I’ve no doubt there are campers out there who’ve spent many more nights in a Tentipi than us. Straight away I can think of a lady who enjoyed a whole winter pitched close to Ullswater in the English Lake District. She may still be there. But I do wonder whether many have pitched and struck one so often.
After camping in our Safir in twelve countries, with whole summers spent away, yet rarely spending more than a single night in one place, we have put our tipi up and taken it down quite a few times. Those campsites, nearly all of them wild, have been pretty varied too. From the Mediterranean coast to 70° North in Arctic Norway, from Spain to Croatia and from Finland to Wales, we’ve knocked pegs into soft dry sand, semi-bog, snow, permafrost tundra and glacial gravels. Just occasionally we’ve even encountered soft turf. We’ve lived in our Tentipi in the still of a prolonged 30°C heatwave, in deep frost, and in winds nudging storm force 11. I think we have its measure.
So when asked recently what I would do if our Safir were lost, my answer was immediate – save up and buy another. It’s as simple as that. While I might love our Terra Nova Quasar for those high altitude campsites reached on foot, and a tarp will do at lower levels, especially in good weather, if I was going to put anything other than our current Tentipi into our canoe, it would be an identical tent. Even down to the size.
When Susannah and I first contemplated a Tentipi, we looked initially at one of the 5s. There are only two of us after all. But if you’re going to reap the full benefit of a canoe’s inherent tent lugging ability, why not aim for as much shelter space a possible.
So what about a 9? Well all I can say is had we envisaged camping predominantly on formal sites, with plenty of room guaranteed, then the 9 would have been great. As it is, I can think of repeated occasions, faced with trees, scrub, tumbled riverbanks and sloping lake shores, where it would have been impossible to pitch anything larger than our 7. It really has turned out to be the ideal size for us.
Admittedly, the cost of purchasing a replacement would be rather alarming, and I’m very glad I bought ours while I had a well-paid job, but then, as with so many things, it’s all relative. I can say without hesitation that the conditions faced by our tent would have destroyed anything much cheaper long ago. And while I can think of a handful manufacturers whose tents would certainly have stayed the pace, these wouldn’t have been much cheaper anyway, and probably less than a third the size.
Chances are, they would have been trickier to use too. Tentipi claim you can pitch one of their expedition tents in three minutes. My verdict is that this is absolutely true… on perfect ground, and with everything laid out ready to go. Yet even on a shingle bank, in a stiff breeze, with a drop close on one side falling steep to a busy river, I can still pitch ours in less than five, on my own. Try doing that with almost any other shelter, let alone one of this scale.
Some will find the separate groundsheet rather odd, but then I grew up with arrangements like this. And I like them too. With all that room, it’s good, especially in bad weather to have an area under cover where you can wander in with wet and muddy boots on. Firewood can be stored on bare ground too. In fact, all sorts of wet, dirty, spiky things you wouldn’t want on your groundsheet can still be stored inside, simply by folding an edge back.
One of those things is a stove. Many tents can take a wood-burner of course, but few with the ease of a Tentipi. Being designed from the start for just this eventuality certainly helps, not least the ability to ventilate the shelter properly while in use. In many ways, Susannah and I enjoy the dryness offered by a stove as much as the heat. The ability to escape the damp, and remove moisture from rain-drenched clothing, is invaluable in an area of the world as soggy as north-west Europe. But then that warmth can be pretty important too, especially when temperatures really drop. We’ve not yet used ours way up north in winter, but Scotland is often pretty chilly, and we’ve greeted four New Years under Tentipi canvas up there. Camped once in snow, and finding I had thermometer stored in a bag, I was surprised to discover it was minus 16°C outside, and a toasty 25°C within our stove-enhanced temporary home.
But back to that campsite, where I was asked that question about potential replacements. It was a Tentipi Camp, the third run by Lesley and Pete Carol of ProAdventure in Llangollen. Other than the odd show we attend, where I give talks or offer outdoor tuition, this is the only time our tipi has seen a formal campsite. It did look grand though, surrounded by unaccustomed neighbours. There must have been thirty or more Tentipis scattered along the banks of the Welsh Dee, from the Olivin 2 to lofty Safir 15s. It was here I realised how pale our tipi had become, bleached by Scottish drizzle and Swedish 24 hour summer sun. Not that I could spot any other sign of its rather eventful life.