We’ve been having a lovely time covering the Crescendo Festival in St Palais sur Mer in the Poitou region of France – and a great festival it is too. It’s free, there’s bands from all over the world play and it’s really well organised and attended. Now, as a family we’ve always been campers…never in caravans or mobile homes, just tents and all the gubbins that goes with that…and so naturally when we attended this years Crescendo Festival we bought a tent (ours is a long time dead) and set off South for a bit of an adventure…sort of Hifi Pig gets back to nature.

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The foods been interesting…some good and some absolutely diabolical, but the whole back to a nice simple way of live for a few days has been quite lovely…yes, we’ve been out and spent silly amounts of money on great lunches, but the tent was erected and that has been our home for the last few days.

Cooking dinner on a single burner camping stove is an interesting and humbling experience when you are used to the full piano experience (it’s a French thing), but what really grabbed me whilst watching different folk on the campsite was that camping and caravanning have lots of parallels to the whole audiophile world.

In this mad world of audio there are lots of different kinds of audiophile. Some folk are on a budget because of financial constraints, some are on a budget because they feel much of the esoteric gear is a rip off, some spend lots to get the best they can, some spend lots to show off a bit, some make their own gear and others tweak endlessly.

Let me explain.Views_Music_First

The Back To Basics Camper (BTBC) 

Owns an old canvas scouting tent and cooks everything from scratch on a methylated spirit stove. In the same way the BTBC will be ensuring the water-tightness of their temporary home before they set off on their adventure, and fiddling with guy ropes once there, the audiophile equivalent will be forever poking about round the back of their Heath Robinson set up and playing with homemade crossovers that really ought to be in a box, but for practical reasons they’re just hanging out the back of an equally hotchpotched pair of loudspeakers.

This kind of camper gets their pleasure from knowing that they are having the full on camping experience, bereft of corporate manipulation and they sort of enjoy the discomfort that their steadfastness to the true path that they have chosen gives them. They “know” their path is the only true and righteous way, and whilst they have seen the luxury afforded by modern tents and associated paraphernalia, the BTBC still chooses to camp in a field in wet Wales with limited availability of proper sanitation and other such comforts.

Can be a bit sanctimonious and possibly wears hessian undergarments.

Camper On A Budget (COAB) 

The COAB will have a relatively basic set up but it will be the very best that they can afford. They perhaps want a more luxurious camping experience but simply do not have the dosh to fork out on expensive gear and this is after all why they are camping rather than being pampered in a luxury hotel. The COAB will have spent time and energy looking for tenting equipment that will give them maximum bang for their buck and will have invested wisely in equipment that will offer good service and reliability for years to come.

We’ve all been there in the audio world of course. We may have hankered after the LP12, Celestion SL600s and Naim amplifiers back in our teenage years, but the reality was that what we could afford was a second-hand NAD amp, a pair of Wharfedale Diamonds and a Dual turntable.

The COAB is a wise fellow and shrewd with his hard earned money and, whilst he is aware that there is better out there, he is also safe in the knowledge that he has the very best camping experience that he can have. Many of the aforementioned BTBCs may actually be on a budget in reality but want to decry anything that is corporate because their undergarments irritate their nether regions, leading them to be similarly grating.

The Virgin Caravanist (TVC) 

The TVC will have previously been a COAB but has seen that the caravan is a superior place to rest ones head of an evening and that cooking undercover is vastly preferable to cooking in the open air where leaves and wildlife will inevitably find their way into your camp stew. They will have saved hard for their used van and, just the same as when they were looking for the best tent they could afford, they will have done all the research to ensure they are getting the best value.

The audio equivalent will be the audiophile on a budget who has seen and heard kit that is better than their current set up and have been looking to upgrade slowly and methodically ensuring that each purchase in the chain works with the previous and will give outstanding service for the capital outlay. Many of the components in this audiophile’s rig will be second hand and may well be marques that are a bit esoteric.

Of course there is a sub-group to the TVCs and this will be the VWD (Virgin With Dosh) who, whilst never actually having gone camping or caravaning has noticed that a few of his friends at the golf club have been chatting about their adventures in the caravaning world and so he’s gone out and bought himself the biggest and flashiest van that his BMW or Range Rover will tow. This camper is looking to gain status by waving his ever so massive appendage in the faces of his friends and other campers.

The Seasoned Caravanist (TSC) 

Not to be confused with the VWD, the TSC have a long and illustrious history of caravaning and will have steadily upgraded their mobile dwelling over the years. These are the ones who will have a modestly priced motorcar they have bought especially to pull the van, though it will be used throughout the year too. The TSC can be seen early of a morning polishing their wheels and buffing the windscreens of their temporary accommodation. As well as the well appointed van they’ll also have all the outside kit and will rarely stray further than the on-site loos to empty their chemical toilet.
They’ll proudly be displaying their Camping and Caravaning Club membership on the rear screen of their small SUV and will probably have flowers in a nice vase on the outside dining table.

Can be a bit of a caravan bore and probably a bit “adenoidy”!
Audiophile comparisons are obvious.

The Motorhome Enthusiast (TME) 

TMEs are most often seen loitering around carparks and shop carparks in their vehicles because they haven’t been allowed into the campsite or town with their gargantuan mobile homes. They are on the fringes of the camping fraternity and often eschewed by campers and caravanists alike as being “not real caravanists” because they don’t have to endure the perceived hardships of either tent life or van life.

It’s a false logic though and akin to the snail! Like the snail they can go nowhere without their van unless they mount a small car or motorcycle to the back of their mobile homestead. If they do make it onto the site and have their extra mobility device it is unlikely that they’ll ever use it because it’s a faff to get off the trailer and they’re busy anyway cleaning and tidying up in the motorhome.

TME a little like some AV enthusiasts – they seem to have more bells and whistles than the two channel aficionado, but in reality their listening experience is likely to be less, rather than more satisfying.

The Lightweight Backpacker 

TLB carries everything they need for their often solitary week away in a backpack. Everything will have been bought with weight and performance being paramount. Their isolationist leanings are not out of lack of funds, rather they enjoy having the time to be on their own, collect their thoughts, meditate on their existence and spend time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and people.
Hifi comparisons are obvious. These are the portable headfi enthusiast. They’ll have all the best gear – player, headphone amp and DAC – all tied together with those rubber wrist bands. Possibly wears hessian underwear but really enjoys it!

So, there you have it! The outside world is not so different to our little audiophile world. For the record we have a relatively high-end audio system but a £99 tent and single burner stove but yearn for a bell tent and the whole “glamping” experience…and a kayak! No hessian though!  

Stuart Smith

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