Monday 30 July 2007


I just can’t get enough of muddy fields in Somerset, so I’m off to the Big Green Gathering tomorrow in a partly home-made tent.

What is it with tents? Folding poles and water resistant fabrics were invented quite a while ago now, surely it’s not that difficult to design something that basically works. It seems unlikely that people design tents who have never actually camped, but when I thought about getting a new one and saw the way some of them are made I started imagining them improvising budget versions of the product testing machines on those Ikea adverts. Everyone in the office stands in a row and blows on it at the same time: it’s windproof. Stick it under the water cooler: it’s waterproof.

It’s perfectly obvious, for example, that having to construct the inner first is going to get everything very wet when it’s raining, so why does anyone still design them with poles on the inside? And why oh why does my current tent have an outer door flap that overhangs the bloody inside bit?

After opening the door and watching it direct the rain exactly onto the end of my sleeping bag for about the hundredth time at Glastonbury, I recently bought a whole new tent from, to more or less the same design but with a proper porch over the door.

“This tent is fully waterproof to 2000mm hydro static head (the recommended use for the UK is only 1500)” it said. “Abrasion, mildew and ultraviolet resistant it said. Fly sheet – 70 Denier Polyester (190T Threads per square inch)” . Very nice. Cut to me lying in said tent in a muddy field, a very long way from the nearest central heating, curled around the edge with a plastic bag in the middle to catch the steady drips running straight into the tent from the ventilation mesh right in the top.

So I’m back in the old tent again this week and will appreciate anew all the other things about it which are not shit. It doesn’t actually leak. It has loops for the pegs that can indeed be attached to the ground with pegs. The poles go in keepers that they fit in rather than on stupid pins that pull them too tight, and it now has a custom-built, rain-deflecting, transparent U.V. stabilised plastic porch. Oh yes.

No photos yet because I’ve neurotically packed it three times already, but if it works then I think I’ll patent it. If it doesn’t then sod it, I am definitely going to get a yurt and that’s that. With a wood burning stove and a horse to carry it for me.


Mr Toad said...

A friend of mine has made a large sturdy tent out of a tarpaulin and some "Clingons" -

He uses it at bike rallys & it sleeps plenty, has good head room, is waterproof & CHEAP (CHA-CHING!)

I'll get you some details if you're interested...

Alice said...

Those look great! Yes, if you have more details I'd be very interested. I've just come back from the Big Green with all kinds of ideas for building things, but the tent is probably the most useful thing I could sort out. Are they designed for temporary use only? Prolonged sunlight can make plastic go all brittle...

James Higham said...

It's very simple. They're designed by fiends who know you're going to a wet bog to sleep.

James Higham said...

Alice, check this - it is provoking interest: