17th JAN 2015 WE WILL SETTING UP THE BIGGEST EVER TENTSILE VILLAGE. COME JOIN US.
2PM at the General Sherman Giant Sequoia. See you there!
For those of you that just cannot wait for the summer to have an adventure, we will be in Sequoia National Park in mid Jan to brave the cold and have a bit of tree climbing fun! Any of you that own Tentsiles, or just want to come and meet our team can put there details down the comment section of this post and we will keep you well informed of our plans for the 17th! Cell / mobile numbers + email address would be useful - also, keep an eye on the Facebook thread as we will give specific location details nearer the date.....
Two days into 2015, today I'm bringing you the story of a new challenge for the new year. Having climbed many trees and been inside Tentsile tents on several occasions before, today, in a personal first, I combined a Tentsile Connect with a 15 metre climb.
Packing rope, a picnic, a lot of carabiners and the Connect, my partner and I walked to our local forest in Oxford, the sun rubbing the sharp edges off the cold as we slid through the mud to find our favourite beech tree. As we harnessed up, uncoiled ropes in orange and green and jammed on helmets over woolly hats, curious families paused their winter walks to see what we were up to. Climbing in cold weather can be hard on the hands, and my ascent was slower than usual as I grappled with thinning gloves and numb fingers. Far above me, Andrew was busy - fastening ratchet straps to branches and unfurling the Connect from his rucksack. As I drew level, it was anchored by one corner and catching the wind, a giant kite caught in the branches but majestic somehow, still. I clung to the tree trunk to keep out of the way, feeling it take my weight and almost push back into me - a reassuring push, to say 'I've got you' - as the wind shook us all. A rustling below us took our gaze down to white flashes in the undergrowth; red deer running from a dog, an enthusiastic terrier who would never catch them up.
The tent took shape beside me and I tipped myself back into it, perching on the edge and then letting it draw me in. Out of the wind, we poured a cup of tea and watched the sky go by, filtering through the tiny branches etched dark against the white. Wrapped snugly in a sleeping bag, we ate our sandwiches and our leftover Christmas chocolate, enjoying the feeling of cold outside and warmth within. We talked and laughed and looked at the winter colours, and listened to the people walking by below, oblivious to the little green treehouse above their heads.
As the dusk started gathering around the edges of our haven and everything fell quieter, another deer ran under us, slowing through the bracken with no idea we were there. It stopped briefly, poised on the edge of darting movement but relaxed at the same time, and all we could do was stare in delight. It carried on its way as the moon rose through the trees, hovering quietly as it waited for the sun to go away. We made our descent in the last of the light, watching pink and blue stripes race across the sky and breathing in the damp green smell of bark, and as we walked home across the fields we made plans - for more winter days and a try at a winter night; for long summer evenings when the trees are full of leaves. The Connect is coming with us, and we'll be living life at height.
As the sun begins to set on another year, it can be easy to get drawn into turning a wistful gaze onto missed opportunities - all those things you said no to because you were tired, because staying an extra couple of hours at work seemed imperative, or because the weather at the weekend just wasn't doing what you wanted it to.
Here at Tentsile, we say no to looking back and yes to looking forward - to a bright, shiny new year; 365 days just waiting to be filled with new experiences, or to spend on reliable old favourites you've yet to share with all your friends.
Some of the Tentsile gang contemplate the adventures 2015 will bring.
If you're short on time and planning a new experience sounds like one more thing to add to an impossibly long to-do list, fear not - 'new' doesn't have to mean complicated, and the simplest things are often the most fun and memorable. You could resolve to set aside one weekend a month to take your partner, kids or a bunch of friends to your nearest woodland or forest and spend a day playing in the trees. Even easier, you could practise your outdoor skills in your back garden and try to tick them off your list as you master them, adding new accomplishments as you collect new memories.
Fun outdoor experience with friends and kids? Tentsile shows you how it's done.
If you're looking back over your 2014 as you read this and patting yourself on the back for grabbing life with both hands, think about the little things. Did you notice how many species of tree you were surrounded by last time you went to your favourite camping spot? How about looking out for wildlife? Make 2015 the year you get to know your faithful old haunts inside out - it'll only make you love them more, and if there's one thing our natural places need, it's that.
So, as the last few days of 2014 tick by, think about the adventures 2015 could bring you and let us know your plans by commenting below. On New Year's Eve we'll be posting the Tentsile team's personal plans for next year, and we can't wait to compare notes with you all.
All images Andrew Walmsley/Tentsile.
As much as we all love complex and beautifully made camping gadgetry and equipment, sometimes it's the simple (and even silly) things that can make a trip more enjoyable. This post, keeping with our recent winter theme, begins our series on camping hacks - a beginner's guide to the tricks and tips that will make you the envy of your friends and the most comfortable person at the camp site.
1. Sleep with your clothes
By stuffing your clothes for the next day into your sleeping bag with you, you'll have warm clothes to put on in the morning, avoiding that awful feeling of wriggling out of a warm sleeping bag and into icy fabrics.
2. Use your rucksack as a foot warmer
You can keep your feet even cosier at night by shoving the end of your sleeping bag into your rucksack once you're inside it.
3. Use a tarp as a wind break
Not only will a tarp rigged between two trees keep your tent protected from gusts of cold wind, it'll help shelter your fire and make it easier to build and sustain as well. Good quality tarps like this one are available from Vango for £27.99.
4. Keep matches in a metal container
If it's cold enough for plastic to freeze, it can break, and a broken plastic match container quickly leads to lost or soggy matches. Keeping them in a metal container will ensure their safety and usefulness.
5. Two person sleeping bags are the ultimate way to use the Buddy System
Having a two-person sleeping bag allows you to make the most of the Buddy System, whereby you share warmth with others to keep your body temperature up at night. The Vango Aurora Double Sleeping Bag is a three-season rated bag with a glove-friendly zip pull, and is currently available for £95.
6. Don't let your gloves get cold
If you take your gloves off for a minute to wash your hands or do something fiddly, keep them inside your jacket until you're ready to use them again. This way, they'll stay dry and warm rather than forming a frost from any moisture that was inside them when you took them off.
7. Shake it up
The insulation in sleeping bags is designed to trap air, and therefore functions better the more air it traps. You can facilitate this simply by giving your bag a good shake before you go to bed at night.
8. Bring spares
It sounds obvious, but you really will kick yourself if you lose one glove halfway through your trip and are stuck with one cold hand. Even worse, if you lose your hat and have nothing else handy to keep your head warm, your whole body temperature will suffer,
9. Keep your water upside down
If there's a chance the temperature will drop below freezing at night, store your water bottles with the lids facing down. Ice forms from the top down, so by keeping the lid at the bottom, you'll be able to drink from the bottle in the morning even if some of the water has started to freeze.
10. Eat big and eat late
Eating at 6pm and going to bed at 10pm when you're already starting to feel slightly hungry again will not help you keep warm through the night. By delaying your food and eating a lot of it, you'll go to bed full and warm, and be better able to maintain your body temperature.
For more ways to up your camping game, stay tuned for next month's Camping Hacks: Part 2. In the meantime, let us know if you can think of any to add to this list - the crazier, the better!
If you follow our Twitter or Facebook accounts you'll have noticed the excitement building around our competition to win a Tentsile Vista over the last few weeks. With just a few simple clicks, six lucky people have so far become proud owners of our 'portable treehouse' - the new, stackable tree tent poised to take the camping world by storm. So, without further ado, let's introduce them. Matt Williams, Matthew O'Brien and Lydia Rogers are all outdoor enthusiasts who retweeted us to win, and the winners from Facebook are Johnathan Williams, Anca Stefan and Erin Marie. We know they can't wait to trial their Vistas, and we can't wait to hear how they get on!
So, what can our winners expect from their prize? The Tentsile Vista offers a unique outdoor experience by combining adventure, comfort and a new method of communal camping. While the basic Vista sleeps three people, by purchasing extra floors this can be tripled to allow for a large group to join the fun. The roof of the tent is a removable fly sheet that facilitates group star-gazing and spotting shapes in the clouds, and it provides fantastic ventilation as well. The floor is a spacious triple hammock, accessed via either the hatch in the centre of the floor, or through any of the sides, and it can be suspended above any ground conditions. With the rainfly roof extending outwards and upwards away from the floor, the porch area is a generous 110 square feet/10 square metres, and the insect mesh creates an additional dry storage space for personal belongings or clothes that have properly endured a hike and need to dry out. Full specifications are available here. Shipping on the tent is free worldwide, so anyone from anywhere can get their hands on one of these fantastic outdoor homes.
Vistas are priced at approx. $680CAD / £380GBP / €480EUR / $720AUD, but if you want to be in with a chance of being the next person to win Tentsile gear for free, follow us on social media to get involved in promotions as they come up. Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/Tentsile and you can follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tentsile - both pages are full of great pictures, anecdotes and information from the Tentsile team and our friends around the world.
To our Tentsile Vista winners, happy camping! To all our other readers - good luck in future competitions, and keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter - we love hearing from you.
A major key to comfort when backpacking, but one that can elicit a groan from even the most experienced travellers, is packing light. It’s a skill that can be difficult to acquire, and it’s tempting to abandon all thought of it when you’re not entirely sure how cold you’ll be at night, or which pair of new hiking trousers will actually dry quickest after an unexpected downpour. However, if you put in the extra thought and preparation time necessary to shave extra grams (or even kilograms) off the weight of your pack, your body will thank you for it. Not only that, but the positive effects of reducing back pain, shoulder strain and fatigue will make the whole experience more memorable for all the right reasons. Here’s the Tentsile crew’s list of top tips for keeping your backpack light and your journey comfortable.
- Be ruthless. There are a lot of things you might think you need, but if you’re honest with yourself, it could turn out they’re actually just things you want. When it comes to clothing, for example, ‘wear one, wash one’ is a good mantra to live by for things like socks, underwear and lightweight t-shirts. For heavier garments like jumpers and trousers, you can easily make do with one of each on short trips.
- Make things multi-purpose. By being creative about the way you use things, you can drastically reduce the amount of stuff you have to pack. Why take gloves when your spare pair of socks will cover your hands just as comfortably? Do you really need bowls to eat out of when soup, porridge or cereal can just as easily be served in a mug? If you’re really serious about saving weight, you can just bring cooking pots and cutlery and eat straight out of your saucepans, and of course there’s the ever-useful spork if carrying a spoon and a fork is too much.
- Minimise individual items. For perfectly serviceable cover at night, you can use an ultralight shelter such as the Lightwave Starlight 1 Cuben Fibre Tarp or even repurpose your existing tent by using trekking poles instead of the original tent poles. Even better, you can simply bring a hammock and get some arboreal nights under your belt for good measure. Sleeping bags can add a lot of weight, so try a lightweight option like the Laser 300 Elite Lightweight Sleeping Bag or be really strict and pack only a space blanket. It’s unlikely you’ll want to sacrifice the comfort of a sleeping mat, so go for the lightest one possible - these closed cell foam mats weigh in at 175g and are still great for a sound night’s sleep.
- Don’t sacrifice safety or comfort. Having a lighter pack but carrying constant worry about what will happen if you have an accident with your first aid kit sitting on a shelf at home is not worth it. Likewise, the benefits of an ache-free back won’t seem so great if you’re shivering all night because you brought only a blanket when you know that you feel the cold and a sleeping bag would have been better. What works for one person won’t necessarily work in quite the same way for another, but if you’re travelling in a group you can get around this. If you feel the cold and need to bring a sleeping bag or a heavier jumper, negotiate with someone else who only needs a blanket and ask them to carry the heavier items of cooking equipment. Team work is always a good thing!
- Make the pack itself as light as possible. If you’re putting this much effort into reducing the weight of the contents of your backpack, it just makes sense that the pack itself should shed some pounds as well. The Lightwave Wildtrek 60 weighs less than 1.5kg, and of course the smaller the volume of the pack you choose, the less it will weigh. If you go for a frameless pack like the Terra Nova Voyager 55, you’ll be carrying less than half a kilo in pack weight, and it even has removable parts if you want to shed even more grams.
Finally, here are some other recommended purchases for lightweight backpacking in style. For cooking, try the Mimer stove and pan set, which fit inside each other for minimum bulk and, with two saucepans and a frying pan, provide everything you need for meals on the go (apart from the spork, of course). If you’re expecting rain, the Integral Designs Sil Poncho doubles as a tarp with 12 guy points, so it can keep you dry on the move and function as a shelter when you set up camp as well. Another item that many backpackers won’t travel without is a multi tool such as the brilliantly named Leatherman Skeletool, which weighs only 142g and, with both a straight and a serrated knife, would reduce your list of cooking equipment even further.
So, now you know what we’ve whittled our packing list down to, we’d love to hear your ideas. Are there any must-have items you’d sneak into our bags, or have you devised an ingenious system for overnight comfort that’s even lighter than a tarp/space blanket combo? Let us know in the comments below.
Tentsile Vista came to us in a Eureka moment. We've already had Stingray and so we didn't actually aim for a new product but when the idea opened itself we knew we had to jump for it...
It all started as a dream. A daydream more precisely. Imagine this: you are shrunk to a size of a bug (much like Alice in Wonderland) and you have just climbed to the top of a beautiful flower where you are now sitting on a petal comfortably and enjoying the view. (We at Tentsile are very in touch with our silly childhood dreams - you'd notice) This flower could be your new home. It closes at night or when it rains and opens for the sun and fair weather... Bliss eh?
Well, we already had the "petal" - the base layer of Stingray resembles just that. We just had to figure out a convertible style roof. Then I came across a unique structure that hadn't been utilised in the camping tent industry before. A triple pole free-standing arrangement that offers great side views and stays up by itself. Bingo!
So here it is - (pic 1) a triple layer tree tent - the bottom is pretty much the same as the Stingray - a spacious and well taught triple hammock, the roof is completely detachable 3 pole structure, and the (also detachable) bug mesh can be hooked up to the underside of the roof (Pic 2). Simples!
So what's the fuss all about?
Well, we now have a summer/tropical tree tent that is truly convertible. Suitable for the hottest tropical environment it will give you maximum ventilation even when it's raining. It also is modular - you can add extra floors to create a multi-story layered tree camp. This one - (pic 3) sleeps 9 adults in comfort (note: the top level is a Stingray). The floors will be available to buy separately soon and even Stingray owners will he able to add extra layers to their tree camp.
So my dear ewoks. Enjoy, and may the force be with you!
Getting outside during the winter has its own rewards, among them crowd-free trails, fewer insects, and scenery you can only see when the weather's right. Whether it’s the novelty of desert mesas dusted with fresh powder, or a waterfall frozen into columns of pale blue ice, or simply the peaceful vista of fields blanketed in untracked snow, the charms of winter are worth the effort.
Not that you'll need crampons and an ice axe to enjoy any of these ten easy day-hikes. Sure, you'll have to prepare for the weather, maybe even add snow chains to your tires for the trip to the trailhead, but these trails and hiking areas were chosen for their high ratio of scenic value to difficulty. Any reasonably fit person can tackle these in a day.
Dressing warmly in multiple layers is only the first part of the equation. When hiking in the winter you’ll get wet from both sweat and snow. Be prepared for getting wet from the inside. Your base layer should be sweat wicking to keep moisture from collecting and sapping heat from your body. Clothes should be loose fitting and you should always avoid cotton. On top of an insulating mid-layer and a puffy coat, a wind- and water-resistant outer shell is a good way to keep from getting soaked from the outside as even sunny days can bring snow falling off trees.
Depending on the trail conditions, you may need extra traction on your boots or even snowshoes. If you are using snowshoes, it’s good to use trekking or ski poles fitted to your height and snow conditions. You don't use the same length pole as when Nordic skiing, after a day of doing it you'll know why! Bring some good quality duct tape and a couple of six-inch pieces of PVC pipe for emergency repairs.
White Clay Creek, Delaware and Pennsylvania
Under an hour's drive from Philly and only half an hour from Wilmington, White Clay Creek State Park is a rustic respite from city. The Penndel Trail, a converted rail trail along the creek that begins on the Pennsylvania side is the prettiest. On your drive back to Philly stop by Vala Vineyards, a little winery that has a great tasting with cheese in a beautiful setting.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs
Pike's Peak looms over vertical red rock spires in Garden of the Gods Park, on the western edge of Colorado Springs. With names like ‘Kissing Camels’ and ‘Three Graces’, these natural snow-dusted formations make a peaceful backdrop for 15 miles of trails. One great choice, the Chambers-Bretag-Palmer loop, is a three-mile trail encircling the entire park with rolling, rocky terrain and less than a 250-foot climb.
Appalachian Trail, 'Velvet Rocks' Section, Hanover, New Hampshire
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is typically a summer activity, but this small stretch that begins at the Vermont-New Hampshire border is an easy winter hike through snow-blanketed fields, hardwood forest, and up a rocky granite ridge with views of the town below. Snowshoes may be necessary on this five-mile out-and-back, and trekking poles are a must.
Kincaid Beach Trail, Anchorage
Just over a mile south of Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage is Kincaid Beach, a secluded sandy beach on Cook Inlet with views of Mount McKinley and the Alaska Range. Technically a spring hike, you get there via a mile-long access trail through the hilly old-growth forest of Kincaid Park, where you're likely to encounter moose and the occasional bear.
Robert Frost Trail, Mount Holyoke Range State Park, Massachusetts
The southernmost section of this 47-mile trail, named for the poet, passes through the Mount Holyoke Range, a rare east-west ridge in central Massachusetts with ravines, caves, valleys, deep woods and 360-degree views, all potentially, on the same hike.
Brockway Summit, North Lake Tahoe
Whether you live in the area or are visiting one of Tahoe's several ski resorts, this small section of the Tahoe Rim Trail just off of Highway 267 near Truckee, California, is a great way to take in views of the entire lake. A healthy climb (about 800 feet), this up-and-back sometimes requires snowshoes and takes about an hour for those acclimated to the mountain air, or two hours for ‘flat-landers’.
Kanawha State Forest, Charleston, West Virginia
Only seven miles from West Virginia's capital is a 9,300-acre spread of Appalachian forest crisscrossed with 25 miles of marked hiking trails of varying difficulty. Not only is the varied terrain less crowded in the winter, hikers are less likely to encounter the mountain bikers who flock there in the summer.
Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo, Texas
Nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of Texas’, this huge red-rock canyon outside of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle has similar scenery to the actual Grand Canyon, if not quite at the same scale (it's sometimes called the second-largest canyon in America). Go when the weather's right for views of the frosted desert as far as the eye can see.
Hocking Hills, Ohio
Ohio isn't normally thought of as hill country, but the sparsely populated Appalachian foothills creep well into the southern and eastern parts of the state. An hour south of Columbus are the Hocking Hills, an especially rugged section marked by cliffs, gorges, caves and waterfalls. This popular outdoor recreation area has fewer visitors in the winter, but the state park system there has over 25 miles of marked trails that are open year-round, and the scenery, from frozen waterfalls to huge sandstone caves make it a rewarding place to hike even in cold weather.
Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming
This scenic spur of the Rockies rises from the Great Plains all the way past 13,000 feet, but inside the one million-plus acres of Bighorn National Forest are 1,500 miles of trails, many of which you don't have to be a mountaineer to enjoy in the winter.
Epic nights under the stars are often followed by not so epic mornings. If you’ve got to get up and on the trail for more adventures, you’ll need a good breakfast to banish the hangover and set you up for a great day out. Even if everything still tastes of tequila there’s only one thing for it.
Huevos Rancheros, truly the breakfast of champions.
This recipe is gratefully received from the Wahaca restaurant founder Thomasina Miers. Thank you for all the days you saved.
Once you’ve sorted the fire and the coffee out, you will need:
6 tablespoons of lard. Yes lard. It’s the magic ingredient.
1 chopped onion
2 chopped red chillies. Or as many as you want if you know what you’re doing.
3 chopped cloves of garlic. Ditto.
2 tins of tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of demerara sugar
Plenty of Worcestershire sauce
A handful of chopped tarragon
Cheese. A pale and crumbly sort works well.
Heat two tablespoons of the lard in a wide saucepan and add the onion and chillis. Let them sweat down for ten minutes and add the garlic, cook for a few more minutes and add the tomatoes. Season the salsa well with the salt, pepper, sugar and Worcestershire sauce, and mash the tomatoes as they cook. Leave it on the fire for half an hour and add some water if it gets too dry. You might do all this ahead of your trip and just cook it through on the morning in question which will save some coordination challenges if you’re feeling very rough.
When that’s looking like a salsa, melt another tablespoon of lard in a frying pan and brown the tortillas a bit on both sides, then wrap them in foil and keep them warm on the fire.
Stir the tarragon into the salsa.
Melt all the lard you can spare in the frying pan and get it as hot as the fire will allow. Deep fry the eggs, spooning hot lard over them so they get good and crispy.
Serve up a tortilla with plenty of salsa and an egg and cheese on top then retire to your Tentsile to complete your recovery.
There’s a riddle in there somewhere about a getting a hangover from drinking something ‘on the rocks’, when hanging over some rocks in a hammock.
A Tentsile is a hang over cure for rocks, or anything else for that matter.
Let’s say the worst case scenario happens, you lose the creature comforts of your happy camp and suddenly you’re strangers in a strange land. What do you take with you when the pressure’s on?
You hopefully have some great ‘every day carry’ camping tools, and manage to grab your survival kit. But the thing that matters more than anything in a pinch, and that you can’t drop in the confusion of an emergency, is field skill.
Before you set off on your adventure, think about what you could be up against if things go wrong, and what you can do about it. Your survival kit should be a lot more than a little tin full of fish hooks and matches.
The glass is always half full
It starts with a state of mind and a plan, and finishes with a bag of tools and the knowledge and judgement of how and when to use them. At this point it’s hard not to sound like a survivalist. Let’s just think of it as having a Plan B for when Plan A doesn’t work out. Plan A should be to have a good time, all the time, and Plan B shouldn’t be too far from that.
A positive mental attitude is going to give you the best approach to any difficult situation, no matter how bad. Time and again the survival case studies and instructors tell us the difference between success and failure came down to the attitude of the people involved. Add a little planning, training and experience, and you’ve got a much better chance of making your Plan B work.
Your new best friends
A good knife in the right hands is a tool that can make so many useful things in the wild. It might be your new best friend. Find a good bushcraft instructor or knife maker and you’ll be on your way to learning how to put a good knife to its greatest uses. Keep it in tip top condition and hair-popping sharp. Knowing how to use your tools is the best start to a survival kit you can get.
So what’s in the bag…
The main ingredients are going to be used for signalling help, navigation, fire starting, water storage, food preparation, and first aid. It comes down to knowing how to do as much as possible, with as little as possible for as long as possible. A survival kit should contain the best equipment you can afford to keep stashed away in the hope of never needing it. Do the research, get some training and collect the most resilient and versatile kit you can. Pack it all tight and seal it against the elements. Check and maintain it regularly, and above all, don’t leave it behind. Ever.
…and what do you do with it?
The plan should be to get rescued as soon as possible. Researching how the emergency services set about finding people will tell you how to help yourself get rescued, but until then it’ll be all about clean water, food and shelter. Learn ways to signal for help, find water, practice making fire every way you can, forage and eat what’s safe where you are, and make tools and shelter. Above all, stay positive, stick to your plan, and use your kit wisely.
So you’ve planned an epic adventure and the gang are ready for their great escape. Get together and talk about Plan B. The best thing you can do is not get yourself or anyone else into a situation where you need to be rescued, but be prepared for it, and make sure your friends know what to do to help. Approach the situation with a positive attitude, remember you’ve got the skills and kit to adapt to different challenges, and you’re going the right way to get out of trouble as fast as you can get into it.
Don’t practice to get it right, practice so you can’t get it wrong
We’ve met all kinds of amazing people on our Tentsile adventures, and there’s always more to learn about living out there in the wild. If you want to share your wisdom and experience, or need to add to your knowledge and you think we can help, get in touch and let’s see what we can do together.