All are exerts from our club magazine “The Bulletin”.
This is the first in an occasional series exploring the affection we have for our tents and camping equipment. I thought I would start by interviewing our ALC Chair, Joan Sherriff Alexander.
Is there a tent which is particularly special to you?
Yes, our Blacks & Edgington Good Companion Major. Actually, we have two Majors, and three flysheets of different sizes (all of which we have used on ALC camps). We also have a Good Companion Standard, but haven’t camped in it, as it is too small for the three of us together.
How long have you had it?
Oooh, gosh. We got the first in 2012, the second (the one we use now) in 2014, and the third flysheet in 2016. I think we’ve probably finished collecting now.
Why do you like this tent?
It smells like a tent. The main part is cotton, and has a very nostalgic feel. I love the cheerful orange glow. The lovely thing is that it meets the ALC criteria, and is lightweight enough to cycle camp (which we have done), and backpacking (which we haven’t – yet). But it affords a spacious sleeping area, which is comfortable (especially so with the A-pole, rather than the lighter single pole). It is very versatile, too, since the extended flysheet, while involving extra poles, renders a good living/porch space for inclement weather.
What are the drawbacks?
The main one has to be the living space. With three of us, there is no ‘porch’ space available inside, so we tend to do most of our ‘living’ outside. That’s not a bad thing, though, as it is more sociable to be outside, especially at ALC meets or camping with our cycling friends. As it is about 45-50 years old, we do have to be careful with the tent, which isn’t always easy with an energetic four year old, but it is more robust than one might expect for the age. Packing dry is especially important – all owners of cotton tents would likely be nodding their heads in agreement and understanding here.
What particularly fond memories do you have?
Oh – camping with Nye when he was about seven weeks! First time out with the GC (I think), and his first camping trip, too. I sat in the tent, with the light and the smell of the cotton, and thought, ‘This is absolutely perfect camping’.
How many tents do you have?
Some! [she giggles] Counting up, we have about sixteen, including the ones we bought from Bill at Watlington, and the one I got free when we went to the tip.
Any other comments on the Good Companion?
It’s a focal point. It’s useful when we are at big meets, like York Rally, Mildenhall and NFOL. where we can tell people how to find us by looking for the yellow pointy tent among the myriad green ones. And it’s a talking point. People do come up and start chatting. It’s a chance to mention the ALC, and they reminisce about their own fond memories and tents past and present.
Thank you Joan …. TJ Alexander
First camp of the year. What a wonderful feeling! For us, it has crept a little later on, now that we have a little one to think of. Personally, I used to love lying in my tent on a rainy day, listening to the rain pattering down, and catching up on my reading.
But with a three year old, it can easily lead to mud everywhere! We have managed a couple of outings already this year, with plenty more planned – both ALC and others. First Salisbury, and then Hayfield, which was breathtaking! Over the course of the summer, we develop a routine around packing and what gear we carry, but every winter, we let it slide, and we have a car-full. By August, we are down to a (large) cycle load for touring, then by the end of the year, we could even get to backpacking, were it not that the colder nights prompt over caution by our Madam Chair, who insists on taking all the blankets possible, and multiple sleeping bags.
Joking aside, our new tent (Vango Equinox 450) is performing very well. Just like our regular Hillebergs, it is a tunnel tent, so very quick to erect, but it also has a small vis-à-vis bedroom, which can accommodate a child, while still giving him access to us in the night time. He hasn’t wanted to sleep in it yet this year, so it’s been mostly a bag store, but I believe he will warm to it over the season.
I enjoy spending time on site looking at other people’s tents, and it is fascinating how we all gravitate towards something which suits us, though it may be very different to the unit next door. One of our number is considering a new tent for solo cycle camping. He doesn’t want the very small option, such as the Akto, but feels his Nallo 3GT is a bit excessive. After discussing online the relative merits of various tents, including Vango, MSR, and even Blacks, I think he has plumped for the Terra Nova Laser Space 2, which allows sufficient head height for him to be comfortable. Comfort and warmth – the two key factors in lightweighting.
What I’m trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that we are all different, and probably experience our camping in many different ways, but we share the freedom and the joy of tent camping.
So, whether you sleep in a tarp, a hammock, a bivi, or a tent, (large or small), our season is here, so get out there and enjoy your camping. If you can get along to an ALC meet, then all the better…. TJ Alexander