Quechua 2 Man Pop-Up Blackout Tent - 2 Seconds 2XL
One of the joys of being a leader in scouting is that you rarely have to justify buying yet another tent either for yourself or your young people or maybe even your own family. It's just understood by most that you can never have enough tents. In my twenty years as a leader I've managed to convince others that we need patrol tents ("ours are so old"), then troop tents ("we need built in groundsheets"), then a fire shelter (that isn't really a tent but we had nowhere to shelter apart from when we were asleep), then a mess tent ("fire shelter's too small"). Now I'm coveting a large tepee. Then we bought some tiny expedition tents ("we can't go hiking with the troop tents.") As for myself I aimed high from the start and secured a Vango Force Ten that I love and that is still going strong. There is, however, one small problem.
Early on I soon realised that what one expects to happen when one arrives at a campsite with the scouts, and what actually happens are poles apart. I imagined giving the scouts the troop tent with the simple instruction to "put it up." I would then be able to have a relaxed twenty minutes or so putting up my Force Ten before putting the kettle on and having a nice sit down whilst the scouts sorted out their sleeping bags and other camp necessities that were nestling in their rucksacks. How could I have been so wrong? On my first camp I was reminded of those riddles that go along the lines of, "How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?" only I was presented with, "How many scouts does it take to put up a patrol tent?" Answer: Fifteen - Two to wander off to find the toilet and not return until the tent is up by which time they need to go to the toilet again, two to decide to go off wooding and not come back for at least an hour, returning with no more than a couple of twigs, two to go and help one of the other groups because, "they look more in need," two to stand so still I think they've seen a ghost, one to wonder round swinging a mallet and whacking everything in sight apart from a tent peg, two to crawl under the canvas as soon as it's laid out in order to claim their berth and four to do all the work albeit extremely slowly. They need constant cajoling and metaphorical caressing, encouraging them every couple of minutes. It takes them so long that by the time they've finished they are starving and I have yet to start on the mess tent. With all hands to the pump it goes up with a certain degree of competence and then the kitchen needs to be assembled, the tables positioned, the benches arranged, the tables rearranged before food, wide game, hot chocolate and a story. The young people are finally in their tents if not asleep, it's about one o'clock in the morning, I seem to have contracted a headache because I haven't drunk nearly enough and the problem is the Force Ten is still in its orange canvas sack in the corner of the mess tent. I stare at it and silently wonder if I can - for just one night - unroll my sleeping bag and sleep in the mess tent on a table next to the still warm gas stove. It was time for a rethink.
By the next camp I had bought myself a one-man pop up tent. After the Force Ten no one was going to buy me another tent for a while. By now I had progressed from a roll mat to a blow up mattress. The tent popped up perfectly. I took it out of its bag and removed the elasticated restraining strap before wondering whether I needed to read the instructions. It was too late. With no warning the tent uncurled, literally popped up and out as I let go in shock. It landed one second later just ever-so-slightly curled up at either end on the ground. I unzipped the door and climbed in. I'm not going to complain - it did its job - but the mattress was too long for it, it was only single skin so was quite cold and I awoke at four in the morning bathed in so much light I could have got my book out and had a read. The groundsheet was freezing and when I suddenly had an attack of cramp in one leg I tried to stand up then sit up before attempting a spot of self-massage with a ferocity and speed that I have only ever seen matched by physios on the pitch at Premier League football matches. A further rethink was required.
As so often happens the answer came courtesy of another leader. Back with my Force Ten I was pouring out my troubles to my good friend Polish (as in the stuff for shoes not the nationality, but even then I don't know why) who invited me on a tour of his latest acquisition - a Quechua 2 Man Pop-Up Blackout Tent - 2 Seconds 2XL.
A two-man tent for a one-man person is a good start. I asked if he minded if I had a quick lie down. I then asked if I could zip myself in. With a length excluding the porch area of seven feet there was more than enough room for me and my mattress. It had a solid-enough ground sheet but what was unusual about it was that the inner wall material was black! The manufacturers claim ninety-nine percent darkness even in broad daylight. That would be good enough for me. The only light that was seeping in was through the two little ventilation panels. I could sit up in it and as it was double-skinned it should hold the warmth well. "Can I sleep in it tonight?" I asked Polish. "No," he replied a little too firmly for my liking.
When I awoke in the morning and was just about to start on putting down my Force Ten, Polish called me over. He crawled inside his tent and came out holding onto a clip that was attached to the back of the tent. Pulling on this clip flattens the tent into four circles. He then pulled on a strap that twisted and folded the four into eight and popped it into its bag. I was very impressed. I went out the next day and bought myself one.
I will use the Force Ten again - it will withstand, presumably, a force ten whilst the Quechua is "only" resistant to up to a force six but for space, speed of erection (two seconds is acceptable compared to my one second one-man pop up), but most of all for being pitch black when it's light outside at four in the morning you cannot beat it.
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