Tent based camping often provides a challenge or two. Standing between comfort and discomfort is the tent, the ancillary camping equipment, and the immediate environment.
Camping grounds make camping easy as sites are grassed and the ground is level; and they are ideal for beginners to learn what it’s all about. But with a few trips under your belt and increasing confidence camping becomes a free wheeling adventure as the horizons widen.
In some of the places I fish, for instance, camping can be rugged. I've camped in cacti, prickles and burrs, and even a carpet of sheep or cow poo, as sometimes there’s simply no alternative.
To camp in one of these places comfortably first remove the worst of the debris (if possible), then place a large ground sheet on the ground. This provides a decent floor area under the tent and it's surprising much that ground cover will enhance the quality of the camping experience.
Setting up a tent on debris like stones and branches is also asking for trouble. Tent manufacturers usually make their floors as strong and long lasting as possible but even just one camping trip with a sharp item (or items!) under the floor can easily shorten the useful life of a tent floor. If there is rough stuff below that floor a ground sheet is smart thinking. Personally, I like to use shade cloth: it's cheap, ever lasting, and can easily be hosed off at home before the next trip.
Fortunately when putting together the Oztrail camp for this article there was no need for a ground sheet as we were blessed with level ground, nice short grass and the sort of river side ambience that adds to the experience.
I have selected Oztrail camping equipment gear that's going to provide years of service with the main emphasis on user friendliness, portability, how well the item does its job and how the chosen gear might fit into a family camping trip.
The concept in this instance was to set-up equipment for an extended stay rather than just a weekend or overnight set-up. There's a big tent, bedding including sleeping bags and air mattresses, a handy light or two, an icebox, a table, chairs and stove.
A complete set-up for either bush or beach.
There are around 30 tents in the Oztrail range, but I’ve selected the Elite Series Chalet 4 as an ideal, reasonably light and compact tent with all the features a family might require for their holiday. It packs into a bag 75x27x27cm, weighs 16kg and the two main rooms occupy an area 4.5m long and 2.4m wide. It’s a large, family size tent.
The Elite Chalet 4 is constructed from breathable 75 Denier fabric with extra fine insect proof mesh on all openings; sand flies are barred from this tent.
In essence there are three rooms comprising of a mini rear vestibule that could sleep a child or two, the main bedroom for parents on a double air mattress plus a front living room that would also sleep a couple of people or would be the ideal place to set up the kitchen during bad weather.
Both the rear vestibule plus the living room have all-of-end style, screened doors plus large full sized windows each side to allow ample ventilation during hot weather with rain deflecting outer surfaces for best weather proofing.
The Elite Chalet 4 is one of the ever-popular dome style tents: but I consider it uncomplicated to set up and once standing it certainly has a lot of room for a family to enjoy. But unlike some dome tents, this one has a full height of 2m and near vertical walls to avoid that annoying igloo effect, plus a strongly sewn in polyethylene floor. There's also a light hanger hook in the bedroom, a power inlet entry point, plus pockets in the walls near floor level for items that need to be kept handy during sleep time.
During hot weather ventilation is assured thanks to a unique floor level Ventura airflow system. The Elite Chalet 4 also has a weather proof fly over the main body of the tent for added weather protection.
Setting up the Elite Chalet 4 was made easy thanks to quite clear instructions but it's one of those undertakings that definitely will become easier with experience. Taking the tent from its bag and sorting out the various components as the tent was laid out took around five minutes. It took two of us about another 10 minutes to get the tent standing. That was a first time set-up; no doubt further set-ups would take substantially less time. But my advice is to always do a practice set-up with the tent at home to make sure you know how it all works before heading to the bush or beach.
First lay out the tent in the desired place. A set of easily connected paired cross braces snugged into sleeves over its roof on the fore/aft diagonal will then see it starting to stand upright. The Elite Chalet 4 also has side braces of very strong metal poles that connect to additional front and rear overhead cross pieces. Once the side braces are connected to the overhead cross pieces via easily identified plastic fittings the tent is definitely going to be standing upright. The metal brace poles on the sides also serve to keep the walls upright plus maintain the high roof of the unit.
All pole sections are snugged into upright pegs at ground level and I found it pretty easy to sort out which peg accommodated the respective brace pole. There's also a set of heavy-duty tabs on corners and middle extremities designed to take a metal tent peg to allow the unit to be connected to the ground in the usual manner.
The over fly goes on last and comes complete with doors to allow access to each opening on the main tent; the fly being connected by strong hooks that connect with the external frame work of the main tent. The ends of the fly can be zipped open and rolled up for maximum breeze flow or closed to keep out bad weather.
An awning can also be set-up over the front or rear door plus either of the side doors; a few poles are supplied for this purpose with additional ones also available.
This tent has some very useful features including all-round, heavy-duty zippers; a 20cm high side floor to keep out water; the door and window set-up that allows rolled up sections to be held into place with large lugs that easily clip into loops; an overhead hook for an electric light; heavy duty floors; plus more than adequate ventilation. The fact that there are three distinctive rooms allows ample space for kitchen separate and bedding areas. In all, the Oztrail Chalet 4 is a very useful tent for the beginner or old hand at camping.
Next month we will take a look at the remainder of the gear to complete our Oztrail campsite.Reads: 5818