Tent boy aims to spend 130 nights outdoors
The distinct lack of sun this summer hasn't deterred a Rangitikei boy from searching for the moon each night from his sleeping bag.
Jonty Skerman loves camping. You might even say it's his lifestyle.
For this 7-year-old the tent doesn't just come out for family holidays. It's up every day.
Jonty has already clocked up 100 nights under the stars since spring, camped out in the backyard of his family home near Bulls.
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Undeterred by the inclement summer, he's aiming to set a new personal record of 130 nights before the third frost - his cut-off point - settles.
Jonty's passion for camping began when he was five.
Most 5-year-olds would balk at spending a night or two in a tent on their own, but Jonty asked his parents Joe and Kym Skerman if he could camp in a tent on a lawn next to the house.
They consented, erecting a pup tent on the lawn and fully expecting the adventure to be over by the next morning.
"It's something you want to foster. You don't want to say 'no, you can't do it'," Kym Skerman said.
"A lot of kids his age would struggle to stay one night in a tent on their own, let alone two or three."
Not Jonty though. He stayed out so long his parents had to move the tent so as not to kill the lawn.
That summer, the little tent traversed the entire length of the lawn. Jonty reckons he lasted more than 100 nights.
As the leaves turned green again the following season, Jonty was ready and waiting with his tent, this time clocking up 120 nights.
"I like the outdoors. I like to be in the tent - it's fun to be outside. I like listening to the birds and the wind blowing in the trees," Jonty said.
"I like animals and I have a telescope. I've been trying to find the moon."
For the Skerman family, who milk 650 - 700 cows on two properties west of Bulls, outdoor living is a way of life.
"I get them to spend as much time as possible outside," Kym Skerman said.
But, Jonty's camping habit had come at a cost. Pitched tents don't last forever and last year Jonty outlasted two.
The wet summer hadn't helped.
"He got this far through summer, but his tent is ripped at the top letting the rain in on one side.
"We couldn't keep buying him tents every few months. A friend suggested that we contact Macpac to see if they'd be interested in him product-testing any tents.
"It turns out they were, and they offered him a brand new tent. He will be their youngest product tester."
Kym Skerman picked up the new tent from Macpac in Palmerston North this week, just in the nick of time. On Thursday night, 31 millilitres of rain fell, and the old tent was partially flooded.
Jonty remained dry in the new tent, sleeping so soundly he wasn't aware it had been raining until he woke up.