Say goodbye to warm beer, midges and wetsuits snagged in trees. Say hello to inflatable tents, solar-powered slow cookers and tree hammocks. Here are the splash hits of our summer: 10 brilliant and completely inessential pieces of kit that make a camping weekend around swimming just that little bit better.
The Cobb ‘kitchen in a bag’ is an insanely good campsite cooker, elevating a day by the water from start to finish. The start: cooked breakfasts. The middle: the best thin-based pizzas ever, which save any rainy day (put any excess dough in afterwards to bake bread rolls for the next morning). The end: slap up dinners, whether you want to smoke a trout, roast a chicken or do a BBQ on the griddle. From £115-305. Find out more at Cobb.
A £39 “force-shield” that fishermen the world over swear by. This creates a “no-fly” zone that clear midges from within a 15-foot radius – you can watch the midges turn away from your invisible protective hub. We have spent a lot of half terms going half crazy camping with midges, somewhere near a beautiful swim spot. Currently performing brilliantly on test in Norway where midges can beat those in Scotland. Active ingredient Allethrin, a synthetic form of a chemical found naturally in chrysanthemums. Thermocell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller, £39, Go Outdoors.
It always takes too long to pack, and too long to get there. It no longer takes too long to pitch. New air pole technology or inflatable pole technology has drastically improved the efficiency of the rapid pitch tent. New Zealand brand Zempire are new on the block in the UK this summer, winning praise for their ability to stay stable in the wind. We can put this up in under 30 minutes, and love the privacy plastic – from inside we can see out, but others can’t see in, so no need for changing towels. From £900. Zempire UK.
Inflatable SUPs are the OSS Team wanna-have of the summer, and further testing on a longer board is underway. With two small children acting as stabilisers this 10′ 6 board has opened up a whole new way for my family (husband and two boys, five and six) to go on swim adventures together. On the Mawdacch estuary (pictured, route of the Hurly Burly) we explored ‘sinky island’. On the Avon back in Somerset the boys and their dad led up front (so no worries about running into barbed wire or rowing eights), jumping in and out of the water and swimming little stretches, while I swam on past dragonflies and rope swings. Packs up into a backpack, easy to blow up and take down, and not difficult to carry around. More experienced SUPers say it is stable on choppy waters and rides well in surf. Widely available to hire, or from £895 Red Paddle Co.
This portable mattress is a camping game changer, it’s plush comfort rivaling an actual bed. Has three layers – self-inflating mattress core, contour hugging foam and then machine washable fleece microfibre cover, which makes it easy to brush off pine needles or debris. Comfortable against the skin and under the body. Tried, tested, put on wedding gift lists. RRP£224 but bargains available on the internet.
Lightweight, the ENO double nest hammock comes with a compression sack and lightweight carabiners to enable you to enjoy “suspended comfort” wherever you go. Eagle Nest Outfitters (ENO) used to be parachute manufacturers before they aimed themselves at nomadic travellers: known for durability. Add a strap system for knot-free hanging. Now stocked in Go Outdoors, from £69. See ENO.
Is it essential to have 28 very cold cans on a swim-camp trip? Probably not. Was a lot of family joy created out of unfermented salad sandwiches and cold drinks on a lot of wet trips? Certainly. This unusual cool bag is made for adventures on and around the water – it has a special ‘aquaseal’ zip and waterproof fabric which makes it completely watertight (even on a paddle board). Hangs from a long strap, great for trips on or to the river and beach. £165 Red Originals
A 150L Monster DryBag turns out to be just the massive thing you might need for a swim-camp’s worth of duvets, dry bags or wetsuits. Welded watertight seams and a “generous inspection window” make these very handy – you can see the contents of the bag without opening it to the elements. At £23, also a great price, whether you use them for camping gear or storing out of season clothes and duvets. Lomo.
No one needs a £20 wetsuit hanger on a pully that can dangle from any tree or van… But it turned out to be so much handier and more adaptable than just a piece of rope, a branch or a standard coat hanger. Likely to go on adventures for the next 20 years, and who doesn’t love a longstanding relationship with a piece of kit that accrues the imprint of all the places travelled and places swum. £20, Finisterre.
Okay, we can’t review our own hoodies objectively, which is why they’re item 11 (bonus extra). But here’s why you should pack one anyway: (1) Unless you already live outdoors, it is always a surprise how cold it gets at night. (2) Whatever you think you want to wear before you pack, it’s pretty much always the same thing every day – and this cover up has a waffle hood for wet hair, thumbholes for post-swim comfort and is roomy and warm. Also worth taking: our hamman towels pack small and light, and dry themselves as fast as they dry you, so you don’t come home smelling slightly of mildew. Hoodies, £50. Hamman towels, £20. OSS Shop.
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