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I enjoy a bit of camping, in fact, many many moons ago I used to do a lot of it. Rucksack on my back, map in my hand, hills in the distance and away I went, pitching up a bivi where ever I could, (this was in the days before health and safety, when enjoyment was the key). I'd climb up some strange yet wonderful mountain just to go down the other side, but not before I'd sit and enjoy the beautiful view from the tops, settling into the peace and quiet, listening to the birds singing away.
But since then, since settling down, wife and kids, and all that hassle, I don't do so much, but we, as a family, still try and get out and about as much as we can. Pack up the car, tent and sleeping if we're planning an over night stop, or just a picnic if it's a day out.
There's one thing we do try to take when we go, be that camping or just a picnic, an item that not only help us enjoy the picnic we are having but also keep our bottoms dry as we don't have to sit on some damp patch of grass.
The thing that we tend to take is in fact a table and four chairs...
WHAT...! I can hear you shouting, how on earth can you take a table and chairs away with you? Wouldn't that look stupid? In the middle of a field enjoying your cucumber sandwiches whilst sitting on your dining table? Plus, how on earth are you going to fit you 4 seated Chippendale into the boot of your Ford Kia?
Well, when I say table and four chairs I don't mean the table and chairs from my dining room. The table and four chairs I take with me when I go camping, or just for a picnic, are a fold away table with foldaway chairs, so it not only packs up into a travel pack, when it unfold it is almost like having your dining table and four chairs with you where ever you go.
* What does this table and four chairs look like..?
Firstly, when you see it closed up it looks nothing like a table, and you'll be struggling to guess where the four chairs are going to be too. This is because when it is closed it is basically a rectangular case, being about 330mm by 840mm and about 100mm deep, having a handle on the top side so that it can be carried easier. In fact, it could be mistaken for a piece of luggage, maybe a box for a large musical instrument, or, if you're in the mafia, a violin..? If you know what I mean.
But when it is opened it's a different ball game, so to speak, because once it's set up it turns into the table and chairs, with the table itself being about 700mm high and the chairs, or stools, being about 380mm high. The actual table itself has an eating area of about 835mm by 650mm.
The whole thing does weigh just over 5kg which can be a bit of a drag if you have to carry it a long distance.
Once it is set up, and you take a step back, you'll see that it is a concoction of metal slats, plastic rods and a few nuts and bolts, all put in the right place to hold the plastic table and chair seats where they should be.
The seats themselves are square bits of plastic, two on either side of the table, all sitting on tubular metal poles, so to speak, on either end of the chairs, making it look like a bench, in a way.
Then the table sits higher up, being propped up by two tubular pole on either wide, connecting the chairs to the table, with another pole strutting from the back of the chairs to the table top.
As I said, it's all tubes, nuts and bolts, with a plastic top, but it all goes together in such a way that it really does work well.
There are four legs on each pair of chairs, although there are no legs on the table section itself. But the way that the frame is made, the way the poles angle into each other, make it strong enough so that it doesn't need any legs under the table to make it stable
* How do you set it up then..?
You open the two sides to the case to reveal lots of confusing looking tubes and flat bits, which may just make you want to re-close the casing and run for the hills with a picnic blanket under your arm.
But don't, it's much easier than it looks.
You simply open the two sides, which are the table top, and rest it on the ground, top side down, so you can see all the inner tubes and stuff.
Then you pull out the smaller sections which are housed on either side of the top section. These smaller sections are in fact the seats.
You pull these seats right out, letting them swing outwards so that the bar in the middle, that connects the seats to the top, slots into place. You then lift up the sections with in the underside of the seats until they click into place, these are the legs for the seats.
You can pull out the seat legs first before pulling out the seat themselves if you want to, the choice is yours, but I find it easier and safe on my eyes, head, face and arms by pulling the legs out last.
Anyway, once both seating sections are extended, with the legs clicked into place, you then simply turn the whole table over and find somewhere to put it, hopefully on a level surface so you don't wobble about all over the place.
It's as simple as that really and, with a bit of practice, should take all of a minute to get it up...(Easy now).
To lock the table into position you have to slot in a little plastic rod, or peg, with one either end of the table. These rods aren't really attached to the table very securely, so you will have to be careful not to lose them.
* Is it strong..?
It's as strong as a piece of plastic on top of a loud of metal poles really, which can make it as strong as an ox if it's done right, and this one is done right.
It can take the weight of four average adults without flinching, and the table top can take quite a bit of food and drinks put on it without even bending.
Although it does have a few faults in its strength, such as if you lean over, or backwards, and you're a bit heavier than the person opposite you, then you could end up in a sort of see-saw game, which isn't too good if you're holding a hot cup of coffee or something.
Plus, if you lean to much into the middle of the table, where the crack if the hinge is, then there is the chance that it will bend inwards a little, sending what ever is on the table into the middle... so watch out for your caviar and champagne...
* What do I think then...?
As I said I take this table and chair set with me when I take the family out, be that on a day out or camping, as it comes in so useful when it's meal time, or even just sitting down when you need a table.
The chairs aren't the most comfortable, although when it comes to camping it's not really comfort you're going for, but they are comfy enough to sit on and it's better that sitting on a damp patch or an ant hill, or worse.
The table top itself is a nice size and it can take a nice spread of things on it, such as sandwiches, drinks, cakes.... You get the picture, and with everyone sat around the table, two either side, there's plenty of elbow room too, which leads to less fighting over who's going to get the last vol au vent.
I've even had this set up in the garden, on warm days, so that the kids have somewhere to sit, instead of with me and the wife as, according to my eldest daughter, we're not 'with it' apparently, and they've been quite happy sat there reading, writing and even using a laptop.
There are a few things that you need to remember about this table. Firstly, it is a plastic table top so don't be slapping one of those throw-away BBQ kits on it as it will melt through the table top quicker than a fat man through thin ice on a lake.
Secondly, it is best placing this on the flattest piece of land you can find as it can wobble a bit if you are on land that has a few pot holes and little moles hill scattered around it.
You can always try wedging things under the legs or even digging a bit out underneath a leg or two, but there's always somewhere flat enough for legs to find a good sound base to sit on.
* So what about the price..?
This picnic table, with four chairs attached to it, sells for about £25 - £30.
This may sound like a lot of money but if you do go out and about a lot, picnicking or camping, then you will get your monies worth out of this as it will last you a long time and should last the distance.
* Would I recommend it..?
I certainly would if you prefer to sit on a chair rather than on the grass when you go out for a picnic.
But you don't just have to use it as a picnic table, it is a table and chairs and can be used as a table and chairs, so it's great for students starting up in their digs... although students seem to live there lives better than the queen these days, I remember when I was a student and had to sit on a packing case for three week until I could afford a chair. I wish I had had this back then.
When my son-in-laws plans something he never does it by half. So after we decided to go on at picnic at the weekend he went to Argos and bought a picnic table as unfortunately my days of sitting on a picnic blanket and managing to get up again are behind me!
My daughter tells me he's had his eye on this picnic table for some time and has just been waiting for an excuse to buy it. At £24.99 it's rather more expensive than I had thought it would be although it's a very useful piece of equipment and as they have recently gotten the camping bug I envision it will more than pay for itself in convenience over the next twelve months or so.
The idea of this table and chair set is that it's all in one piece, much like the wooden benches that are so popular in pub beer gardens these days. The chairs all fold inwards underneath the table and you then push the two sides of the table closed so that it's all enclosed in a large briefcase type package, with the table itself providing the 'box'. Gosh, that probably doesn't make an awful lot of sense now I read it back but I simply cannot describe it any better!
You do need the knack to open and close the table and chairs, although once you've done it a couple of times you should find it much easier. To get the table set out you need to begin with the table top lying on the ground and swing the chairs outwards and into place before locking them into place using the clever catches. You then simply turn the table right side up and then you're ready to eat!
While the table isn't the most stable I've ever used, it stands upright well and providing you've set it out on level ground you shouldn't have any problems with it falling over or warping. It's a bit wobbly and you do need to ensure that the weight of the people sitting on the chairs is balanced properly otherwise you may begin to feel a little seasick as the table moves around quite a lot. For example, as an overweight pensioner I wouldn't want to sit on one side while my small two year old granddaughter sat on the other as I'd be terrified of falling backwards with our carefully prepared picnic lunch on top of me!
The chairs are very comfortable and while not designed to be the most luxurious camping chairs, a nod to comfort has been made by the fact that the manufacturers have given the seat a shallow dip so your bottom doesn't suffer from sitting on a hard perfectly flat surface. There is also a hole in each seat to allow the rainwater to run away, although it tickled my ten year old granddaughter immensely as she commented that it was a 'wee hole' to save you walking to the toilet!
The only real problem I found with the table and chairs is that if you lean on the table top while eating then it will bend inwards, this wasn't really a problem for us but if you're going to be using it with small children then do watch where they're placing their elbows because once this table becomes bent out of shape then it will be of little use as it won't fold properly.
When my son-in-law came to fold the table away we heard a stream of expletives so went around to find out what had happened. It turned out that he's inadvertently got his thumb caught while swinging the chairs into the closed position, now while it was blatantly his fault on this occasion it is something to watch out for and especially if you have a child who wants to help you. Another thing is that the pins which hold the table closed are attached only with a thin piece of cotton so they could become easily lost, my son-in-law has solved this problem by taking them off and reattaching them using a flexible piece of wire so that might also be something for you to consider should you decide to purchase this set.
The plastic of the table is exceptionally sturdy despite what I said earlier about it bending if you lean on it. We used a small camping cooker on it at the weekend with no ill effects to the plastic surface and when I placed a very hot pan on it without thinking I was relieved to see that it didn't burn or melt the plastic at all.
I would recommend this to most people who enjoy camping or picnicking in the summer months. It's easy to erect and put away again (once you've developed the knack), sturdy enough to eat from and a very practical addition to your camping supplies. The one drawback I noticed is how very close to one another the seats are, this wasn't a problem when the smaller children were sitting at the table but as soon as we three adults and my thirteen year old granddaughter sat down I suddenly became very aware of how many times I elbowed my neighbour and vice versa. For the average young family of two adults and two children this will be fine however, but do please consider the age and size of anyone in your party before buying this set.
I have owned two of these picnic tables over the past 10 years. I, like many others, take them camping, as they pack down to a very compact size which is easy to fit in the car with the other equipment. They are very sturdy and are also fairly comfortable to sit on.
When I first discovered them whilst on a camping holiday in France, they were not often found on a British campsite, but since then they have become almost compulsory for the family camper and can be seen outide every tent.
They are currently on sale from Argos for £25, but can usually be bought for less at a French hypermarket. A more expensive version made out of aluminium can be bought from most camping shops for around £60. This version is both lighter to carry and more durable.
When folded, the table looks like a plastic suitcase. It is 33cm high, 84cm wide and 10cm deep, and has a carrying handle on the long side. It is very light to carry, weighing 6kg.
Opening up the table is a very smooth, three step operation. To open the table, you click open two white plastic locks on the handle and open the two sides of the table to form the table top. Laying the table upside down, you find the seats hidden inside. Gently pulling the seats outwards, the table opens out into an integral seat and table unit, safely locked into place by sliding security catches. Turning the table right side up again, you have a very sturdy unit, about 70cm high, with four stools attached to the table in a two-by-two formation, and standing 40cm high. The area of the table is 84cm by 66cm.
To summarise the three steps:
* fold open the table top
* pull out the chair unit on the right hand side
* pull out the chair unit on the left hand side
* turn the table right side up
OK - I know that strictly speaking this is 4 steps, but I don't count turning the table right side up, as it is obvious that nobody can sit at an upside down table!
The seats and the top of the table are made from a sturdy plastic, which can come in a variety of colours. I have owned both the green and the blue, and I can assure you all that the green has a rare touch of class!
The seat has a round dip in the middle, so that any average sized bottom can be comfortably accommodated. There is a handy drainage hole in each seat so that the rain does not collect in the dip. The table has a round hole in the middle for an umbrella, but I have never used this, and I have never, ever seen anybody else use this either! There is a small plastic peg at each end of the table that locks the table in the open position, to avoid unexpected collapse. The surface of both the table and chairs is stippled - I assume that this is to stop it being to slippery.
The folding mechanism and the legs are made from white painted metal. Each leg has a rubber foot for extra grip.
~~Stability, durability, comfort~~
My first camping table cost me £11, and it lasted for over 5 years. I felt this was very good value. Over the years it has had hot pans on the surface, huge teenage boys throwing themselves down onto it, endless rain battering its surfaces, and several incompetent people wrenching it open and resorting to brute force.
Throughout all of this the table remained reliable and seemingly indestructible. It was only the wrenching of the incompetent person that signalled its doom. Today, after 4 years of use, my current table is as good as new - it just has 3 white ring marks on the table where somebody has put down a very hot cup of coffee.
The table is surprisingly stable for such a fragile looking structure. The splayed design of the chairs seem to give it a low centre of gravity, and it doesn't wobble very much at all. There are several safety features that have been installed as an upgrade to the original model: there are plastic locking sliders on the strut that supports the chairs and keeps them splayed out at the correct angle. It is important to slide and lock these before use, just in cast the whole thing collapses when the first person sits at it. There are also two locking keys at each end of the table. These need to be inserted to stop the two sided of the table folding together via the central hinge. Another thing to keep an eye on is the screws that hold the table together. Occasionally the nut on the end of the screw that holds the chair together can work loose. These need to be checked and tightened regularly to prevent the whole thing falling apart.
The table is also very comfortable to sit at. I have sat reading a book for a long time without getting uncomfortable. However there is an optimum number of people who can sit round the table in comfort. Now that my boys are big teenagers, we feel very cramped if we all sit down together. Although it is more than possible, none of us enjoys being in such close proximity while eating, and I would say that the table is more suitable for a family with young children, or a couple. If four people need to sit round a table then it is better to get separate table and chairs so that everybody can subtly edge away from the person next to them.
I have found this table to be an essential piece of camping kit. It is extremely good value for £25, and can bestow a touch of civilisation to your camping tip.
As a warning, I have to add that the table is very suitable for average adults. In these days of rising obesity, I would not recommend that anybody extremely overweight sits at the table at all.
Lightweight set which folds into its own carry case. Steel frame.