We’ve all seem them. The utes and four-wheel drives loaded to the gunwales with camping gear and one or more swags thrown on top for good measure.
Swags come in all materials, shapes and sizes but generally roll up to about 85 to 150 centimetres wide and about 30 to 50 centimetres round when rolled up. When erected they can house singles or couples (although I wouldn’t share with a mate).
They can simply tie off to the car or a tree at one end and stake to the ground at the other. They can have arched bars to hold the roof up at either end or in the middle – often with a spreader-bar at the apex.
Pedro (vehicle) Complete with Swag for the 2018 Simpson Crossing
They come complete with floor, mattress, roof and screen walls – all suited for sitting height or slightly less.
Given their height, they’re no too suited for the gymnastic performance of putting on a full set of clothes. But, they will allow enough movement to get all the nasty bits covered up before you emerge from the night’s cocoon to finish the job standing up.
I Love My Swag
Now don’t get me wrong… I love my swag! It offers safe harbour from many of the elements that surround me when I’m out bush or beyond. I can keep dry under the well seasoned canvas in heavy storms, I can keep warm when its fully zipped, I can lock myself away from the creepy-crawlies at night and I can open the doors to allow the breeze in and still keep bigger beasts at bay (like camels in the desert at Cameron Corner – true story).
Swagging it at Cameron Corner
Perhaps too, it simply looks great on top of the car – loudly and proudly telling everyone around that “I’m going camping!”.
Swags ad Tents allow you to stake your claim at great spots
When Wouldn’t I Swag
Most recently, when I crossed the Simpson Desert on the QAA Line and travelled up the Hay River Track and down part of the Binns Track to return home via the Plenty Highway with the Hema Mapping Crew I travelled with quite a heavy setup. I had three spare tyres, recovery gear, water, five jerries of diesel to get me between Birdsville and Jervois Station, food and clothes etc.
So when it came time to see where I could fit my swag I’d run out of room.
That’s when I fell back to plan ‘B’ and sorted through my various one- and two-person tents. I have a small narrow Outer Limits Razorback tent but I chose my slightly wider Denali Kakadu tent.
My one-person tent in the desert in 2021,
Yes, I took my Deluxe Off-Road Mattress from Outdoor Connection with me but that packed down smaller than a swag.
All that packed down nicely and travelled in the back of Pedro’s (my Mazda BT50) tub/canopy.
So What Do I Save?
All up the weight difference meant a saving of approximately 13.5kg.
Swag = 20kg versus Tent = 2.5kg
Mattress = 4kg
On top of that, I saved a heap of space.
My Tent and Mattress packed down – just 6.5kg
What Did I Sacrifice by not tacking my swag?
I don’t believe that I lost any benefits of the swag by taking a tent. I was very comfortable and warm.
My tent squared away with all the comforts of home – well almost…
Oh, but I did lose the swagger (no pun intended) of not having a swag on the roof for all to see.
Tips For Others on Swags / Tents
My big tip if you’re taking a swag or a tent is to grab one of those Survival Blankets for a handful of dollars from any camping store. I put that on my ground sheet under the mattress and it keeps the warmth in and the cold ground out. You can read more on this on an earlier blog – https://campandtravel.com.au/camping-tip-47-emergency-blankets/.
My other big tip is to throw those small pegs that you get with most tents and swags away before your first use and replace them with some big-arse steel pegs about 8mm round and 30 centimetres long – and a good hammer. I find that these work really well in soft sand as well as extremely rocky areas. They may weigh a little bit more but why muck around with bent pegs that wont hold.
If you do go for the big pegs give a thought to tying white/yellow garbage bags or bright cloth to the tops so they stand out at night. Perhaps even put some glow sticks around the place.
The Bivvy Bag
For some, there’s a simple ‘Bivvy Bag’ which is effectively a waterproof bag that you crawl into. I’ve not tried these, but I have slept under a ‘hutchie’ (a low slung waterproof sheet).
Tentworld has as full range of Bivy Bags, with all the specifications.
Perhaps I’ll include them on my next adventure and let you know how I go.
My Take On Swags
I’m certainly not saying that one is better than the other every single time. What I am suggesting is that there’s a time and a place for each.
Perhaps the swag isn’t the must have item for every occasion for every person. Think about your needs and wants and see where each can fit.
If you’re looking for the perfect birthday/Christmas present for the kids who are getting the boot from the caravan, for the older kids looking to adventure by themselves, for those starting to travel as a couple or even those older folk travelling together or by themselves (I’ll whistle and you can point) you have lots to chose from.
Happy to hear your thoughts.