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When we go away on a trip, whether we’re racing or just spending a week or two somewhere beautiful with great trails to run, we usually camp: it’s cheap, fun, the kids love it and it always feels like more of an adventure than staying in a holiday cottage or hotel. We’ve got a backpacking tent that’s excellent, but these days we more often tend to base ourselves in one place and explore from there.
We spent many years searching for the perfect base for our adventures and have worked our way through several tents. We camp a lot, so we need something robust and durable. We also like a large single space rather than lots of little rooms as it gives you more living space for your tent size; I expect this may change once the kids are a bit bigger, but then they can have their own tent.
Not long ago we spent a whole year camping. We lived in some of Britain’s most beautiful places, with camping giving us the flexibility to move as often as we wanted and to live in places usually reserved for farmers or film stars. We had some amazing, life-changingly brilliant adventures – and some that make us glad we now live in a house… But the thing that made it all work – and continues to make our regular camping trips a joy today is our tent, the SoulPad 400-hybrid Bell Tent.
We got in touch with SoulPad as we’d destroyed three tents in as many months and were looking for something smaller than our 6m Emperor Ultimate bell tent and more durable than our beloved Mountain Hardwear Casa 6 nylon tent that we’d also trashed. To our delight they offered us a free tent in return for some thorough testing and photos of it the great places we went on our adventures. Well we could certainly do that.
To date we’ve spent around 200 nights in our SoulPad. It’s been snowed, hailed and torrentially rained upon, battered by gales and -for a couple of days at least- baked by the sun. We’ve put it up and down so many times we’ve lost count. It’s been dragged around the country in the back of our pickup and subjected to various methods of rigorous testing by two pre-schoolers. And it’s still absolutely brilliant: we’ve had no leaks, no malfunctions and no failures. We’re off to the Lake District in a few weeks for some fun in the mountains and the Lakes Sky Ultra. Our SoulPad is the perfect base for exploring and relaxing and we’ll be taking it along with us.
All about the SoulPad 4000-hybrid
The tent has a durable cotton canvas flysheet that’s far more resistant to UV damage than synthetic tents. It has a heavy duty, completely waterproof, zipped-in groundsheet that’s ‘bathtub’ style so keeps the water out even if you’re pitched in massive puddle. If it’s warm and sunny you can also unzip the groundsheet and roll up the sides for a cool and comfy shelter. The zip is protected and concealed by a canvas storm flap that runs its length to ensure zero penetration of water. Cotton canvas breathes really well so the interior doesn’t get stifling in the same way as nylon tents can in warm weather, plus there are four zipped windows and three vents at the top of the bell, all with mosquito mesh fitted: great for varying temperature and ventilation.
Bell Tents are really versatile too – they work well with a woodburner with the flue leaving through a hole in the side or roof. SoulPad do a version with a pre-cut hole but you can also cut your own and use a flashing kit to allow the flue to pass through the canvas in a safe and weather-proof fashion.
If you prefer a separate sleeping compartment these are also available and look great hung in the tent. Bell tents are single-skinned and can get very cold if you’re camping in winter, but we found the extra layer of fabric along with the smaller airspace of the bedroom tent made it a much warmer place to sleep.
We’ve been so impressed with our SoulPad and are looking forward to many more years of camping adventures with it. If you’re after a great base for running or family adventures we thoroughly recommend getting one.