Nerf Wars

nerfgunYou’ve taken the kids, and there’s the inevitable matter of entertainment.

One thing we occasionally take with us are nerf guns.

The ammunition

If you haven’t come across these toys, they fire small foam darts with rubber tips (I’ve been hit in the eyeball and can still see, but sunglasses are probably a sensible idea). They’re ideal for children (including those in their 40s) and an alternative to water pistols where the weather isn’t quite warm enough to dry you out.

You can buy targets and darts with suckers on. An alternative are darts with the plain rubber tips, and the target is you (or your 9 year old)! Raucous fun which sees children running about and unglues them from i-pads and portable computer games.

Choose your weapon

nerfmachinegunFrom easy to pack small, single shot, spring loaded, pistols (the Nerf Gun Elite Jolt) to semi-automatic beasts which load magazines of ammo, there’s a huge number to choose from.

Nerf battles are a great way to interact with the children. You’re in the woods… you’ve got midge repellent used by Australian or American special forces in jungle warfare… take things that one step further!

If your daughter is into the Hunger Games and sees herself as Katniss Everdeen, a nerf bow fits the ticket. With sleeping up trees and a little bushcraft, you’ll have an adventuress by your side. Nerfing isn’t just for boys. Be an elven warrior, live for a moment in Game of Thrones, make Robin Hood come alive.

Buy extra ammo as inevitably a few darts will get lost, but they’re brightly coloured and easy to find. Face off that alien invasion… engage in guerrilla, and be a kid again. Go on, I dare you!

 

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4m x 4m Tarpaulin/Basha – For Versatility

4x4
4m sq tarp – open fronted

First, let’s demystify the jargon… a basha is simply another term for a shelter, and is a word used for tarpaulins which have multiple tent peg/guy line attachment points. These multiple tie up/peg out points allow the tarpaulin to be used in a number of different ways. A ridge line is simply a piece of cord which your tarpaulin hangs from (usually running along the centre of the the tarpaulin to keep it off your head (and the ground!).

Most hammock campers use a 3m x 3m square tarpaulin to keep them and their hammock dry. A standard length for a hammock is 2.7m, and once you’re inside, the hammock length shortens as your hammock inevitably “sags down” once a little (or not so little) weight is inside. For light summer showers where rain is coming down vertically, a 3 metre square tarpaulin is sufficient to cover your hammock and keep you dry.

An anecdotal point… that surly faced kid in the advert on TV is wrong, the hypotenuse is useful in life! A 3m square hammock, hung like a kite on a ridge line gives you 4.24m of cover overhead. See… maths can be fun (*cough*).

So why buy a 4m x 4m tarpaulin?

aframe
Yes, there’s a hammock under there!
  • Communal space: A larger tarpaulin gives room for you, the kids and friends to sit out even if the rain’s coming down. The open fronted set up in the image above (for those who can’t get their heads around metres) using just one side for seating cover gives you 6.5ft x 13ft of communal living space (family sized!).
  • Versatility: You can set up your tarpaulin in more creative ways.
  • Communal Hammock Cover: In summer months (and trees allowing) you can hang two or three hammocks under a single tarpaulin.
  • Cope with horizontal rain: We live in Britain, and sometimes the rain is aided by wind and travels horizontally! A larger tarp keeps kit on the ground dry, while still giving you ample room to stand.
aframe2
End view
  • Tent Like Insulation: If you’ve thought “if only I could close off the ends of the tarpaulin, I’d keep the drafts out!” well with a 4m x 4m tarpaulin you can!
  • Privacy: Sometimes it’s nice to change your clothes without scaring other people in the woods!

A 4m x 4m tarpaulin allows an A-Frame enclosed end set-up

With a little creativity, and a tarpaulin which has multiple guy-line/peg attachment points, you can set up a tarpaulin in more creative ways.

aframeshapecartoonIf you peg out your tarpaulin following the design in the image, you can close off the ends to make a fully enclosed tent which will still allow you to hang your hammock, and space to stand! You can now get changed in complete privacy and without having to crawl around on the ground. Not only this, if gives you a completely weatherproof and draft proof set up.

In summer months and if privacy isn’t an issue, it gives you a far larger covered area to cook, socialise or simply chill-out under. If you take your dog camping, there’s ample space to house a pup tent.

We bought ours from DD Hammocks.

Strengths:

  • Weight and size: For its size, it’s light weight (weighing 1.29kg). Considering it’s a ‘monster’ of a tarp, both it and my hammock still fit into the bottom compartment of my rucksack.
  • Quality: Made from polyurethane coated polyester, taped seams, and in terms of waterproofing the fabric has a 3000mm hydrostatic head (meaning a column of 3000 wouldn’t leak through). This is an excellent quality tarpaulin.
  • Number of Attachment Points: It has 19 attachment loops , loops appear stitched onto an extra layer of thin rubber and are very securely stitched on.
  • Price: Cheaper than many smaller tarps, but still of a high quality. Good value for money.
  • Fast Delivery: Ordered on Thursday morning, delivered on Friday. Delivery was also included in the price.

Weaknesses:

  • Tent pegs and guy lines: It comes with only four guy lines, and four tent pegs. Well… we had to find something to complain about!
  • Hmmm… finding trees over 4 metres apart.
  • You’ve only got three choices of colour: green, camouflage or brown. I suppose camouflage is more than one colour.
  • Struggling here… it doesn’t recharge my phone! There you go!

 

Overall:

Well worth the investment. Would we recommend it? Well we have one, and use it, and like it. We’ve never got wet using it, and it doesn’t show any signs of wear and tear. The pictures on this page are ours. What more do you want from a tarpaulin!

Consider adding:

  • Your own tent pegs and additional guy lines.
  • A tarpaulin sleeve. DD Hammocks sell a 2.8 metre tarpaulin sleeve. While not as long as the 4m tarpaulin, they’re roomy enough so you can stuff one in! It shortens pack up time if you’re slinging your kit in the car! Leave the tarp attached to the ridge line when you pack up, and then set up next time takes a few minutes.

 

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Crabbing – Making Memories

velvetcrab
Velvet Crab

Crabbing is an essential part of childhood. I remember doing it on various childhood holidays. The excitement of dangling a bit of weighted string off a jetty with a lump of pork chop and hauling up monsters (and then watching parents trying to put the in a bucket without losing their fingers) stays with you.

ediblecrab
Brown (or Edible) Crab

We’re a little more sophisticated now and use a crab snare, although there’s a range of equipment you can use (albeit a length of string, pebble with a hole in and a bit of chicken works perfectly well!). A crab snare is small, wire metal box which you put the bait in, and attached to the box are nylon free running snares.

Whether you take the crab back home (or to the campsite) and eat it, or simply set it free, your children will have the experience of being close to nature, being away from tablets and playstations, and… well… being being kids. Crabbing is a ‘quality time’ thing to do.

Your children are unlikely to remember hours on Minecraft, but they will remember catching their first crab. Make a competition out of it. A prize for the first caught, the biggest and the most caught.

There are 65 different species of crab in the seas around the British Isles. The brown and velvet crabs are particularly common (and make a very good meal!). Brown crabs have particularly strong claws used for crushing mussel shells (so be careful… don’t say we didn’t warn you!). The crab you’re most likely to find is the shore crab (and yes they’re edible, with a sweet flavour… very popular in Spain).

Bait

crabnet
Crab Net

Crabs detect things by sense of smell, so the smellier the better. Raw food such as pork, chicken or fish is ideal but do make sure the kids wash their hands before eating ice cream after they’ve been crabbing! Oily fish works well, and a piece of mackerel (or mackerel head) is good to bail cage or net traps (I never did work out how to tie a fish head onto a string). Even better if you leave the bait out for a day or so to get a bit rank and even smellier!

Equipment

Take your pick…

Go Traditional: A simple length of string (or paracord) tied around a rock to weight it down (or use a large fishing weight) and then wrapped around bacon, chicken or pork chop works well. It’s how I used to catch crabs as a kid. The crabs cling on, and you haul them up from a jetty or sea wall hoping they won’t let go (they usually don’t)!

crabbingline
Safety Lines

Safety Rigs: For a couple of pounds, you can buy a hand reel, line, with a weight and netting bag attached to the end. Quite why they’re called safety lines escapes me, but they work well, and I always have two in the boot of the car (no comments please that it’s about time I cleaned the car out).

Crabbing Nets: These are large nets much like a bucket, which you pop bait into, drop to the sea floor, wait and then can scoop up several crabs at a time.

crabcage
My Crab Snare

Crab Snares: Little seen in the UK, but popular in America (and introduced to me by Thomas), the picture is of my very own crab snare. A small, plastic coated wire cage, with free running snares attached. You’ll need to attach your own line (string or paracord is fine) and weight down the cage (pebble or a fishing weight). You can also attach these snare boxes to a fishing rod! Use a decent strength line as weighted down with three crabs, these boxes can get heavy! The secret is to slowly haul (or reel) in the line so the snares draw closed on the crab legs and claws. Be warned, removing the crab from the snare can be an adventure (yes, those claws do nip).

 

Pyramid Star Crab Traps: If you find the idea of dealing with snares and pincers a little scary, why not try a pyramid trap. These are clever pieces of kit where, when lowered to the sea bed, the four sides open up, allowing the crabs to scuttle to the bait. Draw the string up, and the sides close shut! No risk of losing your catch, and once you’ve hauled it up, place it on the ground, lower the cage to the ground and the sides come back open.

 

You may want to put the crabs back, and that’s fine. It’s a matter of choice. Personally, I’d eat them if they’re a reasonable size (whoever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch never tried one of these!).

See our article on Guilt Free Crab Killing.

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DD Hammock Tarpaulins

DD Hammock is a UK based hammock camping equipment supplier. Within their tarpaulin range are two in particular which we like. The word ‘basha’ is a one used for a temporary shelter (not one of my father’s more colourful friends before people get confused).

DD Tarp/Basha 3m x 3m

diamondhangThis is a great little tarp. Lightweight with 19 suspension/attachment points allowing you to rig it up in a number of different ways. Above a hammock, we find hanging the tarp in a folded diamond shape (see pic) does best to keep you dry in the rain. A 3m x 3m size tarp is large enough to keep you dry and fully cover an adult hammock when hung in this way.

Remembering our school maths and things about measuring the hypotenuse, suspended as a diamond, a 3m x 3m tarp covers 4.24m of ridge line (…just making a point to my daughter, learning to calculate a hypotenuse can be helpful in life).

Olive green, the tarp weights only 790grammes and includes 4 guy lines and 4 tent pegs. There’s a choice of two colours: olive green or coyote brown. I like the green ones.

ddtarpXLDD Tarp/Basha 4m x 4m

As above, but 4m x 4m, and weighing 1.25kg.

See our review

DD Tarp/Basha XL

As above, but 3m x 4.5m and weighing 1.02kg.

DD Superlite Tarp

As above, but 3m x 2.9m and only 460grammes. Ideal for the hiker who wants to cut down only every gramme carried!

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Poffertjes – Perfect Pint-Sized Pancakes

poffitjesI fell in love with poffertjes in Holland (during my misspent – I’d argue well spent – youth). Poffertjes are miniature pancakes. You will need to buy yourself a poffertjes pan, but it’s really worth the investment. Alternatively, you can buy them ready made from Lidl (a dutch food shop) and just heat through in a normal pan. Fresh is far better though.

What are poffertjes? Miniature pancakes which the dutch serve in a heap with castor sugar and a knob of butter. Have these as a desert or breakfast(for breakfast, substitute maple syrup as a topping).poffertjes

Poffitjes are normally made with buckwheat flower, but when camping you may not wish to carry around all the ingredients (including eggs which aren’t fun when they crack in your rucksack) and opt for a ready made pancake mix instead. Check the label on these mixes as some need you to add eggs and milk. The Betty Crocker brand contains powdered egg and milk and is ideal, meaning all you have to add is water.

Don’t forget the butter, castor sugar or maple syrup. For easy carrying, put the dry ingredients in freezer bags (making a note of how much water to add to the pancake mix) and the maple syrup in a smaller plastic bottle. The special pan isn’t a necessity (but does give you perfect little pancakes and you can cook 15 at a time). If packing light is important just your normal camp frying pan and pour dribbles of batter (or hell, make giant ones!).

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Smores the Merrier

toastingmarshmallowsMost of us will have enjoyed toasting marshmallows round a fire. Twenty years ago I remember a large biker (whose father was chief rabbi of Berlin) who’d manically shout “Daleks’ Brains” each time his marshmallow set alight and dissolved into a gooey mass. This was the same biker who gave me a mild concussion when someone dared to put vegetables on his barbecue. A corn on the cob hurled into the darkness found a target. Years later, whenever I toast a marshmallow I can hear his manic cry.

Read more

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