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THE BENEFITS OF SWAG CAMPING

New to swags? Here's a bit of an education

Why camp in a canvas swag?

I am often asked why a swag is better than tent or hammock camping so I thought I’d take a few moments to write up my thoughts on the subject. While I don’t necessarily suggest that any one system is better, they all have their pros and cons, there are a lot of benefits that the humble canvas swag can offer:

Super fast set up (and break down)

As with the early bedrolls in the days of the Jolly Swagman, modern swags are incredibly quick and easy to pitch. You can just turn up at your chosen site, throw the swag on the floor and unroll it. OK, in some cases it’s a bit more than that, but most swags need only two pegs, or none if tying up to a tree or vehicle. Dome swags usually have between 1 and 3 poles and set up really can be done in around a minute. Couple that with the fact that you may wish to keep your sleeping bag or blankets inside the swag when travelling and you have a very quick and efficient set up.

Carry the swag and nothing else

If you are looking for a no-frills overnighter it is perfectly possible to take everything you need in your swag roll. Lay your sleeping bag, pillow and maybe a tarp on top of the mattress inside your swag and roll it up. This gives you a single item to throw in your vehicle or carry a short distance. A packed and rolled swag may weigh about 8kg, so it’s not a lightweight trekking option but it gives you a useful way to carry all your gear and not leave anything behind.

Excellent temperature control

Swags are made from heavy duty cotton or polycotton canvas which has great insulating properties. So if it’s cold outside, the swag will keep you warm. The supportive foam mattress and PVC base add to the warmth, giving you an extremely comfortable place to lay your head. Most swags have great ventilation which means that, coupled with the relative small size, condensation is pretty much non-existent. In the summer the swag will keep you cool. That ventilation and the ability to fold back the storm cover, leaving just the bug net, allows the breeze to cool you down.

Stargazing - the romance of the Great Outdoors

In the summer months it is a joy to spend a night under the stars. A swag, with its bug mesh, allows you to sleep in comfort with the storm cover open safe in the knowledge that you’re safe from bites. The solid canvas sides of the swag still afford you a feeling of security with the entire universe looking down on you.

Hard wearing

Swags were originally developed in the Australian outback where conditions can be harsh. Heavy duty canvas and thick PVC bases are only part of the story. Quality stitching, wide nylon webbing and aircraft grade aluminium poles all contribute to a tough piece of equipment that can be relied upon for far longer than your average polyester tent. Brushing against thorns, being thrown onto the top of the truck, freezing cold nights – all no trouble for a quality canvas swag.

Perfect & quick 'ready bed '

A lot of people in the UK drive pick up trucks, just like the Aussie ‘Ute’. A swag is perfect to chuck in the back and sleep in the load area. It’s equally at home as a guest bed when you turn up at your mate’s unannounced. Just unroll your swag and you have a comfortable mattress and sleeping bag at a moment’s notice.

No pegs? No problem!

If you were to lose, forget or break your tent pegs it is much less of a problem with a swag. A swag generally needs between zero and three pegs but, because so few are used, it can be tied to nearby trees or other objects. Just try pitching a tent correctly using only pre-located branches and so on!

Longer nights

Due to the heavy canvas, a swag lets in very little sunlight when the storm cover is closed. This means that you won’t ‘boil in the bag’ like a brightly coloured polyester tent but you will also find that the bright early morning sunlight won’t necessarily wake you up before you want it to. The heavy canvas also gives a real sense of security as it deadens sounds from outside. It gives the swag camper an incredibly comfortable night’s sleep with a feeling of safety and sanctuary that other systems cannot.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. The only way to really find out is to try for yourself. Pay a visit to one of our retailers or see us at a show and we can let you make up your own mind about the virtues of camping in a canvas swag.

Need to know more about swags?

Canvas swags are a relatively new concept to the UK and, hopefully, this guide will give you more of an idea of what you can expect from this famous well proven icon of the great outdoors.

It is an evolution of the days of Waltzing Matilda and the Australian ‘Jolly Swagman’ travelling from farm to farm looking for work and sleeping by the billabong under the coolibah tree in his simple bedroll – essentially his blanket in which all his belongings were kept.

The first thing to acknowledge about a swag is that it would be a mistake to call it a tent. In Australia, tents are tents and swags are swags. The humble swag is better thought of as a sleeping system. It is an extremely comfortable mattress set inside a strong, hard wearing canvas shelter. You can keep some items inside with you and sometimes even have more than one of you but you’re not going to be doing any cooking in there and getting dressed is easier outside than in.

Outhaus swags are made from very heavy duty waterproofed polycotton canvas and have strong waterproof PVC bases so they can be used on their own in all weathers. However, most swags are top loading, which means that if it’s raining and you want to get in or out, you’re going to get wet, as is the inside of your swag. To this end, the most popular way to enjoy a swag is to think of it as just the bed part of your camp set up (similar to how you may view a hammock). Pitch an awning on your 4×4 or a tarp between some trees and have the swag pitched at the edge of this shelter. Then you have a large area for cooking and other activities, with your comfy canvas bedroom on the outskirts. This means that you’re going to have a roof over you, protecting you from the weather and you can sleep with just the bug net, even if it’s throwing it down outside.

Still not sure? See the reviews on our ‘In the Press’ page. Once you ditch nylon for canvas there’ll be no going back!

Swag care instructions
Blog post: The Benefits of Swag Camping