6 November 2015

FEATURE: Autumn camping

Stick it to the elements.

At the end of summer we went camping and created a massive feature of all the kit you might need to keep you and your family happy while roughing it. Well, it seems we've caught the camping bug, as recently we delved back out into the wilds on another trip. However, camping in autumn is a bit different than doing it in August, so here's the kit that kept us warm and dry.

OLPRO Cocoon 4 Tent

Our home from home for the couple of night that we were camping was a dream come true. The Cocoon 4 from OLPRO is a four berth tunnel tent with separate sleeping and living areas, measuring five metres in length. Some really nice features of this tent are the divider to create two separate bedrooms, and the huge removable front panel.

Sleeping in the Cocoon 4 was a nice mix of the two tents that we havepreviously reviewed: the Coleman Cortes Octagon 8, and the Gelert Atlantis 5. The OLPRO effort combined the snug cosiness of the Gelert tent, with the bright light-emitting colours of the Coleman. In fact, the Cocoon 4 uses three different shades of green, getting darker as you move deeper into the tent, meaning the sleeping section is sufficiently more sheltered than the living section. Also, thanks to the actual cocoon that you put up inside to create the sleeping area, it was very cosy indeed.

Knocking this up the first time for a practice run in the back garden (always advisable) took us about 20-25 minutes, thanks to the ultra-simple tunnel tent design. Once we'd mastered it and were actually out on the camp site, this dropped to about 15 minutes – by far the quickest tent erection we've ever achieved (tee hee). Also, a note on the berth size. Although it says it is a four berth, and certainly any more than four adults would find it a squeeze, we went camping with two adults and three children and found it to be perfect – basically feeling the same size as the five-berth Gelert Atlantis 5 (and actually a tad taller in the living section).

In 2014 this tent won The Independent Festival Tent of the year, and it's not hard to see why. Easy up, lots of space and light, and extremely versatile.


Coleman Breckenridge Comfort Sleeping Bag

Obviously a tent is not going to be enough to keep you warm and happy when sleeping outside in autumn; you're going to need a sleeping bag. The ones we reviewed in our previous camping feature were great for the summer, but we knew we'd need something with a bit more muscle this time. That's why we were exceptionally grateful to Coleman for sending us their Breckenridge Comfort sleeping bag.

This oversized bag, complete with wide hood and interior phone pocket, will see you warm right the way down to -18°C. It features a polyester microfibre shell with hollow fibre double later insulation on the inside. The Breckenridge is spaciously designed in the traditional rectangle shape (unlike the 'mummy' sleeping bags that freak us out a bit) and features two sets of zips; on down the side, and a separate one across the bottom. This means the whole thing can be opened out to act like a double blanket, or even as a sleeping mat for extra ground insulation.

One thing to note though is the size of this thing. As it is puffier than your average sleeping bag, it is also heavier and larger when rolled up. Coleman do include a carry case, but it isn't a compression sack, meaning this might not be your bag of choice if you're hiking with all your gear. But for family trips in the car, which is what we had, this is great and provided a very cosy couple of nights for the occupant.


Aerobed Active Dual Chamber Outdoor airbed

As well as provided lots of comfort and support, having a decent airbed beneath you when camping means you stay much warmer. In our last camping feature we tried out a thin yet self-inflating mattress from Jack Wolkskin, so we were keen to push the boat out and test something a bit more decadent. Enter the Aerobed Active Dual Chamber Outdoor airbed.

This is 'dual chamber' because it literally is two beds – two single mattresses stitched together. This means that, should you wish, you can inflate just one half of it for a single person, or indeed inflate both halves to different pressures – just in case your sleeping buddy likes a softer bed. Also, fret not about having to blow this up yourself as included is the completely brilliant cordless rechargeable pump. This thing is pretty tiny, and can inflate the whole bed in just a minute, charging back up from either the mains or via the car power adaptor provided.

Unlike what we've previously tried out, this was the bee's knees. It has the same height as a standard mattress, making it feel much more like you're sleeping in a real bed. The tough PVC base means this can be inflated to the brim, producing a firm and stable sleeping platform. We liked it a great deal!


Gelert Portable BBQ with Cooler Bag

Whereas last time we took, and reviewed, a big heavy gas-powered cooking stove, this time we wanted something a little easy to lug around. Fortunately we found something that combined another camping necessity – keeping things cool. This unique cool bag from Gelert features an insulated section perfect for loading with cans of drink, fruit, meat and an ice pack, and served to keep the load nice and chilly for hours.

Oh yeah, and inside the other pocket you'll find an entire BBQ with fold-out legs and a grill plate with handle. Wow. The whole package is small, neat and – crucially – light, and really does kill to camping birds with one awesome stone. Also, getting an actual fire going in this thing was a breeze thanks to the enamelled bowl and the air vents on the side.


Snugpak Microfibre Antibacterial Travel Towel

Every camping trip, no matter where you go or what you do, will involve at some point a member of your party getting wet. Be it from condensation on the inside of the tent, to fully falling into a lake while out for a gentle walk (true story), wetness needs to be dealt with as soon as possible to avoid getting uncomfortable. To that end we took with us the Snugpak Microfibre Antibacterial Travel Towel, a thin and light towel that packs up small into it's own carry case, allowing it to be taken everywhere at the bottom of your bag.

Several sizes are available, from all-enveloping giants to handy hand towels, but whatever the size the key thing about them is that they have been treated with Dr Bacty Antibacterial agent, which kills many germs on contact. And as hygiene can often take a step down the necessity list while camping, this is great peace of mind. The towels are also supper-absorbent despite their thinness, and dry very quickly too – perfect for use in the wild.

£9.95 - £29.95

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