Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Tent Pitching Tips! Get The Most From Your Camping Trip


Here at Penrose Outdoors, we believe that camping is a fantastic way to spend quality time with loved ones and experience new places for relatively little cost. It allows the freedom of the great outdoors, with some home comforts that you would sacrifice if you were truly roughing it. With the cost of going abroad constantly getting more expensive (not to mention the hassle of trying to keep tabs on several children while going through the airport!), and more and more massive companies investing time and money into researching what will be the best, most luxurious way to enjoy a back to basics holiday, the market for great tents is, understandably, getting bigger and bigger each year. Vango, Coleman, Outwell and Kampa are the main brands we stock, and this year they are all bringing out bigger and better tents than ever before.

So, there is no denying that modern tents are brilliant - but many people are totally put off by all the little strings hanging off it, the pegs that seem to mysteriously disappear, the total inability to get them back into their bag, and, of course, the whole process of putting them up. Here at Penrose Outdoors, during the spring/summer months, we have a large tent show room, with the tents that are up rotating every week or so. This means we are experts in putting them up and down in minimum time, and are here to share our secrets (plus a few extras on where to pitch) with the slightly less experienced, not-so confident campers!

STEP NUMBER 1: Pitch before you leave!

If you have never seen your tent up, let alone seen it be put up, then you are, to some extent, risking a stressful start to your camping trip. The best way to ensure a smooth start to your holiday is knowing exactly how to pitch your tent.
The best way to learn is to watch - as aforementioned we have a tent show room in store and have the space, experience and willing to show you how to put any of our tents up. The smallest little trick can make your holiday run that much smoother.

Pitching instructions for your tent are there for a reason - no one expects you to instinctively know how to put up every tent in the world.

STEP NUMBER 2: Choose the right place to pitch!

Choosing a bad place to pitch your tent can result in a nightmare coming to life - especially if you have kids. Whether there's a constant drip that is driving you mad, not being able to hear yourself think because of hideous winds or even a branch falling on you while you're sleeping, finding the right place is crucial to your holiday. Here are some pointers:

- Wherever you choose to pitch your tent, make sure you sweep the ground for other peoples' left over tent pegs. Not only can they puncture your groundsheet, but standing on a hidden tent peg is almost as bad as standing on a plug - I speak from experience.

- Although it may sound like a nice idea, pitching yours and your mates tents around a campfire is not a great plan. Most modern tents are made of polyester, so even if they're not in super close proximity to a fire (or even a barbecue), they can and will melt, and in the worst cases catch fire. Canvas tents are equally at risk and even though all modern tents are rated fire retardant this isn't a guarantee they won't catch fire if left next to a naked flame.

All in all - don't pitch your tent next to a direct source of heat or naked flame - ever. 

- Make sure your pitch is as flat as possible and not at the bottom of a hill. Even if it's just a slight slope, if you sleep the wrong way round you will wake up with a headache. If you're at the bottom of a hill, again, even if it's only a gentle slope, at the slightest sign of rain you can guarantee you will be surrounded by a puddle by the time you wake up! (Headache + Soaked gear = Angry Camper)

- If you choose to pitch at the top of a hill, please remember that this is likely to be the most exposed spot, ensuring a buffeting by the wind at some point. However, it is easy to find shelter in hedges, walls and buildings (providing someone hasn't beaten you to it). Make sure to check the forecast before you leave so you vaguely know what to expect, and if there are high winds forecast, it will be tempting to find shelter anywhere, but try and stay away from trees.

- Pitching under a tree will make rain sound a hundred times louder, they possibly could break or blow over in extreme winds and are excellent lightning conductors, i.e. a recipe for disaster! 

Check out our YouTube channel for some reviews on brilliant, easy pitch campsites in Cornwall.

STEP NUMBER 3: How to deal with your poles!


Fibreglass poles are notoriously unpredictable. Some will last for years with no problems whatsoever, and others it seems will snap on first touch. The key thing to remember when going away with a tent with fibreglass poles is that they are so unpredictable, as soon as you leave the shop they aren't covered by any sort of warranty at all - even if the tent itself has one. This is not our own personal policy, but every tent manufacturer has the same rule. 

Because of this, we would always suggest buying one of our pole repair kits with your tent, and keeping it with it. If you're camping right out in the countryside, the last thing you want to do on a beautiful sunny day is bundle everyone in a hot stuffy car and drive however many miles to the nearest camp shop. We stock most generic pole repair kits, but we will need to know the pole measurements before we can help you (so if one has already broken either measure it or bring it with you). If this does happen and you are not prepared, being in Truro we are fairly central to all campsites in the county and offer a pole repair service, which you can find out more about by giving us a ring (01872 20213).


Aluminium poles are more sturdy than fibreglass poles. However, don't try and force them through the fabric sleeve on your tent - if it doesn't bend the poles then it will put a hole through your tent. Threading poles is most definitely a two person job, please don't think otherwise! It will end in tears, we promise. Again, these poles are not covered by any sort of warranty so we would still recommend getting a repair kit/spare set just in case.

Although aluminium poles do provide a very sturdy structure, we have to remember that the tent itself (no matter what it is) is only meant to be a temporary shelter - they aren't bombproof. 

Inflatable Beams

Believe it or not, these are arguably the most reliable of all the tent structures. With no poles snapping from either threading or the sheer forces of nature, the only potential issue with them is a puncture or leak, which is hugely unlikely. This innovative new style of tent have large, robust plastic tubes or beams, encased in a super heavy duty canvas fabric, and then sewn or zipped into the actual frame of the tent. To pump them up, simply make sure the valve is in the right position, and using either a hand. foot or even electric pump, fill them with air until they reach the recommended pressure. Although it is important not to go overboard with the pumping, the likelihood that they will over-inflate and burst is very slim as many pumps supplied come with pressure release valves as a precaution.

These inflatable beams mean that the tent can easily be put up with one person, and taking it down is made even easier by undoing the valve, letting the majority of the air flow out and then pumping the rest out with the return nozzle on the (often included) pump. 

However these beams can, understandably make people wary. Often it is because people don't think they are strong enough to withhold strong winds, but, while they won't withstand a hurricane, as long as you have some strong tie down storm straps, they are just as strong as any other tent, and, what's more, the beams can't snap. 

STEP NUMBER 4: Prepare for the worst case scenario!

For most people, the idea of a tent leaking while you're asleep or out and having everything drenched is enough to put you off camping for life. This doesn't need to be the case - it is unlikely that your tent will leak (remembering you get what you pay for - please don't expect a £50 tent to withstand consistent, torrential rain). Make sure to take care of it over the years, using one of our products to reapply the waterproofing, not putting it away wet or muddy etc. and it should last you years. The following scenarios are exactly as the heading suggests - worst case ones. It's always better to be over prepared than under. 

Tents very rarely leak consistently and everywhere on their first several outings - and a few teething problems does not mean you have a faulty tent.

Admittedly, canvas and nylon tent seams can leak on their first few encounters with wet weather, due to the fibres of the material loosening. When these fibres swell, they increase in size and cause the weave of the fabric to become tighter and more water repellent - so give it time settle in. Every tent also features taped seams (extremely effective at keeping water out), which when stretched for the first time (whether with poles or inflatable beams), can let a small amount of water through. 

The best option for this is to purchase some seam sealer when you buy your tent, and if you find this happening, just line the seams. This will not void any kind of warranty at all.

In all inflatable tents, small puddles can form at the base of the beams after periods of humid/damp weather. This is caused by warm air hitting the cold air inside the beams, with the resulting condensation forming on the beams and dripping down - and can occasionally be a relatively large amount. All of the manufacturers of the inflatable beam tents feature lots of ventilation points throughout their tents to provide a circulation of air which helps prevent this condensation forming.

In the hugely unlikely event that one of the beams in the inflatable tents does get a puncture, make sure you buy one of our replacement ones to keep in the car or tucked away somewhere safe. If you are abroad or just out in the middle of nowhere, it is unlikely a camping shop will be there exactly when you need it - and it's better to be safe than sorry. At between £30 to £40, they aren't cheap, but if one does pop (again, I can't stress enough how unlikely this is) due to a manufacturing fault or anything within the first several trips, you can, quibble free, bring it back to where you bought it and we will send it on to the company who will look it over and send you a new one if something has gone wrong.

I have already mentioned bringing spare poles or at least a pole repair kit with you - again, it might never happen and your poles might last a lifetime, but if you are prepared then it will minimise stress factors if it does happen.

Another suggestion is to always keep some spare pegs in your car - the amount of people come in saying they forgot their pegs and had to weigh their tent down for the night with rocks is unbelievable. Tent pegs are cheap as chips and you can guarantee that you will lose at least one per trip anyway, so it doesn't hurt to have a few spare. 

STEP NUMBER 5: Pay attention to the things you don't think matter!

If you weren't a Scout and haven't had much camping experience, this is the stuff you won't know unless told.

Pegs can be a nightmare. The key is to not forget to buy a mallet, else it can make your life very difficult. Most campsites should have relatively soft ground, but on the occasion that the ground is stony, be careful to just tap the pegs in gently - if it isn't moving, take it out and try a different place. Continuing to hammer it down will only buckle the peg and most likely render it useless.
For maximum stability, pegs need to be driven in at a 45 degree angle. If they are just upright, it makes it easier for the wind to just whip them out. 

Although they just seem like something you constantly trip over, guy lines are crucial to keeping your tent anchored to the ground. The length they should be is specific to the tent - they need to be long enough to keep the tent stable, but short enough that they aren't going to slacken off quickly. Keep an eye on them throughout the duration of the trip, and make sure they aren't getting loose or too tight - you don't want a hole in your tent. 

The best way to keep guy lines as taut as possible is to peg them down so that they line up with the seams on the tent - this also makes them much stronger.

Hopefully this will make your camping life much easier, and paired with our huge range of tents, furniture and accessories both in store and online, the idea of staying in a tent and getting in touch with nature no longer chills you to the bone! 

If you have any questions about anything on this post, please don't hesitate to contact us (we understand that it is a lot of information to take in), and we will talk you through it as best we can! 

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