camping trip. We were literally 5 minutes down the road which meant we could nip home if it went wrong or we forgot anything. Amazingly neither of those things happened, though the proximity of our own bathroom did mean both Jim and I nipped home for a shower during the day on Saturday!
Theo had a brilliant time running free with his friends all weekend, playing in the open air, climbing trees and kayaking in the harbour and Alice seemed to get on ok too, sleeping through the night without problems.
Crucially Jim and I also enjoyed it. There were no chores to distract us and we both spent loads of time just chatting to people and relaxing. On the Saturday night there was a communal barbecue and campfire where everyone came together to see the kids put on a show and roast marshmallows. It honestly beat anything that was on the TV over the weekend and it made me so happy to see the kids enjoying simple pleasures (even if there was a brief Pokemon hunt at one point!)
Now we’re back home with everything packed away it’s taken less than 24 hours to have a discussion with someone about a second trip! Initially I felt it was cheating to not travel far, but with a huge range of lovely sites on our doorstep we’ve discovered that in the short-term we can get our camping fix without going far or getting stuck in Friday afternoon traffic jams.
The bell tent has another added use, it’s great to put up at parties and as I’ve got a significant birthday next month it’ll definitely be making an appearance in our garden, dressed as a “lounge” rather than a bedroom!
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