28 January 2016

A Tent Odyssey

A tent Odyssey

Every year in January we head to our favourite spot, pitch our trusty Kmart tent and live under canvas for a week or two, beachfront. The kids roam barefoot with friends, coming back when they're hungry, going to sleep when they're tired.

Tenting can be cosy and lots of fun

We play endless games of cards, swim in the sea, cook and do dishes alfresco, and read uninterrupted for hours on end. It's wonderful. Camping can be bliss- as long as the weather cooperates.

Camping at the beach can be THE BEST

Cos as lovely as it is to be lulled to sleep by the crashing of waves and the flapping of canvas, it can be rather awful sleeping under canvas when it rains, when everything is soggy and the the loo is a 300 metre walk through a storm. But even that can be taken in stride as long as you have a good tent i.e. one that doesn't leak. The most important thing you need when camping is a tent that keeps out rain so that when the pitter patter of raindrops wakes you up, you can snuggle into your sleeping bag and enjoy the sound, knowing you're in no danger of being flooded out.

Sunny days camping beachside are BLISS
Everything is soggy and icky when the tent leaks - ugh

But if you have a leaky tent and the weatherman is not in your side? You're stuffed.
You can string up extra tarps, bang in more tent pegs, batten down the hatches all you want, but once your trusty Kmart tent has seen 11 summers it's time to lay her to rest, cos that ole girl has given up the ghost. Water will start coming in everywhere. From the ground, from the seams, from the roof, despite your hubby "Geordie Grylls" best efforts. The floor is wet, the beds are wet, everything is clammy and damp and icky - there's nowhere to hide and a storm is coming.
So what do you do?

Geordie Grylls battens down the hatches

You look at all your options, you review your weather app, you see the rising tide of damp - and you abandon tent.
You throw the bedding and the clothes into the people mover, you zip up your tent and leave her to her fate while you head for home, to sit out the storm in warm, dry comfort.
That's what we did, anyway.

View from the tent kitchen - is that a storm coming?

We drove home with a sigh of relief, anticipating a night with nothing wet dripping on us, and a loo just down the hall.
And we talked about what we'd do after the storm had passed.
Do we go back? (Most wanted to).
Will our tent survive the storm? (Most agreed her days of sheltering us were done).

A Storm is coming... will the tent hold up?

Faced with a choice between giving up on camping altogether in this patchy New Zealand summer weather and finding a way to finish out our holiday without being flooded again, we decided that if we wanted to salvage our summer camping adventure, we'd have to have to invest in a new (rainproof) tent. So Geordie Grylls and his fab young sidekick hit the Kathmandu New Year sales and found us a sexy new rainproof tent for a bargain.

Our old faithful Kmart tent has seen us through eleven years of family adventures. Bought for just $299 on sale, we reckon we got our money's worth.

Comfortable Camping

Oh the memories! The first time we went camping, Miss Fab was only six months old and Dash was a tearaway two year old who ran into strangers' tents and gave us not a minute's rest. Neither of them slept, tent walls aren't soundproof and we had no camping gear apart from that tent. Those were the days we took the highchair and portacot camping. And argued over the right way to insert the tent poles while toddler Dash screamed his frustrations from the carseat (where we'd strapped him to stop him running off and drowning himself in the lake). We got rained out that year too and unsurprisingly didn't attempt camping again for another four years.

Erecting the tent in a windstorm is no picnic

But in spite of a rocky start to our camping history, we kept coming back to an idea that we heard at a pre-marriage course, long before the kids were around.
This guy, Gary Smalley, offered to let people into the secret of family bonding and creating lasting memories that would hold you all together like glue.
The secret he said, was CAMPING.

Sometimes the "neighbours" help out, but sometimes they sit on their caravan decks and laugh

There's nothing like the experience of putting up a tent in a gale together to forge you into a team. There's nothing like sleeping together under canvas, weathering storms, washing dishes in a bucket, cooking al fresco to bring a family together, away from all the mod cons.
We had liked the sound of that. So we tried camping again - when Scrag was a baby.

Camping with Baby Scrag, Jan 2009

What is it with us and camping with babies? Did we never learn? Our Kmart tent hadn't gotten any more soundproof in the intervening years and the new baby didn't want to sleep any more than the last two had. But that year somehow we caught the camping bug in spite of it all.

"Clown Camping" January 2011, where we took extra kids with us and survived

That year some friends introduced us to our now-favourite camping ground, and we've been there almost every summer since. That year, Dash taught himself to ride his bike without trainer wheels, on the beach, while we put the tent up. That year we learnt to relax bedtimes while camping - kids come home and sleep when it's dark; don't fight it. Let them play while there's light and eat when they're hungry. The rhythm of camping is a beautiful thing.

All the comforts of home make ten days in a tent enjoyable

Since then, our camping gear has accumulated as have the memories; we no longer have to lug highchairs and portacots, we've learnt the tricks to being comfy in a tent for ten days with the kids. At least until our tent started leaking.

We love camping and we've loved our Kmart tent. (All the memories!)
But we love our sexy new tent more.
It's a beast. A sexy tent beast.

Our sexy tent sees it's first sunset - the first of many

Our new tent was worth driving back to Auckland for. It was worth returning to the campground when the storm had passed, emptying our faithful old (leaky) tent and taking it down (for the last time); it was worth the hassle of drying out our wet piled up stuff, then starting from scratch and setting up camp all over again. It was a massive effort, but so worth it.

Our camping gear piled up waiting for it's new flash home
Groundsheets drying out - the day we returned was a belter
Our new Kathmandu tent - it's a beast

Our new tent is spacious and easy to erect with colour coded poles that even dummies like us can't argue about. It doesn't require strapping on extra layers of tarps to keep us dry, it doesn't require Geordie Grylls to be out in all weathers with his mallet.

Looking from the "kitchen" through the tent to the front
New Tent, new camp stretchers = luxury
Christmas fairy lights make the best tent lighting
Looking through to the outdoor "lounge" area (with sea view)

Our new tent has loops to hang our fairy lights and clever zips to poke our extension cords through. There's space in the middle for a games table, where lots of games of cards are played, as well as Risk, Monopoly and Scrabble (which I usually win, but not always).

Monopoly Empires is a camp favourite - and always dramatic when the Fab is involved
SHOCK RESULT! Geordie Grylls wins at Scrabble!

There's a sea view out the back, in our shaded living area under the pohutukawa tree, where we can sip a Shandy and watch the twilight creeping in. (We book the same spot year after year.)

Our sea view - lovely to wake up and drink coffee with

But most importantly? Our new tent doesn't leak. It keeps out the rain. We know cos we tested it when it rained again for a whole day. Nobody got wet.

We reckon if we got eleven good years of camping out of our kmart special, this new tent palace should see us through the next twenty at least. It will be round to see our grandkids!

First Backyard Camping
Under Canvas (Backyard Camping)
A Camping We Will Go (2009)
Clown Camping
We Survived Nine Days Camping
Camping - or Glamping?

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