I'm looking for a two-man tent suitable for a tour around Europe. It should be able to cope with a wide variety of weather, be lightweight and inexpensive.
Clive Tully replies: The old-fashioned ridge tent still has its place, but for your kind of use - an extended trip in a wide range of conditions - you're much better off with a tent using flexible poles. They come in all shapes and sizes, from single hoop tents to tunnels and domes, right through to the more complex geodesics. What they all have in common is that they offer much better usable internal volume than a traditional ridge tent.
Back in the days when "typical British conditions" involved lots of rain, the preferred design used to be one which erected flysheet first in order to get out of the rain as quickly as possible, with the inner tent attached inside under cover. What predominates in American tents, and which is now widespread in European models, is inner-first pitching designs, which allows you to dispense with a fly on balmy nights, but which isn't quite so handy for erecting the tent when it's coming down in stair rods. There are pros and cons with both types. There are also quite a few models which come with fly and inner connected, which makes for convenience when pitching, but is somewhat negated if you want to separate the two to share the load of the tent between two people.
Whatever style of tent you end up with, make sure you have a porch - space under cover of the flysheet which isn't part of your inner tent. Here you can store rucksacks and muddy footwear without getting the inner tent messy, and it's also useful shelter for cooking in bad weather (never light a stove right inside a tent).
In general, the lighter an item of outdoors equipment, the less light it is on your wallet. Quality isn't always that easy to discern with something like a tent, because it's the way the fabrics perform which counts. While it's possible to have two seemingly similar tents at greatly differing prices, the cheap one is less likely to be made from fabrics which maintain a high tear strength after exposure to UV. Similarly, budget tents may well have poles which are either glass fibre or low-grade aluminium. If you don't camp much, and when you do it's mostly lowland and in good weather, it may not make much that difference. More use, and in more challenging conditions, and it won't take long for you to realise the benefits of spending the extra if you can.
Once you get "out there", always try to pitch in the most sheltered place you can. It's unfair to expect a lightweight structure like a tent to withstand high winds that may be ripping roof tiles off houses.
Terra Nova (01773 833300), The North Face (01629 580484) and Saunders (0181 500 2447) all make different styles in top quality materials, and you could be looking at paying anything between pounds 250 and pounds 400 for a quality two-man tent weighing around seven pounds. Between pounds 100 and pounds 250, and you'll find companies such as Vango (01475 744122), Karrimor (01254 385911), Jack Wolfskin (01275 472815) and Vaude (01434 320744) with models more than suitable for your needs.
Clive Tully is an outdoors expert
WHAT DO I DO IF MY HOLIDAY IS AFFECTED BY A STRIKE?
Given airline disputes such as those involving BA and Yemenia, what type of travel insurance cover will protect me if my own holiday gets cancelled?
Julie Philpott replies: Coming into peak holiday season, travel delays and strikes, such as that which has afflicted BA, quite commonly affect travellers' holidays.
Many insurance companies will honour claims for delay and cancellation if the policy was issued prior to confirmation of the strike date.
Cover for delay and cancellation are integral parts of any travel insurance policy. When spending a significant amount of money on an overseas trip, people need to know they are protected in the event of strikes.
People who experience travel delay should be able to claim on their insurance for each 12-hour period of delay and usually, after 24 hours, they can elect to cancel their trip and claim irrecoverable costs for pre-booked travel.
The level of cover you will need for cancellation depends on the type of trip. When buying travel insurance you need to think about the cost of travel and accommodation and the cost implications should you need to cancel your trip. Your insurance should cover travel and accommodation costs if booked in advance, and sometimes pre-booked transfers and excursions can also be claimed.
Look for a minimum of pounds 1,000 cancellation cover - it is amazing how quickly things can add up.
Illness, jury service, conscription and damage to personal property from fire, storms or flooding, are some of the other circumstances recognised as reasons to cancel a trip. Also, check the extent to which your insurance company will cover the cancellation of your trip against the death or injury of immediate family members, close business partners and travelling companions.
Always obtain written confirmation from the transport carrier of delay or cancellation. Your travel insurance company will need this to process your claim.
Julie Philpott is marketing director of Columbus Travel Insurance
I am planning a trip into the rain forests of Venezuela and a couple of things are particularly on my mind. The first is, what really is the most sensible thing to do with leeches? The second concerns wasps and hornets. What should people do who have been stung?
Dr Larry Goodyer replies: Leeches are a common problem for those visiting rain forests, and land leeches can very quickly sense the approach of humans, making a beeline for the legs and ankles. The main complication is that if they are not removed properly, some of the mouth parts may be left behind, resulting in infection. By applying alcohol, salt, or vinegar the leech will be easy to remove. You could also carefully use a cigarette or lighted match. If there is a small wound then clean well, apply an iodine-based antiseptic, and cover. This is useful advice for any small wound contracted in the rain forest, for if these are left untreated a nasty wound, which is difficult to heal, may develop. It is claimed that DEET, used in many insect repellents, will also repel leeches.
A sting from a bee, wasp or hornet could happen anywhere. If you know that you react extremely badly, ie are in danger of anaphylaxis, then it may be advisable to carry an adrenalin injection. Otherwise there are quite a number of products which help to relieve the immediate sting, eg Stingose and Afterbite. These are sometime not so good at stopping subsequent itching and swelling, where hydrocortisone creams can be quite useful. Taking anti-histamine tablets can also help to relieve a bite or sting.
It is claimed to be better to scratch off an embedded sting with a credit card or similar object rather than pulling it out. However, recent research seems to indicate that it is best to remove the sting as quickly as possible rather than worrying about how it is done.
Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.Reuse content