Thursday, 9 February 2012

Great Websites

Here is a list of some great websites and forums which I've found really useful for inspiration and ideas:

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I do like a carpet in my tent but they are pretty expensive to buy - ranging from £90 to £150. I've mentioned in a previous post that you can use pet bedding, but I've found this post on UK Campsite showing you how to make one. I'm not very crafty but it doesn't look too difficult and actually I'd like to give it a go. I'll let you know how I get on, but this lady made hers for £27 which is brilliant
Here's the link to the post

And here is the post:

Ok, so for starters I will tell you about what materials you could use (unless you have some already) You need a backing; something waterproof is a good idea, but not essential. Waterproof is useful, but it may be hard to get hold of, and can be bulky for your machine, so as I don't imagine that your tent lets water in, you could always just use a normal heavy weight fabric. But if you do want waterproof, then a good quality tarp would do, or you could get some waterproof nylon, or light weight Cordura (the stuff rucksacks etc are made of but thinner). Ask your local fabric shop/market what they have that's waterproof, and if it's not too bulky, then go with it. If you want something easier to work with (and maybe cheaper) then look for some heavyweight cotton or nylon that's hard wearing. Next you need the insulating layer (this will also make it softer under foot) I used what I had in the house at the time, and that happened to be some cheap laminate underlay that I had bought for protecting a parcel I posted - it was the thin stuff, but you can get different types. You could use a thin sponge layer, but this isn't easy to get hold of and it isn't as insulating as the underlay. The top layer pretty much depends on what you want, but there are a few points to bare in mind; firstly it needs to be hard wearing - you will be walking around on it a lot, and maybe brushing it down, so you don't want anything flimsy that will get thread bare, or snag and tear. It really is hard for me to advise you on what to use for a top layer - I would know instinctively when I looked at a fabric, but you have your own ideas about what you want, so you will have to make your own judgement on that one. I will say that you should seek the advice of whoever is selling the stuff if your not sure, but it isn't rocket science, so don't be worried about making a mistake, just use your common sense and you should be ok. I will give the following advice though: I used an upholstery weight fabric, but there are many other fabrics that would do the job eg. anti pil fleece (anti-pil means it won't bobble - but not too stretchy as it's a pain to sew) any heavy weight cottons or synthetics (you may get static from some synthetics so be cautious). I would also suggest that whatever material you do use, you stick it in the washer first with some Nikwax to give it a breathable waterproof coating. Don't know if you are familiar with Nikwax, but its great stuff, and I have been using it for years to re-proof outdoor clothing - I have just waterproofed a canvas tent with it as well and it worked a treat. Here's a Link if you want to know more. Make sure you get the right one though as they have different types. They actually do one for horse rugs which is ideal as it helps to minimise abrasion. Ok so let's get to the making bit! I will add what pics I have of the process, and explain as I go along.
I cut the backing and insulation layer to slightly larger than the size of my top fabric (will explain why later). I had to tape two pieces of the insulation layer together as it wasn't wide enough - I did try to sew it, but because of it's structure it grips the needle like glue, so after 2 broken needles I gave up and used good old gaffer tape. It would tear easily when sewn anyway, and as it stays put when sandwiched between two layers, I think the tape is the best way to go.
As you can see the the bottom layers are slightly bigger than my top layer; the reason for this was so that I could pin them all together knowing that they were all laying flat and smooth - I could then cut the edges flush without getting any pulling or creasing in an attempt to get a neat edge (if you know what I mean). This also saves time as you don't spend ages trying to match the edges up - it also ensures that you end up with the size/shape you want as you haven't had to cut into the top layer to make the edges meet. A word about the pinning; it may seem a bit time consuming, but I recommend that you insert as many pins as you can around the edge. This not only keeps your fabric together, but it helps to stop any stretching whilst sewing, and if you do happen to lose a few whilst manouvering the fabric, you still have plenty to hold it together. Top Tip! use as many pins as you can - I suggest every inch or two if you have a stretchy fabric (hold on...I'm sure I have a pic I made up for a friend in my docs........brb) blooming heck I actually found it! Take note of the way I pinned it - this is so you can sew over the pins on your machine, but you can take then out as you go if it gets friend needs detailed diagrams lol!

Finally, you will need some sort of edging to finish it off, but it's best to sew it together first as this make adding the edging band, or hemming it, a lot easier.

Ok, so now you have a nice carpet, but the edges will be raw and will need finishing off. I added a thick cotton herringbone tape that was just folded over the edge and sewn on, but you could just fold it double and sew it (may be a bit thick for your machine though) I would recommend the cotton tape though, as it looks much neater, and is easier to attach - you can get the tape from most haberdashers or fabric shops.

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How cool is this??!

I really really want one! Going for between £10 and £25 on EBay

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Great packing tip!

A friend of mine told me a great packing tip recently, so I've added it into my packing agenda! I really struggle to get everything in the car when we go camping but this is the ultimate in getting the most in the smallest space:

1. Put the kids clothes into wearable bundles ie shorts, tshirt, pants, socks. When they need a change, its all there and you dont need to rifle through everything - genius!
2. Bag up all clothing and soft stuff - duvets, sheets, pillows etc into vac bags - these are equally genius and you dont need a vacuum to vac them:

3. Put all your clothes in plastic containers not suitcases. In fact put all your stuff in plastic containers. Your clothes will stay dry and they act as wardrobes - no more messy suitcases cluttering up the tent and no need to unpack. Bonus! Then when you're unpacking the car, just put your boxes in the areas you want them ie kitchen, living, bedroom. Much easier and quicker to unpack car so a beer or a wine can be enjoyed much earlier!

- if you have any other packing tips Id really like to know them - please post a comment!

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Camp Cooking

You can't beat a barbie! But sometimes it's nice to cook other ways. A camp fire is the most traditional way of cooking whilst camping but there aren't that many campsites that allow a camp fire. The best alternative I've found is to get a firepit - eBay is definitely the cheapest and the ones which come with detachable legs, a fireguard, a grill and a bag are brilliant. I think mine was about £25. So now we've got a fire to keep us warm at night, a barbecue to cook on and if you put the fire guard on its also a toaster!

Ronnie Sunshines Dutch Ovens are amazing and pretty versatile and probably the only cooking pot you'd need to take with you. You can fry, roast and casserole in it. Bloody heavy though! It's best to hang it on a tripod, and the cheapest way of getting a tripod is getting a local blacksmiths to make one. Mine was £12. Just set this up over the firepit and it works brilliantly. I've got some great recipes so I'll get these up soon.

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Friday, 20 January 2012

Where to camp?

There are so many places to camp in the uk, how do you choose? Do you want the all singing all dancing ones with kids galore, pools and club houses? Or something more natural? Back to nature? Something in between? This is a great website for some inspiration
Other ideas I'd love to hear!

Cool Camping have just added cool campsites in France too - very handy as we're planning a camping trip to the Dordoigne this summer!

Top Tips for Glamping on a budget

I've been sourcing bits and pieces for my bell tent holidays for a couple of years now, and I've loved doing it! It's taken up loads of my  time and it's become a great hobby. So I thought I'd share some of my 'best buys' and tips and hopefully people can add to this - I'd love that.

1. Sourcing the tent
Buying my bell tent was tough as I wanted to get it at the best price and the right size for my family. Initally we decided on a 4m bell tent, but after spending a night in one with just my husband (which was a great size for the 2 of us), I realised with all our clobber and 2 small boys the next size up was a must, so went looking for a 5m.
soulpad and bell tent uk have some great tents, and you can find used ones on ebay but they all go for about the same price. The best priced ones, and great quality are found on a dutch website called Obelink. However, the only thing they don't ship to the UK are bell tents. Bugger. Why not? Well it seems they have an agreement with one of the bell tent sellers here in the UK ( no names mentioned) as they supply that company with them in bulk.
A 5m bell tent from Obelink, basic ie groundsheet not attached is £249, compared to belltent uk of £379
There are 2 ways around this as the price difference is substantial. Either plan a camping trip in Holland and pick one up first, or get a dutch freind to send it on. I did the latter and the postage was just under £20, so still much cheaper! A saving of £110
2. 4m, 5m, basic, delux or ultimate?
The whole reason I wanted a belltent was for the headspace and general feeling of loveliness! The 4m bell tent is perfect for a couple or a couple with a small child. As soon as another comes along, the 5m is definately worth getting! We have the basic, which means that the groundsheet is not attached to the tent. I LOVE this option. I'll write another post on why, and the pros and cons of both later.
3. Carpet anyone?
Oh yes, now I have a great tent, it needs to be comfortable! We started with rugs on the floor as the bell tent carpets are expensive. This worked ok, but I was always slipping on them and they move around alot. So upgraded to general tent carpet which was cheap, but still wasnt happy as it was - well - ugly!
You can get bell tent carpet from greens or belltent or soulpad, the cheapest coming in at £70 for a 5m one, or a half moon coir type more expensive at around £110.
The very best option is pet bedding, believe it or not. It fantastic, like walking on shag pile! its durable, easy to cut to size as it comes in a roll and is the best value, at about £50 to carpet the whole tent. It's light too! Here is an ebay seller - it comes in loads of colours too if you fancy a hot pink or purple!

4. Cooking
I love a camp fire but loads of campsites are pretty strict about this. Getting a firepit is a good idea as this doubles as both a bar b q and campfire in the evenings. If you can get a tripod, you can hang your pots on it to make great stews and roasts - but don't get these online unless you want to pay a premium! We got ours from a local blacksmiths for £15. Loads more on cooking later...

Getting ready for the summer...

I love camping. I never thought I'd say that, but with limited funds (it's a recession, you know!), 2 young boys and an urge to try something new, I thought I'd try camping.

We started a couple of years ago and bought a small tent to go to a family friendly festival in. It was great! The boys had so much fun, but it wasn't comfortable or, well, nice to look at! It was functional and waterproof. But there's got to me more to it than that.

So, how do you combine the Great Outdoors with the need for comfort and headspace? My search led me to Bell Tents and the bell tent community. We bought a 5m gorgeous bell tent and set off on our camping expeditions.

It's now become a bit of an obsession for me! Hense the blog. I'd like to share my ideas and hear other ideas on camping holidays, cooking, equipment, furnishings, fabrics.

I guess this should be called Glamping - but it's not - I need a name for this! Glamping is holidaying on a budget, but camping expensively. There is a way to glamp cheaply by sourcing all the kit carefully and being experimental and creative with alternative uses of stuff. I'm not interested in Kath Kidston or overpriced pretty useless stuff.

I want my bell tent to look nice and work for me and my family while we're using it over the summer. But lets do this without breaking the bank!

So I'm going to blog about this I think
! Join me in finding great cool stuff to camp with!