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Southern Cross Review | Rob Hague

Posted on May 17th, 2019

This month we have an exciting guest blog post from Rob, an outdoors lover and Terra Nova enthusiast! He spent a week in April in the Southern Hebrides, Scotland touring in his Southern Cross Tent, and he has taken over our blog to share his experience.

 

A Quick Week in April – to The Southern Hebrides, Scotland.

 

Some trips are about minimalism.

Some trips require just a little more kit to make the journey a success.

Sometimes that extra weight makes the difference between ‘weather shelter for the night’ and a solid night’s sleep before tackling the next day’s activities.

This was one of those ‘just a little more’ trips.

I visit the Southern Hebrides each Spring. I bike-pack, taking as little kit as I think I can get away with whilst making the week enjoyable and sufficiently comfortable. With the cycle taking the weight, I have the luxury of more flexibility than a backpacker or event runner. There are plenty of food options in the area so I carry enough to start the day – the makings for tea and breakfast but not much more. The trip isn’t about huge mileages – many of the roads are single track and rough in places so mileages often seem to count double compared to what I’d expect to be doing at home.

The route I use takes three ferries. Sometimes I’ve managed to get all three to line up and do the outbound or return trip in one day, other times I’ve broken the trip with an intermediate overnight camp on Arran, then the following day I’ll take the ferry on to Kintyre before the final ferry out to Islay. The route is quite hilly. Not mountainous but constant, draining climbs. Climbs where, due to the single track roads and the need to use passing places when encountering traffic, there is little benefit from building much speed on the descents. The traffic tends to be relatively light, getting quieter with each ferry crossing. Keeping the weight down makes riding the hills easier and the trip more enjoyable – something the Southern Cross provides.

 

In previous years I have taken my Terra Nova Laser Competition, one of the earlier examples – a quite clean and simple single hoop design. It has served me well for several years, goes up quickly and packs away just as fast. It is about as light as a ‘real’ tent can be. Last year it slightly struggled with the conditions. The campsite I usually use on Islay is at sea level – a commercial site which I’d normally expect to be a safe bet. But last year was a little more challenging – at its peak we had 75mph wind gusts. The tent did not fail, but there were a couple of nights with very little sleep as the high winds collapsed the tent sides into my face.

Based on that experience, for this year I parted company with my older tent and upgraded to a modern Southern Cross – a descendent of the Laser Competition but built to a 4-season rather than 3-season rating. To some it may seem overkill for a site at an altitude of 12m. To others increasing tent weight from somewhere around 750g to just over 1300g would be too big a ‘hit’. But in the Hebrides the incoming North Atlantic winds can be fierce.

 

The primary bad-weather improvement, and the majority of the additional weight, is a second pole providing a reinforcing structure along the length of the tent, perpendicular to the standard Laser Competition hoop. There are also ‘curtains’ over the end vents in the inner tent. Initially these look like a very trivial change but on this trip they permitted very useful modulation of the ‘through draught’ keeping the inner tent condensation free.

 

This year the winds were gusting to around 55mph. Not as bad as last year but certainly exciting enough for this camper. The result? There was a little flapping of the fabric but absolutely no structural movement.
A good night’s sleep was had every night of the trip.

 

The weather? Nothing to trouble the tent or the bike, but enough to cause ferry chaos on the homebound trip – ferry 1 ran as normal, ferry 2 was diverted to a different start location as the original port couldn’t be accessed due to the swell and on ferry route 3 they were reduced to one ship and missing several of the crossings.

Overall a great early April break – 214 miles covered, including a full lap of Arran, and 10,500ft of climbing.

Rob and his wife run a small-tyre business, and the wheels are used for the bike Rob rides during his adventures. To visit their website please follow this link www.smalltyreshop.com.

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