Look! Up in the trees! It’s a UFO! It’s a hammock! It’s a tree house! No, it’s a . . . tent?
Yes, that’s it. It is the Tentsile Stingray Tent and it is designed to be used either on the ground or suspended in the trees. It is the brain-child of tree house designer Alex Shirley-Smith, in partnership with product designer Kirk Kirchev. The idea was to make a simple, lightweight, portable tree house using minimal materials. The result is an other-worldly looking design.
Shirley-Smith’s design borrows from nature by using three suspension points to stabilize the tent. Spiders use three points to attach their webs to create a very stable structure. The straps that hold the tent use five-ton ratchet straps to create the tension that holds the tent in place. The tighter the straps the more stable and strong the structure. This also creates the form of the structure.
The tent doesn’t have to be used with trees. It also comes with poles. Shirley-Smith has also tested the use of the tent in London using things like telephone poles to support the structure. So it is highly versatile in where it can be set up.
The floor of the tent is called the hammock and it should be drawn to be as taut as a drum to support the weight of up to four adults. The interior is spacious and does not sag to roll the adults down into a center point.
The tent has two access points — one on the side and one a hatch that can be accessed from underneath. The floor hatch is handy for being able to access your gear even when it is in the far corners of the tent. If you choose you can purchase a rope ladder separately for accessing the center hatch.
The idea was to use all collapsible components and create maximum usable space out of a minimum of materials. It wasn’t easy. It took eleven prototypes to get everything just right. The placement of every strap, zipper, and rivet has to be precise or the whole thing doesn’t work.
The Tentsile Stingray takes only about ten minutes to assemble (or tent minutes) and around two minutes to take down. It is recommended that you set it up no more than three or four feet off of the ground for ease of entry and exit, but you can go higher if you wish.
You can call it a tree tent, a portable tree house, a hammock tent, or even a floating tent. The product design is so new that it doesn’t really have a set name yet. Some people have told Shirley-Smith that it is the ultimate zombie shelter. I suppose if you set it up high enough it would put you out of zombie reach.
The tent has an organic feel to it and it sways very gently in the wind and with your movements. For children it has the added benefit of being a “bouncy house.” That’s one way to distract the kids from not having computer or video games at hand.
This design is so unique and fun you may decide it’s time to ditch the RV for something that gets much better gas mileage.