New projects!

Sorry I’ve been somewhat uncommunicative lately; I’ve had a fair bit on my plate & couldn’t find any time or head-space for writing. But in the meantime I’ve been busy on the recycling/reinventing front: I’m going Glamping on a Shoestring!

I’m old enough to remember camping under canvas. Not family holidays; my dear Mama would die rather than go camping! But Girl Guide trips into the deepest darkest Devonian countryside, sleeping under canvas in blue ridge-tents, with a big white marquee to gather in on rainy days; evenings spent around the campfire, under the trees or on the beach and no access to anything electrical at all! And in my late teens, camping, hiking & canoeing in the wilder parts of Wales & Scotland, often (strangely enough) pitching up in pub gardens & other out-of-the-way spots. So when our kids came along, and several of them proved to be as sunburn-prone & heat-resistant as my dear husband, investing in a tent & camping gear rather than heading straight for the Costas seemed to be the best way forward.

And we did invest; we researched thoroughly & bought what seemed to be the best possible tents etc. for our situation, with the newest technology. And they certainly did last for more than one season; the oldest Khyam dome tent has only just bitten the dust, although we outgrew it fairly quickly. But more recent purchases have not proved as long-lasting, possibly because the younger users have got larger & more boisterous & often take them away without the benefit of parental supervision now. Also I’m no longer comfortable sleeping on the ground, after having had an early hip replacement, particularly not after working a 14-hour day. So as we head up towards the festival season again, I needed to replace some of the gear, and come up with new ways of coping – but on a shoestring. And I also wanted to recapture some of the magic of those long-ago days & nights under quiet, sturdy canvas, after too many nights of billowing, crackling rip-stop nylon, gap-toothed plastic zips & snapping, splintering carbon-fibre poles.

But my budget certainly doesn’t run to buying a bell-tent, lovely though they are. Or a camper van, which I must admit I’d love, though most modern ones seem to come with things like TVs, wardrobes and sound systems, which are the very things I want to get away from! And the running costs are (mostly) too high for them to be used as a second vehicle in regular use, and there isn’t room on the drive for a third vehicle. So I got to thinking, what could I find, make or make-do that might do the job and also delight my heart?

So Project Use-the-Car-as-a-Camper was born. There’s just enough room in the back of a Citroen C4 Grand Picasso for one shortish person to sleep in comfort; the rear seats all fold down flat, giving a 6′ length. We recently “did” the Vintage Nostalgia Show in Wiltshire as traders – lovely show, by the way! Highly recommended for vintage-style family fun – and I slept like a log, knowing that the rain wasn’t going to get in or the sides of the car fall in on me if yet another carbon-fibre pole snapped. I had an old self-inflating mattress and a small memory-foam topper, which was reasonably comfortable, plus sleeping bag, blanket & pillow, and was snug & warm as toast. I kept the morning daylight out by suspending an old dark-blue silk sari with safety-pins from elastic looped around the various protrusions round the top of the car; next time I’ll use a second loop around the door handles etc. to keep it tight to the car walls rather than dangling in my bedding. I’d previously invested in some IKEA Solvinden solar lamps, which give plenty of light for finding your way around, cleaning teeth & getting changed & can be recharged on your dashboard during the day so the battery’s not taking a battering whilst the car is stationary.

What didn’t work: getting changed was a bit of a nightmare with no head-room, particularly trying to get wellies on. And cooking on the tailgate was a bit more complicated than usual; I rolled my bed back out of the way but it wasn’t inclined to stay put! So I invested my profits from that show into buying a tailgate awning to run off the back of the car, which will give us cooking space & me a changing room when we do the next show, which is a 6-day run, with 3 of us camping. But that doesn’t even begin to recapture some of the magic of outdoor living that I remember…

So my next project is – Glamping-on-a-Shoestring! I have “borrowed” an idea from one of my fellow-traders, and bought a straightforward 3m canvas square with loops, which will be used (with guys) to make an outdoor living area; we already have some woven polyprop rugs, solar fairy lights, vintage camping chairs & tables to make it feel homely, and I wombled some tall steel poles from an elderly frame-tent to suspend it from. The tailgate awning and the girls’ two small tents will open into this, and I’ll pop a windbreak round the open sides. And thereby hangs another tale…

Our old windbreak is a bit too far gone to do the job. Somehow it’s shed two of its six poles, and developed several fairly-major holes. But luckily a friend had some spare wooden poles, and I’ve won some rather pretty canvas on Ebay. Now all I need to do is excavate my sewing machine from under the piles of random bits of stock awaiting assessment/repair/cleaning up/…

And although the self-inflating mattress/memory foam combo was comfy enough (if a bit slidey) I think I can do better. I’ve laid my hands on a feather sofa cushion, which is blissfully soft & warm whilst also being thick enough to work as a mini-mattress. I’m on the look-out for two or three more, so that I can literally rest in feather-bedded splendour, but have acquired enough smaller feather scatter cushions to make a mattress up if need be – time allowing!

So watch this space; there will be pictures! And don’t ask what I’m planning to do with the largish bits of canvas left over from the big old frame tent…

Tabitha & Tino like the idea of glamping…

6 thoughts on “New projects!

  1. spinningfishwife June 21, 2015 / 12:24 pm

    How about a trailer tent? This is mine…two double beds with mattresses, cotton canvas, fitted kitchen!

    I’m looking for a new home for it actually. Free to the right person! It would make a fine stall/shop type area at a festival as well, the front rolls up and you can keep the rear cabin private. Only downside is that we live up by Edinburgh, you’d need to be passing by in a car with a towball.

    • thriftwizard June 21, 2015 / 12:43 pm

      Ooooh, I would soooo love to give it a good home! Thank you for the offer, but sadly I’m nearly as far away from you as you can get going southwards (and I think a little east) in the UK, and don’t even have a towball fitted! Yet… My cousin’s son lives in Edinburgh, I wonder if he’d appreciate an Auntly visit?!

  2. spinningfishwife June 21, 2015 / 12:50 pm

    Well, if you feel the urge.. there’s a decent
    campsite locally, I could give you a lesson in how to put it up and you could have a wee holiday while you were here. 😉

    • thriftwizard June 21, 2015 / 4:52 pm

      Lovely though it would be, realistically there’s no way I can get up to you this summer & I don’t currently have anywhere to store a trailer. But it’s a magnificent offer, and very much appreciated!

  3. Tracy June 22, 2015 / 7:47 am

    Lovely post and very similar to what I have been thinking about. In fact I have been looking up camper vans to see what prices they are. I drive a Peugot partner van and was looking at it and reckon it is just the right size to put a mattress in. I also have a gazebo from the market and that wold make a good outdoor room. I just need to figure out my cooking facilities.

    • thriftwizard June 22, 2015 / 8:37 am

      Tracy, I know you’re a pro & your gazebo will be a good sturdy one, but check your guy ropes & pegs. Mine’s not the strongest (being an easy-up, for when I’m trading solo) & I wouldn’t trust it not to break in any serious wind, and the guy ropes & pegs are a complete joke – they wouldn’t stabilise a toy tent in the garden. It’s also too square – too many straight lines & corners for the wind to push against & catch in, for a fairly flimsy structure. It fits a 3m x 3m space exactly & keeps the rain out, but I’d sacrifice my pitch fee rather than trust it in a windy situation!

      The little “suitcase” single-ring burners are great for camp-cooking-lite, and that’s what I normally use on the tailgate; I’ll be taking two of them to the festival, along with a handful of spare gas cartridges. I didn’t replace the big two-ring-with-grill one when it died, as normally one of the little burners (and/or my Kelly Kettle) is enough for the little cooking I do when camping. But we’ll have our resident veggie with us this time, so extra facilities will be required!

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