UK Tentipi Nordic Tipi Camp, 5-7 May 2017

This year’s UK Tentipi Camp, sponsored by the outdoor adventure shop ProAdventure, was held at The Carrog Station Campsite in North Wales. Watch the video above or read the review below.

Carrog Station Campsite, in the beautiful Dee valley

Located in the stunningly beautiful River Dee valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between the Clwydian and Berwyn mountain ranges, Carrog is eight miles west of Llangollen on the road to Snowdonia.

It’s my favourite part of the world. As an outdoorsman and angler, the Welsh Dee is my ultimate river. It has some of the best fly fishing in Europe and, for many Tentipi enthusiasts, offers superb canoeing as well. Being able to camp within 50 yards of the river was an absolute delight.

The campsite is located between the river and Carrog heritage railway station, so it’s blessed with the gentle movement of both the river and stream train.

It’s such a peaceful location. Hardly any road traffic, very much a ‘sleepy valley’ that’s ideal for camping. Other than six steam trains per day, the main noise was from a nearby rookery. 

What a location to wake up to, and to ponder the beauty of the world.

The world's best tent

26 Tentipis were pitched this year, ranging from 15-man Safir and Zirkon family tipis, to the 2-man Olivin backpacker’s tipi. Many had wood-burning stoves within them, ideal for keeping out the night-time chill.

My Tentipi is a 9-man Safir. It’s the ideal size for Mrs H, Little Lady and me to camp in luxury, having enough room for three camp beds and to allow safe manoeuvring around the wood-burning stove.

And with the groundsheet in place, we have a damp-free 4-season tent that’s cool in summer and warm in winter.

The stove is incredibly efficient, heating the tent in less than two minutes. There’s enough room on its cooking plate for two large saucepans or – as is my style – a kettle and a large frying pan full of bacon. 

And as the tipi is designed to encourage airflow and smoke upwards, there’s no lingering cooking smells in the tent.

Tentipi community

But it’s not just about the Tentipi and what’s inside. Tentipi camping is a communal experience, which makes the Tentipi Camp so special.

It’s a coming together of friends and families, in appreciation of the outdoors and celebration of these exceptional tents. There’s such unity and enthusiasm, with participants ranging from bushcrafty adventuresome types to families seeking quality time together. It’s a bonding experience, and such a fun way to do it.

That said, I did have major Land Rover envy when I saw some of the safari-style camps being erected. Maybe next time…

The heart of the camp

Pride of place, and central focus for the camp, was the new Zirkonflex Tentipi – an ingenious design that can be opened out on all sides if required. The ProAdventure team had pitched it perfectly, sheltering us from the brisk easterly wind yet capturing the evening sunset. And, of course, there was a fire pit in its centre to warm the late night storytellers who huddled well into the small hours.

Not that the fire pit had our gaze at the time, as the complimentary cakes were delicious. Little Lady had more than one helping, as did others.

With attendees having travelled from all over the UK, we were content to sit and relax – to recover from long drives while watching the sun go down.

Saturday 6 May

Saturday started cold and overcast, following gale-force winds that roared through the campsite all night. All tents were still standing and mine was the first to show signs of smoke, as we were keen to warm our bones. Other campers were either hardier than us or had not yet woken.

Those who woke soon got the kettle on, or erected a tarpaulin to keep out the cold wind.

Steam train to Llangollen

The first steam train of the day ensured everyone was up. Especially Mrs H, Little Lady and me as we were keen to get to the station and board the ‘loco’ for our much-anticipated journey into Llangollen. So while others went paddling in their canoes, or hiked into the mountains, we enjoyed a leisurely train journey along the River Dee.

Soon we were arriving in Llangollen, to the welcoming station, with its reminders that we were in the revered Dee valley.

Indeed, the station is right alongside the River Dee, and what spectacular water it is here too – with waterfalls and rapids that must make for exciting viewing of salmon passing upstream. 

A Statement of Tentipis

Sadly there were no salmon leaping when we visited, so we were soon back on the train again, gazing out of the windows awaiting sight of the Tentipi Camp.

And, as I saw it there, standing so proudly, I wondered what the collective noun is for Tentipis? Surely it must be a ‘statement’ of Tentipis?

Yes. I was convinced of this when I returned to the campsite and saw them lining up alongside modern dome tents. They looked like they were placed on a supersized chessboard, resisting any advance. A statement? Sure thing: A statement of Tentipis.

Friendship and food

As soon as we were back, Little Lady went running to play with her new friends. They were so close, even though they’d only met the day before.

The adults, however, were keen to see the new Uuni pizza oven: an incredibly efficient and lightweight oven that, fuelled by wood pellets, can cook a pizza in under 60 seconds.

The results were amazing – and incredibly tasty, as Little Lady soon discovered and the adults soon learned.

It was so nice to see such convivial hospitality and companionship – facilitated by ProAdventure – that brought people together through their love of food, adventure, camping and – of course – Tentipis. 

A very fine talk

Acknowledging this, and the ‘statement’ of Tentipis, I decided to theme my talk that night around Fine Things – the special things, places and events that define and communicate our interests and character. We gathered again in the Zirkonflex and I gave a short talk then read four chapters from my Fine Things book – giving attendees a preview the book’s content before publication at the end of the month.

Sunday 7 May

Sunday. The sun rose bright in crisp blue skies. So different to the cold, windy and overcast day before.

Some campers were up at first light, canoeing on the river or practising their Tai Chi. All glad to be breathing the fresh mountain air and seeing the rays of sunlight piercing the mist. 

As you might have guessed, I went for a walk along the river, starting at the 17th century bridge then along the grayling shallows to the deeper salmon pools below, marvelling at the sunlight catching the water and glowing through the first flush of leaves above.

I returned to the campsite to see Mrs H relaxing in the sunshine. She was so chilled-out and restful during the Tentipi Camp, even though an axe-throwing competition was going on behind her. 

It’s a skilled art this axe throwing. Unless, of course, you happen to be a natural…

Tentipi spirit

And while some continued to enjoy the campfire, those with young families went down to the river for a teddy bears’ picnic. I stayed behind, with pen and camera in hand, recording these words and images for you. Because if you ever get the chance, I encourage you attend a Tentipi Camp or purchase a Tentipi. It’s a lifestyle choice, a statement, and a mark of individuality worth savouring. Tentipis are special; they’re a different sort of tent and a unique camping experience – one that introduces you to wonderful people and some extraordinary places.

That’s the statement, of Tentipi spirit.

If you like this blog, you might also like Fennel's book Fine Things in which he writes about the 'canvas effect' of Tentipi tents. Please also subscribe to Fennel on Friday, where you'll receive either a blog, video or podcast sent to your email in time for the weekend.