Pie Camping

Every year I take my wind and solar powered sound system to a camping expedition called the Pie Camp (don’t ask why).

It’s always fun and a challenge, making sure that the pie campers have music for the whole bank holiday weekend, relying only on the wind and the sun for power. But this weekend had more challenges in store even than usual!

The first night a friend of mine who makes his own music decided he was going to play it over the sound system. I run my laptop with a voltage stepper which converts the 12v supply from the battery to 19v for the laptop directly, without having to go through an inverter and a transformer, which is incredibly inefficient. Anyway, this friend of mine had to use the latter arrangement because my adapter wouldn’t fit his laptop, and he also turned up the volume on the system, which meant that the following day we had a complaint from an adjacent camping field, and the batteries were almost completely drained. Nightmare!! What was I going to do for power? I needed wind or sun, or preferably both!

The following day was predictably still and wet, no wind but lots of rain – grim, and no power into the bargain. One of the people at the camp started to play some music over their car stereo, with the engine running – so I hooked up a couple of jump leads to my batteries from the car, to give them a bit of a charge, which helped a bit. We managed to get through the second night with music, albeit very quiet and finishing early.

I was completely unprepared for what the third day brought. Gale force winds during the night had destroyed two gazebos, and the sound system gazebo was similarly destroyed not long after I had got up. A huge gust of wind just ripped all of the cloth off it, and bent it over leaving it a mangled mess of scrap metal. Nightmare!! I just had to hope that it didn’t rain.

But another effect of the gale force winds was that the wind turbine was going absolutely full tilt, along with the solar panel, as it was really sunny too!! So the batteries were overflowing and I was connecting up people’s car batteries, ‘phone chargers and iPods to get rid of some of the excess electricity!! Crazy stuff!! A mangled gazebo but lots of nice loud pumpin’ sound!!

The last day was quite calm so I finished off with some folk music.

Of course I could just take a small petrol generator to run this small system, but that would defeat the point. We are going to have to rely on renewable energy in the future – less reliable than fossil energy, but if you respect it and don’t abuse it, it is completely possible to make it work. And it was quite ironic that the same weather which was driving the sounds also destroyed much of our accommodating infrastructure. These are the kinds of issues we are going to have to get used to dealing with!!

A friend suggested getting a geodesic dome as a replacement gazebo – apparently they don’t suffer in high winds because of their shape. And they look pretty cool too, so I might just go down that route.

Crazy weather at the minute though!!



  1. rogerthesurf said,

    May 31, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I know a better way to provide music whilst on a camping trip. It needs no outside source of energy, and it is perfectly eco friendly.

    Its called a musical instrument.

    I have an old violin which doesn’t mind the damp too much and it has a better repertoire than any single CD – from a little classical, to a good ole hoedown and accompanying singing.

    Suggest you and your friends do a bit of practice on your mouth organs and jews harp. Its far more rewarding.



    • May 31, 2010 at 11:26 pm

      Well fair comment Roger, in fact there were also several guitars, drums, penny whistles and the like there too, and a fair bit of what was being played over the sound system was folk music in any case.

      I suppose I just like to tinker with renewable energy, and it’s an education for everyone when they can come and see how the system is working. The kids can familiarise themselves with the technology, and get a real feel for how much power can be harvested from the wind and the sun, through a practical application like a music system.

      But of course you are right about acoustic instruments – we love them too! 😉

  2. Steve Cunio said,

    June 6, 2010 at 9:13 am

    We’ve really got to go for a pint. Love all this stuff you are doing and im now in my house and looking at wood burners too.

    • June 6, 2010 at 11:18 pm

      Definitely up for a beer! We haven’t used our woodburner for weeks thanks to the good weather.

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