Camping Creature Comforts

Well, after several cold and clear days, the weather’s changed a bit here in West Yorkshire.

Which is a good thing in some respects as we’re probably helping someone move over the next few days and I’ve already had to pass on a visit to see and hear what Nikwax are up to because of this.

If it keeps on raining, then loading/unloading a Transit van and my car isn’t going to be a wonderful experience! Spending a few hours relaxing and unwinding in a tent on the other hand can be… even if it is teeming down for hours on end.

After an almost full week of rain whilst camping at Voss in Norway and six weeks of living on a campsite near Skipton when I first moved down to Yorkshire, I can say that the presence of some creature comforts whilst loitering within tent can make a difference.

Food and drink are always, yet always, prepared away from the tent when it’s bad weather – I’ve seen a stove go wrong before and it’s not a pretty sight. If there’s a washing up area, then the stove, pan set and food are taken there and prepared undercover.

If conditions dictate, the meal’s eaten there and the washing up is taken care of too. What does get taken back to the tent though in all conditions is a hot drink at this time of year. During the summer months, Caroline and I use basic Aladdin insulated mugs, but when it gets a bit cooler, then the slightly heavier duty stuff makes an appearance.

One of the winter mugs is the one that’s on the desk at the moment. It’s also an Aladdin mug, but it’s insulated, made from recycled plastic and has a lid with a drinking aperture that’s can be covered if you’re not taking a drink.

It doesn’t weigh too much more than our summer mugs, but it’s easier to drink out of and is currently doing a very good job of keeping some Taylors Rich Italian coffee in prime drinking condition.

An alternative to this are the flask style cups from Lifeventure. When I worked in retail, most of the staff had these to either charge up on tea or coffee when needed or to take with them on trains or buses.

They’re also available in a few different colours so if you have two, you know which one belongs to who. Caroline and I though put our tongues firmly in our cheeks when we bought our brace of these. We both went for the plain white version and if anyone asked, we just said that they were iCups

Now I am awaiting the delivery of a couple of packs of Grower’s Cup tea and coffee as I write this and once they have arrived and have been tried out, then I’ll be writing about them. In the meantime though, it’s only fair to say what goes into our mugs whilst camping at the moment.

If it’s tea, then it’s usually made in the mug from Lifeboat tea bags sourced from the RNLI. My supplies are either bought mail order from RNLI or picked up when I’m passing a lifeboat station that has a shop attached to it or nearby (I also go for RNLI fudge too – possibly the best fudge around, but bought and appreciated in small doses rather than pigging out!).

Coffee is a different matter. I’ve already mentioned the brew of choice, but it’s made in an ‘unbreakable’ coffee press. My original one by GSI is still in use, as are a couple of more recent models by Bodum.

Yes, they go in whatever bags that go along with us and they’re a luxury item, but what would you rather have when camping or even in a hostel or hotel? An instant coffee or a full-on coffee experience?

If we’re not using the car, then Caroline and I take one small coffee press each plus the appropriate brew. If we do have the car then a larger model from M&S is packed and used.

And there’s usually one or two comments received from those camped next to us or those who are also using the hostel kitchen at the time.

It may seem decadent, but let’s face it. It’s around £10 for a large coffee press and packs of Taylors coffee are currently 2 for £5 at Sainsbury’s as I write this. Now think about how much an equivalent coffee would be in a hipster-friendly coffee shop… QED?

Mini food flasks also come in useful. We’ve both got Berghaus Food Flasks and use them as a means of keeping costs down when we head off for a day out or a week away.

Given the costs of say soup and a roll or a lunch in a pub or cafe, we fill the flasks on a morning and then feast on the contents later on. This can be in the car, on a train, in a bus shelter or back in the tent. If it’s cold and wet, the folding spoon that’s hidden in the top of the flask can be used to down soup, curry, pasta, stew, meat balls, an all-day breakfast or whatever else you care to cook up for lunch.

The end result of the meal may be from a can or it may be freshly prepared. Sometimes there’s a combination of bought and cooked fresh pasta with some pesto stirred in for good measure. Sometimes there’s food from a can that has been mixed with fresh stuff.

A small GSI chopping board has come in very useful, as has the same brand’s mini cheese grater. Fried mushrooms and onion can be added to a can of spaghetti loops for instance or mixed with freshly sliced local cheese before being used as a filling for a baguette to accompany soup or whatever else is in the flask.

The chopping board can also be put to good use whilst preparing fresh chicken and veg for a stir fry or for salad or chopping fruit to go with porridge for breakfast or fruit on its own as a sweet course. A small tub of parmesan or fresh herbs or spices for cooking can also come in useful.

Any other worthwhile camping creature comforts?

Loads I guess, but I’ll just mention a few more. A good camping pillow – either an inflatable or a small sized padded one, an inflatable sleeping mat (I bought a Therm-A-Rest twenty five years ago and have never regretted it) an LED head torch for pitching the tent after dark, cooking, finding the way too and from the loo or just reading in bed…

A silk sleeping bag liner to give added warmth on cool nights. An appropriate season sleeping bag or one up the ladder if you’re one who feels the cold (Caroline does, I don’t), hot chocolate as a night cap (with or without added alcohol!) and a charged Kindle for reading.

About Keith Rickaby

I’m a writer and photographer who has worked in the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now based in Yorkshire & back out there working for a travel and outdoor activity based retailer.
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