All things Camping
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We have used a variety of tents on our cycle rides. These are the key things that we look for in a tent…
- As light as possible.
- As robust as possible. It must have good water-proofing & strong enough to stand up to some strong winds.
- Good ventilation.
- Quick & easy to put up & take down.
- There must be enough space to store our pannier bags inside with us.
- Tim can feel claustrophobia, so having as roomy space as possible is important for him.
- Our tents are all green, no reds, oranges or blues. We want to blend in as much as possible when wild camping.
It has been quite a try-and-see search to find our perfect cycle touring tent. These are the tents that we have used….
Terra Nova Laser Compact 2 Tent (1.23kg)
Alysun swears by her super light-weight tent. Calling it a two-person tent is a bit of an exaggeration, Tim feels overcome with deep claustrophobia just looking at it. Alysun has further lightened the advertised weights by replacing the supplied pegs with titanium “pin” pegs.
Hilleberg Kaitum 3 GT (4.1kg or 4.78kg, inc foot-print groundsheet)
This was Tim’s palatial manor-like residence. A four-season bomb proof 3 person tent that he bought to go cycle touring with his youngest son. It has a huge vestibule (porch), big enough to store 2 bikes inside & loads of room for all the pannier bags too. But this tent, although superbly roomy for the weight proved to be just too heavy & bulky for long distance cycle touring, so eventually Tim sold it on Ebay.
Wild Country Hoolie 2 (2.45kg) & Wild Country Hoolie 2 ETC (3.15kg)
On the second ride, Tim bought a Wild Country Hoolie 2, as an ex-demo tent for less that £100. This was big & roomy enough to avoid claustrophobia and store our pannier bags. By using this instead of the Hilleberg, Tim achieved a weight saving of over 2kgs.
On the third ride we bought a Wild Country Hoolie 2 ETC which has a huge vestibule (porch) & slept in the same tent, as although Alysun prefers her own space to sleep, we both felt that it would be safer sleeping in one tent, wild camping in the Balkans. We bought the tent as an end-of-season bargain at £135. The Wild Country Hoolie tents are great value, roomy, waterproof & pretty lightweight. We managed to use them without a foot-print groundsheet, by using our “CTC Cycling UK Plastic Bike Bag” (More Info HERE) as the groundsheet. The only problem that we found with these tents was with the poles. We have had two pole failures, thankfully not whilst on a cycle tour, but this dented our confidence in these tents.
MSR Mutha Hubba™ NX 3-Person Backpacking Tent (2.07kg)
Tim bought this tent for our fourth ride, having sold his much-loved Hilleberg palace to buy our new mini-palace. This tent is a very light and spacious 3 person tent, giving us plenty of room for us and our kit, with mini porches and doors at both ends of the tent. The tent is tall enough to sit up in, it is very well ventilated and is well built and robust. We bought it with a deal that included a lightweight footprint. The whole tent packs up into a very small space, easily fitting into a pannier bag with room for more. This is now are “perfect” cycle touring tent and served us very well crossing the Caucasus Mountains. We would definitely recommend the MSR Mutha Hubba as great cycle touring tent.
We further lightened the weight by replacing many of the supplied MSR tent pegs with ultra-lightweight titanium pegs that we bought on Ebay.
Regulations about whether you are allowed to wild camp varies considerably from country to country. Some countries do not mind wild campers, in other countries, it is prohibited. Obviously, if it is prohibited and you still wish to go ahead, you will need to find a place where you will be unlikely to be discovered, such as in a wood, well away from roads or signs of habitation ….or wait till dark to erect your tent and then take it down very early in the morning. We did this once, when desperate, in Germany.
In Hungary, wild camping is forbidden, but it is sometimes possible. Again, in Serbia it is also forbidden but we asked to stay in the gardens of hotels and sometimes this was possible, but not always, and occasionally we found it very difficult to find a place.
When cycling through Romania, we did wild camp frequently as there are almost no camp sites. However, we always preferred to camp near places where there would be people, to give us a sense of protection. On these occasions we would approach local people and ask if we could camp, and overwhelmingly we were welcomed. We camped on a public market place, near restaurants ,by an artist’s commune etc.
Cycling through Georgia and Armenia we often set up tent in very remote and beautiful mountain spots where no one was around at all. These are our fondest memories.
Always take your rubbish away and do not leave traces.
Cooking pots & cooker
As with our tents, we have gone through a process of fine-tuning our cooking kit. The key focus has been to reduce weight wherever possible and this basically meant buying a titanium cooker, titanium pots, titanium mugs & titanium sporks…. you guessed it, we love all things lightweight and titanium.
We bought the Evernew titanium 2 pot set & non-brand Chinese sporks on Ebay. We also use a “GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist” cooking set, comprising of one large pot & a set of 4 plastic bowls, with everything packing inside the pot. The cooker burner packs inside the Evernew titanium 2 pot set. All very compact in one of Tim’s rear pannier bags.
Our cooker is the Primus OmniLite Ti Multifuel cooker, this can use camping gas, paraffin and even petrol, although using petrol is somewhat scary, smelly & creates lots of black soot. Tim carries the paraffin in an old SIG water bottle on his third bottle rack that sits under the down tube, so as not to risk any paraffin leaking in the food pannier bag.
With this set-up we are able happily cook & feed the two of us at the end of a day’s cycle ride.
Food & Recipes on the road
One of the reasons that we choose to camp is that we like cooking our own food, for the following reasons…
- We are do not eat meat or chicken but we do eat fish
- Alysun avoids gluten in her diet
- We like spicy food, so we do fine eating out in India…. veggie & lovely spices
- It is a lot cheaper to cook, rather than eat out in restaurants
When we set out, we carry some food from home with us. This means that we do not shop on our first few days. We bring the following food items with us…
- Tins of sardines…. a staple lunchtime snack
- Instant Indian Poha (spicy flaked rice mix)
- Indian ready meal tarka dhal packets
- Basmati Rice
- Porridge or Oat granola cereal
- Gluten free snack bars
- Coffee & sugar (Tim’s morning kick-start)
- Tea bags…. enough for the whole trip for Alysun
- Dried milk (coffee mate) for Alysun’s tea
- Herb Tea bags
- Curry Powder
- Salt & pepper
- Small bottle of olive oil
On the road, we end up with a simple evening diet, defined by what we can easily cook on our camping stove & set of pots. Our aim is to eat some carbohydrate (rice or potato), some protein (beans, lentils, eggs or fish) and some fresh vegetables (depends where we are & what is available).
In more remote places, such as cycling through the Balkans or across the Caucasus Mountains, it is not always easy to find any good food shops (i.e. a supermarket). There are either no shop at all or very simple village stores that seem to dedicate 90% of the shelf space to sell, beer, vodka, cigarettes, biscuits & sweets. So we try to stock up with up to four days worth supplies of food staples such as tins of beans/lentils, rice, sardines, tuna, onions, garlic and any other “treats” when we find a town with a decent food store.
Buying fresh fruit & vegetables is more challenging, for instance, in some places we could only buy onions, tomatoes, peppers, aubergine & potatoes, so that is what we ate. Occasionally, we might be able to buy something green, such as beans or spinach leaf. Finding a street farmers’ market becomes a gastronomic delight, although there is a limited capacity to Tim’s pannier bag.
We tend to cook one pot of carbohydrate, usually rice or potato, with one pot of a tomato vegetable (pepper and/or aubergine) and tinned bean/lentil/tuna stew and if we are lucky, one pot of green vegetable. Often, this means eating this combination for days on end. A recent visit to a town supermarket or a farmers’ market might add some exciting variety to our meal.
The key thing is that we eat our fill at the end of the day & do not go to bed hungry.
Outside of Western Europe, we always carry a water filter. We use the Katadyn Hiker Pro that enables up to pump filter 5 to 10 litres every day (or more if needs be). As the filter is excellent Swiss quality, we can even draw water from steams, rivers or lakes, although we usually only filter tap or well water. We could buy bottled water (occasionally we have to), but then we would generate huge quantities of plastic waste adding to the massive problem of plastic litter that one finds across the world, particularly in India where there is very limited rubbish processing facilities.
If you only want a water bottle to drink from during the day, rather than wanting filtered water for cooking, then the Water-to-Go Filter Bottle is a useful water filter system for purifying tap water. Meanwhile, when cycling across hot & dry landscapes, you will need to pump at least 2 extra litres of water to see you through the day. Remember, some landscapes are big empty places with not many sources of water, so always make sure that you carry sufficient water and fill-up when you have the opportunity to. One useful tip to remember is that one can almost always find water in a cemetery or a mosque.