Dec 29, 2013

In Tents

I've been telling folks here at Woodford that the last time I put up a tent was ten years ago, but it's actually longer.

Some focused reflection on years gone by has confirmed that the last time I was responsible for erecting a nylon horror from beyond the stars was Year 10 camp, and I was 14. That's more than half my life ago.

I borrowed this tent from a work colleague late on Friday night, before heading up to the Folk Festival on Saturday morning. It took some hours for organisers to figure out my assigned camping spot, so it was only around 5pm that I was able to unload the mighty tent and realise... "I have absolutely no idea how to do this."

But never fear! I would push on. It would be like brain training, those exercises in logic and problem solving that you do to improve your grey matter.

The tent came with no instructions, but rather two long interconnected poles, and one short one, plus twelve tent pegs. I did not have a "hammer" or anything useful like that, so I started by laying out the tent and driving the pegs into the semi-hard ground with the palms of my hands. 

When I stayed in a Mongolian ger, it had a chimney in the middle, so I first tried to emulate that by shoving the short pole smack bang in the middle of the tent.

I then realised there was no way to secure such an arrangement, and besides, it was not conducive to setting up the air mattress I had brought along.

So I looked at the blue tent next to me, which had a curved pole across its entryway, forming a sort of patio in front of the dome. All right, I thought, I'll give that a go.

Not quite the same. My rapidly overheating brain eventually pinged that the two long interconnected poles needed to run corner to corner, crossing at the top of the tent. I took a punt and ran them under the tent, remembering that the last tent I erected had poles on the inside.

I clipped the clips to the outside of the material, then grabbed the silver cover sheet to go over the top. It didn't seem to fit properly. Then I remembered - the shorter pole! It must have to attach to the cover somehow. 

I tried a range of positions, but none seemed right.

Eventually I gave up on ever finding a purpose for the shorter rod. I enlisted the help of Maeve, a kindly young volunteer at the camping HQ, who hadn't seen a tent like mine before either. 

We redraped the cover as best we could, then Maeve, bless her, grabbed a hammer and thrust in the remaining tent pegs to hold it down.

It wasn't quite right, but still, I had to get my car out of the way and get to my first "Game On" panel show.

I've since discovered (thanks to mercy cries on Twitter) that these types of tents are supposed to have the poles on the outside of the tent, and underneath the cover. Similarly if it rains and I don't have that air gap between the two, the tent will leak.

So I need to reconfigure my tent. Problem is, it's already over 30 degrees and climbing. Frankly the tent can stuff it.


  1. Michael Jude Peter Barnes4:09 PM, January 03, 2014

    Well obviously inside you dwells a young Baden-Powell scout waiting to get out. Let out your inner scout.

  2. All votes go for ZOE :D

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