Testing tents out in the field

The first daffodils are just opening here in the Midlands, which can only mean one thing. It’s nearly time for our annual spring tent testing sessions and photoshoot – one of my favourite events of the camping year.

Daffodils mark the arrival of spring and tent testingI’ve been in the industry so long now this almost feels like a family reunion. It’s the chance to spend time in beautiful surroundings – Blackmore Club Site in the Malverns this time – with interesting people and a host of intriguing camping equipment. We use the event to get up close to the camping kit and chat to those who are behind the products. Although our focus is on tents, we often also bring along a caravan or motorhome or two. We then report back on our findings throughout the spring and summer in Camping & Caravanning magazine.

This year Nigel from Khyam, for example, will do his demonstration of pitching a tent so well that it looks as if the fabric’s been ironed. I can pinpoint only a couple of people in the industry who can manage this to such perfection. Maybe there’s a competition in here somewhere.

There will be some new faces too this time as there is every year. I’ve corresponded with Cameron from his base at Vango in Glasgow for the past few months but we will meet for the first time when he heads down from Scotland with a van-full of awnings, tents and other kit, ready to pitch for us. It will also be our first chance to try out our new long-term test motorhome, the SunLiving Lido S 35SP provided by the Motorhome Holiday Company and Adria, ready for our initial test report in May’s issue.

We look at some unusual tents tooIn the last couple of years we’ve also expanded the number of companies invited to the event as a direct result of our Tent Owner Satisfaction Survey. Dare I admit in public I was a little wary of this venture at first? I wasn’t sure it was possible to compare owning a tiny backpacking tent with a massive family one, but I’m please to say I’ve been proved wrong. The Satisfaction Survey has thrown up some interesting results and our testing is reflecting this.

We’ll catch up with James from the Camping Travel Store, for example, with a new Karsten, the Opera 2400. Karsten pretty much swept the board at the 2015 Owner Satisfaction Awards and held its own again this year as well.

We look at tents small and bigLook out for our tent reviews in the coming months, both in print and online. And in the meantime, you can catch up on all our previous On Test reports here, right back to 2014 – it’s a great way to research tents, caravans, motorhomes and trailer tents when you’re buying one.

Candy Evans Candy Evans is Test Editor for Camping & Caravanning. She took a less conventional path into magazine journalism via physics and a decade in computer consultancy, turning to caravanning and writing during a career break as a full-time mum. Her interests are wide and include the Club’s Archive – though she’s careful to wash her hands after checking 1919 editions of the Club’s magazine to avoid lurking traces of influenza. Read other posts by this author