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Bogger's Ramblings On Tents, Sleeping Bags And Other Stuff

Post Received 3 April 2020

By Bogger

I’ve done a lot of camping on my bikes. Mostly on the C90 and other small bikes, such as an Innova 125, CD200, YBR125 and very occasionally on one of my bigger bikes. I've done lots of travels in this country and the likes of France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain. Corsica was eighteen months ago astride the YBR125.

At the last count I have seven tents (small ones), six sleeping bags, six cookers/stoves and about five sleeping mats. That’s just ridiculous I hear you say? Yes probably! No definitely.

I most certainly am not an expert on camping. I don’t profess to be. I have so much stuff because I’ve been in search of the perfect camping set up. I have come to the conclusion that this utopia does not exist. But, for me, I’m getting closer!! However, before I tell you what I do use and what works for me, I’ll tell you what has failed, miserably.

The amount of stuff I’ve taken previously on trips has quite frankly been ridiculous. On many many trips I’ve taken a pile of kit that has not seen the light of day but I took it ‘just in case’. Not any more I don’t.

Apart from waterproof biking gear by far the most important equipment you can take with you is a decent tent and sleeping system. Sounds obvious, but so many people get it wrong and suffer through the whole trip as a consequence. I have suffered in the past.

A few years back I got it into my head that I needed to condense all my stuff. This was after a trip to Spain. The weight of all the equipment just drained any performance whatsoever from the Innova 125. It was so heavy that if I used the side stand the bike would topple over. I’d learned my lesson.

So what did I do? Like an idiot (I am that man) I went to the other extreme. I bought yet another tent, from Lidl this time. It was a 1 man tent, not a Bivvy type one man tent, it was a bit bigger than that. Just. I set it up in the garden. It was perfect and I congratulated myself on money well spent. 

Next was the sleeping bag. I’d used a Vango three season bag for a couple of years and it was good. Good, but a bit bulky. I took Mrs Bogger for a weekend away in the Lakes - no not camping - I’m not that stupid. In one of the many camping shops I spied a summer sleeping bag, fantastic! In the compression sack It was the size of a knotted hanky. Perfect. Again I congratulated myself on money well spent. My sleeping mattress was another Aldi special, one of the self-inflating types.

I think you can see where this is going?

The next big holiday with the lads that summer was the Czech Republic. I packed all my stuff on the C90 and was really happy, not too heavy and everything I needed. I can safely say that every single night of that trip I got a maximum of four hours kip and woke multiple times every night freezing cold. By the end of the holiday I was absolutely knackered through lack of sleep. It was horrible.

The tent with all the kit inside was far too small to get really comfy. Trying to get dressed or undressed was a nightmare. The interior height was too low. Getting clothes on or off lying down is no fun. Because everything was on top of each other finding anything was a right pain. The Summer sleeping bag had all the thermal qualities of an ice block. Totally, totally useless.

So after over 2,000 miles on a C90 with very little sleep I had to have another rethink. I’m too old for this ****.

So let's cut to the chase. Where am I up to now and what equipment do I take? Again I’ll just talk about my tent and sleep system as this I feel is the most important.

My tent is a Slumit Cub two man tent. I’ve been using it for about eight years now. It is bulky and it is quite heavy. But it has never leaked and it is more than big enough for one person. It erects and collapses with all the poles along with inner and outer flysheet as one, think of a collapsible umbrella type affair.

Bogger tent, the poles are on the outside with hinged joints for fast erection
The biggest advantage of this system is how quick the tent can be erected and packed away. It takes less - and I’m not exaggerating here - than a minute to have it up and all my gear inside. It is brilliant. 

There is nothing worse than getting to a campsite on a motorbike, in a gale, with the rain lashing down. With a normal tent you try to thread the poles as either the inner or outer fly is trying to make a bid for freedom. By the time it’s up, both you and the tent are sodden. Not with the Slumit.

Okay, sleeping bag. I’ve moved away from the mummy type of bag. A couple of years ago I bought a down feather bag from China, dunno the make. It’s an envelope type so loads of foot room. From memory it was about £70.00 of Ebay, there’s dozens to choose from. It’s so warm and comfy, one of my best buys ever. It seems good quality with nice material. I’ll not get another synthetic bag again.

A bright red but rectangular sleeping bag with detachable hood

Airbeds? Again, I’ve had several different types and makes, none of which have either lasted or been as comfy as expected. I’ve seen the Youtube videos of the very expensive Exped type of mats but I’m relatively tight and just couldn’t bring myself to part with all that money, well over £100.00 for a glorified airbed.
I did a bit of research (Youtube again) and settled on a Robens Rapturous Airbed. I had no idea if they were any good. Can I just tell you it was £69.99 well spent. Really good quality materials and very well designed ergonomically. It’s a pleasure to lie on it and go to sleep. Initially I didn’t buy the Robens Pump Sac but after blowing the air bed up by mouth and nearly keeling over I spent another £14.99 on the pump sac. Which again works really well. The Robens airbed packs up to about 1½ ltr bottle size and is light weight. Result.

The airbed inflated gives a deep mattress
The airbed is small when packed, seen here with the inflation system too

Underneath the airbed I lay out one of those chrome type emergency blankets. This reflects the body heat back up, weighs nothing, packs away tiny and has the added advantage of stopping condensation on the bottom of the airbed. The bonus is they cost next to nothing.

What else? I always take a thin, small, fleecy type blanket with me as well. The problem with sleeping bags is the tendency for them to ride down during the night. This exposes the shoulders and neck and you can wake up cold. I know most sleeping bags have draw strings to stop this, but that feels so claustrophobic. Yuk. With the blanket, around your torso and shoulders - toasty warm thank you very much.

One last thing I always take now is a Tarp with a single pole. This fits over the front of the tent giving me dry outside space if it’s raining. A bit of a luxury, but on a number of occasions it’s been a Godsend.

All the above is not the lightest, cheapest/most expensive, or the very best quality. It may not work for you but it works for me at reasonable cost. At least I can now get a good nights sleep when camping.

Sweet dreams


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Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-

I only need 2 things:
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14/04/2020 10:15:23 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
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14/04/2020 10:16:07 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I estimate you've spent more on camping gear than I've spent on hotels in the last ten years.
Waking up freezin cold and wet, you're not selling it to me.
Trying to erect a tent in sideways rain, likewise.
You enjoy your camping.

14/04/2020 13:39:56 UTC
Bogger said :-
Nah you're missing the point Upt. Camping can be a bit grim at times. But when you have your kit sorted it's ace. Although I don't like packing away in the rain, I do like to be in the tent at night when it's raining. This is as long as it's warm and dry on the inside.
I've always liked camping.

Hotels are fine but camping away with the lads is ace. Can't wait until We can get out again.
In fact I may camp in the back garden. What a splendid idea. I'll get a Side stand puck and have the bike next to me on the lawn.

14/04/2020 14:12:02 UTC
Snod said :-
For a tenner more you could've had an Exped Synmat 7, pshh. I like mine :)
14/04/2020 14:37:40 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I know you know that I know we require piccies of said back garden camping extravaganza. Will you be cooking out there too. Of course you will. Make sure you do it in the rain.
15/04/2020 12:59:51 UTC
Bogger said :-
Obviously. I'll send the images.I'll even cook on my homemade stove for you.

15/04/2020 15:17:46 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
For a brief moment there Ian I thought the first image was some kind of masonic badge. An educated guess would be something like the logo for the French version of the Caravan Club?

Bogger - I will freely admit I am not a "natural" camper. I do it because...
It's a darnsite cheaper than hotels (I await various comment disagreeing with this)
It is good to spend an evening with friends alfresco.
I particularly like the flexibility it affords me on my travels.
I gain a sense of achievement from it, particularly as I am NOT comfortable with it.

There's a facebook group that raised funds for the NHS bay camping in the garden/yard either in a tent or campervan or caravan... and if that's not possible even a duvet teepee in the living room. I joined them in my only external option - my "pod". I admit my pod is in fact the dirty squallid tin shed in the back yard but it did make for an, erm, "interesting" change to this rather tortuous routine we are in.
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15/04/2020 17:44:43 UTC
Bogger said :-
Camping is most definitely cheaper than hotels. After nine or ten days away with the lads in Europe I never spend anywhere near Five hundred Euros. This for the two ferries, food, drink, fuel, absolutely everything.

You're going to spend way more than that using Hotels. Camping is not as comfy/luxurious but it's so much more fun. In fact the more the hardship (to a degree) the better the memories.

15/04/2020 20:09:30 UTC
nab301 said :-
I'm more of a day tripper on two wheels even if that means a 500 mile round trip, I guess I just don't like camping. I was persuaded by a friend to do the Dragon Rally in 2008 ... , 3 of us travelled from Dublin , they were Enfield enthusiasts so I brought the 350 version I had at the time . Luckily the weather was kind to us , it was dry and sunny on the Saturday but I found it cold at night , the water bottles froze overnight in the tent...
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15/04/2020 21:08:06 UTC
nab301 said :-
Not me, but an acquaintance of my friends, slept outside in a survival bag...
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15/04/2020 21:09:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I've got an air bed and a frame bed, a fancy sleeping bag and a roomy tent and yet on anything other than a warm genteel summer's evening I struggle to sleep. And yet on any mid winter rally or event there's ALWAYS someone who needs nothing more than an Asda sleeping bag and 6 foot square of cheap tarpaulin.

As a 20-year-old yoof I was on a rally in February. It went down to -5 or-6 degrees that night and I barely slept a wink. I wrapped myself in bike kit, my cheap sleeping bag and my spare clothes and yet I shivered and shook all night long.

At 0500 I gave up and got up, hoping the act of movement and a good walk might take the edge off. In the darkness I could clearly see a gentleman of the fuller figure upon the floor. It appears after a drunken evening he'd managed to get back to his tent. He had tried to remove his pants but unfortunately not his boots so his jeans and underpants were around his ankles. He'd also tried to remove his t-shirt and jumper but the effort of getting them over his beard was too much so they were around his neck.

As I shivered and shook I could see his breath, he was alive. Essentially this fellow was fast asleep naked save for his neck and feet and he was half in and half out of his open tent. He was alive and asleep with frost on his underpants and in his matted hair. I could barely stop my teeth chattering.

We are all made differently. I can handle extreme cold under many circumstances but one thing I can't do well is sleep when cold.
16/04/2020 08:00:11 UTC
Upt'North said :-
You're still not selling it to me/us.
Although at those temperatures there'd be nothing to see.
16/04/2020 09:11:46 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Ren: the logo is Logis de France. Obviously.....

Re camping: been there and dunnit. On completing our O levels a small group of us walked the Pennine Way (in its first year of opening). I opted to sleep under an ex-army groundsheet slung against dry (well usually very wet) stone walls. For many years when our only transport was a bike, we used to go on camping holidays in the wettest parts of the UK until Electra, my wiser if not better half, finally refused to get on the pillion. But I do admit it was cheap.....

Coincidentally, in our recent house move, I came across our tent - a Blacks Good Companion with external A poles. It did indeed bring back memories but mostly of the damp and cold sort.....
16/04/2020 10:48:25 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
According to Google Logis De France is about hotels - I thought you took the caravan to France? Or are we considering motorcycling trips here?
16/04/2020 14:39:32 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Horses for courses - or accommodation for means of transport. Logis and similar on the bike, municipal caravan sites for the tin tent. Logis almost always offered a decent meal as well as good accommodation at a reasonable price - in fact we often use them for lunch etc when in France these days.

I have to say it's probably unlikely I'll be making any more long distance bike trips. Anno domini catching me up......
17/04/2020 15:24:57 UTC
Bogger said :-
Myself and Mrs Bogger did in fact go camping last weekend. Alas no rain storms. Well you can't have everything. This coming weekend we are away in the Motorhome. On the drive.

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23/04/2020 11:42:13 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Bogger, it's all become clear.
I'm enlightened to your reasoning.
23/04/2020 13:09:20 UTC
Bogger said :-
Thank you. I'll take that as a compliment. The reasoning? Well it just seemed like a good idea.

23/04/2020 13:22:20 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
If I had a garden I'd... I'd... no I wouldn't. It'd be covered in scraps of metal covered in tarp and various half assed half completed quasi projects. Overall in the greater scheme of things it's likely a good thing that I don't have a garden.
23/04/2020 14:14:04 UTC
Mark Noel said :-

Thanks a lot for your considered review of camping gear. Seven tents ... jeepers! I have only three: an ancient canvas one bought from the local supermarket as a teenager. Unusable now 'cos mice ate the flysheet. Next an early nylon Vango when they were actually made in BRITAIN. 'twas sturdy, lasted several winter camping trips in the Cairngorms but took an age to put up and weighed a ton. After arriving in adulthood and planning some motorbike trips to forrin places I decided to re-invest in a new Vango,wanting to support our Great British manufacturers. Oh no, 'Made in China' it said on the label and the seams pulled apart as soon as the fly was tensioned. Not what you want when you have to escape from gales or mosquitoes in northern Norway!

The Slumit tent you describe is a revelation and the Slumit Inca one-human tent looks particularly good. Very clever and up in one minute. Think I'll get one as part of my self-isolation kit. You can put it up and hide as soon as you see a Corona virus approaching. Is it made in the UK and where can I get one?
29/04/2020 11:15:00 UTC
Bogger said :-
I've looked at the Inca myself. But from the reviews it may be on the small side? I'd have to see an Inca erected to make a proper judgement. I'm happy with the Slumit Cub.I have no idea where they are made, but I doubt it's Britain. I think Ebay is your friend. They have a video showing how it goes up and down.
If you do get one, I hope it's as good as mine has been.

29/04/2020 11:26:17 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Am I correct in noticing the Slumits have them foldy-uppy pole connectors? Have you used it in a stiff wind? I can't comment on the Slumits but I have seen a fair few clip-together poles just snap clean away in a firm breeze.
30/04/2020 15:09:14 UTC
Bogger said :-
I've used it on numerous occasions in very high winds and it's been fine. Mostly you don't need to use the guy ropes, only in adverse conditions.

The poles do not come apart, but they do click in and out of position with each other, at the joints, to secure them fully. So basically they click in position automatically when the tent is put up. I just go round and make sure they are fully seated home. If they are in position correctly they are not coming apart or collapsing in the wind.

In the demo video on Ebay when he is packing the tent away, you can see him pull one of the poles apart as it doesn't quite retract all the way. This then allows him to fold the leg up.

30/04/2020 15:40:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I might need to have a look at the Slumits. I can't see anything on their site regarding physical shops - do you know of any?
01/05/2020 08:36:08 UTC
Bogger said :-
I've only ever seen them online, never in a shop. You could always take a look at my Slumit one day. Were not a million miles from each other.

04/05/2020 20:19:26 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Cor! Cheers Bogger I might take you up on that offer - as long as there's some tea involved at some point.
05/05/2020 07:30:55 UTC
Bogger said :-
Uh, go on then I suppose so.

05/05/2020 09:00:58 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I could bring my own tea bags and sugar if that helps?
05/05/2020 09:17:40 UTC
John-W said :-
At my advanced age I can't manage without a chair and table! So invested in bike friendly roll up types. Hot water bottles too.
14/12/2021 18:49:24 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Aaah John-W, Sharon and I have just invested in a pair of them there tentpole type collapsible chairs because getting up from the ground just ain't what it used to be. Thing is with hot water bottles - how long can they keep you warm for?
15/12/2021 09:43:41 UTC
Bogger said :-
The good thing about hot water bottles, is that if they are in contact with your body, they will obviously stay at body temperature. Which although not hot, it's neither cold.

15/12/2021 12:08:16 UTC
Henrik said :-
Pop-up has worked well for me the last two years

2 persons tent ,.. lots of space ,.. low weight ,.. few secconds
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19/12/2021 16:51:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The one thing with the pop-up tents Henrik - the shape when they are flattened to be packed. The ones I've seen usually flatten to a big circle, which while anything is possible, doesn't lend itself to being loaded on a bike. What size is your Coleman when packed? Otherwise I do like the ease with which they go up and the flexible poles are less likely to snap compared to the fibreglass poles (or ally) in "regular" tents.
20/12/2021 14:27:39 UTC
Henrik said :-
Ren ,.. I don't remember the exact diameter when folded down

Rest of the data I linked in my previous post

But no problem and not much wider than my 52L top-box

Its inside a cover, so it will protect rest of my logage a bit, on top all I can have extra things needed be

Its made so that I can still open my top-box ,.. and is rock-solid fastened

My frezzer ,.. two bottles of frosen pancakes keep the rest cold for two days, then I eat the pancakes

I can carry food for 4-5 days only need to supply water ,.. true wildcamp ;-)

I made a little gallery so all of it can be seen ,.. use the link
20/12/2021 20:40:26 UTC

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