A conversation with friends about the trials and tribulations of camping as you get older has prompted me to write about the kit and caboodle I’ve accumulated to extend my camping years!
My body is increasingly particular about what it needs in the way of support and encouragement to maximise the chances of it coming along Sacred Arts Camp willingly, particularly when the weather forecast suggests there will be heavy rain and gales (waterproofs, wellies, extra towels and clothes, newspaper to catch drips, stuff into wet shoes etc), followed by a heatwave (sun-tan lotion, wide brimmed hat, aloe-vera gel) with a chance of ground frost somewhere along the way (sheepskin, hat, gloves, thermals, extra blanket). As an aside, my ideal weather forecast is for light cloud on Friday and Saturday to set up tent, then move things around a couple of times to optimise arrangements of bed, food stores and cooking kit in relation to the slopes and protrusions I didn’t notice when choosing my spot; followed by a couple of sunny days so everyone can relax into the circle, get to know each other’s foibles and generally settle in; then a couple of days of gentle weather during the day with some rain overnight. I love the sound of rain on the tent but, more importantly, it means that people aren’t tempted to stay up nattering quietly by the fire to begin with but then get so engrossed in the moment that noise levels rise and my sleep is disturbed – which brings me to kit item 1: an iPod with my favourite Terry Pratchett stories. I find the sound of my own breathing just as disturbing as other people’s breathing, nattering and snoring, so ear plugs just don’t do it for me, whereas a story distracts my attention and soothes me back to sleep. Anyway, as far as my ideal weather is concerned by the second half of the week, I don’t really mind what the weather does because I am so enjoying the dancing, singing, meditation and friendship that I can cope with whatever it brings.
Back to the kit and caboodle. Finding kit item 2, a tent that I could lift by myself, stand up in and that did not need me to bend over or step over anything to get into it is key. My memory means I often forget things and the repeated bending, stooping and stepping over while bobbing in and out of a tent used to give me backache with added bruises and worse from falling into the tent when I didn’t pick my feet up high enough because I was rushing and not being sufficiently mindful - there are so many ways to practice awareness whilst camping! I found the Robens Midnight Dreamer ideal: http://www.robens.de/en/Products/tents/adventure/midnight-dreamer but have to remember to tuck things in then cover the guide tapes and groundsheet so I don’t trip, slip or slide about but I am now experimenting with even more standing up room in a small Cabanon tent.
Kit item 3 is fundamental to my well-being on camp! Having a raised camp bed makes it so much easier to get in and out of it. I also bring newspaper, and small pieces of wood so that I can make the bed pretty much level. It took me ages to work out that one of reasons I often woke up aching in unusual places was because I was tensing against small inclines. The spirit level means I don’t need my body to tell me which bit of my camping spot isn’t flat and I can wedge the feet of the camp bed accordingly. I also have an angling bed https://www.anglingdirect.co.uk/carp-fishing-tackle/bedchairs which has its own adjustable feet – it is really comfortable but takes up a bit too much room in both the smaller car and tents I now have. Loads of bedding is also vital – plenty underneath, a sheepskin to lay on, my favourite pillows, a hat to keep my head warm, hot water bottles and then layers to accommodate the likely range in temperatures. As I’ve got older I find it more of a challenge to regulate my temperature and getting too hot is as difficult as getting too cold.
So, alongside tent and bed (plus pee bottle to avoid any need to leave my tent for trips to the loo) the other big piece of kit is my camping kitchen! They can be quite expensive (https://www.campingworld.co.uk/en/Royal-Easy-Up-Kitchen-Stand/m-3181.aspx), but I picked mine up for £15 because the frame was broken in one place – easily fixed with gaffa tape. This has made a huge difference to my back as well as to the whole palaver of packing and unpacking the car. The kitchen easily comes apart, it fits perfectly into the boot of my car already assembled, then re-cycled mushroom trays fit perfectly onto each cupboard shelf and the vertical stacking means I don’t need so much floor space in the tent. I pack up the mushroom trays with my food, cooking and washing stuff then load them into the car, stuff any spaces with pillows, towels and so on and it only takes a mo to unpack it all and transfer to the tent when I get there.
With standing room in the tent, a good bed and camping kitchen, I feel I can manage a good many more years of camping, though I must confess to a yearning for a little campervan to see me into my late 70s and 80s…
Written by Linda Winn