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Ireland, Camping and The Great Outdoors

The August Bank Holiday weekend is looming quicker that you might actually realise and there is a mild buzz in the air as suggestions and possible destinations are dissected, travel plans are made and lists of not to forgets are concocted and overly examined. Of course one could book into the El Fancy Dan hotel for some pampering and what not but in case you didn’t already know, it seems that camping in Ireland may just be the new rock und roll.

Mary….?! where did you leave the….. did you actually put the tent pegs in the car….? Well they should be there then, shouldn’t they….. shouldn’t they ?

camping irelandSome may shudder at the thought of the potential chilly night and the fact that the neighbours, now just two sheets away can hear every air movement and whisper. But unless you own the Partridge Family bus, there was and always will be an element of egg shell trampling with any family holiday. It is, with hindsight what makes them fond memories.

In favour of the properly roofed accommodation brigade is the reality that our hotel prices are cheaper than we have ever seen them before and most recently we have seen Irish Value Added Tax on restaurants dropped to nine per cent encouraging us all to eat out… well, in, if you know what I mean.

In the camping camp, it doesn’t bode so well as the media pundits continue to report the usual economic related tag-lines as potential reasons for the camping resurgence. But it is of them that use the RTE Prime Time misnomers, that I wonder. I wonder if they have ever actually camped, more than once. The naysayers aside, I personally wouldn’t swap cooking and sleeping Al Fresco for the world.

I almost forgot to add the fact that Irish weather is just a little unpredictable.

The reality is I’m proud to boast, that we do live in such a beautiful little country. But I’m still wondering why and what it is about this element of the Irish great outdoors that makes so many others want to sleep in a tent.

According to Camping Ireland, figures from the Central Statistics Office show Irish people made 309,000 camping trips at home in 2009. They also noted the Irish Caravan and Camping council who said that altogether, Irish people and foreign tourists spent 2.4 million nights on Irish campsites in 2009, contributing €96m to the local economy. And figures are rising….

But why, you may be asking, is the Dublin gardener yabbing on about camping in this weeks article.

Gardener. There. I said it. Gar-Den-Er. Gar-Den. Get back to the garden, ye big Donegan head the ball…..

There is a point where, lets say in cooking, were one must cross over into the gardeners world and at the very least understand where and how the food is produced, grown and developed. One must as some point, get their hands dirty, even be it just fresh herbs. From this gardeners perspective, I’ll go back to the reasons and thinking behind the non-gardeners group I set up two years ago.

How does one encourage the next generation to become interested in gardening….?

The answer, in part, is quite simple. Step one ? One needs for the people to be outside first. And there in lies the key. Because, when one goes camping one doesn’t stay inside the tent for forty days and forty nights. One is outside, in the great outdoors and one develops a feeling, almost an understanding, not of how all the elements work, more how to work in tandem with them.

That may sound a bit silly, but every male will tell you there is an art to picking the perfect place to pitch for the night. It is a primary trait, followed in no particular order by mans preprogrammed function to source food and water.

My wry wit aside, the last place I went camping in was sited just by Lough Ennell. Surrounded entirely by woodland and right beside a stunning lake. So picturesque, at the time in audio, I wondered if in fact it was the most beautiful place on earth. Eamonn O’Malley, the sites owner told me how after weekends he wanders through the woods to do the various checks and tidy-ups. He explained how visiting children and their imaginations rearrange minute segments of the woodland in such varying guises en route to making their own fun. He commented how, even with the advances in technology how the game consoles are so quickly forgotten.

In Lough Key, near Boyle in Co. Roscommon where I stayed last year the campsite was set within the forest. My friend George and his family travelled with mine and similar to, within hours of arrival the elder son [5] had laid and rearranged some branches and stumps now known as furniture. The invisible living room was of course where one went to listen to the invisible radio. On one occasion I forgot to use the door and walked through an invisible wall.

There is a point where gardening and camping meet and appreciation for what surrounds takes reign. The fruits of recently made elder flower champagne for example were tasted just this week and no longer I should admit do I see this plant as a weed. Quite the opposite. Three weeks ago, I was thought how to eat a nettle leaf and I in return explained how when my hair goes wavy it is based on the theories behind the old hydrometers. It is how I predict that it is going to rain.

For the next generation, the nations schools have seen gardening become part of their everyday playground, at home, community gardens are becoming as logic as a hall door and plant life is something we are all beginning to instinctively watch out for.

Wonderland n 1 an imaginary land of marvels or wonders. 2 an actual place of great or strange beauty

Outdoors n 2 the world outside or far away from buildings; the open air

More than that again, our children are being thought about biodiversity. A thinking that encourages one, in short, to leave piles of leaves and logs, to plant flowers and food to encourage bees, bats and bird life. It is a thinking that in any space allows an appreciation for the older, newer and the fallen members of the tree family. But, what if you were surrounded by it….

No matter how I describe and no matter how I enjoy it…. the great outdoors, in Ireland for me, is simply amazing. In my mind and in my eyes the only thing that changes is the size and shape of the garden, one in which I am privelidged to be allowed enjoy.

MSR PocketRocket™ & Titan™ Kettle

msr titan kettle pocket rocket

If ever there was a camping gadget essential I had to recommend to any type of outdoors enthusiast, the MSR [Mountain Safety Research] PocketRocket™  and Titan™  kettle that I bought maybe about 7 years ago is at the top of the list. Without question one of the best investments I have ever made.

I originally bought it when I used to travel Ireland a lot on my own. Put simply, it meant a cuppa whenever I felt like it and wherever. Since then the pocketrocket and titan™ kettle have been on every camping and great outdoors trip I’ve made. As a by the way, it says it’s a kettle… it’s also a big mug, a decent bowl and a small pot in one.

pocketrocket

Of recent years they were there when the electricity went and in a world gone festival where it’s a long way to your car and the coffee can be weak it’s even done Electric Picnic. For the size of it, you’d be surprised how many times it’s finished cooking the dinner when all of the shops are closed and one runs out of gas for the big stove. Of course it has also been road tested in the wilds whilst I was landscaping in Donegal when the cuppa was most welcome until the rains eased off.

The stats below tell a better story, but above all, it is tiny and pretty much unbreakable. The gas cannister fits in the kettle and the kettle fits in your pocket. I can’t remember how much they cost now – if anyone knows you might just leave a comment.

The PocketRocket stats:

  • weight: just 3 oz. (85 g),
  • dimensions: 4 x 2 x 2 in
  • output: Boils 1 liter of water < 3.5 minutes
  • Also: Tri-sectional Windclip wind shield protects flame. Glove friendly. No maintenance.

The PocketRocket stove tied with the MSR WhisperLite stove as Backpacker Magazine Readers’ choice for the best camping stove in 2005.

The Titan™ Kettle stats:

  • Ultralight titanium: Weighs just 4.2 oz. (118 g).
  • Compact: 0.85-liter capacity
  • Also: tight-fitting lid and drip-free spout for smooth, easy pouring.

Alpinist Magazine Mountain Standards pick 2005 for “the best gear available today.” Titan Cookware is so light it “feels like it’s not even in there when it’s in your pack.”

The reason why these two pieces of MSR kit are with me still today is pretty easy when you read the story of Neil Anderson, Jim Lea and John Burroughs that are Cascade Designs. There is nothing that I love more than a man who’s been there making something for a man who’s going there.

UPDATE:

I noted the video above on Facebook and tagged MSR, as one does. I got this email from MSR

Dear Peter Donegan,
I apologize, however Mountain Safety Research recently had to remove a video post that you added to our Facebook wall.  We really appreciate your enthusiasm for MSR products and for your participation, however we would remind you to review our instructions and warnings for your own safety when using any of our stove products:
All of our stoves are for outdoor use only and the PocketRocket instructions specifically state:

CARBON MONOXIDE HAZARD

  • This stove can produce carbon monoxide, which has no odor.
  • Using it in an enclosed space can kill you.
  • Never use this stove in an enclosed space such as a camper, tent, vestible, car, or home.

Thanks so much for using MSR products!

McKenzie Holden
Assistant to Corporate Counsel

CASCADE DESIGNS, INC www.cascadedesigns.com
MSR®  Therm-a-Rest®  SealLine®   Platypus®   Tracks®
INNOVATION   •   QUALITY   •   SERVICE   

msr titan kettle

5 Camping Essentials

camping

The Scouts motto when I was growing up was Bí Ullaimh – Be Prepared. Family camping is something very different and not really about pushing the barriers to the extreme. More than anything it’s about the adventure outdoors together. And if you go to the places I’ve been camping, you realise just how beautiful this country is and the stunning landscape that sits right on our doorstep. Lough Ennell was and is a prime example of that.

The following for me, are five camping essentials that pretty much make life in the great outdoors just that little bit easier. They also didn’t really warrant an entire blog post to themselves.

I hope this list helps. You can also leave a comment below if you think I’ve missed out on anything.

1. The Sealey Booster Pack

sealey booster pack

You may be a little surprised to see a booster pack, capable of jump starting my jeep as my no.1 but their is serious logic in this.

Away for a bank holiday weekend lets say, the car sits stationary whilst acting as a power source for kids torches, or very simply the car is nowhere near your tent….

The Sealey booster pack comes with a cigarette lighter socket, which means it can recharge torches, lamps and as you can see here telephones. It weighs a bit, so it may not be one for the festival camper. I think I paid over 100 euro’s for this one. They can be got cheaper in some supermarkets, but do so at your own peril. I’ve already recycled one of lesser quality.

Buy in any good motor factors.

2. Thermos Lunch Bag

thermos lunch bag

The Thermos lunch bag is the absolute bees knees.

Whenever I go camping the food for the day is made in advance and usually a mixture of cold salads and what not from the garden. The trouble with Irish weather is that it may well be great sunshine starting out, as the food cooks slowly in the back of the car – but when you get there and it’s raining and the kids are staaaaaarving…. The front pocket fits the knife, fork and spoon set and the lining is leak proof.

3. Double Action Hand Pump

camping pump

Once again the no battery rule applies here and sure no-one likes them old foot pumps. But this baby is a real piece of basic principled essential camping kit.

For me it will do an air bed [which I personally dislike] in around 3/4 minutes. But the other side is it doubles up as a bellows, that assuming your place of camping allows barbeque’s or/ and fires. Outside of that, it comes with every connection possible so great for arm bands, or anything inflatable for that matter. It also does the reverse and deflates. Others seem to like the fact that I also use it to gently blows spiders out of the tent without hurting them.

4. First Aid Kit

first aid kit

Not the most exciting bit of camping gear I’ll admit….but definitely of the most important.

I think I paid around €30 for this first aid kit. The big tip on this is to overstock on the large plasters. More than not it has been used by others that camped near me too many times. And please for your own sake, make sure it is the last thing you put in the car, next to the food. Which means it is also first out.

5. Stanley Flask

stanley durable flask

I bought this pretty much unbreakable Stanley flask around 3 years ago. It cost a few bob [about €30] but a bit like my booster pack above – I prefer to but once and buy well.

It is the coffee on arrival after the tent has gone up, but far more important, flasks keep things warm as well as cold and as happened June bank holiday weekend just gone when temperatures hit 25 Celsius plus, it meant there was milk – that hadn’t been cooked – for breakfast the next morning.  This extremely durable beauty comes with a 15 year warranty for good reason.

———–

NB: I have always tried to buy as local as possible. In this, I found it difficult to make this list from Irish made. If you do know of any do let me know or/ and leave a comment below.

That aside, I like the slogan over this camping store.

outdoor trek camping shop

Review: Coleman Canyon 6 Tent

coleman canyon 6

This is the Coleman Canyon 6 Tent. It is the tent that I have owned and used for the last two/ three years. The worst weather it has been tested in was last year when it hit about 3 degrees Celsius and pretty bad rain [I kept a maximum minimum thermometer inside the tent overnight]. The best weather was most probably June bank holiday weekend when temperatures exceeded 25 Celsius.

It’s a sturdy bit of kit that looks quite smart when put up. Of the two bedrooms one is large enough for maybe 4 small children or two adults quite comfortably. The smaller you will get two adults in, but it would be across the lesser width of the tent. It supposed to be a ‘6 man’ tent – I say four. Men.

coleman canyonThe problem with the Coleman Canyon 6 is the bit in the middle of the tent, assuming that it’s for a family and that it may rain [This is Ireland] as there really isn’t enough room for a small table, or anything in the middle.

Bottoms on the ground, the problem is that the ground sheet is at ground level and if pitched in the wrong place [or not] it is where the boots must come off and also were you may sit to eat. That said, it’s also quite easy to drop the lesser bedroom down leaving you with a fair bit of space.

On a slightly different note there are no windows in it. The doors must be open, as such to let light or air in whilst camping. However, one can open all four sides of the tent even with the bedrooms erect, this allowing a great draught run through in order to dry/ air before packing it away.

Outside of that the tent pegs that come as standard are really not enough to hold it down in gale like winds. One may chuckle at that, but try camping around Achill island on a fair day and you’ll know where I’m coming from. The answer, invest in really decent tent pegs for the guy ropes.

Time to put it up, one parent on his/ her own can be anything up to or over 35 minutes with a little bit of practice and I strongly urge you trial run erecting it before you go away. The poles in particular around the larger dome can be a bit tricky.

All the watch out fors aside, I like the Coleman Canyon 6 and camping is what it is. My rating score is 6/10. It drops points for the ergonomics of it really and the time to erect. That said I have been very happily camping in it for the last two years and would have no problem continuing to do so.

coleman canyon 6

The SodShow – July 1st 2011 – Dublin Garden Radio

The Sodshow Garden Podcast – every Friday – in iTunes, www.sodshow.com all good podcast stores.

The #Sodshow 18 – July 1st 2011 Friday Garden Radio on Dublin City Fm (mp3)

The SodShow – Fridays 3pm – 103.2 Dublin City Fm

Listen to The SodShow in MP3 – or – subscribe/ listen to the podcast in iTunes. Alternatively, subscribe to the blog and listen to them right here. Missed The SodShow June 24th 2011

Details on how to listen live below….

With thanks to this weeks guest

Listen Later:

Listen Live:

  • Tune in: 103.2fm on your radio dial if you are in the Dublin area
  • Listen online: every Friday 3pm just click t9.ie/SodShow
  • or: visit www.dublincityfm.ie and click the listen button
  • also: use the hashtag #SodShow

sodshow

Making Contact:

Thanks for listening 😉