The West

4WD: Swag like a small tent
There's plenty of room for two in the double Skydome's spacious interior. Picture: GBTW

A well-chosen swag can make your trip away a lot more comfortable. There's a swag to suit most camping styles, with even the simplest model far outclassing the thin square of worn canvas the historic swaggies used as bedroll and kit bag.

You can choose from a compact bedroll designed for cycling enthusiasts through to deluxe double-bed models.

Always choose the best quality you can afford to ensure years of comfortable camping.

A well-designed swag will cope with extremes of temperature by providing ventilation when it's hot and insulation when it's not.

Look for a swag top made of heavy-duty canvas - a minimum of 12oz/407gsm poly cotton provides good serviceability.

A PVC base will keep out damp far more effectively than canvas.

Choose a swag with ventilation through fine mesh to keep mosquitoes, sandflies and bigger creepy-crawlies at bay.

Mesh that sits against your body allows mozzies to draw blood through the screen - look for a swag that keeps mesh elevated away from tender skin.

Zippers can make or break your swag - if a zipper fails then the elements will be allowed in.

Check for strong, good-quality zippers, such as the YKK brand, and ensure they run smoothly with large, close- meshing teeth.

For comfort, choose a high- density foam mattress at least 60mm thick.

Convoluted "egg carton" foam distributes body weight evenly and permits better air circulation. An easily removed, washable mattress cover is a definite plus.

If you've avoided swags because the weight of canvas on legs is uncomfortable or you feel claustrophobic with a ceiling just above your face, consider checking out dome styles such as ARB's latest release, the Skydome.

This looks like a hiking tent with a huge amount of space to ensure no feeling of confinement.

But, as ARB's WA marketing manager John Ludlum said, it's better than a tent because the design "combines the convenience of a swag with its in-built mattress and the space of a small tent all in one unit".

On a cold night with a heavy dew, I found the PVC base wrapping up the sides of the swag kept the 75mm mattress dry.

The heavy canvas was icy and wet to the touch, but there were no internal drips.

With each of the side opening and ventilation flaps zipped up, the interior stayed warm and dry, with only a doona needed for comfort.

On a warm, dry evening the ventilation flaps kept the air circulating inside and the spring mozzies outside - and disappointed.

The Skydome includes nifty features such as storage pockets and a special wide-brimmed hat holder, but it was the solid construction that impressed the most.

The freestanding design does not require guy ropes and tethering to keep the canvas off your body.

The aluminium bows and rods are easy to fit, and feel strong and sturdy.

The Skydome rolls up into a well-protected bundle with optional waterproof carry bag for extra protection on a roof rack.

If you've been reluctant to consider a swag before, this new camping product is worth a look at your local ARB store.

Model ARB SkyDome Swag
Prices Single $395, double $560
Available ARB stores, stockists

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