When I went to Budapest I spent an extra day ‘bunged up’ in the hotel. When I was feeling better I took a walk across the road to the famous cave church. I love visiting places like this – and when I was still feeling under the weather the quiet time and reflection really helped.
On the way out the gentleman who was looking after the place noticed I wasn’t a local and asked where I’d come from. I told him my story – a short run out from the UK on my motorbike – I’d hardly finished the sentence before he was digging around in a pile of pendants… he gave me a St Christopher and told me to take it home to my local church and ask my priest to bless it.
Click to read the full prayer
This is the prayer that the vicar at Bledlow wrote for me – we said it together with Catherine last night. I think it’s beautiful and it will come with me on all my travels. I hope you have something that you can carry next to your heart on your travels, something that gives you faith that the road ahead will not be too dangerous, that the people you meet will be kind and friendly and that your motorbike hangs together just long enough to get you around the world.
My Travellers Prayer Written for me by our vicar, Jennifer Locke.
Heavenly Father, we ask for your blessing upon this emblem of your saint, Christopher, holy patron of travellers.
May Matthew travel consciously with Christ as his companion.
Give him wisdom that he may travel prudently and with due regard to the safety and customs of others he may meet on his way.
Give him the awareness to perceive in the beauty of nature a reflection of your glory.
Still his heart that he may be at peace with your world and your people and reflect your light to those who have not yet come to know you.
As Matthew wears this emblem, may it be a reminder to him that you are there to protect and guide him in his going out and his coming in.
Buying a new tent can be incredibly difficult. There are so many choices out there that it can be very confusing if you don’t know what to look for. As the northern hemisphere heads into spring, and camping becomes a comfortable alternative to the B&B again I wanted to share some tips on how to chose a good tent.
I made a little video about choosing a tent which you can watch at the bottom of this post, or over on YouTube.
1. How far from help are you?
Before you decide how much you want to spend, work out why you’re buying the tent and how far away from shelter you are. If for example you’re travelling in a Land Rover, then your tent – whilst being your primary shelter – is not as important as it is if you’re camping 10 miles from anything else on your own. Ask yourself, how near shelter am I if the tent fails? The further from help, the more you want to spend, and the more consideration needs to be taken.
2 . Materials
Simple enough, do some research on what materials work best in which senario. Are you going to be spending time in the desert? What about rain? A good tent for northern Europe, may not be the best bet for the hot climbs of central Afrrica. A swag bag works wonderfully in the dry conditions of Australia, but is simply not suited to a wet trip in Canada.
3. Size, weight and dimensions
Are you carrying the tent on your back, on the back of a motorcycle or in a car? If you’re carrying a tent you’ll need to explore high-tech options with suppliers like Exped and Tatonka. Both companies offer options with light-weight short poles and highly compressible materials – ideal for hiking and the motorbike.
If you’re in the car you have a greater range of options – consider a tent that goes up in seconds from Quecha or something designed to fold out from your vehicle in a few simple steps from people like Oz Tent.
You’ll be amazed how many tents don’t come with the essentials. Make sure you have:
Ground sheet / footprint
Good quality pegs
Strong poles / pole repair kit
Material repair kit (for fixing holes)
The ground sheet will really help with keeping condensation to a minimum – they also act as a barrier between the cold ground and your butt, but most importantly they protect the material of your tents bottom from sharp stones on rough ground. A good ground sheet means you can keep your ventilation vents open in most weathers.
Pegs are so important – many tents ship with really weak simple pegs that will not drive into hard ground and have no grip in soft ground. Try a v shaped titanium peg from people like Alpine Kit – they don’t have to be expensive! Make sure you drive the peg in at a 45 degree angle.
There are really three major tent designs. Geodysic, dome and tunnel. Depending on what type of camping your doing you’ll need to consider the different types.
Tunnel tents generally pack up very small, they also tend to have very short poles and are quite often very easy to erect. They do however require some thought when pitching – they can be badly affected by wind and you should try to pitch with the front or back facing into the wind – if you get caught side on in a gale it can not only end in a very noisy night- but can also bend the shape of the tent inwards, affecting it’s thermal capabilities and how much rain it can deal with. This is the type of tent that it is really important to buy the best of – money really does have an impact here and the more you spend generally gives you a very sturdy, tough option with all of the benefits.
Dome tents tend to be the cheapest option. You’ll see them in the supermarket for very little cash and for many applications are the ideal option. Their pack size is small, they generally only have two poles and can be purchased as an inside up first option or a fly up first option. In wetter climates the outer (fly) up first option is ideal, but in dryer hoter climbs you’ll find the option of being able to pitch the inner tent without the outer ideal – it keeps the bugs off, and lets the heat escape more efficiently.
Geodesic tents can be rather complicated to erect – but once you’ve worked out the knack they are without doubt the most stable shelters around. They tend to be more expensive and they’re what you’ll see the professional expeditions using as they head out into the great wilderness. They deal with very bad weather well, will see a gale through with hardly a twitter, these are the best options to ensure you’re safe and snug inside.
Finally I’ll come back to that first tip when choosing your tent – remember that it’s your primary shelter – if you can sleep somewhere else if it flys away or gets soaked through then don’t stress it – if you HAVE to get a good, warm, dry nights sleep then spend some money.
The best place to start is with a reputable supplier – I recommend Travel Dri-Plus – call and ask for Les – he’s the most knowledgeable person I have ever talked to about tents – if he doesn’t know it – it’s not worth knowing about.
Since I’ve been bombing around the world my Casio Exilm Z850 has been a constant companion. I rate it really highly (must write a review soon) – it’s constantly dropped from the height of my motorcycle tank bag, it’s been soaked by sea-water on at least two occasions and still it ‘just gets on with it’ and takes photographs that when I got the camera I thought were awesome and now, think are pretty good.
Some background – when I was in school I desperately wanted to be a Photo Journalist – I worked for the local paper for free and I badgered my Dad until he bought me an Olympus OM-10 from the local second hand stor
e – complete with ‘manual adaptor’. It had a light metre inside but other than that I was totally on my own. After months of paper-rounds and being paid to take my friends band photos I managed to scrape enough money to ‘upgrade’ the the Olympus OM-2n .
It made a big difference to my shots, as did the purchase of a 2x adaptor and, at great expense, a 75mm Olympus lens. I held onto the dream of becoming a Photo Journalist right through my engineering apprenticeship (where the camera managed to earn me some money on the side in Caerphilly town centre of a Saturday morning) and right into University in Swansea, where finally, the dream died and I sold the camera for much needed rent money.
Since then I’ve had a succession of crap compact cameras that just didn’t cut the mustard. The Casio has rather re-ignited that old desire to take wonderful photographs and I find myself slipping it into manual as much as the fully automatic settings – I’ve even bought an old Konica Minolta 35mm SLR to mess around with (it’s been out of the bag once).
My composition needs a little work , I need to get my head out of snapshot mode, but I feel the old juices still flow and can’t wait to get back into thinking through a shot properly before I take it. So now the tough part – I need a new camera.
Decent video mode
Solid lens support
Easy to charge (I’m running this from the motorbike / powermonkey)
Easy to transfer images (no propritary connectors – worst case – SD cards are good)
Let’s ignore the money side of things for the moment and work the ‘perfect world senario’.
What do you suggest? I have a totally open mind and no legacy kit to support.
Okay so I’m a geek, the first thing that comes into my head when I think about music on the road is my iPod. But hang on a second, I also happen to play a few instruments – Claranet, Trombone, Euphonium, Piano and a couple of others – but it’s never occurded to me to take them away with me on the bike trips.
How cool is this guy? This is guitar two of five, each one costing less than 20 pesos. His name is Jonno and he’s a new chap on a forum I’m a member of called Horizons Unlimited – a few weeks ago there was a heated debate about taking a guitar on the road – many of the old hands pointing out that it simply couldn’t be done.
Now here’s this guy who’s never done this stuff before and he’s proved the old guard wrong – his reason for taking it? It breaks the ice with the locals and reduces stress after a long hard slog on the bike. To be frank if that beach and palm trees don’t reduce stress I don’t know what will – but as far as meeting the locals goes – what a great idea.
I don’t mind the rain, in fact I list my favourite sound as rain against canvas. But this weekend we were due to camp on Dartmoor testing out a new tent from The Aussie Shop called a swag bag – old fashioned canvas and it all fits into one bag on the back of the bike – tent, sleeping bag, mattress.
We spent most of the day filming a new short piece for Journey To Russia with Les at Travel Dri Plus about tents (we had to de-camp to the village hall), then set out for the moor. As we arrived a Sea King was airlifting people off, there were amulances and police land rovers rescuing people… we thought we were touger than that and set out to find a shelterd place to camp.
Driving for an hour we found a location not already under-water and stepped out of the vehicle still full of the excitment of camping…. then we got back in the car and debated the relative costs of B&Bs before hauling ass back to South Wales and taking shelter from the 40mph winds.
Not the most constructive weekend and I’m now sat at a services on the M5 on my way to the North West Lab waiting for War of The Worlds to download from the iTunes music store.
There’s nothing better at the end of a hard day than a long cold beer, except perhaps a beautifully rich, deep bodied, glass of Bordeaux. Neither is that practical on a bike. The beer? Well it tends to be warm, and the wine? Frankly it doesn’t get out of France before I’ve finished off my three week supply.
I was open minded about the wine, I’m not a snob and tend to drink bottles that are less than £5 a pop, but for £3.04 plus p&p even I was a little worried about the quality of the plonk delivered in a mere three weeks.
I prepared the equipment (a jug with 200ml of water, a long stirring thing, and a glass), opened the sachet and dropped in the rather lumpy, congealed powder – not confident at all it was going to dissolve. But to my surprise, the wine dissipated after only gentle encouragement. Five minutes dragged by and I was rewarded with a deep red jug of wine, ready for drinking at the fireside. What could be more perfect?
The only thing remaining was to actually taste it. This is where the dream of wine on-the-go falls to pieces. Dear Lord… holy cow… and some other non-printable expletives. I’m struggling to describe it without having to resort to blawah, but I can’t come close. It tasted of chemicals, with a hint of toilet cleaner, and and after taste not dissimilar to Sunny Delight.
This is a great idea, and I’m sure if somebody spends some time thinking how it actually tastes rather than trading on the idea of wonderful modern ease and travel, then it may succeed. Until then, drop into your local supermarket, buy the cheapest box of red – remove the outer packing – and be in rouge bliss.
I wrote a short piece over at journeytorussia about how touched I’ve been by the donations we’ve received for Everyman. The thing that has struck me has been the amount of money people have parted with – Everyman is an amazing charity that makes sure people know about Male Cancers and the more money we raise, the more awareness we raise the better.
The donations that have really struck me though are the little ones, the one that really made me smile and get a really warm fuzzy feeling was from a young chap on ebay who I bought a camping shovel from – when we completed the purchase he looked at our website and decided to donate the profit from the shovel purchase – how cool is that!?
So first off I want to say thank you to everyone that has donated, and secondly I want to point you in the direction of another justgiving page – that of Patrick’s latest adventure – The Longest Day – John O’ Groats to Lands End…non stop and in under 24hours!
They’ve let me out of the garage – goodness knows why – but Patrick, Stace and I headed down to the London Business Centre over the weekend and met up with some great people who are there to make planning your trip nice and easy – but in the main we just liked to play with the kit and mess around with the camera!