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Those of you that have read my earlier review on the Argos Camping Mat will be aware that my experience was not a good one and after a sleepless night at the campsite (Nr Hastings) I took a brief trip into town and purchased something, a little bit better? Nay... A lot better!
The Vango Adventure Self Inflating Mat, which comes in what is known as a "Stuffsac", which is waterproof and has a couple of straps to keep it all in place.
It is available in a range of sizes but I went for XL 198 x 63 and 3cm thick. I believe there is a 5cm thick option, but alas, this was not available.
The mat itself has a non-slip polyester/PVC top and base and also has what they call laminated open cell foam insulation and whilst I'm not sure what that actually means, it does sound quite fancy.
The mat comes rolled up, but when you lay it down it does actually stay down, once you've flattened it out, turned it over and flattened it again. I got up several times in the night and it actually stayed put.
The self-inflating part is quite neat too, just unscrew the small nozzle, let it take in some air and then do it up again. It's really very simple although it can be a little fiddly if your hands are very cold and you have what I call sausage fingers.
Now, considering it's not very thick, it is comfortable to lie on. Which is what I wanted in the first place. It also stays warm through the night, so that must be the open cell foam insulation at work!
Thanks to this purchase my second night of camping was a lot more comfortable, I'm not sure that I slept any better, but that had more to do with a poor choice of takeaway. Funny that 200m to the "Facilities" didn't sound far but in the dark and desperate it was quite an adventure!
When it came to packing away, the air was easily expelled by simply folding the mat slowly towards the valve. Then it just goes back in the stuffsac and it's job done.
Not too bulky really, and comfortable to carry. I feel this is ideal for the casual camper or festivalgoer. I'm not sure how much use I will get out of it as I've not got any plans to go camping again but you should never say never.
5 Stars from me, it cost me £19.99 and was worth every penny, I'd just wish I'd had it for both nights camping!!
Thanks for reading,
Ahhh, a night out under the stars, fresh air, at one with mother nature, blah blah blah...
Well, one thing is for sure, I'm not designed for camping.
I was kind of aware of this even when it was suggested that my teenage son and I head out into the wilds (campsite near Hastings, well it was a good 200m to the toilets!), for a couple of nights. Mmmm.. Funny how the person (wife) who suggested this idea wasn't coming along for the "adventure".
Anyway, he was up for it, being a scout and all that and I had to go along with it really, considering I'd spent the last 5 years telling everyone that Ray Mears had learned everything he knew off me! In truth I have a little experience of camping, from festivals back in the day but my memory of this is a little erm... hazy.
So, I'd managed to beg and borrow some camping gear already, tent, sleeping bag, stove but I was lacking a mat.
It was at this point that the tightness of my wallet overpowered common sense and led me to purchase the Argos Camping Mat, which is a very basic foam mat. Basic is the key word here folks.
Now, it comes rolled up and is determined to revert to this position whenever possible, not a major issue, but still annoying. You get up in the night for a wee by torchlight and return to find your mat has rolled back up again. Grrrr.
Then there's the length... Who says size doesn't matter? It's supposed to be 5ft 11", and so am I, only obviously on the journey to the campsite I must have had a growth spurt. Hmmm. It's also rather narrow, but then again I'm probably quite wide.
Finally, there is the issue of comfort. Now this mat is thin, very thin in fact and offered little to no protection from the bumpy ground. I had a terrible night and the same two words kept spinning around in my head "Premier" and "Inn", which at this point was as close as I wanted to be to roughing it.
Does it have any redeeming features?
Well... it makes rather a nice picnic mat, which is what we use it for now. It can be washed and does keep its colour. We sometimes just take it to the park to sit on when the ground is a little damp. You have to jump on it quickly before it rolls itself back up though.
It's worth noting that I only suffered this discomfort for one night, I headed into town the next day and gladly spent out on something better, which I will be reviewing very soon.
My personal view based on one night is that you should avoid at all costs. £5.99 wasted but a lesson well learned.
1 Star because zero is not an option.
Thanks for reading,
Last summer at the beach I ruined my favourite puma trainers in the sea at Hastings.
Ok, I was dashing after a four year old with no sense of danger who decided he wanted a swim, fully clothed.
He was fine, my trainers were not so lucky.
So this year I have invested in a pair of these rather funky looking aqua shoes,
We visit the south coast rather a lot, and most of the places that we visit are pebble beaches so from my point of view, some form of footwear is a prerequisite and these are ideal.
They have pimple soles that gives you good grip when clambering over rocks and also I would imagine, around the slippery perimeter of a swimming pool.
The upper is neoprene which is quick to dry after use and they are slip on with a toggle to make sure they are a snug fit. You don't want to loose one in the sea now do you?
For me though, the most impressive feature of these shoes is that they are lightweight but still remain hardwearing. I've already worn them on several occasions so far this year and have been impressed by how good they still look and feel. I take care to give them a good rinse when I'm done so they do not pong and also avoid drying them in direct sunlight as this would probably cause the colours to fade. Little effort really, to keep these shoes in great condition.
Colours available are blue, blue/black, red/navy & grey/black, so a good selection!
I'm happy to recommend these and have already purchased a pair for my wife, who prefers them to flip flops as she doesn't like getting sand between her toes.
Mine cost me £7 from a beach shop, which is a bargain as far as I'm concerned as my trainers usually cost a bit more than that!
Thanks for reading,
I'm not a great fan of rugby, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I went to a school where rugby was very serious business and unfortunately familiarity breeds contempt. Plus I was borderline rubbish and would rather have been playing with a round ball.
My son however, is very keen on the sport. He is 14 and although he loves football, try as he might, he has never makes the school first team. With rugby though he shows a natural aptitude and with the combination of being a big lad and fast, has made the first team. Hurrah! Pause for a proud dad moment.
So, I thought, that it might be nice if we could put in a bit of extracurricular practice, to get him away from the Xbox and purchased a Gilbert ball on the recommendation of his sports coach. Apparently the balls are IRB approved.
These rugby balls are available in 3 sizes.
I hate lists in reviews but...
Size 3 for kids
Size 4 for teens
Size 5 for adults
We purchased a size 5 for as earlier mentioned, my son is a big lad!
The ball came in a state of deflation but this was easily rectified with a bicycle pump and needle adaptor.
Now, apparently these balls are a tad lighter than a pro match ball, but to me, it doesn't really register. What I can assure you of is the quality of the ball, as it really has been through the mill with both me and my lad practising kicking, passing and throwing in all conditions and it has continued to retain it's shape, just needing the occasional pump.
It grips well even in wet conditions and seems to be aerodynamically sound although with my kicking, it's hard to notice, but my son who is far more gifted assures me that it is.
All in all, it's a really decent practice ball that will last you a long time and as you can easily pick one up for around the £10 mark, I would consider it good value for money.
5 stars from me and the big lad.
Thanks for reading.
Let me begin by justifying my purchase of the Everlast Twist Board.
Basically I'm a sucker for any exercise that can be done at home, in front of the telly.
So, there you go!
I'd been considering a purchase for a little while when I actually spotted one at a local car boot sale, the last resting place of many random pieces of exercise paraphernalia. Now, I haggled the stall holder down to £2.00 and skipped merrily away, happy with my latest bargain buy.
The twist board is circular with small bobbles on the surface to aid grip. This top plate is then connected to a lower disc that grips to the floor. Between the top and bottom plate is a ball bearing mechanism that allows you to twist and it's that motion that helps develop and tone abs, hips and thighs.
Once you get to grips with balancing on the board, it is very straightforward and you don't need masses of space which suits me fine. It can also be stored away easily so no clutter.
This is fun to use as part of a fitness regime, because the reality is that you will not achieve the body beautiful by using this alone. Just take a look at Chubby Checker, he has been twisting since the sixties but he's still errrr.... chubby! However, I do feel that if you use this often enough you will feel and see a difference. I know I have. You might also want to cut down on the pie consumption (Take note Mr Checker!).
The board itself is robust and feels very safe when you are using it, there is also a handy fitness guide included, which I did actually get with my purchase even though it was second-hand.
If you buy this brand new from Amazon then it will set you back £7.34 at the moment which I believe is a fair price. Or take a tip from me and look around the charity shops and car boots for a bargain.
This has proven to be ideal for me and possibly for you.
I'm giving this 4 stars.
Thanks for reading,
My son kills drink bottles. Fact.
How he does it is sometimes a mystery, but often it's by dropping them , treading on them and generally battering them. He is four, he has destroyed 11 bottles. This does not include those that have just been "lost" and are therefore classed as missing in action.
However, my recent purchase of a Sistema Twister Bottle, appears to have resisted any ABH. I feel that having lasted longer than seven days it should be entitled to some form of cash prize.
As it is, this bottle doesn't look like a hard case, which is probably because it isn't. It's small, holding 300ml (a larger size is available), lightweight and flexible. You can actually squeeze it! How cool! Soft is the new hard.
It's design makes it very easy for a child to grip and the lids twist (hence the name) mechanism is easy to use. Just twist and the spout comes out. The drink then flows at a good steady rate with a little suck so it doesn't cause any frustration to a thirsty child.
It has also been leak proof which is a real blessing considering it sits in his school bag. We have had traumas in the past when drinks have leaked over his homework. Yes, homework at 4 years old! What's that all about?
Another thing I like about this is that it is plain so no cartoon characters emblazoned on the sides. At some schools now this is a prerequisite and it can actually be quite difficult finding anything for kids that isn't merchandise for a movie of TV show.
All in all, I'm really impressed with this bottle and quite a few other parents have enquired as to where we purchased ours. Always a good sign.
We paid £2.99 for the bottle in a local independent retailer and believe this to be good value. I've seen these in lime green and also pink but there might well be other colours available. I have seen that you can buy a set which includes a bottle and a lunch box that then fits into a split compartment larger box. This sounds quite good and I will be keeping my eyes peeled for one of those.
5 Stars from me and my son.
Thanks for reading,
In a moment of madness, we arranged for a handful of my sons friends, a mix of boys and girls aged between 4 and 5 years old, to come and play at our house one afternoon. Fortunately it was sunny and warm, so the garden was the place to be for fun and games.
My wife had wisely purchased some bubbles from Tesco when we were doing the weekly shop and they proved very popular with both the girls and boys. Generally the girls enjoyed blowing the bubbles while the boys competed to destroy as many as physically possible.
This pack has 6 small containers of bubbles, each with it's own wand loose in the pot, which can prove to be a tad messy. I have to say, I prefer the pots that have the lid with the wand attached but perhaps that would increase the production cost. However, at least bubble mixture is a clean mess, if than makes sense?
The bubble mixture itself proved to be fine, the kids didn't seem to have any trouble creating fair sized bubbles that floated around in the breeze before being popped of simply wafting over the back fence into the woods.
We have had some disappointing bubble mixtures before, so I was prepared for a disappointment, but thankfully these were great, much to the children's delight.
This simple game kept the kids amused for well over an hour, which gave us grown-ups a little time for a chat and a welcome cuppa. It also proved quite active and come teatime, all the kids were quite content to sit down and eat.
All in all, I'm really impressed with these bubbles and at only £1.50 for the pack I feel that they were well worth it especially in an age where kids toys are generally high tech and expensive, it was refreshing to play with something that harked back to a more innocent time.
I'm giving them 4 Stars, losing one for the loose wand.
Thanks for reading,
I purchased this bowling set a little over a year ago when my son was 3 as he was obsessed with the fact that his big brother was often going to the Bowlplex for parties and although he was able to spectate, he couldn't really join in the fun, bless him.
Now, I have to say that this was a little pricey at around £25, but we liked the fact that it seemed particularly well made and the bowling ball had finger holes, which made it a little more authentic. I'm not sure with the benefit of hindsight, that it makes it worth a tenner more than some of the other sets but there you go!
It is, however a very nice set. You get six plastic skittles that are clear and inside the skittles are 3 small balls, red, green and blue that clatter inside the pins on impact, making a sound that is vaguely reminiscent of the Bowlplex.
Although this set is well made, it's also lightweight and perfect for use indoors and out, although if you use it in the garden then it's best to have your grass cut short or the ball will not travel well, we used ours on the patio which proved to work very well indeed.
It's also worth mentioning that the skittles also have a handy little holder so they can be neatly stored away when playtime is over. Less mess is always good.
I have to say that my little lad absolutely loved it, so from his point of view, It's worth every penny we paid for it. From a grown ups perspective, I feel it's a tad overpriced, but I have paid more for toys that have been played with a lot less so really I shouldn't grumble. I would have ideally liked an extra bowling ball though, just in case it ended up going over the back fence never to be seen again.
Suitable for ages 2+, it helps develop co-ordination and motor skills and it's also a fun way to start them using basic maths, like you've knocked down 3, how many are left?
Available from Toys R Us and maybe a little cheaper if you shop around online.
As far as rating this goes, well I'd give it 3 stars but my son would definitely say 5 so I'll compromise with 4.
Thanks for reading.
You've got to love this Turtle!
It's made by Little Tikes, it's very hardwearing, we've had ours for 2 years of hard play and hard winter but it's still looking good and has also become a much loved member of the family. I kid you not! During the last heavy snowfall, my son insisted that I wipe the snow off the top of the turtle, so that he could see! Well... at least I didn't have to sit it in front of the fire and feed it hot soup. Maybe this winter!
Also it has a lid, that keeps out rain, snow, leaves, flies, cats and foxes although I do put a brick on top as it's not quite as sturdy as the base and did once nearly blow away in a gale.
Now, it's quite large at 1.09m x 1.19m x 0.38m but it does mean that you have, I mean your kids have plenty of room to play. I used approximately 4 x 10kg bags of play sand in ours, but it will hold considerably more, I'm just a skinflint and I find if you fill it too high then sand just gets thrown over the sides!
It also has a nice sturdy edge for the kids to sit on and a lovely little face, although the eyes do seem follow you around the garden.
I will also let you into a little secret... it's not just a sandbox.
It has also been a paddling pool last summer, and a flying saucer when it was emptied of sand last autumn. Just add a little imagination really..
Oh, and at the moment it's a ball pit!
It says that this sandbox is suitable for ages 1 to 6 and in truth they will actually play with it when they are older and it's built to last. This is worth considering when you pay £49.99 for a sandbox. You will inevitably get your moneys worth with this and there's not many toys that you can honestly say that about.
All in all an excellent purchase!
5 Stars? No diggity, no doubt!
Thanks for reading.
Stand By Your Beds!
No.. I'm not of a military disposition, but with two boys at school age now the little un is in reception, or little school as I call it, our routine is like a well planned military campaign and part of this master plan is to ensure our boys turn up at school with nice shiny proper school shoes, so shoe polish is an essential purchase nowadays.
I'm pretty sure that this is the same variety of polish that my mum used on my school shoes back in the day and it really does work miracles as both of my boys seem to scuff their shoes to the max, in fact I sometimes wonder if the older lad actually gets on the bus, or just holds onto the back and lets it drag him to school!
No worries though as they are soon revived to former glories by applying some of this with a soft brush and then a good buff up with a stiff one, using a fair amount of elbow grease. I'd actually like to review elbow grease, but I can't find it on the Dooyoo product list....
Anyhoo, once done, let it dry and if you get any on your paws, I suggest you clean it off sharpish, unless you are wanting to join the black hand gang. I actually find, that given many years of experience, I make very little mess but if you're going to introduce this as a chore for a young un, then cover the entire room in old newspaper and have a hose ready outside to wash them down, unless it's just my son that can cause such carnage just polishing shoes.
So, in my opinion this is a great product and should be kept in the cupboard under the sink in every home in the western world. Last time I made a purchase it cost £1.50 a for 50ml tin, which is nothing compared to the cost of decent school shoes. Available in Black, Dark Tan and Oxblood. Oh, and it's water resistant.
Thanks for reading,
With the weather recently improving, my four year old son couldn't wait to get out in the back garden for a bit of play. After a general tidy up and a quick game of get the outside toys from the shed without getting spiders on you..brrrr... We were ready to go.
Well, almost, anyway. Unfortunately the sand in the sand pit, which didn't fit in the shed, had seen better days, so I emptied it out and not fancying a trip to Toys R Us, I decided to utilise the 2 bags of playballs that I'd purchased at the end of last summer in the Argos sale and create a mini ball pit for the boy to leap about in.
The balls come in a zip up bag which I'll keep hold of, as it will make storage a lot easier than throwing them loose into the spider infested shed. The bag and the playballs are good quality too, as you would expect from Chad Valley.
You get approximately 100 balls per bag in various bright colours, they are relatively lightweight too, which is a bonus as they tend to be hurled about the garden and inevitably a direct head shot will be achieved, usually as I'm about to sip my cup of tea.
My wife and I now use the term "incoming" on a regular basis, so we can at least brace ourselves for impact! The positive aspect of this is that our son's hand eye co ordination is improving by the day, so Phi "The Power" Taylor better watch his back!
Both Mum and I prefer the playballs to sand, as they don't cause so much mess and the little lad doesn't seem to be complaining about the swap over at the moment so it's all good.
Anyway, I'm so glad I got these when I did, as I paid £4.99 per pack. A bargain buy that will hopefully provide many hours of fun play through the summer months.
5 Stars not just from me but also from the whole family!
Thanks for reading,
I would class this as a novelty gift for a very boring person. It's comforting to know that I must have met this criteria in the mind of the person who purchased this gift for me!
I'm not sure that I have ever complained that my morning, mid morning, late morning, lunch time etc drink ever got cold before I could drink it. I like to think that I've been doing my job long enough to have time managed my priorities in such a way that this event would never happen!
Anyhoo.... I still got this as a birthday gift. Lucky me.
So, let me review it.
It's a cup and a coaster. The coaster plugs into the USB port of your computer, so no batteries required. The coaster gets hot, so in theory, the mug is warm and your drink doesn't get cold so quick.
No, not really. Even if we dismiss the whole liquids next to your pc debate, it's still pants. I've tried it out 3 times and have not really noticed that my drink stays hotter for longer, mainly because I drink mine before it gets cold and even when I left it a bit longer for the benefit of research, I was hardly dazzled by the results.
I figure that I could get a similar result with 3 extra strong mints and the occasional huff, but maybe I'm just bitter because I got given a naff present.
I should also add that the length of the USB cable is approximately 2.5 foot, so roughly a quarter of the size of the barge pole that you shouldn't touch this with.
There are plenty of quirky and often useful things available that you can plug into a USB socket, it's just that this isn't one of them.
All in all a disappointment. Avoid at all costs and if your drink does get cold, then go and make another one, or if that is not an option, buy a flask.
I apologise if I've crossed the line between a review and a rant, but isn't there already enough rubbish in the world without folk producing this kind of tat?
One star because none isn't an option.
As for a revenge present for the "friend" that got me this.... All suggestions will be gratefully received!
Thanks for reading.
I'm always a little bit dubious about kitchen gadgets and my doubts are not unfounded... you see, I have two drawers in my kitchen that are dedicated to those labour saving marvels that you can buy from glossy catalogues that appear on my doormat on a regular basis. Most of them still in unused condition and I'm afraid the greater majority are destined to become car boot sale fodder.
However. There are a few exceptions and this dear reader is one such case.
Let me introduce you to my little friend... The Kitchen Craft Hamburger Maker.
Now, I love to make my own burgers and I have to admit, they are very tasty indeed. In fact, if there is one thing the entire family agree on then it's that Dad sure makes a tasty burger.
The downside is though, that they have always looked a bit of a mess. Let's face it, burgers are supposed to be round. Fact.
So, this is where the hamburger maker can really help you out.
All you do is place a wax disc (100 supplied) into the hamburger maker, followed by your mixture, then another disc, flip it over and press.
Whoomp, there it is! A perfectly rounded burger. Tasty and looking good.
Also, the mince is compressed and more likely to hold together in the cooking process. It really is so simple and safe to use. My little lad is 4 and he loves to help me out, in fact he can make his own burgers with the minimum of supervision, so it really is very straightforward.
It's a clean and efficient way of making professional looking burgers. Everything comes apart for cleaning and that also enables you to gather up any excess mince that remains in the press and maybe even make an extra bonus burger! I average about 15 burgers per 500g of mince, plus some onion, egg and whatever else I throw in for flavour.
I'm very happy with my purchase and it got a lot of use last summer and will again this year. Mine cost £4.99 from Amazon and they also sell extra wax discs at £2.50 for 250. As mentioned earlier, you get 100 with the maker.
So, this device will not make your homemade burgers any tastier but they will almost certainly be easier on the eye when you serve them to friends and family at a summer bbq!
I hope this review has been of interest.
Thanks for reading,
My wife purchased this for me as a gift, recognizing the fact that scissors and I don't really get on and as I sell a few things on ebay, which then means I have to wrap up parcels with brown paper, I therefore require a cutting implement that will do the job without removing my digits. I was in the habit of using a Stanley knife, but it's not the sort of thing you want around the place when you've got kids.
The iSlice is approximately 6cm in length and mouse shaped. The blade is ceramic and only just protrudes so it's a lot safer than a knife or the dreaded scissors. You then just draw it across the surface that you want to cut, in my case brown paper, and it slices with ease.
It's also magnetic so you can stick it on the fridge for easy storage! Pretty smart eh?
I've used mine lots and it's still cuts as well as on the first use. You can't actually replace the blade but if it continues to perform like this then I probably wouldn't have to anyway!
Another advantage of the ceramic blade is that it's considered as airport safe, so great for taking on holiday too!
I'm really impressed with this gadget as it's well made and very useful. I've actually ordered one for work as it will be ideal for cutting the banding on copier paper boxes, opening mail safely and many other little jobs around the office. All I need is a chain to attach it to my desk otherwise I have a feeling it might go walkabout.
I do not hesitate in recommending the iSlice and feel that it's usefulness certainly justifies its £2.99 price tag in my opinion.
Thanks for reading,
I recently received a useful piece of feedback on a recent review where I bemoaned the fact that my four year old son has a habit of using my emergency torch as a plaything and more often than not, leaving it turned on so the batteries are nice and flat for me when I need to use it.
"Buy him a torch of his own" was the advice...
"But it will still cost me a small fortune in batteries" I whined in reply.
Apparently not though....
I was kindly pointed in the direction of a Powerplus Dynamo LED Flashlight Torch, with the added bonuses of:
1. Being shaped like a penguin!! Which happens to be my little lad's favourite creature.
2. It does not require batteries as its dynamo powered!!
I think that calls for a yay, so YAY!
So, this little guy is approx four and a half inches in length and the light is at the top of the penguin's head. On one side there are situated two buttons, one for the on/off and the other releases one of the penguins flippers that you then squeeze in and when it springs back, you do it again and again and again until it's fully charged.
Needless to say, my son loves it! Especially the charging as he is convinced it's magic!
The torch is actually pretty good although it's hard to say how long the charge lasts, as he seems to be constantly squeezing the flipper. Bless him!
It also has a little wrist strap specifically designed for little wrists, I'd say. It's all so cute!
I'm so glad that I got this for him and at a little under a fiver, I think it was well worth the pennies as it's pretty sturdy in design and it needs to be in the hands of a four year old who likes to play hard. It's also proved to be an incentive at bedtime, oh how he enjoys daddies shadow hand puppet repertoire!!
Highly recommended by me with 5 glowing stars!
Thanks for reading.
Light Out, Moon Out.