Saturday, 2 August 2014

Mtbing & Camping in the Peak District with the Vango Omega 350


A few weekends ago Debs & I were able to get off on the short drive to the Peak district for a couple of nights camping with our new tent the Vango Omega 350 .

Since Debs picked up my dirty habit of mtbing (luckily for her the only dirty habit) last year we have been using my old 2 man Blacks Storm Shield tent, which has served me well but is a little on the small side of 2 man tents. We had been on the lookout for something with a decent sized vestibule to get all the bikes & gear in and also somewhere to do the cooking if the weather is crap ! We didn't want a massive tent, though it had to be reasonably portable but we weren't going to be carrying it on the bikes so it didn't have to be super lightweight as I have a Terra Nova Laser Competition for bikepacking adventures.

So after some scouting on the web I came across the Vango Omega 350 from Go Outdoors for a knock down price of a £130, £90 less than the RRP which ticked all our boxes.
It's a 3 man and is part of Vango's Expedition range of tent's and is aimed at young adventurer's doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. It has a roomy main tent for sleeping in which would probably sleep 4 without to much pushing & shoving but the big plus from our list of priorities is the large vestibule that doubles the size of tent and easily fits our bike's + gear and leaves plenty of room for cooking. It has a clip in ground sheet so if you had some guest's over you'd be able to put them up for the night without any bother.
The tent pitches fly first so if it's raining you keep the inner dry, which easily clips in to place in a few min's the first time you pitch it, then you leave it in place so it pitches together thereafter and the whole thing pitches in about 10 mins.

We had to pick the tent up from the Manchester Go Outdoors store about 1hr drive from us on the Bank Holiday weekend, and then drove straight into the Peak District from there for our first couple of nights in our new mobile home and to sample some of the great mtb trails that the Peak District is famous for.

We were heading to a great campsite at a farm just outside the village of Castleton called Rowter Farm , which is a favourite with pot hole caver's, rock climbers,para gliders and cyclist's and your proper camper type's. It has everything you need for a great weekend's camping and longer but it is at the basic end of the scale, but all perfectly adequate. If your a bit of a "Glamper" then it's probably not your cup of tea. Deb's & I love it though and at £5 pp per night £ 3 for kids it is hard not to love it. It is a working farm so sometimes you have the company of some of the farms inhabitants in the form of sheep who wander among the tents and even provide you with an alarm clock by bleating outside your tent in the morning, one of the joys of camping on a working farm.


From the farm you get a good view of Mam Tor and Rushup Edge which were going to form part of our loop for the following days ride. This part of the Peak District is known as Dark Peak and to the south is the White Peak and both provide very different riding with the Dark Peak considered to have the better riding than it's White Peak neighbour but it is still provides plenty of good riding. To the south you get Limestone gorges,quarry's and farm tracks and to the north you get Gritstone ridges,moorland and highly technical rock strewn,lung busting single/doubletrack climbs/descents, and if want a big day out you can link the two half's of the Peak District to get the best of both worlds which our loop was going to do.

The beauty of staying at Rowter farm  is that you're right in the middle of the of the best network of trails in the Dark peak. Debs has only been riding for 12 months but has come a long way in that short time, even though she has trouble believing that sometimes. So with her in mind I wanted to pick a route that sampled some of the best trails to keep me happy but wouldn't be too technical that it would faze her from the start.

I had planned a route of about 45 km which was probably a bit ambitious but do-able if we got an early enough start but both Debs & I are hopeless at getting early starts and that's how it panned out. We didn't get going till nearly midday. The route took us straight out the farm gate on to a farm track that we followed to get to the rutted single/double track that was part of the loop and was taking us towards Rushup Edge, the first big offroad challenge of the day. But before that we had to climb up to the Edge via a 15% + road climb which was a killer on legs still not warmed up yet !  Rushup Edge is a bit of a right of passage with mtbers in the Peak District and for the whole of the UK for that matter as it is a seat of the pants, rock strewn, 3-4 ft drop offs technical decent along the top of the ridge in one direction, and a hard mtb trials test of climbing, slog/push/carry in the other direction. I had chosen the latter direction for us and it was with envious eyes as we watched mtb'r after mtb'r thundering down past us with looks of utter exhilaration & concentration on there faces as we crawled up past them on towards the shivering mountain of Mam Tor.

We skirted round the summit of Mam Tor and stopped for a short while to enjoy the views, take a few pics and recharge for the steep technical decent down into the Hope Valley.
Debs on Mam Tor

The route now followed the road along the valley bottom for a couple of miles towards the next trail head at Nether Booth where another technical rock strewn track climbs up towards Hope Cross and on to the old Roman road at the top of the ridge. The Roman road is now just a load of deep rutts along the top of the ridge where at the end there are multiple choices of tracks to take, and is where even with a GPS I managed to take a wrong turn. But not all wrong turns turn out bad as time was now getting on and we were both starting to feel the effects of the constant battle to gain and loose altitude.

One of the smoother tracks

The wrong turn took about 15 km of the planned route and had us drop down into Hope village for a short stop for some refreshments. We followed the road to a little village called Smalldale and on to another Roman road called Batham Gate and up the savage little road climb at the end to get the altitude back that was lost dropping down in to Hope. We were on the home straight now as the road skirts a big quarry to take us on to another well known track called Dirtlow Rake, which then climbs a little to the gated farm road that would take us back to Rowter Farm.

All in all it was a great ride and a great weekend in our new tent that will be our home from home for all our cycling adventures from now on, the Vango Omega 350 , and anyone who is looking for something similar wouldn't go far wrong with this tent.

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