Category Archives: Campfire Tents

Baker Tent Hunt – the half-dome shelter

In addition to the full size campfire tent and lightweight versions we’ve looked at, one of the simplest ways to achieve a ‘campfire tent’ setup would be the ‘half dome shelter’.

Source: Period Shelters -http://poisonriverparty.homestead.com/Shelters.html

In fact this construct was used widely in woodland camping by the North Eastern native American populations. One such construction was shown in Ray Mears series on “Rogers Rangers” an exploration of how WIlliam Rogers led expeditions and raiding parties in the early british military campaigns in the Frontier country with Canada, fighting both the French and the opposing native tribes. The demonstration by a descendent of the local tribes showed how a half dome shelter would be built. Interestingly the structure of the frame would be made at the camp site, from materials found thereabouts, whilst the covering was made from wide sheets of birchbark, which being the most valuable material as well as extremely lightweight, would be carried from camp to camp – a new frame simply being built as required at the next location.

Ray shows how with a fire built out front the shelter is extremely insulating, and practical allowing easy access in and out, and the ability to cook under cover using the fire in front of the shelter. These are all characteristics of the “Campfire Tent” or “Baker Tent” we were looking for.

That episode showed a beautiful end result of this technique – I am keen to try this technique, but using a tarp instead of birchbark.

So in searching for a modern version of this ‘half-dome campfire tent’ i began looking into surprisingly fishing “bivvies” which typically do have this half dome shape, as well as a rigid or semi-rigid frame built in. There are many types of these bivvies on the market, with the key differentiating from our point of view being weight and b8ulk, as we will want to carry this in a canoe, as well as portaging where necessary.

carp bivvi or brolly

So clearly some of the larger more heavy duty fishing shelters, or “carp bivvies” or “brollys” as they are also known in the world of course fishing are not suitable in this case. The most interesting I found were these two:

The Fox Evolution XS Shelter/Bivvi.

This has a rigid, interlocking hooped frame which interestingly stays in place when the shelter is collapsed, making setting up and taking down very quick and simple, as well as great resistance against the wind. Also importantly this one can be set lower in bad weather, another feature of Bill Mason’s campfire tents – that of being highly adjustable to the weather conditions. Here’s a pic:

fox evolution bivvy

(a good review here) The downside of course here is that its still quite heavy at 4.2kg (if you compare to a tarp/pole/line setup), but even more importantly its bulky at 1.9m long (!) and 11cm’s diameter size when packed.

All the fishing bivvi info you’ll ever need is here at http://www.bivvies.co.uk/

The Wychwood Rogue Shelter.

This is the most lightweight of the bivvi shelters, with simple shock-corded poles in place of more rigid frames, but again the ability to change the shape significantly from wide open and high at the front very low and enclosed in bad weather. The shelter is extremely lightweight, has good fixings and guy ropes and is very easy to put up (once you’ve tried a few times – at first its quite confusing!). So this one really began to get our attention and we purchase one on Ebay for an incredibly cheap price of just £25, compared to the normal price of about £48. It was a brand new and unpacked one…and in fact the chap who sent it out actually sent out 5 in one box not realising it was a group – I let him know and he arrnged for the others to be picked up – we’re an honest lot here.

So the Wychwood shelter in backyard and canoe trip test turned out be absolutely excellent – the only downside that the poles although light, because they aren’t designed for canoe camping as such are quite long at about 5 foot, rather than being made up of shorter sections- and that does make it a bit big or rather long in the boat, although its no real problem.

The Shelter when set up really does make exactly the half-dome ‘campfire tent’ shelter we were after, and even looks very much like the native american shelters that inspired the idea. It’s a fantastic shape and has only one downside I can see – which is faced into strong winds it can take quite a bashing and become unstable – but if you’re on good ground for pegging this hasn’t been a problem for me even in extreme conditions, lowering the front egde means you can position it carefully in the wind, to get some downforce in play as well.

Wychwood Rogue Shelter

On less good ground for pegs it can be more of an issue. And in fact on a winter camp last year what were the most violent gusts of winds I’ve ever experienced anywhere on 3 continents hit our camp for a short while, probably half an hour only. Fortunately the direction was favourable, as the shelter got buffeted in the back edge forcing the structure down rather than taking it skyward! With some stones to weigh down the back, some extra pegging to a big log and some crossed fingers, the shelter actually withstood this onslaught, however lying in the shelter with all hell breaking loose around me and snow starting to fall (sideways) I was forced to consider ‘what to do IF it was going to fail’. In fact with this shelter there’s a good option here, and one which is actually useful part of the set-up in good weather too: by simply removing the poles you are left with an excellent simple tarp, again with good fixing point and a slight dome shape that helps enormously when constructing a tarp shelter. So the solution would have been to collapse the poles and just cover the swag with a very lower tarp cover, down and out of the wind behind the canoe.

Since then things have changed and although I haven’t yet tried constructing a shelter using sticks with this tarp, I have used it with canoe paddles attached to the canoe for stablity and that really works well – then you simply take the small rolled up tarp part of the shelter and its extremely minimalist as well as being very effective in both wind and rain, with enough room for two people and gear to sit out of the rain.

“Backyard Test” of the Wychwood shelter canoe-tarp rig:

canoe tarp backyard test

And in use for real on a canoe trip:

canoe tarp wye

So there you have it – the Wychwood shelter is our recommendation for the half-dome campfire tent shelter and as a canoe-tarp rig; so it’s a great buy for the price.

read more in our “Baker Tent Hunt” series.

Snowbound in a Campfire Tent

The Campfire Tent has been getting good use during this winter snow: kind of a ‘Backyard’ test for a snowbound winter camp here. The campfire tent proving itself again – giving great shelter from strong and bitterly cold Northerly winds, whilst allowing the openess for cooking, observing nature and snowbound views, and generally ‘messing about in tents’! In this weather the views have been absolutely stunning and I haven’t missed a thing – including a huge shooting star one evening. I set up just before the snow came in 10 days ago, and after the main snowfall the roof of the tent had about 5 inches of snow weighing it down – that’s a LOT of weight, and happy to say the canvas, stitching, poles and guys all stood up to the test. The pegs have been completely frozen into the ground so they aren’t going anywhere, which has helped in the very strong winds we’ve had. Walking the fields all the activity of nature is written into the snow in footprints – from tiny mice trails and bird footprints, to thin and whispy deer tracks and big badger prints – all the activity you’d normally miss in the dark is recorded for the following morning.

Also here is a backyard test of a new Hekla 30 firebox from Tentipi, a great bit of kit I’ll write more about in detail later.. The tent itself is from Green Outdoor and features in the Winter Camp story below. For now here’s the video:

Campfire Tents – Ray Mears Baker Tent

Ray Mears has done more than anyone in recent times to promote the benefits of Getting Out & Staying Out, and particularly he has shown himself a great believer in the open-to-your-surroundings nature of the Campfire Tent or Baker Tent. In his episode on Roger Rangers in the North East United States and Canada he showed a complete camp set up using 2 baker tents, in some really beautiful woodland.

For a modern baker tent see our video review of the Campfire Tent or our feature on our ongoing “Baker Tent Hunt”.

Here’s some pictures of Ray Mears Baker Tent Camp – makes you want to Get Out & Stay Out doesn’t it!

baker campfire tent1

baker campfire tent2

baker campfire tent 3

baker campfire tent 4

Ray’s set up shows perfectly the combination of openeness, ability to be warmed by a fire in front, and of cooking on the fire whilst staying sheltered in your tent. But the main benefit of the Campfire tent is in this open-ness to your surroundings – if you’re out there you don’t want to miss a deer wandering past your camp, or the chance to make a wish for a lottery win on a shooting star burning up in the atmosphere above you. Or an owl that flies low across your camp in the early evening. Using open tents these are all things I’ve experienced on my travels.

Campfire Tent – Baker Tent Hunt

Here’s the Backyard Test of the fantastic new “Campfire Tent” from Green Outdoor (who also make the “Bush Shelter” tent featured earlier as a ‘lightweight’ campfire tent option). As part of our ongoing “Baker Tent Hunt” series this full size tent looks really promising and is beautifully made – it passed the ‘Backyard Test’ with flying colours, easy to put up, withstood some strong winds and provided great shelter with the all-important open frontage of the classic Campfire or Baker tent. Stay tuned for the full experience in our forthcoming Winter Camp [Update: that report now available here: See Winter Camp ]

And here’s Bill Mason’s original tent from his book “Song Of The Paddle – An Illustrated Guide To Wilderness Camping”:

Inspiration for the Campfire Tent - Bill Mason in Song of The Paddle

Inspiration for the Campfire Tent - Bill Mason in Song of The Paddle

For more information on this tent see the details on the Green Outdoor.co.uk website.

Baker Tent Hunt – The Bush Shelter Lightweight Campfire Tent

Update: See our latest test of a full size Campfire Tent.

The Bush Shelter

Discussed here before as part of our “Baker Tent Hunt” series the Bush Shelter from www.greenoutdoor.co.uk looked like an interesting lightweight “Campfire Tent” option, and is even designed with canoeing in mind in that you can use paddles to hold it up, meaning you don’t need poles, so it’s a tiny package, no bigger than taking a tarp really. Here’s the ‘Backyard Test’!

The tent arrives by courier, from greenoutdoors.co.uk - its a small package for a tent.

The tent arrives by courier, from greenoutdoors.co.uk - its a small package for a tent.

16ft Canoe for scale!

16ft Canoe for scale!

OUt of the bubblewrap.... a new tent in my life... The tent is made of recycled PTFE plastic, from bottles and the like!

OUt of the bubblewrap.... a new tent in my life... The tent is made of recycled PTFE plastic, from bottles and the like!

 

 

Size 10 boot for scale...

Size 10 boot for scale...

The tent laid out on the ground. The useful "pitching guide arrived with the order by email as a word document (to save the environment): very simple but valuableinstructions. 1. Peg out the grounsheet (black) first, but loosely. 2. Insert your uprights - can be paddles if canoeing, or walking poles or just sticks from your campsite.

The tent laid out on the ground. The useful "pitching guide arrived with the order by email as a word document (to save the environment): very simple but valuableinstructions. 1. Peg out the grounsheet (black) first, but loosely. 2. Insert your uprights - can be paddles if canoeing, or walking poles or just sticks from your campsite.

2minutes later it's up and looking good for a modern, small-scale 'campfire tent'!!

2minutes later it's up and looking good for a modern, small-scale 'campfire tent'!!

Depending on the lentgh of your paddles or poles, the groundsheet can be pulled up or lowered, and still pegged in OK.

Depending on the lentgh of your paddles or poles, the groundsheet can be pulled up or lowered, and still pegged in OK.

Nice wide-open front to the tent gives an authentic 'baker tent' feel, even in this small one-man tent, which is a real achievement.

Nice wide-open front to the tent gives an authentic 'baker tent' feel, even in this small one-man tent, which is a real achievement.

Good, useable space inside. I like the recycled material a lot.

Good, useable space inside. I like the recycled material a lot.

 

 

Set a bit lower t his time. Did a wind test at this pitch - facing into probably 20-30mph sou'westerlies up on our hill... it did very well but in the end...(See next!)

Set a bit lower t his time. Did a wind test at this pitch - facing into probably 20-30mph sou'westerlies up on our hill... it did very well but in the end...(See next!)

Did a wind test at this pitch - facing into probably 20-30mph sou'westerlies up on our hill... it did very well but in the end...(See next!)

Did a wind test at this pitch - facing into probably 20-30mph sou'westerlies up on our hill... it did very well but in the end...(See next!)

This happened!!! the air was forced inside and then trapped inside! Wierd. to be very fair though only a dome tent will stay up in this spot in Big Wind, so that's OK: it did very well actually and being able to zip up the front and lower the front canopy meant it lasted for a long time without a problem, only when a full on storm force hit it did this happen...!

This happened!!! the air was forced inside and then trapped inside! Wierd. to be very fair though only a dome tent will stay up in this spot in Big Wind, so that's OK: it did very well actually and being able to zip up the front and lower the front canopy meant it lasted for a long time without a problem, only when a full on storm force hit it did this happen...!

You can't see the wind, but it was there... I collapsed it and forced the air back out!

You can't see the wind, but it was there... I collapsed it and forced the air back out!

The rear view.

The rear view.

Inside. Wow it's cozy, really nice, light and airy but sheltered and cozy too. Very happy with this tent.

Inside. Wow it's cozy, really nice, light and airy but sheltered and cozy too. Very happy with this tent.

So there it is. Proven: this is a great modern, and small/lightweight "Campfire Tent" that really works. Thumbs up and for only £49 that is superb, but even at the previous price of £99 its still great value.  Well done Greenoutdoors.co.uk! You win our Baker Tent Hunt "lightweight Category" competition!

So there it is. Proven: this is a great modern, and small/lightweight "Campfire Tent" that really works. Thumbs up and for only £49 that is superb, but even at the previous price of £99 its still great value. Well done Greenoutdoors.co.uk! You win our Baker Tent Hunt "lightweight Category" competition!

All set up with camp-fire and kelly kettle ready for a first test...

All set up with camp-fire and kelly kettle ready for a first test...

 

 

River Wye – Get Out and Stay Out!

A Late Summer trip on the River Wye – just a 24 hour ‘get Out & Stay Out” trip, but a great one – highlights included a 2 foot Pike jumping out of the water within about a foot of the canoe – teeth bared!

Minimal gear this time - swag and 2 bags ready on the tailgate.

Minimal gear this time - swag and 2 bags ready on the tailgate.

Arrived at the put-in point at Kerne Bridge.

Arrived at the put-in point at Kerne Bridge.

 

"Hawkeye" Rich - describing all the the wildlife he's seeing up front

"Hawkeye" Rich - describing all the the wildlife he's seeing up front

"Campfire Kev" steering in the back.

"Campfire Kev" steering in the back.

 

 

 

 

Gathering firewood at dusk

Gathering firewood at dusk

LOTS of firewood...

LOTS of firewood...

Morning at the Camp, Symonds Yat Canyon

Morning at the Camp, Symonds Yat Canyon

 

 

Using the half-burnt logs from the previous nights fire to get it going again - a spark from a firesteel and a bit of blowing till it glows, then drop on some dry grass and it's away...

Using the half-burnt logs from the previous nights fire to get it going again - a spark from a firesteel and a bit of blowing till it glows, then drop on some dry grass and it's away...

Getting the fire going again... Rain in the air...

Getting the fire going again... Rain in the air...

 

And here's the rain....

And here's the rain....

"do you think it'll last?" "it's just a shower, let's wait it out..."

"do you think it'll last?" "it's just a shower, let's wait it out..."

Really Big Rain kicked in about 9am... we waited for the Kelly to boil from under the shelter...

Really Big Rain kicked in about 9am... we waited for the Kelly to boil from under the shelter...

 

Hot Coffee... out of the rain... no problem...

Hot Coffee... out of the rain... no problem...

 

 

 

 

Caption Not Required...

Caption Not Required...

 

 

Still Raining... more coffee on...

Still Raining... more coffee on...

The Shelter rigged to the canoe, propped with a paddle, simple and effective: only needed a single peg into the bank to stay up as the canoe provides the support.

The Shelter rigged to the canoe, propped with a paddle, simple and effective: only needed a single peg into the bank to stay up as the canoe provides the support.

The Crusader mug in use....

The Crusader mug in use....

"hmmm, this rain is lasting for a while, lets have some breakfast..."

"hmmm, this rain is lasting for a while, lets have some breakfast..."

A cup of Oats...

A cup of Oats...

Porridge cooking in the Crusader mug... straight on the fire.

Porridge cooking in the Crusader mug... straight on the fire.

 

 

We were a bit short of water so collected water running off teh shelter to top up - a litre gathered within about 10 minutes.

We were a bit short of water so collected water running off teh shelter to top up - a litre gathered within about 10 minutes.

We'll move when the rain stops....

We'll move when the rain stops....

It didn't stop so we got back on the river....

It didn't stop so we got back on the river....

Stopped under an old iron pontoon bridge, 'WWII style' and got the Kelly fired up again, wet-through, we needed more hot tea....

Stopped under an old iron pontoon bridge, 'WWII style' and got the Kelly fired up again, wet-through, we needed more hot tea....

Getting the Kelly Going....

Getting the Kelly Going....

approaching the get-out point at Symonds Yat West

approaching the get-out point at Symonds Yat West

Thoroughly soaked, but completely invigorated.

Thoroughly soaked, but completely invigorated.

Loaded up, the end of a great trip on the Wye.

Loaded up, the end of a great trip on the Wye.

 

Let's Go.

Let's Go.

 

Back over the Severn Bridge towards Bristol, the rain finally did stop!

Back over the Severn Bridge towards Bristol, the rain finally did stop!

Campfire Tent Hunt – Latest: The Bush Shelter

Update: See our latest test of the Green Outdoor full size Campfire Tent.

Baker Tent Hunt continues… In our hunt for the perfect Modern “Baker Tent” or camp fire tent we’ve looked at many different options from large heavy tents like the Oztent to simple lightweight tarp rigs and replica versions of the original 19th Century format.

The latest we’ve found is this very interesting design called simply the “Bush Shelter“. As well as the basic properties as a ‘camfire tent’ it has a couple of reasons it’s ideally suited to canoe camping. It’s similar to the MSR Fast & Light tent design we featured earlier in that it’s made of modern lightweight materials with a kind of ‘stretched’ format that creates it’s internal space and it’s essential canopy by clever angle’s of material and guy ropes:

bushsheltercanoetent

Also like the MSR you’ll this one uses trekking poles or ingenioulsy canoe paddles to hold the structure up. Described as “a lightweight, 2 person shelter that can be easily pitched using walking poles or canoe paddles. Front opening to allow maximum connection with the surrounding countryside, with a front canopy over the opening and a sewn in groundsheet for additional protection.” With those advantages for canoists specifically (making use of your paddles, and it’s overall lightwieght and compact design, whilst fulfilling the basic requirements of our Baker Tent Hunt, this is a very promising looking tent and currently a great purchase from www.greenoutdoors.co.uk at only £99 reduced from £149 at time of writing which is fantastic price for an unusual specialist tent like this.

Full details, spec and photo gallery (you need to see this! it all makes sense when you see the photos) here.

Baker Tent Hunt: Get Out and Stay Out… in your own Backyard

Update: See our latest test of the Green Outdoor full size Campfire Tent.

The Baker Tent/Campfire Tent search continues… Evening Tea under the Tarp… Kelly Kettle fires up – wish I bought the bigger one though as the small 1pt version is fiddly to light and get going; next choice for me is an Eydon Kettle, the 2pt “Popular” model looks good according to reviews on SOTP (www.songofthepaddle.co.uk). But the Brew is good once it’s ready.

photo.jpg

After tea the light started to dim, chopped some logs and got the firepit going (this is an old chiminea that fell over and broke during a storm: it’s much improved now!

photo-7.jpg
Saw a Hare dart across the field just before dusk – haven’t seen him all Winter – lovely to see him back: takes the same path every morning and night during the summer – perhaps one of our most beautiful native animals to see in thier natural habitat.
photo-9.jpg

The wind picked up a bit once the sun went down, giving the tarp a bit of a test as we’re up on a hillside facing the prevailing wind. The campfire tent / tarp rig stood up perfectly as expected, securely anchored to the canoe behind. Such a simple set up too: it’s easy to raise or lower the side walls dependent on the weather, using sticks of the right height to prop up the wings.

photo-11.jpg

I’m completely happy with this rig now as the perfect Campfire Tent and simple canoe shelter: it packs up tiny with no poles needed ( I hate threading shock-corded poles in the dark ;-), sets up in under 5 mintes nd provides great cover even in storms with the option of rigging it low over the canoe. And as an open camp-fire style tent for one its fantastic, you really feel your open to the elements and the views and sounds of nature around you. Why go outdoors only to lock yourself in inside a little canvas room! My Baker Tent Hunt is over.

As it got dark the Owls came out – I sat listening to their calls for an hour, back and forth between a male and female. At times they were so close I was sure I would see them – I’m convinced now that they’re invisible! They’re Tawny Owls and that classic Twit-Twoo is surely one of the great experiences of being outdoors at night.

Climbed into the swag at 11am and slept soundly with just the gentle flapping of the tarp against the canoe and more owl noises echoing through the air. Tomorrow we work, but felt I made the most of an average evening at home! If you can’t get to the river, at least “Get Out and Stay Out”, even if it’s in your own back yard!

photo-10.jpg

Baker Tent #1 – In search of the Modern Camp Fire Tent

UPDATE: This tent is no longer available. For a similar modern and ultra lightweight ‘Baker Tent’ tent see our “Bush Shelter” review, part of our “Baker Tent Hunt“.

This looked promising as a lightweight
modern campfire tent: The Mountain Sports Research (MSR) Fast and Light Tent:

Specifications:
* Capacity: 2 people + gear
* Floor + Vestibule Area: 37 + 14 sq. ft./3.4 + 1.3 sq. m
* Interior Peak Height: 42 in./110 cm
* Minimum Weight: 3 lbs./1.3 kg
* Packaged Weight: 3 lbs. 7 oz./1.6 kg

  • Weighs 3.0 pounds, or just 1.5 pounds per person. Spacious: Plenty of interior space, including great headroom, for 2 plus gear.
  • Innovative: Awning provides 180° views and a covered food prep/boot storage area.
  • Easy to Pitch: 1 person can set it up in less than 3 minutes using trekking poles or guy cords tied off to an overhead object.
  • Well-ventilated: High and low vents provide constant airflow to reduce condensation.
  • Two-person Access: Huge front door allows for side-by-side interior access.
  • The MSR Fast and Light Tent is the pioneering single-wall tent provides all the protection and living space of a large tent, plus the ventilation, compactness, and weight savings of a tarp shelter.

    The U.S. made tent is priced at a reasonable £169.00 (special offer) and is available from www.completeoutdoors.com

    Baker Tent Hunt – In Search of the Modern Campfire tent

    Update: See our latest test of the Green Outdoor full size Campfire Tent.

    We’re on a mission. To seek out the best modern version of a traditional canvas tent, the “Baker Tent”.

    The Baker Tent- image from www.tentsmiths.com

    The basic attraction of this kind of tent or shelter is that it provides a living and sleeping space that is wide open to nature and environment and views around you, and yet sheltered enough from the elements. IN addition the classic Baker Tent is flexible in design, with a porch/roof and side wings all of which can be adjusted to suit the weather conditions. The Baker Tent is also known as the ‘Campfire Tent” which also gives a clue to it’s main attraction, that you can place the tent in front of the campfire whilst remaining under cover and out of any wind etc. In hot climates bugs and Mozzies are an issue of course with an ‘Open Tent’ design and this fact is the main reason why many ‘conventional’ tents don’t offer an open option – they assume the need to close up and exclude any biting insects. Whilst of course you can use mosquito netting with this tent, and you would want to in a hot climate location, but here in the UK with our temperate conditions and lack of any really nasty biting insects the open Camfire tent can really come into it’s own (exception would be clouds of midges in Scotland at certain times of year!) .

    Our hunt for a modern version is not limited to replicas of the original camfire tent design such as those made by hand at www.camfiretent.co.uk but also includes any tent or tarp shelter that provides the same basic principles or cover, flexibility and openness to your surroundings, and to your campfire. This traditional 19th century design of tent had been kept alive in book form by the Great Bill Mason canoe-tripper and author of “The Song Of The Paddle” and recently regained popularity through the TV broadcasts of Ray Mears.

    We’ll be udating you as we research and find a way to build buy or make the perfect modern version of the campfire Tent, The Baker Tent.

    Stay Tuned!!!