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The Catstycam Blog

  • So You Want To Try Camping #3...Cooking

    Well, June 2013 has peeped out from behind the clouds here in Cumbria and, so far, is doing us proud. In fact the back end of May didn't do a bad job of tandoori-ing all those shoulders and winter-white legs that showed up for the Bank Holiday and half term hols either.

    The campsites around Pooley Bridge filled up with their usual mix of family tents, backpackers, scouts, D of E'ers etc and the season got well and truly underway...Hoorah!

    The sites at Glenridding, mainly smaller, farm-based sites were well supported too.

    The beauty of the Ullswater valley, apart from its natural scenery, is that it can cater for a wide spectrum of camping experiences.

    Pooley Bridge attracts mainly family groups, the lakeside sites are ideal for messing about in boats, fishing and getting wet! The walks here are gentler, the countryside more open with clear tracks, bridle paths and cycling possibilities.

    Glenridding and Patterdale are setting off points for more traditional, rugged, challenging fell walks. The area provides a welcome resting point on Wainwright's coast to coast trail and our shop there is a good place for stocking up on kit and forgotten items for that trip.

    Our shops in Pooley Bridge and Glenridding try to reflect this 'variation in theme' in the stock that we carry... we are always open to suggestions for items to include, by the way.

    To get back to the subject. I thought I was being clever by mentioning tandoori and catering earlier on, but that kind of got lost in the tourist information bit about the Ullswater valley and a plug for our wonderful shops.

    The story so far...

    We've looked at tents, thought about the sleeping arrangements, so now it might be wise to look at options for feeding ourselves, assuming we can't afford to dine out in the many eateries offered by the district.

    Camping Stoves

    Most camping stoves used nowadays are gas fuelled, using pressurised canisters of varying sizes, disposable or refillable, and readily available on campsites or from 'outdoor shops'.

    There are multi-fuel stoves which can run on diesel or petrol, some burn meths or solid fuel tablets but generally, gas is the preferred option.

    As with your choice of tent, number  in your party, so with your choice of stove; it depends on the number of people you want to feed at one sitting. The choice goes from a double burner with grill using a large refillable cylinder to a lightweight backpacking stove using a small canister which is lightweight and easily carried. In recent years a portable gas cooker which comes with its own carry case and uses an aerosol type gas supply has become popular. It is stable, inexpensive and is probably just like the the gas ring you have at home on  your gas cooker.

    A word of caution. Some supermarkets, catalogue shops, even car accessory shops offer 'bargain' double burner stoves at seemingly very good prices. In fact, although these stoves are perfectly adequate and safe, they aren't the whole story. These cookers usually run off larger cylinders which need to be purchased separately. A refill for these cylinders can be reasonable but you have to buy the cylinder in the first place and they can be two or three times more expensive than the bargain cooker you just bought...and do you need a low pressure hose and regulator too?

    'Caveat emptor'...let the buyer beware.

    With the disposable canisters it's a good idea to keep a spare, as they can be very inconsiderate about running out of gas in the middle of your carefully planned cooking regime, (" a hungry man is an angry man" : Bob Marley).

    How long do they last? About as long as a piece of string usually. If you are camping in the spring or autumn it can get quite chilly at night and this will affect the gas pressure. It might behave as if the gas has run out but if you shake it you might hear it in its liquid form, warm it up and it will come back to life...probably.

    Keep everywhere well ventilated and don't be tempted to use your cooker as a heater in a zipped up tent.

    Pots and pans you can bring from home or you can buy lightweight stuff from Catstycam, the Outdoor Shop . Over time you will be able to work out what suits your requirements to make that outdoor experience complete, and, apparently, everything tastes so much better in the fresh air...brilliant!

  • So You Want To Try Camping #2...A home from home. Zzzzz.

    Well, Easter 2013 got a bit too chilly for most tent campers in this area but we're getting a bit warmer now, and we're just topping up the lake for a few days before we have our first heat wave.

    So, we've got the tent to suit our plans and now need to think about what we need to make it comfortable to live in, within our budget.


    There's a wide choice of sleeping bags on the market. If you are planning to camp in summer on a campsite that's not halfway up a mountain, you could just bring your duvet  from home and then make sure that you are well insulated from the ground... but assuming you want to get a sleeping bag.

    Basic sleeping bags cost very little and do the job well in mild conditions. They usually have an indication as to how warm they are and a temperature or season rating, take this with a 'pinch of salt', we are all different and there are enough variables to make this rating very approximate, it's just a guide. If you are car camping and weight is not a consideration, you can always take a fleece blanket or buy a liner for the bag to give you flexibility as to temperature control. A bag's loft, its 'fluffiness', is important for keeping the warm air in and the cold at bay; when you compress a bag it loses this insulating ability, so don't pull it in too tight around you, that won't help. Likewise you will need to have insulation underneath you, where the bag is flattened on the cold ground, it won't keep you warm.

    A down sleeping bag (down as in bird down!) is the most efficient, but is an expensive bit of kit and it's probably best if you are new to camping to stick with synthetic filling, a bit bulkier but easily washed.

    To help insulate you from the cold ground, a closed cell 'Campermat' will do the trick. You can also get a posher version which is self inflating, be wary of the inflatable airbeds which are comfortable but won't keep you warm, the air in them drops to the ambient temperature, they won't provide insulation.

    You should never leave a heater on overnight, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning is very real and there were several incidents last year in this area, and sadly, this year has already seen its first deaths. Ventilation is also important to keep your tent as damp free as possible, especially during the night, keep the air circulating as much as possible.

    At Catstycam, The Outdoor Shop we stock a good selection of sleeping bags, sleeping mats, bag liners and airbeds, as well as many other accessories to help make your first expeditions into the wonderful world of camping as enjoyable as possible.

    After your first good night's sleep under canvas you will be looking forward to a hearty breakfast in the clean, fresh Cumbrian air.

    So... the  cooking arrangements?

    Next time.

  • Oops! The Law Of Unintended Consequences

    I was looking at the OS map for our area (OL5) and came across 'The Bungalow' in Martindale, near the southern end of Ullswater. You can stay there if you want, but it's not a modern dwelling, not by a long way.

    Families, eh, what are they like?

    You don't really get a choice, do you? At least you get to pick your friends, but not your kith and kin, your clan, your tribe.

    Bear with me, this is going somewhere.

    You can take one of the Ullswater "Steamers" to Howtown and take a very pleasant walk to see The Bungalow, it's over a century old and was built by the Earl of Lonsdale, the Yellow Earl : he wasn't a coward or anything, it's just that yellow was his favourite colour, and that's why the Automobile Association's livery is yellow, he was its first president, and that's why Penrith Tories wear yellow rosettes, not the usual Tory blue.

    The Earl actually painted one of the early steamers yellow so that he could use it as a "Royal Yacht" for a very special guest who visited the area at the beginning of the 20th  century... before that family argument that started in 1914 and lasted till 1918.

    In fact not only did he paint a boat he actually built a hunting lodge, the Bungalow, so that his honoured guest, one of Queen Victoria's many descendants and cousin of King George V, could enjoy a spot of hunting before it all kicked off a few years later.

    Meanwhile, somewhere in eastern Europe (Sarajevo) some disgruntled individuals were planning a shooting outing themselves. They managed to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June 1914 and in so doing set off a chain of events which ended up, due to a whole mess of treaties, alliances, ill judged promises and massive egos, in what we now call  'The Great War', the first world war, with an estimated death toll of over five million.

    By the way, the honoured guest was Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, 'Kaiser Bill' who was shortly to become the enemy, fighting his cousins King George V and Tsar Nicholas II... bet they didn't see that coming the Christmas before... hope they kept their receipts.

    These days when I go for a walk in the hills, I tend to stick to old favourites so I don't need to keep digging the map out and try to find my specs. I remember from the old days when trying to find my way to a chosen destination how easy it can be to take one wrong turn, and end up in all sorts of trouble.

    But that wasn't the end of the story for the 20th century, was it? The 'war to end all wars', wasn't.

    That troubled patch of central Europe, Germany, had a few more trials and errors to work through.

    The myth had spread in 1918 in Germany that the politicians had betrayed the Nation, and that Germany had not been defeated on the battlefield.

    Communists, capitalists, anarchists, nationalists and all sorts of -ists were fighting in the streets, the economy was a dog's breakfast and something needed to be done.

    Big business and the ruling classes genuinely feared a communist revolution, as had happened in Russia, something definitely needed to be done!

    Enter the Charlie Chaplain lookalike Adolf Hitler. Big business saw how he appeared to have the common touch and was genuinely popular, they could slip him a bit of cash, give him their support, let him sort out those pesky commies, then drop him when he had done their dirty work and all would be well, order would be restored, and they could get back to some serious empire building.

    Well, we all know how well that plan worked.

    It has been estimated around 100 million people were killed in wars in the 20th century.

    Thank goodness we've moved on since the 20th century.

    Kaiser Wilhelm is long gone, a young man with something to prove, who was given a highly militarised, disciplined nation, ready to follow him without question. He had at his disposal the latest technology and was able to use this to wage what was at the time the first industrial war, mechanised weapons, chemicals, telecommunication, flying machines!

    Sound vaguely familiar, somehow?

    The "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-il, has passed on to his son, Kim Jong-un, a nation united in its hatred/fear of the outside world. A 'Million Man Army' and a worrying amount of nuclear technology has also been left for him in his toy-box to experiment with, to help him to make his mark in/on the world.

    Oh well, at least the Americans are watching the situation closely, and what with their stealth bombers, warships, and Patriot missiles , coupled with their sensitive even-handed diplomatic skills, we can all sleep safely in our beds.

    You looking at me?

    What could possibly go wrong?

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