The National Camping Show is a new free show for 2021 aimed at offering camping, motorhome, campervan and caravan enthusiasts an insight into the very latest models and product innovations for the new season from leading family tent and awning brands.
Having been postponed a couple of times thanks to pandemic restrictions, the show opened today at Stoneleigh Park. I headed up there this morning to see just want camping goodies they might have to inspire trips and adventures later this year and in the future.
This post provides a quick roundup including a couple of highlights in case you’re planning on going and want to know what it’s all about.
A Covid-Safe Outdoors Event
This is (of course) the first “event” of this type I’ve attended since the pandemic started, and so I should certainly say something reassuring about feeling safe in that sense. Planning my visit for first thing Thursday morning did help, of course, as it seemed I was one of a very small number of people who chose to do this – although even on Saturday and Sunday numbers will be limited so there should be plenty of space for everyone.
The event is outside – it’s a tent show after all, there’s sanitiser around the site to use, face coverings are required in the two marquee-based pop-up shops and inside the various tents on display, and there was no problem with finding space for proper social distancing. All good.
All About Tents
I spent a couple of hours wandering around the show this morning, which was plenty of time to get a good look around the tents on display, chat to a handful of exhibitors, and eat a fried doughnut (I couldn’t resist).
I should say that the show was less about camping as a whole, and more about tents. Tents of all kinds, that is; massive family tents, smaller tents for road tripping and motorcycle camping, a couple of backpacker friendly tents, trailer tents, utility and toilet tents, caravan and motorhome awnings, and shelters including tarps and gazebos. It was great to see such a wide selection of tents pitched in one place, just perfect if you are in the market for a new tent as it makes it very easy to compare the different options in person rather than on a computer screen.
There were a small handful of exhibitors specialising in accessories, including Dometic and Fabsil, and the Camping and Caravan Club had a nice-looking area too. And the two accessories marques had a selection of chairs, sleeping bags, and camp kitchen units. But I would definitely say this is a show to attend for the tents themselves, not for the things you want to put inside it.
Many of the big players were there; Outwell, Coleman, Vango and Regatta all had large areas showcasing their ranges. But it was two smaller tent brands that really caught my attention this morning.
Snow Peak Tents Have Genius Pockets
A Japanese company, Snow Peak follows the philosophy that “we are also users”, which means the gear they make answers many of the problems campers have with other equipment.
This is the little Minute Dome Pro Air 1, which is probably the nicest looking small tent I found on display at the show. It just seemed to have a decent shape and size, seemed sturdy, and was a strangely nice colour of brown.
It has a vestibule big enough to sit in, genius zipped pockets that can be accessed from the inside and the outside of the inner for those things you want to reach for but don’t want to leave on the ground, and zipped windows in addition to the main door to help air the inner when it’s warm outside.
I had a lovely chat with one of the guys running the stand, who said it had been designed with bicycle and motorcycle camping in mind. I feel seen. This one-person tent has space to sleep and stow gear, weighs just over 3kg (more than my Banshee but less than my Green Cone) and packs down to 20 x 59cm, so it is ideal for bikes with or without motors.
I mean, it’s not cheap, coming in at a whopping £799 (eye watering, I know…), but I love the attention to detail and could definitely see myself motorcycle or car camping in something like this (one day).
Kelty Tents are Colourful
I’ve often wondered why tents aren’t more colourful. I mean, I know why tents are made in green and brown fabrics in the main, especially small tents; it helps you blend into the natural surroundings. But if you’re car camping at campsites there is just no need to be restricted by wanting to hide away.
So I was really pleased to find Kelty’s area at the National Camping Show was full of multicoloured tents. Nice!
There were tents of all sizes, and Kelty make loads of accessories, too, but of course I was drawn to the smaller end of the scale, to the tents suited to road tripping; that is, for people who want something convenient to put up and take down in a different place every day.
The Late Start, along with other tents in the range, makes use of something Kelty call “Quick Corner technology”, which combines self-standing tent poles with extended pole sleeves at each corner to enable one-person set-up. The one person version of this tent is just under £150 (much more in my price range than the Snow Peak), and weighs 1.7kg so is perfectly carriable for multi-day hikes.
If you want to know more about this brand, try the Kelty website (they’re currently not shipping to the UK), or you need Wildbounds if you’re looking for a UK stockist.
The National Camping Show was a nicely set up free show, perfect for anyone who’s looking to buy a tent for car camping. It’s on until Sunday 23 May; bookings are now closed but they are welcoming walk-ups. Find all the details on the National Camping Show website. I just hope all those tents are pitched well enough to outlast the storm we’re expecting to roll in overnight…