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campAs an avid camper with four kids that also don’t complain too much about living in a canvas sack with 200 new friends, I always get a little bit excited at showtime. Website.

As far as innovation and advances go in the world of camp; the show certainly did not disappoint. There was an abundance of tents using the highly fashionable Air-Beam system; this is the current big thing – instead of poles, tents have a tough innertube sewn into the fabric which is inflated with a pump or compressor.

This has shown itself to be quicker and simpler than threading poles through nylon tunnels and has other advantages especially during everybody’s favourite windy erection days – take that sentence wherever you like.

Coleman Valdes

 

 

Air beams are not likely to get punctured as long as you pack correctly, but there is a cost, weight and bulk premium, expect to pay at least double the price of a similarly specced pole-mounted tent, and carry up to 50% more mass.


My favourite of the hundreds on display was the Coleman Valdes 6 which at £750 or so looks like very good value compared to other manufacturers and features blackout bedrooms – a must have with a young family tent. We are hoping to be reviewing this tent as soon as the weather allows…

 

If you are looking for somewhere to use your new tent you could do a lot worse than to book a stay at South Lytchett Manor Campsite. 

This large and well developed site still puts the environment at the core of its business – They are multiple environment award winners (although no Green Apples yet…) They proudly display their Green Tourism Gold, Enjoy England 5-star status and AA Campsite of the Year Overall Winner 2016 status for all to see that they value and respect their location in the stunning Dorset countryside.

SLMLytchett Manor is a family run site of some 20 acres of parkland operated by the Bridgen family. I met Joanne Bridgen at the show and was immediately struck by her passion and appreciation of environmental issues in the tourism industry, but they are not offering a hippy retreat in the woods – their site is right up to date with glamping in spacious and well equipped Romany Caravans, play areas, cycle hire, fishing and great dining in a traditional pub. We hope to review the site in more detail in the near future…

There are of course other ways the keen camper can minimise their impact. I have been on the lookout for a sensibly priced but practical solar charging station that would suit campers, and I think I may have found it – for once, wifey will be glad she brought Hubi along for the holiday…hubi

Hubi is a solar charging station with a decent 5 or 20 watt solar panel with a 20 year guarantee and a Lithium battery pack including USB and 12V ports for multiple uses. They offer two sizes at either 2Ah or 10Ah priced around £99 and £190 respectively.

They can power and run anything from a phone to a shower and included in the pack are two very efficient LED lights. There is a range of accessories available including a high-efficiency fan which is ideal if your dog camps with you.

If you have ever run your car battery flat you will appreciate the benefits this unit offers. We hope to test the HUBi “in the field” quite soon…

asbikesAnother growth industry in the camping environment is battery-assisted fold-up bikes. There is a mind boggling array of options available from the top marques and chinese importers – you can expect to pay anything from £250 to near £10,000 but with such choice it makes sense to seek advice from a company that knows the industry inside out.


To get your mind unboggled A.S. Bikes have been trading for over 15 years and have cherry-picked the best balance between value and performance in their own Electrobike range. They offer three folding models using the same well-proven power system. All feature practicality of design and proven reliable components as well as an impressive 60-100 mile assisted range from the battery. We are of course going to try to arrange a test of their machines. 

The show on the whole was the essential and well-run affair it has always been. There is so much to see and do from watching dog-agility to music through to choosing your next £100,000 mobile home. Clothing bargains from Regatta, Weird Fish and many more were plentiful as well as a great selection of accessories.

Security is a rising concern for campers and there was an abundance of tracking and portable CCTV systems at very reasonable prices on display. If you don’t make it to this show there is the end-of-season event at the NEC, 11th-16th October so start saving as that is where the real bargains are.

words – Mark Wolens   pics – copyright of the owner