Patrick Cruywagen looks at four great solo camping solutions
Some people like to go camping with their Land Rover Club of choice, which is fine, I get it. You like to be with other like-minded enthusiasts. Others like to do the family thing. Some, like me, like to go solo from time to time. Nothing like a bit of self-isolation away from the crowds to help you recalibrate and get your mojo back.
I often fly into places to go on Land Rover overland adventures, so I’ve learnt to pack a tent, mattress and sleeping bag into my main bag. These days there is an incredible variety of gear available for the solo camper or traveller. From compact, lightweight stuff right up to something more sizeable and bulky, like an ARB swag for example that will have to go on your roofrack when transporting it.
Here are my four camping solo camping options of choice.
Back of my Defender 110
Before putting in my Frontrunner drawer system (£952.23) I was able to fold flat the second row of seats and there was more than enough room to comfortably sleep. I would just inflate the Robens Prima Core 60 mattress using the old lungs, then roll out the Robens Far Away Square sleeping bag, I was good to go to la la land. I got my wife (who likes to be comfy when sleeping) to lie on the Prima Core 60, once inflated of course, and even she declared that she would be able to sleep on it for the night. The reason I like the Far Away Square sleeping bag is because of its shape. You don’t feel like an embalmed mummy in it.
Now with the drawer system in place, I just put a pelican case where the bench seat is and I lie with my head at the back door end. As I am 1.87 metres tall I lie diagonally with my head in the corner and my feet near one of the passenger’s doors. It’s a comfy night’s rest for one or maybe two nights but if I was going camping for a week or two, I would definitely pack the tent or swag. This is a cheap and quick solo sleeping option.
It took several bags of sweets to get Isaac out of the swag
I’ve been fortunate and have done several 4x4 trips Down Under where the swag is king. I have to say that it’s an Aussie thing that has never really taken off in Europe or Africa because in the latter you don’t want to be sleeping in something so small when a herd of elephant trample past.
My six-year-old son Isaac loves ‘his’ swag and spent a week camping in it when the lockdown began. We then moved it outside for the Great British Campout.
I slept in the swag for about ten nights when crossing the Simpson Desert a few years ago. It’s comfy and functional but you can’t get dressed in it.
Once you put your pillow, sleeping bag, sheet and favourite teddy in and roll it up, they are pretty bulky things. Which is why when you see pictures of Aussie 4x4s the swags are normally on the roofrack. Great for sitting on if you climb onto the rack to enjoy a beer and watch the sunset.
Putting up a swag takes seconds. Peg in the four corners and pull it all nice and tight. Then fit the three bow-shaped poles and clips and finally the two poles that together run the length of the swag. It also has guy ropes on both ends and I would use these if it is a little windy.
One of the advantages of the swag is that it is double layered on the top half. So, if it’s a nice evening I normally only zip up the mozzie net and leave the canvas, so I can watch the stars. If it gets cold I zip the canvas up. I once slept in this swag during a snowstorm in Yorkshire. I had a very good sleeping bag and was nice and warm. I shouldn't have left my boots outside though!
Pat singing for his supper. He got baked beans on toast
This is a lightweight (and much cheaper) version of a swag without a mattress in. What I like about this is that it comfortably fits in my drawer system, along with my mattress and sleeping bag. It only weighs an incredible 1.52 kg so if you are hiking from your Land Rover to a secluded beach or waterfall and want to sleep there, you can take the Ionosphere with you.
Best of all it only has two very lightweight DAC poles and it’s very quick and easy to put up on your own. Another thing I like about this option is that you first only put up the inner tent which has a waterproof groundsheet while the netting has an incredible 1600 holes per square inch. So, if it’s a warm night with no rain forecast you can only use the inner tent to sleep in and the lions won’t see you when they walk past. They might smell you or hear you snoring mind. The flysheet fits easily over the inner tent and then you can use some of the lightweight alloy cross stakes to secure it.
I was surprised by the quality and technical features of this tent. I like that it has a single door and three vents. I am definitely going to be making more use of my Ionosphere when on solo missions.
This tent is small but hardy
Goldcrest 2 Robens tent
I used this tent when doing a two-day run across the Lake District last summer. What makes this tent a winner is the fact that it’s very light (1.34 kg) and it packs up rather small (48x12 cm) so you could take it with you if ever going on a camping adventure in a Toylander. Despite weight and packing size this is the hardiest tent or sleeping arrangement in our line-up.
It’s a two person tent, that just like all our other options, is very quick to pitch. The Goldcrest 2 is made from HydroTex AWT-LT silicone polyester fabric, which means it won’t tear or let you down in extreme conditions. Further indications of its hardiness are the fact that the poles are made from carbon and alloy.
It’s single Yunan alloy hoop and two end poles help to give the tent a very aerodynamic shape, which further enhances performance in extreme conditions.
The nylon inner is 100 per cent breathable while the Hydrotex flysheet and rain vents mean you will stay dry during serious downpours. We tested that when sleeping in the Goldcrest 2 on a night where it bucketed down for most of the night.
I like the little porch as it gives me space to store my muddy boots and jacket. Also, if two people are using this tent it does have a door on either side so if someone has to get up for the toilet in the middle of the night the other person can just carry on snoring away.
Not a cheap tent but when it comes to performance it more than delivers, no matter what the weather is doing.