We trudged through hop field after hop field, along shady lanes and even a bit along the road. Barely noticing our surroundings and wrapped up in our conversation – a conversation that had been going for several hours now. Frequent breaks, hidden stashes of sweets, Special Brew and Benson & Hedges. A burning hot day and progress was slow. So slow that we were pulled out and transported to the campsite.
Seeking a spot away from the other troops, we found a nice spot in the far corner of the site, at the bottom of a slope with a stream running nearby. The tents went up in moments, so much timed practice we’d had on our regular weekday meets. Dinner was a Vesta curry cooked (I use the term loosely) on a Trangia, the entertainment consisted mostly of annoying passing girls and scientific experiments to determine the burning point of bog roll, and to assess its capabilities as a fuse to light low-hanging branches.
The next day was another hot one and the pattern repeated itself. On one rest James decided to change into shorts, effecting the switch by the simple expedient of cutting off the lower parts of his trousers. To do this day, I still wonder what his mother had to say about that.
Another time, we were camped at the local site and it was January with snow on the ground. Reports of a -11°C night and we were sleeping out with little in the way of ground insulation and with summer sleeping bags and just the memories of yet another Vesta curry to keep us warm. The damage undone in the morning with some rather good dehydrated raisin porridge that I still wish I was able to replicate. Such are the adventures of youth, and in particular Scouting in the 80’s.
I was a latecomer to Scouts, and although I’d been in Cubs and moved up when the time came, found it wasn’t to my taste, largely because of the relative sizes of me and the older boys and the somewhat rough nature of the games. This all changed when I was 14 or 15 and a chance conversation my Dad had with someone connected with my old group saw me join them for a night hike, a loaned rucksack carrying hastily assembled gear. I seem to recall we never made it all the way to the end of that walk either. Maybe this is where the pattern started…
In any case, I enjoyed the experience and joined them more formally, throwing myself into it. After all, I was now one of the bigger boys and tended to come out a lot better in the horseplay. 3 weeks later I was an Assistant Patrol Leader, but never made the next rank due to all that time I lost. Never mind, in my 18 months of so of Scouting I tried to make up for lost time, going on all of the camps and hikes I could. The memory of those happy times enabled me to carry on with the odd hike through university and beyond, although these were admittedly largely Sunday pub lunch walks. This experience saw me up Helvellyn in the summer of 1992 with the soon to be Mrs Hillplodder. We even went camping once. And then it all died. Nothing for 13 years.
What is the relevance of all of this looking back, I can almost hear people asking ? Well, when we backpacked and camped during those long-gone days, we were using new ultralight tents called Ultimate Peapods. Awesome futuristic things they looked too when compared with the traditional old canvas patrol tents (which were definitely not made for backpacking with!). Once I got back into backpacking and started to develop a penchant for collecting tents, I swore to myself that if ever I found one of these long-past shelters, I would buy it and help the memories to flood back.
Well, just before I went on the TGO Challenge, someone was getting rid of a relatively unused Peapod and I leapt at the chance. I took it on the recent Peak District meetup and it performed great at the campsite, shrugging off the overnight rain with ease, despite some concerns on my part about the residual waterproofness of the 30-year old fabric. At 2.4kg, it was a bit heavy to consider taking on the wildcamp I did on the Sunday night, and with the conditions uncertain weather-wise, it was probably right to let her sit that one out.
The tent came with its original bag, and what seems to be the original guys too. These are a bit meagre and I found they slipped on the runners quite easily. So when I got home and put the tent up in the garden to air and dry, I also took the opportunity to swap out the thin white guys for some in my signature 3″ orange cord. While I was at it, I added some zip pullers in the matching 2mm cord and finished my tweak to the foot end inner tethering – a length of shock cord each side pulls out to use the same stake as the tail guys now. Similarly, the staking points for the front of the inner have now been secured with cord to the same stake as the front pole. This helps reduce the number of pegs to stake the tent out completely to 16.
I’m probably going to give her some waterproofing treatment before I take her out anywhere exciting, and then she’ll be ready. But she’s 30 years old so it will be a gentle retirement and she won’t get overtaxed.
Such is the power of nostalgia. I think I even got away with retribution from Mrs Hillplodder for buying another tent 🙂