When people asked what I was doing last weekend, I described it as sort of like a camping festival. Which sounds weird to people who aren’t as into this stuff as you or I. But for Snow Peakers, the camping is the festival.
Snow Peak Way celebrated its 25th birthday this year. It was born in Japan, back when the brand was a struggling wholesaler. Faced with declining sales and unable to figure why, they had the idea to invite their customers camping, to get to know them and hear their honest feedback in a relaxed setting. People loosen up around the campfire. They learned a lot from that first takibi time. From then on, they became a direct-to-consumer business, and the Snow Peak Way was established as a regular event. In Japan, it now takes place 12 times a year.
This was my first Snow Peak Way. And the second ever to grace the UK since the brand opened its flagship store in London back in 2019. Earlier that year, I’d been in Japan hunting down their kit, which was hard to get then. By the time they landed, I was already a fanboy.
Snow Peak say their approach to camping is all about ‘escaping the stresses of modern life’. This idea is nothing new; it’s why we do it. Why any of us do it. But you’ve only got to visit a showroom to understand how beautiful outdoor living can be.
A cynic might say it’s just posh camping gear — and they wouldn’t be wrong. But their design isn’t incidental. As well as being functional, it has purpose. When you have a group of quality products from the same family; when your kit complements nature, doesn’t jar with it: everything hangs together. Aesthetic harmony. There’s no denying the soothing effect this can have. Take all that outside for a few days, that’s when you really start to get it.
How much you buy into all this (literally, it’s not cheap) is personal. My gateway was the thing that started it all: titanium. I’ve made modest purchases over the years, never spending more than £200 at a time. But once you pop, you can’t stop, and the collection has grown exponentially. The big-ticket items are the tents, and this is what I was buzzing to try out.
Our friends at Nordic Outdoor lent us the Entry Pack TT for the weekend. As the name suggests, it’s Snow Peak’s accessible collection. For £599 you get a 4-man Vault and a large Hexa tarp. Affordable luxury, when you consider the same budget would land you a mid-range 6-man on the high street. What you won’t find is any compromise on quality.
We arrived on site late. Extremely tense after rush hour traffic and a palaver with a broken bike rack. We’d missed the ceremonial tapping of the sake barrel. Our mates from the St. James’s store helped us pitch the Vault in the dark. Of course, there was ‘a knack’ to all this. I hovered uselessly, trying to follow along.
We awoke to a palpable calm. Taking in the scattering of tastefully uniform khaki and red tents for the first time, I did wonder if I’d accidentally joined a cult. I looked down. Someone had cleared last night’s ashes from the takibi. 'That’s hotel-level service', I thought. After pour-over coffee, I unfurled our tarp, quietly confident I had the requisite skills. I hadn't watched the tutorial, so I looked furtively to my neighbours, taking notes. My hushed swearing must’ve summoned the kami of the tarp. Because just then a kind bloke named Brian appeared and gave us a zen demonstration. My shoulders dropped again.
This was the running theme of the weekend. Every time I felt stressed, there was someone to softly explain how not to be. But it’s not about glamping - you've still got to do it yourself; they'll just show you a better, neater way - it's about bringing more of the indoors outdoors, hence the slogan: 'outdoor lifestyle creator'.
My favourite part of camping are the mornings. Brewing coffee. Making breakfast. Taking your time with the pack down. I’ve always found it centring. When the sun shines on Snow Peak Way, every moment feels like this. Normally when we go car camping, the tent is just a base camp to run around and explore. We never give ourselves the chance to just sit and enjoy the set up. It was a welcome change of pace, just to be still.
Before we left, I caught my reflection in the bathroom block mirror. Rose-stained tengui around my head. Rainbow titanium spork hanging from my neck like a religious icon.
Maybe I had drunk a little of the Kool-Aid.
You can follow Luke for more outdoor related goodness over at his Instagram @oi.lukey and you can shop the latest arrivals from Snow Peak Online Now. Thanks to the team at Snow Peak for putting on such an incredible event, and to Luke for doing the weekend justice with his words in a way we couldn't hope to.