Jack Wolfskin on the Circumvesuviana

In February 2016 I spent a month travelling from Naples down to Sorrento, and then back up the coast to Rome. Jack Wolfskin provided me with a Gossamer 1 tent and a Smoozip +7 sleeping bag for the trip, and in the following piece I review their performance.

As soon as the Circumvesuviana train stopped in Pompeii, I got straight to a cheap café. I logged into their wi-fi (endearingly misspelt w-ifi) and searched for a campsite. Logging into my maps the little dot glided from Neukölln (East Berlin) to Pompeii. I wondered how common this journey was, and started to make connections between the two places. One striking similarity occurred to me, that they both have a particularly common sense attitude towards train travel. A return is twice the cost of a single in Italy and Germany, unlike in England, where the price structures seem arbitrary and chaotic. Though as I continued to think on it, the differences between the two places multiplied. One, the contemporary city of 2016, the other, a city of ruins.

The first evening I pitched the Gossamer 1 tent in darkness. The tent is very easy to put up as it only requires you to fit two poles at either end. The internal mosquito net is covered by a green waterproof layer, and the two skins are attached together with Velcro and hooks. In warmer months the mosquito skin can be used alone, for a night beneath the stars. Aside from fitting together the two poles, you need only hammer in nine pegs and the tent is pitched.

I was very impressed with the design of the tent and in particular the close attention to detail. The triangle of material that covers the spot where the door zips meet prevents water and wind getting in. And the Velcro connections between the two skins are superb.

Whilst in Pompeii I visited the ruins several times. At the site I felt a deep sense of calm, almost as if I had been walking through some vast and silent forest. Again and again I recalled my time hiking through Grunewald forest the month before, and noted the correspondences between the two places.

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“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake”. Grunewald Forest

 

At the ruins there were male tour guides touting for business. They amused me as I watched them hustle Japanese tourists. Well turned out, confident in their stride, they hone their routine in the quieter months. They are like minor celebrities around Pompeii.

That evening it rained heavily all night, which was a surprise, as it had been warm all day. The tent stayed completely dry as I had pitched everything tight. In the morning, a Dutch camper van enthusiast greeted me. With his broken English, and my lack of Dutch, we communicated about the rain and the ruins. Throughout the trip I was visited by camper van drivers who, I suspect, craved the freedom of travelling alone and with only a light tent and sleeping bag.

As I had a whole month in Italy I was able to wander around Pompeii a bit, and I managed to find some unique spots. The church in the centre of the town is gorgeous. The vast building rises up in to domes within domes, like the innards of Russian dolls. And on the walls there are thousands of beautifully painted people; they outnumber the churchgoers.

In the evenings at my campsite in Pompeii I would fashion a seating area by filling my rucksack with clothes. The tent is lightweight and small and so has no space to hang out in. It is essentially a much nicer version of a bivvy bag, and with more features. My favourite feature of the tent is the internal washing line that runs through the middle. It is great for hanging towels, lights, and maps.

 

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“Back to the sea’s big re-think”. The sea at Sorrento

 

On to Rome and the Smoozip +7 sleeping bag was ideal. It is very light and suitable for camping in warmer climates, or for staying in hostels. It features an internal zip pocket, which sits snug to your chest, made for storing valuables or items that you may need close to hand. I must say that in Sorrento, when I was outside and it was not so warm at night, the lightweight sleeping bag was a bit cold. Having said that, the carrier that the sleeping bag packs away into includes a printed temperature guide, and so you should be able to tell if the sleeping bag will be appropriate for your trip. In Sorrento I was sleeping below the lowest temperature limit, but fortunately, had blankets.

The Gossamer 1 tent and Smoozip +7 sleeping bag are designed for the lone traveller, or cyclist, as they are lightweight and sturdy. They feature plenty of well thought out details and provide the quality that comes from rigorous testing. Spending a month in Italy I saw rain, hail, and sun, and even heard thunder echoing through the mountains. In all of this varied weather the tent stood its ground, and I stayed warm and dry.

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The church roof at Pompeii
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