Remember your first tent? Of course, you do. Mine was a two-person Marechal ridge set up bought for me by my parents. Inner pitch first, hanging from interlocking poles forming the frame, with the outer fly pulled over the top and the poles sticking out through eyelets in the material.
I tried to find a photo but realised I probably didn’t even own a camera at the time. As the Marechal is long defunct, the nearest thing I came across online was the renowned Vango Force 10.
In hindsight, the Marechal was obviously bought to play with in the garden. In fact, my parents had planted the seed for the backpacking I do now. It had steel section poles, an orange waxed-canvas outer – which had to be reproofed every couple of months and took three days to dry – and a cream cotton inner with no vents. It did have a PVC bathtub groundsheet, which I now realise was quite advanced for the time. The whole bundle weighed a massive 17lb – 3lb heavier than my current total backpacking base weight. How far we have come…
Knowing what I know now – and even saying to myself, ‘This is the one. No need to look any further; I’ll use this for the rest of my days. Why would I possibly need anything else?’ – I accept that the shelters I own today won’t be the last.
I’m just as gullible and lacking in willpower as the next person. There is, and always will be, something out there that’s better, more technical, lighter, stronger, more innovative, even cheaper, superior quality – you get the picture.
In recent years I’ve collected a range of tents and shelters. (Yes, collected – we backpackers seem to do that, like stamps or model cars.) And all have been justified with perfectly plausible explanations: ‘I need that one for base camping, that one for wild camping, and that one for Thursdays.’
As I said, you get the picture. It’s a version of Rule 12 from Velominati’s cycling book The Rules: ‘The correct number of bikes to own is N+1, where N is the number bikes you already own.’ Just substitute tent for bike.
And if I could have just one? I genuinely don’t know. I’ll have a think about it and let you know if I come to any conclusion. In the meantime, what would you choose?