Doggy Sleeping Bags – Made To Order

We all know our own dogs. Some have thick fur, some thin, some love wild weather, some hate the rain, and some even love wild camping with us.

Camping with both Dixie and Tilly, we tried all sorts to keep them comfy. The summer’s not so hard, but in the cold it can be very challenging.

Blankets, fleece coats, insulated coats, foam mats – they’ve all been tried, in every combination possible.

Nothing ever seemed either just right or straightforward, however.

But since Pebbles and Islay have been on the scene, we’ve discovered some doggy sleeping bags. On sale in the States (although they have recently stopped shipping to the UK) and rather expensive, we nevertheless invested in some.

They’ve been quite a success.

If it’s hot, the dogs don’t have to be fully covered, but if it’s cold, they can be. We’ve never found the need to carry a foam mat for them anymore either. The insulation in the bed seems adequate on its own. Pebbles was even toasty warm one night when it was -5C outside.

To complement the bags, they also have summer weight fleecey PJs and winter weight fleecey PJs.

If Pebbles is fidgety overnight it is possible for her to get uncovered and I sometimes wake up when she moves and have to re-cover her, but this is only really an issue if it’s very cold. And I have noticed that on the whole, the colder it is, the less she fidgets. One of the reasons it’s good for her to have winter PJs on anyway.

Not long ago, my mate James wondered if I might be able to make one of these bags myself, for Reuben to use. It was a challenge I rather enjoyed. It would appear that Reuben has also been pleased with the results.

There has been a fair amount of interest recently in my version of the Doggy Sleeping Bag, culminating in me making some more.

They function rather like a cross between a soft bed and a sleeping bag. In soft bed form, with the sides folded down, they can simply be sat or laid in.

But if you want the dog covered, you simply have to unroll the tall sides and lay them/wrap them over your snoozing canine. Of course, if your dog sometimes prefers to sleep on its side, the bag can also be turned on its side – more like a human sleeping bag – and be used that way. In fact to be honest, it doesn’t really matter how you wrap them up, as long as they’re happy!

I certainly don’t have any grand ideas about becoming some kind of huge enterprise here, but if anyone reading this is interested in one or simply has any queries about them, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The medium sized bag that I’ve made most of (shown in these photos), has a base with a diameter of 27″ and seems to suit most average sized dogs. It weighs approximately 750g to 800g – being all handmade they can differ slightly – and will pack into a compression sack quite well.

I have also made smaller ones at 23″ diameter (approx. 450g – 500g) for terrier sized pooches, as well as a couple of larger ones – a 30″ one which weighed approximately 950g, and a 32″ one which was about 1100g. Believe me, the 32″ was very large once finished, and I don’t think me and my domestic sewing machine could handle making anything larger than that.

I am currently charging £60 per standard sized bag – I make them using the material from a ‘human’ sleeping bag, so have to buy the same donor bag whether I make a small or a medium – but a larger one (ie bigger than 27″) would cost £85, as I’d need to buy two donor bags to use.

The best way to decide which size bag you might want, is to contact me and we can discuss the size of the dog/how it likes to sleep etc.

I can be contacted via my email at chrissie.cleo@btinternet.com

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So, Fran Was Keen For Another Wild Camp

Back in October, curious to see what all the fuss is about, Fran came out with me on her first wild camp.

Fortunately, she not only enjoyed it, she enjoyed it so much she went away and spent a small fortune on new equipment!

A second trip was obviously on the cards.

I chose another spot not too far away – we could walk there easily enough from our house – but a bit higher up and with a wilder feel to it.

The forecast had a wintry feel to it, with overnight temperatures of around 2C and enough wind to give a wind chill temperature down to -5C. I made sure I packed my winter sleeping bag. I’m not a particularly warm sleeper and like to be cozy.

Low cloud and light drizzle though, made for a slightly damp walk in.

It was already starting to go dark as we arrived, and with a rather lively breeze to boot, so we quickly got the tents pitched, filtered what water we needed and retired to our respective homes for the duration.

I soon had a brew on the go, ready to enjoy along with the two mince pies Fran had kindly thrown in my direction. They didn’t last long.

Of course this time of year brings long hours of darkness, but the time passed pleasantly. I-Player on my mobile gets plenty of use these days and I also have my Kindle downloaded onto my phone. This does mean that I have to be aware of keeping the phone charged however, but Anker efficiently sees to that.

I also try and spread the courses of my evening meal out.

Main course at 7pm, dessert at 8pm, hot chocolate at 9pm; all interspersed with conversation flowing between the two tents.

I had a couple of new, rather nifty wooden spoons to try from Treadlite Gear, too. They were very nice.

The wind kept up for most of the night, but despite it sounding very dramatic – howling and whistling around the area – our tents seemed to be in a bit of a sweet spot and didn’t get much wind battering at all.

A particularly noisy period of wind activity woke me around 3am. It was whistling through the grass or rocks somewhere close by. Once awake, feeling a bit chilly, I donned another layer. Soon warm and cozy once more, I slept on and didn’t stir again ’till 7:30. I got up for a wander around.

I crawled back into my sleeping bag for another hour. Fran stirred at around 8:30. Realising that the cloud had lifted a lot by then, she set off to have a look at the nearby Downfall.

We were lucky with the weather this morning. It was breezy, but dry and fresh.

Feeling relaxed and chilled, we breakfasted and broke camp slowly.

My breakfast was a Dale Special – Rainbow Porridge. This is porridge with added Smarties. It is delicious and I would recommend anyone to try it.

Taking a slightly different route back to our house, we stopped for lunch at the bottom of William Clough.

Fran even got her Jetboil out there and made us a brew. I can never be bothered in the middle of the day, but it was very welcome!

So, an excellent night out and I have it on good authority that Fran has already been buying even more shiny new kit. I suspect it won’t be too long before we do another night out…

My Thoughts On The Southern Cross 1

I don’t normally do gear reviews – I might say whether I like something or not, but that’s about it – but there seems to be a fair amount of interest in this tent, so I’ll pen my thoughts after its first night out.

Why Did We Buy A SC1?

We’ve had a Hilleberg Enan for about 3 years, and it’s generally been great. We initially bought it for my 2015 trip to Sarek with James, and it performed brilliantly out there.

It is a ‘sheltered, three season’ tent though, and Geoff did have an unforgettable night in the Howgills with it one January, with high winds and rain.

It never totally flattened, ripped, blew away or got damaged in any way, but it did give him a rather disturbed night. So, we’ve been wondering about something similar but specced as ‘four season’.

A year back, we bought a Southern Cross 2. It would be fairly cozy as a 2 person tent, although it does have two porches which is very handy, but we bought it specifically as a 1 person + 1 big dog tent. In this respect it has been serving us very well, so this led us on to purchasing the SC1 for solo use.

First Night Out With The SC1 

I chose a pitch which would catch the weather a bit. Kinder has been pretty dry of late and water can be a problem up there, so I went over towards Brown Knoll instead. I knew that would be dry too, but I also knew I could filter some water on the way and not have to carry it too far.

Ok, so it wasn’t a particularly inspired pitch for the night, but it served a purpose and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get disturbed.

The tent goes up quickly and easily – outer first then add the inner, although you can keep it attached as one if you feel like it.

These tents have a couple of really nifty door features. One of them is the way you can clip the door open, by hooking it onto the ‘exoskeleton’. I can do this, and unclip it, from a kneeling position inside, so it’s very useful.

This next photo shows this on the SC2 aswell:

It also has a way of folding and fastening the bottom few inches of the outer door out of the way, and if you combine this with undoing the top of the zip a little, it creates a reasonable amount of ventilation. This makes it about as safe as it can possibly be, if you need to cook (very carefully of course) in the closed porch in really bad weather. I forgot to take a picture of this feature last night though, but here it is on the SC2:

Once inside, the SC1 feels a touch smaller than the Enan. I think this is partly due to the inner walls sloping inwards more. The headroom is also a bit lower. I still had no problem fitting all my gear in, however, in my usual organised manner…..

I pretty much empty my rucksack and place most of the contents alongside my Xtherm, and the empty-ish sack, boots, water, stove, etc. fit nicely in the porch. There is also a good 6 inches or so spare above the head end of my sleeping mat, where I tend to store my food bags.

I had dinner and settled down for the duration. Sitting on my mat I was comfy enough, and spent a couple of hours reading.

Well I can’t say that the weather overnight was Wilder Than A Wild Thing, but there were some heavy showers and a lively breeze from time to time. The tent was absolutely fine in this and I slept well.

All was still and claggy when I awoke.

I had a leisurely breakfast, then decided to put to the tent to the final test for this trip. Could I pack my rucksack inside?

So, I pretended it was still throwing it down, closed the outer door, left the inner door open to give me a bit more space and set to.

It was no problem whatsoever, and I was soon ready to take my pack outside and take the actual tent down.

I took the inner out first.

The inner and the outer were placed in separate bags, which both fit neatly together in the zipped pocket on the front of my pack.

The poles and pegs are in another bag, which I put in one of the side pockets of the rucksack.

And setting off home, the sun started to make an appearance.

A Few Further Thoughts

I like the tent. The slightly smaller feel compared to the Enan is of no consequence to me. Everything fitted in fine, I had no problems doing anything and it was warm and cozy.

Geoff is off to the Lakes next Tuesday for a week and taking it with him, so we’ll see how he gets on with it too. He’s not much taller than me anyway, so I imagine he’ll be ok with it. There won’t be space for him to use his Thermarest Chair Kit inside, mind…

If you were much taller than me however, but still liked the style etc of the tent, I suspect the SC2, with it’s greater headroom and oodles of space, may well suit better. There would, of course, then be the extra bit of weight there to take into consideration.

On the other hand, if you have been used to using a Laser Comp (which the SC tents are based on) or a Zephyros – which I think probably have a similar amount of space inside – you may well be perfectly happy with it.

The SC1 weighs 1.7kg and the SC2 weighs 2.3kg.

 

Annual Pieman Visit To The Dark, Dark Peak

It was that time of year again. The time when the TGOC folk hold the annual Snake Inn Gathering, and the Pieman – being one of The Gatherers – ventures south.

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A few years back whilst in the area, he visited us when I was immobilised with a broken leg in a pot. And for the last couple of years, he has joined us for a wander on the Saturday of The Weekend in question.

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Usually, he has some Tump or something he wants to bag and gives us forewarning of the relevant top so we can plan a route.

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This year, he was after two Tumps. Mt Famine and South Head.

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A route was duly plotted and gorgeous, spring type weather was ordered, and an excellent day was had.

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And this year, on the Saturday evening, Geoff and I also drove over to The Snake Inn and joined in with the TGOC Gathering.

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A very convivial time was had, meeting up with lots of lovely people and partaking of delicious food. I’m looking forward to meeting up with everyone again on the actual Challenge, in May. Not long now……

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Unfortunately, one of The Gatherers had earlier in the day had a mishap whilst out on the hill, but GMRT had professionally organised his rescue and he was helicoptered off to hospital. We understand he suffered a fractured ankle and wish him a speedy recovery.

Pebbles On Kinder

Pebbles had received some very nifty new panniers at Christmas, but hadn’t yet tried them out properly. It was time we made the effort.

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After studying the MWIS forecast in some detail, Friday night looked like a good bet. The weather was getting colder and drier, and some forecast foggy stuff wasn’t due to come in until Saturday lunchtime. So, a last minute decision was made on Friday morning and we packed up.

I wasn’t fussed about walking any great distances, but had a spot in mind only a few miles from us, that I thought might fit the bill.

The weather was indeed blue-sky-gorgeous in the afternoon,  with just a hint of a fresh breeze as we got higher up.

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I had been careful not to load the panniers up too much. Some people say that dogs should be able to carry a third of their body weight, others say it should be no more than a quarter. At around 25kg, I have no intention of ever asking Pebbles to carry more than 5kg, and she did in fact, only have 1.2kg in her panniers this day.  She had no trouble with that, so I decided she could carry her bed (830g) as well, on the homeward journey.

The potential camping spot we were aiming for delivered a large flat ledge, lots of soft heather and a tiny stream nearby for water.

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I generally tie Pebbles to my full rucksack whilst I’m putting the tent up, but in the cold wind that was starting to materialise, she insisted on barking at me to make her displeasure known at having to suffer that indignity.

I just ignored her. Things were soon sorted though and a brew on the go.

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I had downloaded some stuff to watch on I-Player for the evening, so sat and enjoyed the Bluestone 42 Christmas Special before cooking tea.

And looking out over Manchester and Stockport a bit later, I was pleasantly surprised at both the sunset and the city lights. Even the lights seemed quite spectacular in the crystal clear night. For once, I wished I’d had a better camera with me.

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By now, I was quite surprised at how windy it was getting. It was touching on being strong enough to hinder walking a little. I was sure I hadn’t seen anything about this on the forecast!

The tent is very stable though and I eventually slept surprisingly well – given that I was woken several times by the noise of some particularly gusty periods.

I woke properly at about 7-ish and lay there until it started to look a bit lighter outside. When Pebbles and I finally did have to go out – for toileting purposes – it was absolutely bitter. Her drinking water was frozen, the tent was covered in frost and the wind chill effect was God knows what. I was really pleased I’d lugged my big Rab duvet jacket up for the night!

It was also decidedly murky.

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We breakfasted at leisure before tackling the packing up routine. It was far too cold and wild to take stuff outside, so both my rucksack and Pebbles’ panniers had to be sorted in the tent. We’ve practiced this before in good weather, and she was a little star, sitting quietly while I faffed with stuff all around her.

The time came though, when we just had to go out. You can’t pack a tent away while you’re still in it. She came in and helped while I dropped the inner, but I just had to tie her to the rucksack again while I sorted the outer. It was a bit of a wrestle in the wind and I was slightly stressed knowing that Pebbles wasn’t happy at this point. By the time I’d finished, she had managed to make herself into the tiniest curl-up imagineable, in the ‘shelter’ of my pack. She’d also managed to tie her legs up with her lead..

For the first half hour of the descent, the wind made walking a little challenging, but then suddenly, we dropped into a calm day, and even passed people on their way up Kinder in shorts. They would get a shock later.

And Pebbles had no trouble with the extra weight of her bed on the way back, even having spare energy to keep jumping into icy puddles, just ’cause it was fun.

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Pebbles Does Kielder

Kielder might not be the most exciting place in the outdoor world, but nevertheless, I do have a soft spot for it. For one, it was the first place I ever took my special Dixie wild camping.

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Consequently, we often find ourselves gravitating up to the area in the cooler months, for a few days relaxing and chilling.

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It’s not all forest – there’s plenty of moorland around too – although I have to admit I don’t mind the forest anyway, and as soon as you’re half an hour away from any car park, it’s very quiet. It’s possible to walk all day and not see a soul.

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The area just happens to be home to a fair number of outdoor sculptures, as well. A number are around the lake, but there are also others in totally out of the way spots, that you just happen upon unexpectedly.

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Surprisingly, Kielder also has a network of ‘wild camp sites’ that you can use. Not many people know this, but a list of them can be found here.

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Of course, you could conceivably disappear anywhere you wanted for a night, in an area the size of Kielder, but over the years I’ve taken a certain amount of pleasure in hunting these sites down and using them. I haven’t as yet used them all, but I have been to some more than once.

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If you ever try one out, please don’t expect a manicured pitch with a water tap! They are all near water – a stream, river or even the reservoir in a couple of cases – and some of them practically need bushwhacking skills to reach them. The ground is also often long grass or lumpy but, you know, they are supposed to be ‘wild’ spots after all!

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Some are fairly near tracks, whilst others are quite deep in the forest.

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Anyway, for a quick and easy night out, they can be fun. I have also linked a couple together in the past for a short, couple of night’s circuit. And incidentally, I have never got to a pitch and found someone else already there.

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So, a couple of weeks ago, Pebbles and I set off for a camp at the Plashetts pitch. As predicted, we saw next to nobody over the two days and had a very peaceful night.

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It was a long night – dark at around 4:30pm – but I’d taken a couple of documentaries to watch on my phone. Pebbles was happy just to snooze in the tent anyway, so she was no problem. And, although the temperature hovered around freezing all night, we were both snugly warm, cocooned in our relative bags and pyjamas.

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All in all, a pleasant little interlude.