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Touring With Car And Tent

Touring is about adventure, mobility and flexibility. On the road and on site. Adapting plans and going with the flow. ‘Do not take any more than is absolutely necessary’ is sound advice for happy touring. I read it in an old copy of ‘The Scout’ magazine many years ago and took it to heart. It’s been my motto ever since. Young or old, couples can easily trim back on the gear carried, explore further and enjoy new experiences every day.

Themes can vary from castles to mountains or, perhaps, none at all except freedom from everyday care. Getting to know a new country, a new region or a succession of towns and villages. The only limit is your imagination.

There’s no need to compromise on comfort when picking and packing though you may need to adapt old habits. It takes a different mind-set to enjoy a busy day, find a site, pitch your tent, have a shower and head off out again knowing you’ll be moving on in the morning.

Real freedom comes when packing the car with a fairly lightweight tent and camping gear. Not as light as backpacking as the car can take a much heavier load than I can carry. And certainly not the full weight and bulk of all the gear that is so easy to acquire and hard to lug around. That’s especially true when driving a small car.

No sensible person wants to spend loads of time and energy in pitching a tent, sorting the camp and generally getting organised each evening to then pack it up the next day, move on and repeat the process later in the afternoon. Far better to be set up in minutes and then get out and about exploring.

The key is to reach a compromise between weight, bulk, effort and ease of packing on the one hand and comfort on the other. So, for me, it means a small table and simple chairs rather than the ‘basecamp’ furniture used for fixed site holidays of several days. Light, low bulk sleeping bags and self-inflating sleep mats rather than heavy airbeds and chunky bags.

A simple stove that can be used, moved easily and doesn’t need a ‘camp kitchen’ is a must. Alternatively, you might want to reconsider usual practice and eat out in cafes and pubs with only a small stove for brews and basic ‘kitchen’ gear for sandwiches and snacks. I like a tent that can be picked up without getting a hernia and is pitched quickly. A porch of sorts is useful for cooking and eating and a windbreak offers extra privacy.

Lightweight touring means you’ll probably need only one tough box for lantern, stove, cooking and eating gear, another for foodstuff and a coolbox. That should all fit easily in a small boot. With the back seat loaded with soft bags for clothing, tent, sleeping gear plus small table and couple of lightweight folding chairs, you’re good to go. I always aim to secure the load by creative use of the seat belts. A roof box will swallow loads of stuff but line it yourself with plastic to ensure the load stays dry.

Keep on truckin’

Who would want to wait for roadside assistance to fix a simple problem? Be prepared for roadside car problems with an emergency pack. You can avoid the expense of a pre-packed kit by pulling together your own. It’s sensible to carry the stuff below and to take the time to learn how to change a light bulb or fuse. Some of it could be described as ’emergency kit’ but it’s actually everyday stuff really.

  • Warning triangle – needs to be sturdy enough not to blow over when heavy wagons roar past; a weighted sock helps.
  • Bright fluorescent reflective vest – makes excellent sense, especially if you are changing an offside tyre at the roadside.
  • Fire extinguisher – every home/car/tent should have one.
  • Spare fuses – sometimes, a simply changing a blown fuse can have you on your way in minutes.
  • Spare light bulbs – another easy way to sort a potential problem.
  • First aid kit.
  • Jump leads – useful on site when the coolbox is left plugged in and drains the battery. After a flat battery on an overnight ferry to Europe, I now stick a reminder on the dashboard.
  • Torch –one with a long lead that draws power from a car accessory socket means there is no need to worry about dead batteries when you really a light source.

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