Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wigwams, humpies and annexes, anything to keep the rain off!

One thing I've been trying to perfect in my travels is a shelter of some sort. I have a great tent, but only ever bother with it if I'm staying somewhere for more than a few nights, or I'm travelling with someone else (which hasn't happened in a looong time!). Usually I just opt to sleep in Red, I've got a neat and cosy set up in there, however, with not much headroom, I can't exactly live in there!

I've tried a few different setups using a good quality tarp, two annexe poles and a few guys. It does the job well, it keeps the sun and rain out, and gives me enough room to stand up to cook, and plenty of room to sit and read a book. The down sides to this setup are that it can be a bit cumbersome to setup on my own, I get there in the end, but it certainly isn't something I look forward to doing when I pull up. It's not particularly sturdy in strong winds, I know that it could be if I took the time to string out extra guy ropes and put springs or rubbers on all of them, but, well, how often have I ever done that? That takes time, and since more often than not it's getting dark when I pull up somewhere, it's time I'd rather spend cooking dinner! The other problem, is that it's not free standing. The end of the tarp is draped across the back of the car, so were I to drive away, the whole thing would come crashing down. Most times when I stake a spot Big Red stays there for the duration and Zeke and I walk everywhere we have to go, but sometimes it would be nice to go exploring in Red, knowing that our camp spot will still be there when we get back.

So, what do I want in a shelter? Quick setup, easy pull-down, sturdy in fairly high winds, waterproof, and free standing. That's not too much to ask, is it?

I've been having a few great chats with Dad about this conundrum, picking his brains, taking advantage of his years of experience outback, learning by trial and error. Before the last trip to the Flinders, I had considered changing the tarp out for some shade cloth, thinking that it would create a shady shelter, but not trap the heat like a tarp does. I was advised against this (very, very clever) idea and was told that if I do that, I WILL GET BURNT! So, it looks like solid materials are still best for shelters, admittedly, there is enough through-ventilation in my tarp setup for the heat to not be a worry anyway.

An almost ideal setup is the Oz Tent (or, 'the 30 second tent'). They're free standing, made of heavy duty materials and the modular designs mean you can add or remove sections to tailor them to your needs. The drawback, well, apart from being ridiculously expensive (to a solo weekend traveller like myself anyway), they are also quite bulky. you either need to buy their roof top storage system, or sacrifice a big chunk of storage space, which in my case, would most likely be my bed, which could be a little inconvenient if I just need a quick nap on the road to my destinaion.

Wild Country (stocked through Rays Outdoors) make a neat looking, semi-freestanding 4WD annexe, it would seem the only downside was trying to find one! Since I first spotted them on Rays website, they've either been listed as 'none in stock', or missing from the page altogether. A few weeks ago Rays had a sale, the annexe was listed in the magazine for a bargain $48! Even though the website still said they were out of stock, I thought I'd take my chances popping up to a local store that evening (I love Rays, they close late EVERY night!). I found three tucked away in a back corner, but none set up, and no time to ask to put one up since it was almost closing time. I asked about their return policy, thinking that I could take it home, set it up just to measure it up against Red and see if it would even suit my purposes, and still have the option to return it if it didn't. Unfortunately they have a 'no returns' policy on tents. Damn! I had to think about it for a bit, but in the end decided that $48 wasn't that much to throw away on a 'maybe', especially since the next tarp I had been looking at was going to set my back around $75, and that was an even bigger maybe.

Although only advertised as a wind & shade shelter on the website, the documentation that came with it says that it is actually waterproof. I'm heading up to Corowa next weekend for the Queens Birthday holiday, I'll post back a report on how it went and whether I'll be hanging on to it, or ebaying it and getting that bigger tarp after all.

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