Swags have evolved significantly over the years, from very humble designs to some very innovative options that come in all shapes and sizes. Thankfully you can now find these camping products on roof racks and in the back of 4WD vehicles as a result of recent availability, all over the world.
So, where did it all begin? Way back in the 1800’s in Australia a Swagman was known as a roaming and mostly seasonal agricultural worker who did odd jobs on farms including labour work, rounding up and shearing sheep. They mostly slept outdoors where they lay on a piece of canvas and threw a blanket over themselves at night, to keep warm. When they moved on, they then rolled up the blanket, their belongings and the canvas together, threw it on their backs, and headed off for the next job, and that’s where the name for modern day ‘swags’ came from.
During the great Depression in Australia swags became even more popular as unemployed men made their way across the Australian continent in search of work and mostly slept in swags. When these men found work, in a lot of cases, their swags would still remain their shelter for the night, that with a billy (tin can for cooking), some clothes and personal belongings, that was pretty much it.
Today, swags are still very popular in Australia where campers and tourers store them in the back of their utes or on the roof rack of their 4×4 as they explore and search for the best campsites. In Europe and in the US the swag concept is still a very new one and one that we are still trying to understand. The first thing we think of when we see a swag is the size in comparison to a tent but having used both over the years the TURAS team soon recognised the benefits of using a swag. In fact, our swags are now our first choice of accommodation when not using our roof top tents. And now, thanks to Australian companies like DARCHE we are getting to see swags up close in the British Isles, Europe and the US as DARCHE swags are now available through various distributors world-wide.
Where it all began (DARCHE)
Widely recognised as the company that have taken the design of swags to the next level DARCHE introduced the Dome Swag over 20 years ago. Designed to withstand harsh Aussie conditions, the DARCHE swag range keep you comfortable all year round, no matter where you camp. Based in regional Victoria over 26 years ago, DARCHE revolutionised the traditional swag market with the introduction of some very innovative models. DARREN O’DWYER, the founder of DARCHE with his wife CHERYL (DAR-CHE), embarked on an eastern seaboard journey. Wanting a shelter arrangement that was quick, practical and easy to stow, Darren used his imagination and created a canvas shell with fibreglass poles and the dome style swag was born with his creation being the talking point at many camping spots throughout their journey. On his return, Darren decided to showcase his new creation at a hunting and firearm show held at the Melbourne Exhibition Building. Using nothing more than a simplistic foldable card playing table as a prop, Darren soon become inundated with order requests from both Hunters and campers alike. Using Australian supply chain partners at the time including Bradmill, Charles Parsons (who now own the DARCHE brand), KS Textiles and ABC foam makers, DARCHE had become the leading swag and canvas converter in Australia, at one stage being the largest converter of 100% cotton canvas in the country.
Types of Swags
With interesting and progressive designs like the Dirty Dee, the Dusk To Dawn and the Nebula now all available in the UK, Europe and the US, these DARCHE swags are feature packed with proofed poly/cotton ripstop canvas, heavy duty waterproof PVC bucket floor and 50mm high-density covered foam mattress, that sure is a big improvement when it comes to comfort in comparison to the first prototypes..
So, lets have a closer look at these models;
The Dirty Dee
We have been using the DARCHE Dirty Dee for over a year now and we have had plenty of opportunity to use it in different environments and weather including -15 in the winter months. This innovative design offers a multitude of doors and windows which provide plenty of ventilation on those hot summer camping nights.The ridge pole trigger locking system developed by DARCHE makes the Dirty Dee swag the ultimate freestanding tourer. Near vertical walls and all-weather awnings, functionality, durability and comfort have been combined into an all-round outdoor adventure companion.
This roomy swag is made from 420gsm proofed poly/cotton 16mm grid ripstop and offers generous headroom within.Other features include access to the undercover front awning, seam-sealed internal seams, 4 internal storage pockets and anodised 7001 alloy 8.5 Dia poles with hard wearing polesleeves. Like all DARCHE products, the materials are all of a very high quality.
The carrier bag is a generous size and easily accommodates the swag when packing away. A big selling point for us was the 50mm covered hi-density foam mattress and the trigger locking ridgepole system. The thick mattress means you will be guaranteed a comfortable night’s sleep having said that the size of the mattress does make the swag bulkier but well worth it in our view. The trigger locking system is a great idea allowing the swag to stand freely without needing to use the supplied guy ropes. This is a great solution for those who enjoy a bit of comfort when camping. All up perfect for extended 4WD touring or a quick weekend of
Is it a tent or is it a swag?, out a couple of years now the Nebula is a very generous 2 person freestanding canvas hybrid, purpose built for any outdoor adventure. The Nebula like the Dirty Dee and the Dusk to Dawn just sings quality and comfort, the innovative design makes for a functional four season all weather robust shelter. Uniquely constructed as a single skin canvas, you can also attach the included fly sheet. This is a big swag that combines the space of a tent with the comfort and durability of a swag, it also just happens to look the biz. We are going to have a closer look at the Nebula in issue 13 of the magazine so stay tuned.
In general ff you can get over the size of a swag in comparison to a tent and get used to throwing them onto your roof rack, in the back of your trailer or in the back of your pick up, you will never look back.
The comfort these products offer in our opinion far outweigh the extra space they take up. We have had too many nights of poor sleep crashing out in tents on hard ground and as we get a bit older these swags just bring a whole new dimension to our camping. You will feel very comfortable sheltering in these on a rainy night, in a snowstorm or on a hot summer night with the options of just closing the midget mesh and enjoying the panoramic views. Add a stretcher into the mix by placing your swag on it and in our view this set up is pretty hard to beat when it comes to comfort, in fact this set up in our view offers one of the most comfortable night’s sleep we have ever had.
The Darche ‘Dusk to Dawn’ Swag is another high quality, and quick to setup swag from the Australian outdoor equipment company.
The Dusk to Dawn 1100 Swag sleeps one person comfortably and would be cozy for a couple. The Swag is made from 420gsm poly/cotton 16mm grid ripstop canvas and has 800mm PU waterproofing with internal seam sealing.
There are two full length entrances on either side and both sides also have a super fine insect/mosquito mesh. The doors can be rolled up entirely allowing for an unimpeded view of the night sky , or alternatively with the use of (optional)awning poles either (or both) of the doors can be extended as an awning.
There are also two zip down windows at both ends allowing for good ventilation. The mattress is a very comfortable 50mm poly cotton covered high density foam mattress.
The swag is quick to setup, when unrolled simply add the two alloy poles on either end and then lock in place with the alloy trigger lock ridge poll.
We recently had the pleasure of spending a few nights in the woods in one of these swags , set on top of the excellent XL 100 stretcher and had a very comfortable night’s sleep.
The swag is roomy and spacious and the heavy canvas kept us warm and also allowed us to sleep a little late, even after the sun rose into the sky, something which would normally have us suffocating with heat from the sun in an ordinary tent.
The Dusk to Dawn also comes in a smaller (900mm) and a larger (1400mm) version with the larger version sleeping two people comfortably. These swags can be used on the ground, where they provide a very comfortable night’s sleep or can also be used over the XL100 stretcher, which we found to be ‘very’ comfortable, and which also gives you a lot more leeway in the types of terrain on which you can set up camp.