Get out with the kids Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:24:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Red Squirrels Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:54:02 +0000 Red Squirrels

Red Squirrels are actually the native squirrels of the UK, but there numbers are few. We've got a few interesting facts and some squirrel kids activities here. Go nuts for squirrels!

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

Red Squirrels

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Red squirrels are rather cute, but unfortunately you can only see them in a few places in the UK, and those numbers are in decline.

As we write this it is Red Squirrel Week to raise awareness of our little red forrest friends ;-)

Where you can find Red Squirrels in the UK

You can find most of the Red Squirrel population in Scotland, but they are also on the Isle of Wight, and in some parts of Cumbria, Northumberland, Merseyside, Lancashire, north-west Durham and the Yorkshire Dales.

Visit the Red Squirrels Northern England web page for a map of where you can find our native squirrel.

More Interesting Facts about Red Squirrels

Did you know that baby red squirrels are called kittens. — Tweet This

Red squirrels can locate their buried food supplies in over 1 foot of snow. — Tweet This

Red squirrels can swim. — Tweet This

Red squirrels don’t hibernate. In the winter they rely on the food they’ve buried. — Tweet This

Red squirrels have 4 fingers and 2 toes on each paw. — Tweet This

Red Squirrel Activities to do with your Kids

If you live in a region that has some red squirrels, go along and see if you can spot any.

The Nature Detectives has a few Red Squirrel related things you can download and do.

You can download and print this squirrel colouring sheet.
Make a Red Squirrel finger puppet.
Can you be a squirrel? Find some acorns, bury them, and then go back and try and find where you left them. Leave it a day or two, or even a week, to see just how difficult this actually is…..and don’t cheat by marking where you buried them ;-)  Download the acorn hunt game from here. 

Want to learn more?

You could visit the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. Here’s their video below.

As mentioned before, there’s a website dedicated to Red Squirrels in Northern England.

There’s some Red Squirrel facts too over on BBC Nature and of course, wikipedia.

Photo credit:Redsquirrel eating 2012” by Paul WhippeyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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Paddling the Mersey – An Urban Canoe Adventure Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:45:15 +0000 Paddling the Mersey – An Urban Canoe Adventure

Read about this family-friendly urban canoe adventure on the River Mersey. No experience needed. So take your family on an organised canoe trip like this.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

Paddling the Mersey – An Urban Canoe Adventure

You can take the family canoeing in all sorts of places. We went on an urban river tour on the Mersey…

Canoeing is a great activity you can take your family on, and can transform a dull Sunday afternoon into an adventure.

Canoeing is not just for the countryside

You might be thinking that you can’t go canoeing if you’re not surrounded by lakes and rivers in the countryside. This is not the case. Many rivers and canals span our urban landscapes – even if they’ve been hidden away or built over, there’s usually a water channel somewhere and a friendly canoe club or activity centre to help you paddle it.

Paddling the River Mersey

We joined Venture-Out as part of Go Canoeing’s World Rivers Day organised canoeing events that were happening up and down the country.

Instead of paddling in the countryside across lakes or canals, this was going to be the River Mersey. Not in Liverpool but in Stockport, where the River Mersey originates.

An Urban Canoe Adventure

Greater Manchester is not the first place I’d think of as a canoeing destination, but if you look at the map, there’s quite a few waterways, and the source of the River Mersey is just one.

Merseyway shopping centre
This was going to be very different to where we normally paddle, and now having to avoid submerged shopping trollies (and bikes) more than trees, the smell of fumes and debris instead of smells of the countryside (read farmyard manure), and with the sound of traffic and jet planes instead of birdsong, cows, and sheep.

In fact, we even paddle under the Mersey Way Shopping Centre!

Safe for kids. Safe for beginners.

Safe family canoeing with boats made into a raft
By going on an organised tour, like the one we did with Venture-Out, you don’t need to invest in equipment, you don’t need to be experienced, and kids can do it too.

The canoes were tied together to form rafts for the families, making the boats very stable. There’s no chance of capsizing.

Once the river widened and everyone become more confident, we were given the option of dismantling the raft and ‘going solo’.

Not all rivers are family or novice friendly, but you’ll be surprised to see how many are. Visit Go Canoeing to find a family-friendly canoe tour near you.

The Mersey Tunnel

Mention the ‘Mersey Tunnel’ and you think of Liverpool.

We’ll there’s another Mersey Tunnel. This one takes the River Mersey right under the Merseyway Shopping Centre in Stockport.

Underneath Stockport in the Mersey Tunnel
If you look at the map above and follow where we got in on the River Tame, you’ll see the River Mersey disappear under the shopping centre before coming out the other side.

The shopping centre is built over the top of the river creating a 500 metre long tunnel.

It was quite dark. You could see bats flying around, picking up insects from just above the water.

The kids weren’t scared though.

The tunnel was like a secret lair you’d see in a James Bond movie, yet here it was in Stockport.

Sandstone Gorge and Industrial Venice

Sandstone Gorge
As you come out of the tunnel into the daylight, you can see that Stockport has a small sandstone gorge, with old warehouses and factories built around and right on top of the small sand-stone cliffs.
The neglected waterfront
As we paddled by the remains of an industrial past, with layers of history built on top of one another, it reminded me of the back streets of Venice (only a little bit!).


Successfully negotiating a weir
We had to navigate 3 weirs (man-made waterfalls) our our Mersey adventure.

These were nothing to worry about, and canoe guides were on hand if anyone got into trouble. (Plus, you could stand up in most of the river!).  

Give it a go

If you’ve not taken your family on the river yet, then we really encourage that you give it a go.

If you and your family are regular paddlers, we also recommend checking out some of the organised canoe tours and experience somewhere a bit different.

For more information:

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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Are we there yet? Another trick for those long car journeys Fri, 26 Sep 2014 15:21:44 +0000 Are we there yet? Another trick for those long car journeys

Keeping kids entertained on long car journeys can be difficult. There are lots of things that you can do, but this is one of the easiest.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

Are we there yet? Another trick for those long car journeys

One of the good things about the UK is that we’re quite a small country. From most places you can get from coast to countryside by simply jumping in the car and not needing to get on a plane as you might have to in larger countries.

This makes it easy to pop the kids in the car and explore the many different places or enjoy some of the fantastic days out. The problem is….

Are we there yet?

Sometimes car journeys can be….difficult.

We’ve successfully used car games and other techniques, but one thing that’s been working pretty well is audio books.

I’m not talking about audio CDs of yesterday. No, the hundreds, if not thousands, of children’s audio books you can download onto your phone.

The problem is, when you are driving along in your car, your phone’s speaker is a little hard to hear.

Sometimes car journeys can be….difficult.

Using the Car Radio with your phone

Playing audio books to keep the kids entertained in the car
There are many new cars that allow you to automatically pair your phone with the car, and use the car’s own speakers. If you have such a car, then I suspect you may have already discovered using audio books on long car journeys with your kids.

However for many of us, where family budgets are often stretched, such cars are still out of reach.

There is a solution: an in-car radio transmitter.

We’ve been using one now for over a year. It plugs into the 12V/cigarette lighter in the car, you use your car radio to find a clear frequency, you set the gadget to that frequency, plug it into the ear phone socket on your phone, and press play. It then transmits your audio to your car’s radio. Simple.

This has worked OK, and we’ve now got through many an audio book on our journeys up and down the UK.

The problem we’ve found is that although this device is simple, it’s not always reliable. Sometimes it would get a lot of interference so you couldn’t hear the story, there were a lot of cables, and you couldn’t charge your phone whilst playing the story.

Fortunately there are some better in-car radio transmitters, and the guys over at Tao Tronics sent theirs over for us to review…and we’ve been very impressed.

TaoTronics In-Car Radio Transmitter

TaoTronics In-Car FM Transmitter
The TaoTronics gadget is a little bit more expensive than the one we bought, but offers a lot more functionality. (It’s not that expensive – click here to see!)

Firstly it looks great, with cool glowing lights when it’s powered up.

We initially tuned it into the same frequency our old transmitter used, but the Tao Tronics was clearly more powerful as well had a lot less interference and clear audio. We would sometimes have to position our old one in funny positions for the best signal, but this one worked fine right from where it was plugged in.

Secondly, there’s less cables. You can pair your phone with device over bluetooth.

This was painless. I just selected the device under my Bluetooth settings, and then could just press play to hear the audio coming through the car speakers. Very cool.

Thirdly, it’s easier to operate. You can go forward and back between tracks (not something you need to do with audio books, but useful for music), and just tap the big button on the top to pause/play.

The TaoTronics in-car Transmitter comes complete with USB phone charging socket
Fourthly, it has a USB socket so you can plug in your phone charging cable and charge your phone whilst you have the audio book or music playing. No more turning up with entertained kids but with a flat battery in the phone!

Fifthly (is there such a word??), you can receive calls hands free. If you get a call whilst you are listening to audio, simply tap the button on the top of the device and your call will be answered.

You will hear the caller through your car speakers. When the call finishes, the TaoTronics device will resume your audio from the point when the call came in.

TaoTronics in-car FM Transimitter - ideal for keeping the kids entertained with audiobooks on long car journeys
We have a hands free phone feature in our Sat Nav device. Now the Sat Nav device is a lot closer to my mouth than the TaoTronics plugged into the 12V supply, which is on the floor in our car, so we were keen to see if this hands-free call was any good.

It was.

Or should I say, it was about the same as the Sat Nav device that is a lot closer to my mouth. You may hear your caller crystal clear over your car speakers, but you might still sound distant and have road noise to your caller. However, we were able to have a conversation without any problems, all hands-free.

Now it doesn’t have any integration so that you can can issue voice commands and ask it to “phone home”, but for the price of this Tao Tronics gadget, it does a lot.


Entertaining the children whilst driving can have its challengers. If you’ve not played audio books before, give them a try (David Walliams books go down well with our kids).

If you don’t have a fancy car, get yourself an in-car FM transmitter, and do yourself a favour and get one like the Tao Tronics FM transmitter. It gets a thumbs up from us.

If you want to get yourself one of these transmitters, I know they’re currently available from Amazon.

TaoTronics TT-FT02 Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter with Music Control, Hands-Free Calling, and USB Charging 5V/1A Output
TaoTronics TT-FT02 Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter with Music Control, Hands-Free Calling, and USB Charging 5V/1A Output
 16 customer reviews...
TaoTronics TT-FT02 Wireless In-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter

- Tune transmitter and your car stereo system to same blank frequency;
- Pair transmitter with your phone through Bluetooth;
- Enjoy music in your player on the car stereo system;
- Bluetooth hands-free talk for phone call;
- Charge your device via the USB port.

- Bluetooth Version 3.0
- Range: 88.1-107.9MHz
- Interval: 0.1MHz
- Stability: 10ppm(-10℃~+55℃)
- Clutter & Harmonic: <=60dB
- Effective Range: About 5m
- Bluetooth Receiver Distance: About 10m

- Working voltage: DC 12V~24V
- Working Electric Curren: 15~30mA
- USB Output Voltage: DC 5V 1A
- Battery Capacity: 200mAh
- Battery Charging time: 1 hour
- Battery Operating time: 2.5 hours

- Stereo Seperation: 40dB
- Frequency Response: 20Hz~16KHz
- Audio Distortion: <=0.1%(F=75KHz, f=1KHz)
- SNR: >=45dB (1KHz 100%)

Package Includes:
1 x TT-FT02 FM Transmitter
1 x User Manual

(as of 30/09/2014 - info)

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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Lake Bala Challenge (or waves aren’t only found at sea) Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:30:38 +0000 Lake Bala Challenge (or waves aren’t only found at sea)

We under took Go Canoeing's Lake Bala / Llyn Tegid Challenge, paddling to the end and back again...only we did it in inflatable canoes, two of which had to be towed!

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

Lake Bala Challenge (or waves aren’t only found at sea)

So what would you do on a Sunday afternoon? Go for a leisurely walk? Spend time in the garden? How about paddling 7 miles across Wales’s largest lake with the wind in your face and towing some kids behind? No?

The Bala Lake Challenge

Plans change.

What was expected to be a weekend camping whilst we had dry and warm weather in September, turned into a day canoeing, as our two eldest daughters were invited to separate sleepovers on Saturday night.

We still had Sunday though ;-)

Earlier in the week I saw that Go Canoeing had launched a 3 lake challenge, with one of the lakes being Bala in Wales, which is only 40 miles away from us. That’s Sunday sorted then!

Go Canoeing Lake Bala Challenge

Lake Bala Llyn Tegid challenge
Bala, or Llyn Tegid as it is meant to be called, is the largest natural lake in Wales, and the Go Canoeing challenge is to paddle from one end to the other and back.

The total distance is around 7 miles and expected to take between one and two and a half hours…..but that wasn’t quite our experience.

Canoeing and Water Sports on Lake Bala

Lake Bala Charges
You’ll find a lot of sailing and canoeing on Lake Bala. No powered craft are allowed (except for those with electric motors).

At the town of Bala is the main foreshore for launching.

There are parking fees as well as fees to canoe in the lake.

You can pay the fees at blue meters (one by the entrance and one by the changing rooms) but these require change. Alternatively you can pay at the office, however, on Sunday the office is closed. Fortunately for us there was a warden (look for someone in a fluorescent jacket), who was able to sort us out with tickets.

Another place that can be good to put in is at Llangower, about 2 thirds of the way up the lake.

This is a favourite spot of ours. It has a car park and WC, and is where the Bala Light Railway has a small station. Just the other side of the train tracks from the car park is a beach with a jetty.

We’d be visiting Llangower on our challenge (though not something you might do if you are trying to get on the leader board!)


Lake Bala is a big lake. Perhaps not as big as some, but big enough to get weather.

It’s located in a valley where wind comes down the mountains and hits the lake.

You therefore need to check the weather and take sensible precautions.

We were familiar with paddling on Bala, and knew what the wind can be like. That sunday afternoon conditions were very good.

Hiring Canoes (or not)

On the main foreshore of Lake Bala you can hire canoes.

Given that our chosen craft are inflatable canoes, on a big lake known for being windy is perhaps not the best choice.

We enquired about hiring some rigid craft. It was £45 a day for a canoe or a double kayak……but could only be paddled near the foreshore. Absolutely no good for our Go Canoeing challenge.

Here’s a little video of our challenge attempt.

Our Challenge in getting started

The challenge - paddle to the end and back
After getting changed into our wet suits, inflating the two Intex Challengers and the Sevylor Hudson, we set off.

The wind was behind us and pace was good, but then noticed a lot of water in the Hudson. Oops, the drainage hole had come open when we launched (yes, I did check it was closed).

The Hudson will float fine with the drainage hole open, but since I was the heaviest, water was pooling around my seat. So we turned round, went back to the jetty, and started again.

At14:26 we launched for the second time.

Gone With the Wind

When you stand on the foreshore you can’t really see the end of the lake. Now with the wind behind us, a route down the middle of the lake would have got us to the far side relatively quickly.

However, not long after setting off, with two kids tired from their sleepovers, one of them decided they couldn’t carry on.

towing another inflatable was like putting the brakes on
This was something we had prepared for, and so ran a line from the back of the Hudson to her Challenger. Needless to say, towing another inflatable was like putting the brakes on.

Straight down the middle of the lake is the most direct route. We hugged the shoreline, adding further distance to our challenge (not sure why!).

Plus the camera’s memory card filled up, so time was spent removing old photos….

we weren’t going to set a best time
You may get the feeling we weren’t going to set a best time.

The Other End

Eventually we got to the other end of the lake.

We paddled to the furthest point (a bit further than shown on the challenge map), but it was very shallow here, with the odd branch in the water. Inflatables and submersed branches isn’t a combination that goes well together.

Inflatables and submersed branches isn’t a combination that goes well together
The plan was to stop for a small picnic at the end of the lake, but given the hazards in the water, we decided to paddle down to Llangower.

This time the wind was right in our face. So was the waves.

With the wind coming down the valley from the mountains in generally one direction, the waves have a chance to build over 3.5 miles.

If you stop you go backwards!
We now had that wind in our face plus waves. (Unfortunately no photos of videos of the really impressive waves, as too busy paddling! If you stop you go backwards!)

The trick with Bala though is to hug the shore on the return stretch (depending on the wind of course). There are lots of little headlands that can block some of the wind and waves, though there are points where you have to venture back into the main channel.

Tug Boat

Our eldest had done well, but in places where we were exposed to the wind and the waves, she wasn’t making much headway.

we were now facing into the waves and the wind, towing two inflatable canoes
The solution: she pontooned with the one we were already towing. That meant we were now facing into the waves and the wind, towing two inflatable canoes.

There were plenty of moments on that journey where I was the only one paddling 5 people into wind across 3 inflatable craft! It was hard work.


A picnic spot with a view
After few encouraging toots from the Bala light railway, we eventually we reached Llangower.

Time for a refuel.

Here the water is calm and still. The lake looks a perfect place for paddle.

There’s actually a campsite here where you can stay and launch your boats from. See Pant Yr Onnon for more details.

It looks so calm
The campsite is usually pretty busy, and you’ll always need to book in advance for summer weekends and bank holidays. There are other campsites though around Bala, such as Pen y Bont.

The Long Stretch

Refuelled but noticing the sun is now lower in the sky, we set off.

All was great initially, but as we rounded the far end of the Pant Yr Onnon shore, the wind and waves hit us, pushing us back towards the beach.

Time to pontoon the girls, and tow both of them in order to make headway.

If you make a dash for the shore line you can get some shelter from the prevailing wind, but there are places like this when you need to paddle hard to get there.

After a while the main Bala shoreline was visible in the distance.

It was now getting later, and fortunately the wind dropped a little, as it tends to do in the evening, so we made a direct line for the shoreline, which was probably still over a mile away.

Suddenly our canoe was flying through the water
With towing two canoes behind, this was a long slog.

Finally, we got close and the wind and waves were less, and the girls wanted to finish the last bit themselves. Suddenly our canoe was flying through the water without the two boats behind, and we soon reached the shore.


So, at 3 hours and 44 minutes, I don’t think we’ll be at the top of the Go Canoeing leader board, even if we took off the 15 minutes for the picnic at Llangower!

The Final Kick in the…

There are toilets, showers, and changing rooms at the main Bala foreshore. BUT THEY CLOSE.

We hadn’t seen any notices saying that they close, but by the time we put our gear away, the gents was locked, and the ladies was being cleaned and was “closed to the public”.

Oh well. At least it wasn’t cold and raining ;-)

Evening sunset over Bala

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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How waterproof is your tent? 8 things to check when buying a tent Sat, 13 Sep 2014 17:01:38 +0000 How waterproof is your tent? 8 things to check when buying a tent

Some tents are more waterproof than others. But how do you tell? We describe 8 things to check when buying a tent so you stay nice and dry while camping.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

How waterproof is your tent? 8 things to check when buying a tent

We recently saw where Outwell test their tents to ensure their designs are waterproof, which reminds us of some important points to choosing a tent that doesn’t leak. We run through 8 things to look for when buying a tent.

How waterproof is your tent

When you take the family camping and the weather turns wet, there may be that little nagging voice at the back of your mind saying “I hope the tent doesn’t leak!”.

We popped over to Denmark to where Outwell test their tent designs, blasting them with winds up to 9 or 10 on the Beaufort Scale (a very bad gale), and a deluge of rain. Six months of rain in twenty minutes in fact.

Seeing that much water come down on a tent really stresses what you should look for when buying a tent to make sure your choice is going to be waterproof.

Let’s run through some things that you can check to improve the chances of getting something that shelters you from the rain.

1. Check the seams of the tent

Where the tent material has been stitched together, check that the seams have been sealed.

From the inside of the tent you should see that the stitching has a waterproof coating.

Check the seams of the tent including where there are additional items sewn in
It’s also important to check where toggles and ties have been stitched into the seams of the main tent fabric. These need to be sealed properly too. If not, they could be a source of leaks in a downpour.  

2. Check the zips

Doorways are always a potential place for rain to come in.

Make sure the zips on the tent are protected from the rain. On a well designed tent you should find fabric and sometimes even a plastic cover to keep water way from the zip.

Cable entry zips must be protected from the rain too
If the tent has a cable entry, also make sure this zip is protected too.

The cable entry may have protection similar to the zip on the main door, or may be under the ‘skirt’ of the tent, and so out of the rain.

If you just see a normal zip on the side of the tent, that that’s likely to be a source for leaks.

If you do have an electric cable coming into your tent, depending on the design of your tent, the cable entry could let in a little bit of water where the zip is open for the cable.

Never place your electrics directly on the floor. 

If your electric sockets don’t have a stand to keep them off the floor (some roller cables are designed to keep the sockets off the floor), then place the power sockets on a table.

3. Check the Hydrostatic Head

The Hydrostatic Head is how waterproof the tent fabric is.

Click here if you want to know more about Hydrostatic Head.

Basic tents may only have 2000 mm HH (Hydrostatic Head). This may be perfectly fine for mild conditions, but you may find that with a really heavy downpour, the water will seep through the weave of the fabric – but it would have to be a heavy downpour for it do so.

Some tents will have a much higher HH, giving you extra peace of mind. However, if the seams aren’t taped well, a tent with 8000 HH will still leak.

4.  Check that there is a bathtub sewn-in groundsheet

A sewn-in groundsheet is one that is attached to the tent. A sewn-in groundsheet is not essential, but saves time when pitching.

The important thing is that it is a ‘bathtub’ groundsheet. This means that the sides of the ground sheet turn upwards at the side, minimising the risk of water coming into your tent.

Groudsheets should have a much higher Hydrostatic Head, such as 10000HH, and a thicker stronger material than the main tent fabric.

The points above are the things you should find on all family tents. However, there’s more things you could be looking for.

5. How good is the stitching?

Each stitch in the tent is a hole in the fabric, and so another potential source of leaks.

As mentioned above, these seams should be sealed, however tent designs can go further to minimise leaks, such as overlapping the material and reducing the amount of stitching that goes through the outer tent fabric.

Also check that the stitching uniform; not having a lot of stray material stitched or loose ends, that could be a sign that quality is not the best.

6. Is there a rain proof entrance?

Does the tent’s design allow you to get in and out of the tent without a lot of water pouring in as soon as you open the door?

There should be a shelter, or at the very minimum some form of ridge or gully, so that you can open the door in the rain without water pouring off the roof of the tent directly on you and creating an instant puddle on your tent floor.

7. Is there a waterproof treatment?

Some manufacturers will apply a waterproof treatment to their tents, in addition to a higher Hydrostatic Head in the material and well designed sealed seams.

This additional waterproofing helps water bead and run off the tent. The less time water is on the tent, the less chance it has of entering the tent.

8. Does the tent have a skirt?

OK, not literally a skirt, but some tents have some fabric that extends the side of the tent out and way from the groundsheet, and looks a bit like a skirt.

This material helps direct water away from the tent and away from the stitching with the groundsheet.

So there are a few things to look for when buying a tent so that you can choose one that will keep you dry.

As you would expect, the more design features you find will typically mean a higher price, but that’s not to say that more affordable tents don’t carry good waterproof features too. You just need to know what to look for ;-)

Polycotton and Canvas Tents – Wet them first!

If you’ve spent a lot of money on an expensive polycotton or canvas tent, you might get quite upset if you take it to the campsite and the first time you pitch it you find that it leaks in the rain.

This is actually quite likely to happen, and it’s not a manufacturing fault in the tent.

The weave on polycotton or canvas is much courser when new, with lots of tiny holes. Water can come through the stitching and the material.

However, after a few times it gets wet, the weave tightens up and becomes very waterproof. This is a natural property of the material, and why it is highly regarded by a lot of campers.

It is important that after buying a polycotton or canvas tent, you put it up in your garden and spray it with a hose before you go camping.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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Stand Up Paddleboarding….or SUP as it is known for short! Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:31:38 +0000 Stand Up Paddleboarding….or SUP as it is known for short!

Stand up paddleboarding (or SUP) is another great way to get the entire family on the water. It's fun and keeps you fit too. Read this family guide to SUPs.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

Stand Up Paddleboarding….or SUP as it is known for short!

Ever wanter to learn about Paddleboarding? It’s a great way to get the family on the water…

Stand Up Paddleboarding is a great family activity

Why SUP?

This is an upcoming sport in the UK and it is a little bit addictive!

It’s great if there are no waves to surf and is also handy if you don’t live near a beach but do live near some flat water.

SUP is great fun for all, kids or just a kid at heart! If you are not sure what it is all about then check out this GOWTK video ;-)

So what’s the best age for SUP?

Small kids can sit on the front of an adult's SUP board
You can get kids boards which are smaller and more manageable, so they can start young, around the age of 8. At this age they might get tired quickly as it is quite a whole body work out! But what is great about SUPs is that you can get a large board and pop the kids on the front of the grown up’s boards if you need to!

So basically it can be done from any age. A whole family fun activity!

The best time of year for Paddleboarding

SUPing can be done any time of year.

The sea is at its warmest in August/September. However if you are playing on lakes and inland waters it doesn’t make too much difference! So as long as you want to have a go and the weather is good, you can go and play whenever!

Weather, winds, waves and tides…

The one thing that affects SUP is the wind! It is hard work trying to paddle in strong winds, so best to check the wind forecast and know what is too strong for you personally to paddle against.

If you are not sure get yourself involved in a SUP lesson or course where they will share top tips and knowledge.

The wind can be your friend if you are doing a journey and it is behind you it will assist you along the way, making it SUPer easy!

SUPing with swell can be a bit tricky but still fun once you are at the right level, for beginners you want flat calm waters, then you can progress to more lumpy waters!

You can surf SUPs too, which is really good fun!

Taking account of tide times can make it easier to get in and out of the water with your SUP board
Watch out for tides, if it is low tide you might have to carry your board a long way, which can be tiring, so take note and perhaps choose high tide if you can!

Where to go Paddleboarding

SUPing everywhere
As said above, you can SUP on the sea or on any calm inland waterways! There are sooooo many places to choose from its hard to really make a list or pick!

Of course we at Board Games love the Pembrokeshire coast for its beauty, views, wildlife and variation.

Inland there are great Lochs in Scotland, canal systems all over the country and lakes a plenty….the world is your SUP oyster ;-)

Practical bits & bobs….

SUP Boards

Stand Up Paddleboards
There are so many types of boards to choose from.

Inflatables are great for popping in your car, pumping up and going…or even for commuting to school/work if you have a canal nearby! They are pretty hard wearing and take up not much room when storing.

Hard boards are good for those with lots of space and a roof rack or van! They can be a bit more fragile than an inflatable but are lovely to paddle and you don’t have to pump them up every time you want to adventure!

Then there are some foam options out there, which are similar to the hard boards, but a bit more forgiving and bounce well!

Sizes of boards can be a whole world of confusion, we at Board Games use 10’2 as an all-round board, you can surf them and journey on them. It all depends on what you are going to be using yours for, best thing to do is head to a hire shop or test centre and check out the range…ask the staff for some knowledge and get the right one for you!


You can get adjustable paddles which are probably the best option if you are a family as then you can all use them!

If your kids are still young you will need to get some junior paddles too, which go down smaller for smaller arms!

If you really get into it you can buy a paddle that you have to cut to the right length which will just fit you, handy if you don’t want anyone else to steal it!

It is really important to make sure you use a paddle that is the right length for you as it can damage your shoulder if it’s too big. If you are not sure, seek some expert advice.

Clothing choices

Kit yourself out for paddleboarding in all weathers
We like to wear wetsuits as it means you can fall in and have fun without feeling too cold!

We choose winter wetsuits 5/4mm most of the year round, although you can get away with a summer suit as SUPing tends to keep you quite warm!

If the weather is super hot (or you are lucky enough to live in tropical climates) you can wear shorts and a rash vest!

If you have little kids or are not a strong swimmer we suggest a buoyancy aid too, if you fall in it will mean you just bob about in the water!

Don’t forget if the sun is out to wear sunscreen and maybe a hat as water reflects sunlight.


Other bits you might want to invest in are:

  • Wetsuit boots if you are going to be playing all year round, keeps those toes warm!
  • A carry strap if you are going to be carrying your board a long way it can help!
  • A keypod for your keys while you are out on the water they are safe attached to your vehicle.

A final word….

We at Board Games do love to SUP but it will help if you get some knowledge first, so get yourself signed up to a lesson or join a SUP club.

A little bit of knowledge goes a long way and most of all get out there and have some serious fun! Enjoy the SUP adventure but watch out it can become SUPer addictive :-)

Stay safe and paddle on!

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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How to avoid losing your keys (and other things!) Tue, 26 Aug 2014 06:23:27 +0000 How to avoid losing your keys (and other things!)

A fantastic day out can be ruined if your car keys fell out your pocket somewhere. Here's some practical solutions so this doesn't happen to you.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

How to avoid losing your keys (and other things!)

It’s all very well having a great day out in the countryside, but what if you lost your car keys? Here’s a few items that can help…

How to avoid losing things like car keys when outside

Losing your car keys or other items (wallet, house keys, phone, etc.) is no joke. Especially if you’ve come back from some activity and your family is cold and wet, and just want to get home. Even worse, what if you are parked somewhere remote with no way of contacting anyone?

You won’t be Mr. Popular.

Here’s a few things that can help avoid losing things such as your car keys when doing outdoor activities.

To Keep It, Zip It, or Clip It

Hidden zipped pockets on craghoppers trousers
When going out camping or hiking, I’ll wear some outdoor trousers.

These come with lots of pockets, and usually one or two have zips.

It’s simple. If you don’t want to lose it, put it in a pocket with a zip and zip it up.

We have a lot of craghoppers trousers (pictured) that always come with a lot of useful pockets. (These are my Classic Kiwi Trousers and have been great. They have two zipped pockets as well as 7 other pockets.)

Endura cycling shorts with pockets so that you don't loose things
It’s not just walking trousers either that have zips. I have a pair of cycling trousers that also come with zipped pockets so your keys don’t fall out when cycling up and down hills.

My endura cycling shorts (pictured) are also padded, making the ride a lot more comfortable. ;-)  

Key clip in backpack
Another place to keep your keys is in your backpack.

Many bags have a key clip making it easy to find your keys without having to rummage through your bag.

Of course, you could accidentally leave your bag somewhere, but that’s less likely to happen than something falling out of a pocket when doing outdoor activities.

Splish, Splash, Splosh

So you’ve solved the issue of keys or other valuables falling out of your pocket, but what if you are doing water activities (or anything near water), and your keys, phone, or wallet fall in the water (or you fall in, and your stuff goes with you!)?!?

We used to have floating key rings ‘back in the day’. These were basically large foam blocks that you’d attach to your keys so if they fell out of your pocket whilst doing something like sailing (where you may not be wearing a wetsuit), then you could just fetch them out of the water.

Small aquapac dry bag we use when canoeing
Unfortunately, car keys usually have an electric lock, so you don’t want to get your keys wet.

One solution is to use a dry bag.

When we go canoeing I place keys, phone, wallet in a ziplock bag, which then go inside a big dry bag.

You can also get smaller dry bags that you can attach to your belt, such as this one from aqua pac (pictured) that’s designed to keep your phone or camera dry.

A dry bag inside the pocket of these craghoppers trousers
Craghoppers decided to combine both trousers and a dry bag.

On another pair of craghoppers trousers I bought there’s a dry bag inside one of the large pockets (pictured). Perfect protection if you are stuck in a downpour. (These are the Nosilife Cargo Trousers).

Things that go bump in the night

It’s not always a case of actually losing things; sometimes you just cannot see them.

Life Systems Glow Marker used in our tent
Fortunately this handy little glowing tag from Lifesystems may be the answer.

The Lifesystems Glow Marker can be attached to all sorts of things. We’ve used this on the car keys in the tent, though as we’ve never had to grab the keys in an emergency in the middle of the night (thankfully), we might start using the glow tag on a torch.

Finally, if in doubt, don’t take it

Some activities are just plain difficult to take things with you (surfing for instance). However, there is one solution: leave things behind, including your keys.

Frostfire Mooncode Car Key Safe
Using something called a key pod, you could bolt your keys in a combination safe hidden somewhere under your car for example.

This sort of device has been used for years in the surfing and other outdoor communities. (View on Amazon).


This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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BubbleBum – The child’s car booster seat when travelling Fri, 22 Aug 2014 06:04:09 +0000 BubbleBum – The child’s car booster seat when travelling

Planning on hiring a car abroad with small kids? The BubbleBum is the perfect solution to avoid having to carry around child boaster seats.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

BubbleBum – The child’s car booster seat when travelling

If you want to hire a car abroad (or even take some taxi journeys!) and you have young kids, what do you do about a booster seat? BubbleBum is the solution…

Bubble Bum

We’ve been there. Lugging child booster seats through the airport.

We’ve also been there with taxis that don’t car about little ones not strapped in properly (and then drive line maniacs).  All part of the fun of family travel? May be not.

When planning for an upcoming road trip abroad, with plenty of driving and transfers between places, carrying a booster seat around wasn’t going to be an option. Fortunately a number of people recommended to us the ‘BubbleBum‘ – and we’ve been very impressed with it.

BubbleBum inflatable car booster seat
We ordered our BubbleBum from Amazon and it came in a shape that didn’t look like a car booster seat. That’s because the BubbleBum is inflatable, so it can just be put into your suitcase to be inflated when needed.
The BubbleBum in its carry case
It comes with its own carry case, and is lightweight, which makes a change from carrying around cumbersome child booster seats.
The BubbleBum inflated
You inflate it by blowing into valve at the back. If you go camping you’ll find it’s the same sort of valve as a Self Inflating Mat.

Once inflated it is quite comfortable (better than hard booster seats) and has a fabric cover. Different colour covers are available.

The BubbleBum fitted in the car
It simply clips onto the seat belts to secure in the car.

There’s also a shoulder strap to position the upper seat belt correctly for your child.

Update: Well, our road trip is now complete. We used the BubbleBum for over two weeks on this road trip and it worked really well and definitely gets the thumbs up from us as a good bit of family travel gear.

It folded down well into the suit case and was light (so not using much of that valuable baggage allowance!). In the car it was comfortable (no complaints from our little man at all). And despite being left in a hot car – read very hot car as we went to Death Valley which was 120F or 48.888C! – the seat had no problems.

This is such a simple idea that works really well.

If you’re travelling abroad and planning on hiring a car, it’s well worth considering the BubbleBum car booster seat.

Bubblebum Inflatable Car Booster Seat New black
Bubblebum Inflatable Car Booster Seat New black
 96 customer reviews...
The award-winning BubbleBum is the world's first inflatable, foldable and portable car booster seat. It's perfect for everyday carpools, playdates, taxis and holidays. It's narrow design (33cm across) makes getting three car seats across the backseat easy. The BubbleBum has been approved under the United Nations ECE Regulation R44/04 for safety for both Groups 2 and 3. It is designed for use with a standard 3 point adult seat belt. The BubbleBum is designed for children aged 4 to 11, weighing from 15 to 36 Kgs. It's the winner of the JPMA Innovation Award, the 2011 Parent Tested Parent Approved Award, the Practical Parenting Award, Mother & Baby Award, Loved by Parents Award and ranked a 2011 & 2012 "Best Bet" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It weighs approximately 0.5 kilograms and comes with a convenient carrying bag and shoulder belt positioning clip. It inflates in seconds with a couple of puffs of air and deflates/packs down just as quickly. When deflated, it is small enough to fit in a child's rucksack or mum's handbag. BubbleBum's cool and funky design appeals to kids while parents love the convenience and ease of use.
(as of 30/09/2014 - info)

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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Go Travel Mini Floodlight Review Tue, 19 Aug 2014 06:20:37 +0000 Go Travel Mini Floodlight Review

We were really surprised just how bright this little Go Travel Mini Floodlight is. A perfect item for your pocket or backpack. Ideal for hiking and camping.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

Go Travel Mini Floodlight Review

This mini floodlight from Go Travel packs a surprising amount of light from such a small item.

Go Travel Mini Floodlight

Every now and then you come across a gadget that surprises you.

Go Travel Mini Floodlight - looks can be deceiving
Go Travel is well known for travel gadgets, and you can often see their items at many airports. You don’t not normally think of Go Travel when you think of camping gear.

Well, that view might change now that we’ve tried their mini-floodlight.

Quite a bright light form this little gadget
Shaped like a large pen, it looks more like something you’d find in a doctor’s surgery, and not something for the outdoors. I was a little sceptical when the guys at Go Travel sent one over for us to look at – but don’t let its looks deceive you!

Packed with the latest ‘COB’ technology, this little gadget puts out a lot of light.

COB, by the way, stands for ‘Chips on Board’. It basically means they’ve crammed a lot of LEDs into a small space. Two rows of them in fact.

The little Go Travel Mini Floodlight did just that, and lit up the tent
It was pitch black when I took these photos. As you can see, the light is very bright.

We’ve got a collection of head-torches and lanterns, but this little ‘pen’ is ideal to slip into a backpack or a pocket, so something you can keep handy for camping, hiking, or whenever you are out and about. (I’ve lost count how many times kids have dropped things in the dark!)

The Go Travel Mini Floodlight is available on Amazon, as well as shops selling travel accessories.

Go Travel Mini Floodlight Assorted Colours (Justsport) Ref 833
Go Travel Mini Floodlight Assorted Colours (Justsport) Ref 833
 1 customer reviews...

Brighten up any room with this compact, powerful LED torch, which features an expansive mega beam to turn any dark room into a bright paradise.

This compact torch uses COB (chips on board) technology to provide a bright strong beam of light that surpasses standard narrow beam torches and flashlights. Furthermore the handy magnetic clip means that you can attach it to practically anything, so whether you're fixing a broken TV in your man-cave or trying to find those pesky tent pegs in the dead of night you can do so completely hands-free. This LED torch would make the perfect travel accessory for any keen campers or avid jet-setters. Please note colour may vary.

(as of 30/09/2014 - info)

Disclaimer: Thanks to Go Travel for sending us the Mini Floodlight to review.


This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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Easy Camp Surf Windbreak Fri, 15 Aug 2014 06:04:32 +0000 Easy Camp Surf Windbreak

We've been testing out the Easy Camp Surf as well as a few other items that are useful for the beach.

This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

Easy Camp Surf Windbreak

We’ve been giving the funky Easy Camp Surf windbreak a try this year…

Easy Camp Surf Windbreak

If you’ve been following us on Facebook or Twitter you may have seen some pictures, either on picnics or at the beach, of us with a funky windbreak.

Well, that funky windbreak is called the Easy Camp Surf, and we’ve been giving it a through test this summer.

Easy Camp Surf Review

The problem with some large windbreaks on the beach is that they obscure the view: both yours and anyone sitting behind you. Being larger, they are also more prone to getting blown over by the wind.

Easy Camp have got around this with their funky looking ‘Surf’ windbreak.

This is just the right height for sitting, or even better, lounging on their neat portable sun lounger (see more details here).

You’ll also notice, that we’ve been using the Easy Camp picnic rug too. We’ve been using this on picnics and its insulated and waterproof underside has been good for picnics, and it’s also a good picnic rug for when sitting on damp sand and the beach.

Putting the Surf Together

Easy Camp Surf comes in a small carry case
The Easy Camp Surf comes with a small carry case that’s lightweight to carry.
Different lengths poles with the surf
Unlike some beach shelters, the Easy Camp Surf doesn’t spring into life. Instead you have nylon tent poles, which will be familiar to anyone used to camping.

There are different length poles, with the long ones going the length of the windbreak and a couple of smaller vertical supports.

Tent pegs too
There’s some tent pegs too.

Nice to see pegs better than the normal small wire pegs. These T shaped pegs are much better in both earth and sand.

The Easy Camp Surf looks like a huge wing....and yes, people did run with it and tried to take off.
When it’s all assembled it looks like a large wing.

There is a strap on one end of the windbreak. This simply clips to the other end of the windbreak, bending the Easy Camp Surf into that curved shape.

Filling the pockets on the Easy Camp Surf with sand to weight it down
You can then peg the windbreak out, and fill the pockets with sand if you are on the beach.

Over this summer we’ve been quite impressed with the Easy Camp Surf windbreak.

It packs down small to transport, unlike the standard wooden pole windbreaks, but the downside is that you have to assemble it. However, this design also means it’s easy to reposition the windbreak if the wind changes direction, plus you can use it on stoney beaches too.

So the Easy Camp Surf gets a thumbs up from us.

Get Out With The Kids rating of Easy Camp Surf Windbreak 4.25 out of 5
Easy Camp Summer Surf Windscreen - Orange/Yellow, One Size
Easy Camp Summer Surf Windscreen - Orange/Yellow, One Size
 7 customer reviews...
The Easy Camp Summer range introduces the modern Surf Beach Shelter. The shelter is an unobtrusive and easy to set up low level windscreen, great for day trips to the beach or for picnics on the beach, protecting groups from unwanted breezes or sand blown up by gusts of wind. The shield comes in its own provided handled carry bag, making it easy to pack and transport.
£19.99 £14.99
(as of 30/09/2014 - info)

Thanks to the guys at Easy Camp for providing an Easy Camp Surf for us to check out and review this summer.


This post was originally published on Get out with the kids

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