Very “intense” at FieldCandy

10 06 2013

First born, you may recall is “out East” at Waterloo. She’s a keen Rover Scout and always has half an eye open for interesting outdoor gear, sales and the like.

Today she told me about a UK company called “Field Candy“. They offer a range of tents very (and I mean VERY) similar to the Vango Force 10. Regulars may recall that I possess such a beast, and  very good it is too. Heavy to haul around, but that’s why you have Sherpas I suppose!

Force 10 up Seymour

FieldCandy hit upon the idea of spicing up the old workhorse (sorry – I mean their tent that just happens to look a LOT like the old workhorse) by offering a bewildering array of cool fly sheets. Limited editions too, to ensure that yours is always very special.

Perhaps you’d like the bubble-wrap look:

All wrapped up | FieldCandy.

Or perhaps you like to fall asleep between the pages of a good book…

Fully booked | FieldCandy.

The old UJ is certainly tempting:

Rule Britannia | FieldCandy. But at £395, I think I’ll just stick with ol’ faithful. We’ve shared more than a few adventures together over the almost 30 years we’ve been together. (Though she did get a new fly-sheet a couple of years ago when the zip finally gave way).


Mk4 Vango Force 10


Ben Canales – Crater Lake

13 04 2013

Couple of years old now, but simply stunning.

Glad to see he dug a small “cold well” at the entrance to his tent.

ben canales – Search Results – Intelligent Travel.


We Live in a Beautiful World

7 03 2012

I’ve had a Coldplay song stuck in my head all bloody day, and it’s been driving me nuts.

It was of the “na, na-na, na-na” variety and I couldn’t think of the lyrics at all, thus preventing any kind of internet search. Suddenly though, this evening on the bus home, the darker recesses of my mind regurgitated “we live in a beautiful world”, and the beast was slain. “Don’t Panic” is the ditty, and I was moved to offer you, dear, long-suffering reader, a photo from our camping trip last summer. Taken in Logan Lake BC, during one of several drop-dead gorgeous sunsets. This shot was taken with no filters or post-processing. It’s a tad blurry I’m afraid, taken at 1/80th and hand held. But come on… just look at those colours!

We do indeed live in a beautiful world.

Logan Lake, BC

And if you’d like a soundtrack to your photo-gazing, here’s the aforementioned ditty. Can’t wait to see them live in a couple of months in Vancouver.

Don’t Panic (Parachutes album): Coldplay

sinking like stones,
All that we fought for,
places we’ve grown
All of us are done for.

We live in a beautiful world,
Yeah we do, yeah we do,
We live in a beautiful world,

sinking like stones,
All that we fought for,
And homes,
places we’ve gone,
All of us are done for.

We live in a beautiful world,
Yeah we do, yeah we do,
We live in a beautiful world.

Oh, all that I know,
There’s nothing here to run from,
‘Cause yeah, everybody here’s got somebody to lean on

Ice with the Whiskey, Jack?

15 01 2012

Greetings, good reader! Well, made it back to White Rock in one piece – all digits still attached, so as promised, here’s what I got up to this weekend…

It was actually quite a mild camp as far as snow camps go. It never got above freezing, but the coldest night (Saturday) only dropped to about -8C. Positively balmy by snow camp standards. We got there after dark, and it was a steady -3C, clear and dry. Near perfect for setting up camp. Normal practice is to dig down through the snow until you either get to a firm layer of snow in which you can anchor your snow pegs (they just pull through soft powder), or alternatively all the way down to the ground, when you can use standard pegs. You’re also looking for level enough ground to sleep on, and if it’s not firm enough, your body heat melts a coffin-shaped indent by morning. So, armed with a snow shovel, I started to dig. Within about an inch, there was a layer of SOLID ice. We’d had a mild week, and the site had been wet and muddy. With the recent cold snap, that was now a  reasonably deep layer of ice, and the recent sprinkle of snow was barely covering it. This was actually a good thing! Water is excellent at finding a level, which means that when it then freezes, it’s a good and level place to sleep (assuming it stays that way!). The thin layer of snow meant there was next to no digging to do, and the rock-hard ice meant I could use standard steel pegs (I use 10″ nails with an orange hook at the top… they go through ANYTHING without bending!) and nylon pegs, without them pulling through the ice.

I have a “classic” Vango Force 10 cotton ridge tent, and it requires tension to remain upright, unlike the more modern self-supporting dome tents. This makes me dependent on proper pegging-out in order to stay comfy at night. Once up though… I have the benefit of the breathable cotton to avoid the problem of freezing condensation that plagues the nylon tents. I’m also immune from the “squashed tent syndrome”, where the weight of snow can bend fibreglass poles into a twisted mess, and leave the occupants with a face full of nylon.

So, though it was dark, the tent was up in quick sticks, and my home for the weekend was looking  n-i-i-i-c-e!

Vango Force 10: Mk 4

Vango Force 10: Mk 4

You can just see the min/max thermometer hanging by the entrance. I always take this with me on winter camps, as it can drop significantly colder over night, and it’s nice to know how far it went, when you get up in the morning. That’s how I know it only dropped to -8C all weekend. Now this tent has served me faithfully since about 1986. It’s not one I’d want to backpack with, but it’s unbeatable for snow camps. It should be good in foul weather… it’s not called “Force 10” for nothing! Allegedly used by Chris Bonington on his Everest conquest. So anyway, it’d been a stressful day one way and another (Friday the 13th by coincidence), and I turned in early to contemplate my sins and snuggle into my -20C rated Chinook Everest Peak sleeping bag.

Chinook Everest Peak

Chinook Everest Peak

Experience has taught me to be generous in my under-bag insulation for this type of camping, and I typically use a three-layer system.

First I use hot-water tank lagging. This is essentially bubble-wrap, but with a silvered coating. Silver-side up, it reflects any heat that makes it through the other two layers, and the bubble wrap (if you can resist popping it!) gives a bit more padding. Mine was from Rona, but I’m sure you can get it in most DIY stores. It was conveniently already in 6′ lengths, and one pack provided enough for father and son.

On top of that, I use another bit of vintage kit that has served me since youth: a Karrimat.

I’m not sure these are even still available, but Karrimor were the first to introduce these closed cell foam sleeping pads in 1966. Being closed cell, they don’t soak up water like a regular foam, so give protection from damp as well as providing a measure of comfort and heat insulation. Cheaper, less capable products are still easily available, but I won’t give up my Karrimat for anything. Well, except perhaps sexual favours.

Finally, I top the whole stack off with my basic MEC self-inflating sleeping mat. Unless there’s a pea accidentally introduced into the pile, I usually have a very comfy, warm night. On this particular occasion, I was awoken by what I thought was an alarm clock at about 4am. It later turned out (once a few more neurons were firing and I could build a mental model of what was going on) it was actually the snow plough on the near-by road and car-park, and the beeping was its backing-up warning.

Being there as a parent rather than leader for once, I took the option of a lie-in, and waited for room service to deliver my tea and kedgeree. Around 8am, reality kicked in, and I got up to join the happy voices playing in the snow. First thing I noticed was it seemed a little dark in the tent for the late hour. I then dressed for the conditions: several layers of clothing, each of which can be zipped/unzipped as well as added/removed to avoid the bane of the winter camper… sweat. (Sweat = water, which when mixed with cold = ice, which when mixed with a human body = hypothermia… or at the very least, grumpiness).  My first hint, as I put on my boots, was that there seemed to be a lot more snow on the ice-bed than when I put the tent up…

6" of new powder!

6" of new powder!

Reversing out of the tent revealed the full extent of the night’s snowfall… a good 6″ of fresh powder. No breeze, not too cold… excellent hiking conditions!

The morning After

The Morning After

We had a great day’s hiking around the trails with the Scouts, and were back for a late lunch, which the lads cooked very well considering their tender years. (The young lady in Troop this year couldn’t make the trip).

Snow Hike

Snow Hike

We had some inquisitive, if slightly annoying visitors to camp. I’m told they are formally called Gray Jays, but locally they’re known as Whiskeyjacks. “Bloody nuisance” would be another term…

Basically if it was edible (or just looked that way – soap went missing too!), these flying thieves would be off with it. They were tame enough to eat from your hand, but I’m still awaiting confirmation of whether they’re good eating.



This morning, Sunday, the whole thing was done in reverse, and the skies were threatening snow as we struck camp. One advantage of not backpacking, is that when your tent has been a bit drippy and is still a bit stiff, you don’t have to struggle getting it back in the bag! You can just lob it in the back of the car, and hang it up to thaw/dry in the garage when you get home.

Packed for home

Packed for home

An excellent time had by all… and looking forward to doing it all over again with the Venturers in February, and the more challenging -30C over-night range.

Ain’t no mountain high enough

28 12 2011

When I was about 8 years old, my friend asked me if I’d care to join him at Cub Scouts. It was the start of a lifelong relationship with scouting in both the UK and Canada. It has taught me many things  – several of them about myself. When I got to scouts (11-14 years), we started to do much more active things – hiking, camping and the like. Our leader wasn’t a bad person. Au contraire, he taught us many skills and opened up many opportunities for us. He was however a product of his own experiences. He was ex-army and super fit, regularly taking part in long distance challenge runs, such as the 14 threes in Wales. One of my mates has Muscular Dystrophy. He’s always been an academic type, but it was only as we got older and moved up to Venture scouts (around 15 years old) that I became aware that he’d been implicitly excluded from all our more adventurous outdoor activities. Kids are thick.

At 15 though, we woke up, and said “why not?” Where does it say that just because you’re in a wheelchair, you can’t go backpacking or go to the top of a hill to camp? No – we couldn’t find anywhere either. So… three of us plus our mutual friend with the wheels went camping for a couple of nights. Up a hill. Over stiles and fences. Not exactly a huge hill, but it felt like it when lifting a wheelchair and our mate. We got a few looks, I can tell you!

I think we all learned something though.

Do or do not. There is no try – Yoda.