Group Shelters

I always carry a group shelter if we are somewhere remote or exposed to the weather. In winter, this means I sometimes take a shelter on what might be considered benign adventures. Usually, the shelter isn’t needed and, although it doesn’t weigh much, a niggling feeling of carrying unnecessary kit begins to take hold. But every now and then, something happens that proves just how useful a group shelter can be…

On this particular day, it was really, really windy, but the children were desperately keen to go to the nice sandy beach about a mile away. I was desperately keen to get them out in the fresh air they needed to expend some energy. A mile wasn’t very far, but walking to the sandy beach along the foreshore would extend the walk by a further half-mile. The total distance (there-and-back) of three miles would be a nice distance for Little Sister.We set off along the rocky foreshore. There were lots of interesting stones, shells, seaweed, pools, and streams. It was fascinating, but slow-going, and the rough ground and wind slowed progress even more.

It took about an hour to reach the sandy beach, by which time, everyone was ready for a snack and some hot chocolate.But the beach was wild and windswept, with sand blowing around like spindrift. Little Sister, only 3 feet tall, complained of sand in her eyes and up her nose. If we were going to keep the sand away from our snacks and our hot chocolate, then we would need to get out of the wind. I pulled out the shelter…‘Oooh! The orange tent!’ ‘Are we having the hot chocolate in there?’ ‘Yippee!’ ‘Can I get in first?’

The five of us scrambled inside and were soon enjoying a sand-free snack and some sand-free hot chocolate. ‘Wow, Mummy, this is so cool!’ It’s amazing how much excitement and interest can be aroused by what is simply an igloo-shaped piece of orange nylon.Suddenly, there came a voice from outside ‘Is that you in there?’ Some friends had come to find us. Space was hastily made for two more people, who were given a thorough briefing on the workings and benefits of group shelters. Once refuelled, the shelter was stowed, and attention turned to digging, rockpooling, scrambling, and admiring the swirling patterns in the windblown sand. We then retraced our steps along the foreshore.

Later, I reflected that while we could certainly have managed without a group shelter, having one had made the whole experience much more comfortable, and had added some novelty and fun. Shelters are useful in so many outdoors scenarios in the early years when you have a baby to feed and change; when you have a toddler and are at risk of the sudden onset of ‘Tired Legs Syndrome’; and when your children are a bit older and the adventures become more objectively serious. I thought of the many times over the years when this particular shelter had provided protection and warmth, and reminded myself what a good thing it was to have in my pack.


Written by Helen & Ian on Friday, 26 January 2018.

Posted in South Wales 

Comments (3)

Jay Greengrass 22 February 2018 at 14 39 | # Oooo, a group shelter... You've definitely given me pause for thought about that. We've come a cropper a couple of times for being daft enough to leave behind kit and clothing that we were getting fed up of carrying and not needing. Luckily it just made us uncomfortable. Although we're not (intentionally) having adventures that might need a group shelter, I really see your point about just how useful they are. Any recommendations on brands and types? And I swear my skin is tingling just looking at your very evocative photos of windblown sand! 

Helen and Ian 07 March 2018 at 14 20 | # Hi Jay! My collection of shelters was amassed back in the day when we used to do serious stuff in the high mountains. The two most useful ones in the context of Little Trekkers are an Outdoor Designs 4-6 Person Shelter, and a Terra Nova 8 Person Bothy. I got the Outdoor Designs one because it wasn’t designed for a precise number of people, but for any number of people between 4 and 6. Rather than having specific places where people are meant to sit, people sit anywhere on the edge of the fabric. Some shelters don't work particularly well if they don't have someone sitting in all the places where someone is supposed to be sitting! The Outdoor Designs one used to swallow me, the Husband, James, the Dog, our packs, and the backpack/ pram/ pushchair quite nicely. It also swallows two adults, three children, and a dog, with space for more if you are friendly. When I bought it, I chose a high-vis colour to make it easier for anyone who needed to 'step outside' to find the bothy again. (Think mist/snow and mountains). Now the orange is just a cheerful colour. It has windows but I wish it didn't, and if I had had a choice I would have gone for a windowless option. Window material is heavier and bulkier than the silnylon; becomes stiff at low temperature; and I am pretty sure it will deteriorate before the remainder of the fabric. I don't think Outdoor Designs make them any more, but you can sometimes find them second-hand on eBay, or Rab do a 4-6 person one in orange which is very similar. I also have a Terra Nova 8-person bothy in red which is very good, and I use it when we go out with another family or when I am leading a group. If I was going to replace either of these, I would also look at the ones by Summit Gear as they are UK-made which I like. They offer a standard and a 'supalite' version, which really is super light! Hope this helps!

Helen and Ian 06 March 2018 at 22 44 | # Hi Jay! My (unnecessarily extensive) collection of shelters was amassed back in the day when we used to do serious stuff in the high mountains. The orange one is an Outdoor Designs 4-6 Person Shelter. I got it because it wasn’t designed for a precise number of people, but was designed for any number of people between 4 and 6. The way some shelters are designed means they can flap around if you don’t have the right number of people. It used to swallow me, Husband, our son, the Dog, and the pram/pushchair quite nicely. It was important to me to have a high-vis colour to make it easier for anyone who left the bothy orange is It has windows but Now relegated during days of more serious 

Leave a Reply

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.