Betty’s kitchen

Firstly, who is Betty?! She is my Skoda Yeti – and I love her because she is reliable and she has a decent sized boot. You can also take the back seats out, which is very handy to squeeze in lots of camping stuff!! But on our last trip she really excelled herself… and doubled as our kitchen!

An 84 litre ‘really useful’ box with some drawers from Ikea sitting inside formed our kitchen unit. I put a little peice of wood under the box to make sure that the drawers opened easily over the lip of the boot.

The top drawer had plates, bowls, mugs, goblets, kitchenfoil, the teapot and a collapsible kettle. I also stowed a hanging toiletry bag in there which I repurposed as an organiser for our cutlery and washing-up supplies. On arrival it hung from the Betty’s boot struts.

The bottom drawer was our food store. The square storage boxes you get from Lakeland fitted perfectly. We didn’t get round to labelling them, but the coloured lids allowed for a bit of colour-coding! Jars of spices etc also fitted nicely in there.

On top of the drawers I stowed my collapsible washing-up bowls – one for washing up (black) and one for our handwash station (grey). Our chopping boards also fitted there – we have a set of thin colour-coded ones from Robert Dyas, which we are very pleased with, plus a bamboo bread board. Down the side of the drawers, I stowed cleaning spray, salt & pepper pots and Henrietta, but at the campsite these things were in use and we used this space to store tins of food. (Spot the nice perch Henrietta found in the pictures above!)

Next to the ‘really useful’ box I put my outwell storage caddy with our pots & pans and other utensils.

It was very pleasing to set up the ‘demonstration’ table (we call it that because it’s height makes it look like you are giving a cooking demonstation to those sitting round the campfire!) at right angles to Betty. At it’s highest height the demonstration table (from lifetime) was tall enough to fit the big cool box (from iceytech) underneath and still be able to open the cool box.

Our stove (primus) sat on the table and meant we had a very practical cooking space. We had thought that the open boot would give a bit of shelter from the elements, but we didn’t get the opportunity to test that out as happily we were camping in a heatwave!

R

Gary’s trip to A&E

Firstly, don’t panic – Gary isn’t a human! Gary is the name of our gazebo! (Yes, we know we are a bit odd – maybe that’s why we like sleeping in fields when we have perfectly good houses with beds?!).

Gary join our camp equipment family in 2019. You can read about his arrival here. He has worked hard over the last few years – he’s been a sunshade and a rain protector, he’s been battered by the wind at many campsites, been dusted in frost, held puddles of rainwater on his roof and once got weighed down by a pile of hail stones! Over lockdown he put in extra hours turning gardens into outdoor rooms hosting dinners, lunches, tea parties, beers round the fire and even a hen party. Every time he gets bowed down, he bounces right back up – literally! Although we don’t leave him up in high winds unnecessarily, it is fun to watch him be pushed right down by the wind and spring back up a moment later!

Hard work takes it’s toll and Gary developed a tiny hole along one of his seams. We hope he has many adventures ahead of him this summer, so we wanted to repair it as straight away before it got worse.

Step 1: purchase some ‘seam grip’ and some ‘tenacious tape’

Step 2: working on the inside, clean the affected area with hand-sanitizer

step 3: cut a little strip of tenacious tape, just bigger than the hole. Peel off backing and smooth over hole, pressing down firmly.

step 4: now clean the outside with hand sanitizer.

Step 5: apply seam grip over the hole. Leave it to dry a little bit.

Step 6: cut another strip of tenacious tape and apply on top of the seam grip

Hopefully Gary is now almost as good as new and looking forward to hosting many more adventures!

R & L

PS You can read our other thoughts on gazebos here.

As snug as a bug

It’s become a running joke that this goat feels the cold at night. I always wear thermals to sleep in when I’m camping, even in the height of summer. At either end of the season you might find me wearing double thermals, a wool jumper, woolly socks, woolly hat and gloves inside two sleeping bags… and it’s not as if we camp in the artic, we rarely get further than Sussex!! And of course unless it’s a super warm night I insist on a hot water bottle…but you already know that top camping tip.

The reason it is so funny is that the other goat will probably just be in her summer jammas… but cocooned in her Western Mountaineering sleeping bag. It’s so super warm that she often she doesn’t bother to zip it up!

This season I’ve decided it was time for an upgrade! I compared lots of options and in the end went with Thermarest Questar 20. It seemed a good balance of good quality down, light weight and yet not as expensive as some.

When it arrived I couldn’t wait to go camping to try it out – so I decided that I would sleep in it at home on my bed. To test out whether it was warm I put aside my winter pyjamas and slept in a summer nightie.

At first I was a bit concerned, it’s so lightweight it didn’t feel snuggly warm, but about 4.30am I woke up because I was too hot!!

There are some good features which the websites don’t really tell you about:

The thing that annoyed me most about my old sleeping bag (mountain hard wear women’s lamina 20) was that the zip always got snagged on the lining. I’ve slept in it a lot over many years, and I’ve still not got the knack of how to stop it catching. But the thing that annoys me most is that when I bought it, the sales assistant specifically told me that it had a special tape to stop the zip catching!! Anyway, I’m more hopeful about the new one as it has two thick tapes and the zipper itself has a sheath over it.

I think the website details maybe did tell me about this feature, but I didn’t understand what it was. This is a photo of the inside bottom of the sleeping bag… a special little place to tuck your toes in to keep them warm!

Similarly the web details did say it was W.A.R.M…. this label shows what that means quite nicely!

I was a bit confused why there were funny loops on the bag of the new sleeping bag – turns out it’s a way to keep the bag on your sleeping mat. Clearly I couldn’t test this out on my bed, but I’ll give it a go in the tent as it sounds a good idea.

I was also pleased to know that the down in the sleeping bag had been resourced responsibly and the ducks might have had a happy life. You can read more about it on the RDS website.

I’ll let you know how I get on when I test it out for real on a camping trip…hopefully some time soon!

L

PS this post was written last month (when it was still wintery) – sorry for the delay there was an issue with uploading the photos.

Top camping tip #2

Here’s another top camping tip idea we came up with recently… pack a thermos flask to save hot water!

Nothing happens quickly on a campsite, but boiling the kettle seems to take forever! We spend a LOT of time waiting for the kettle to boil… although perhaps thats because we spend a lot of time drinking tea and coffee!?!

Once it has boiled, put any hot water you don’t use into a thermos flask. It will stay warm enough for washing up, or if you want another cuppa later, then using warm water in the kettle will save precious camping gas!!

R

Spending more pennies!

In the last post, I told you about our new toilet, but you also need to think about the other toilet accessories you will need to purchase e.g. toilet brush, bin, cloths for cleaning, extra toilet roll etc.  We put ours in a little basket to keep them altogether and stop them falling over.

But most of importantly you need a toilet tent! 

For us, colour was an important factor – we like everything to blend in. 

After that we needed one that was in stock (there was a rush on them due to the pandemic!).  We went for Kampa – the colour is good, you will either love or hate the icon on the door!

It’s pretty easy to put up, but we did break one of the bungs on the end of one of the ceiling poles very quickly.  We like the little added details of a pocket to hold the toilet roll, a further pocket for storing other bits and pieces, and the ventilated roof!

Hygiene is obviously very important, and even more so in a pandemic, so we have also added a hand-washing station to our set up:

The funky water carrier with tap attachment is by Colapz.  It works well for handwashing, although it’s annoying that you can’t use the last bit of water due to the height of the tap outlet. As the name suggests it packs down small, as does the shallow collapsible basin.  The little table is by Outwell.

Our encampment is now en-suite – the height of luxury! 

R

Time to spend a penny

Yes, COVID spurred us on to invest… in our own camping toilet!

Previously we thought this was a bit excessive but the experience of an unpleasant toilet this last summer, combined with the importance good hygiene with respect to the virus, made us change our minds.  The convenience of not having to trek a long way across a field to the toilet is also great.

After a bit of research we opted for Thetford excellence electric flush. Thetford has a good reputation, which gave us confidence to invest.  This model has a larger waste tank so less emptying (although tank gets heavier in between empties!).  What with a proper seat, an electric flush and an integrated toilet roll holder, it is almost as good as toilet at home!

An important consideration is that you need space in your car for transporting it.  The waste tank and flush tank can be separated or there are smaller models available, but get your tape measure out before you place your order.

You need to get special chemicals and toilet rolls. I dose up on waste tank chemicals and water before the trip so that is ready.  Also dose up on flush tank chemicals but Thetford advise not travelling with full flush tank so water gets added at camp site.

At the end of trip, after emptying waste tank, I add tank cleaner so that it is doing its thing as I’m driving.  The movement is very good for this apparently!

New for next season will be sachets of chemicals – making dosing at the campsite easier and reducing the space needed for transporting chemicals.

R

Be sure to label the body bag!

I have been enjoying making use of the gazebo in the garden to enable me to meet up with friends but still be compliant with lockdown rules.  I don’t have a garage for storage, so in the boot of my car I have what looks suspiciously like a body bag that contains the gazebo!  (I’ve never actually had the mis-fortune to need to see a body bag, but it’s what I imagine one to look like!)

We’re realistic, we know our limitations… and we know that we will never manage to fold up the tents neatly enough to get them back into their original bags, so we buy oversized ones and don’t worry about it.  We fold them how we fancy and pop them in.

Thing is that it means you can then easily forget what’s in each bag.  Especially if you rearrange your packing system and the bag you used to use for one thing now contains something else!  So, what we needed was labels.

And here’s what I made:

Brightly coloured in a variety of shades to aid recognition and laminated to make them waterproof!

It’s a bit of a shame not to be able to put my groceries in the car boot because it’s full of gazebo in an oversized bag… but who knows, one day there might be a gazebo-based emergency?! It’s never happened yet, but if it does then I’ll be just the woman for job!

L