Whether it’s a family trip to the Lake District or heading off with some mates to a music festival, millions of people will be decamping to the countryside this summer to take part in that great British institution, the camping holiday. But for many, getting the tent out of its suspiciously tiny bag and up in a form you can actually sleep in can be a profoundly infuriating experience. We asked former Scoutmaster and outdoors enthusiast Charles Rosin to explain how it’s done.
‘I’ve been pitching tents for over 50 years,’ says Rosin, ‘and the first thing I learned is to you’ve got to find a good spot for your unit.’ Keep an eye out for stones or tree branches, which love nothing more than jabbing you violently in the ribs while you’re trying to sleep, and make sure the ground you’re on will drain well if it rains over night – no-one enjoys waking up in bog.
‘It’s important to make sure you’ve got all your bits before you start”,’ explains Rosin, ‘so unpack all the gear and lay it out close at hand.’ It will look something like a giant carrier bag surrounded by a collection of coat hangers and, inevitably, you’ll be missing half the pegs, but don’t lose heart. This is actually a blessing in disguise, as it gives you an excellent excuse for when your cack-handed construction skills leave the tent listing at a rakish angle.
Now comes the important part. ‘You’ve got to get your groundsheet set up right. Make sure the doors face away from the wind, do all the zips up, stretch it out and then get that thing pegged down.’ If the ground is hard and the pegs won’t go in, you have three options: stomp on them, bash them with a stone, or swear at them loudly. Doing all three simultaneously can also be effective.
Now you need to assemble the metal poles and slip them into the loops in the tent cover. Some tents have a handy colour code to help you work out which pole goes where, but if you’re not so fortunate, you’ll have to use good old fashioned trial and error. If you have children, now is a good time to shout at them; if not, muttering darkly under your breath often works just as well. When the poles are in, clip them into the groundsheet and stretch the shell of the tent upwards and outwards. If possible, try to avoid snapping all the poles, ripping a massive gash in the fabric, or letting the whole tent blow away, as this can lead to stress-related injuries such as ulcers and heart disease.
Nearly finished. It’s almost certainly dark by now, so to provide illumination, jam a Maglite between your teeth. Fight back your gag reflex, then issue a string of incomprehensible commands to your fellow campers while drooling slightly – this will help boost morale. Get the flysheet (so-called because it’s designed to fly away in even the lightest breeze) over the frame, and peg it down. ‘Make sure the flysheet isn’t touching the inner shell,’ adds Rosin sagely, ‘or the rain will seep right through during the night.’ This can be done by stretching the sheet out taut out with the guy ropes – these should be pegged out at a good distance from the tent to maximising tripping potential. Finished! All you need to do now is crawl inside your newly built canvas home, curl up, and enjoy your holiday.
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