So just what is a ‘tree tent’ and why would you want one? A friend described it as a cross between a hammock and trampoline, and it has to be said that this is a pretty good way of describing a tree tent. It is a tent that is suspended via some strong webbing straps attached to the surrounding trees, floating above the ground, all be it tethered to those trees.
Why? Well because you can, would be an honest answer and because it’s fun, providing a very different perspective for watching and living more closely with our natural woodland surroundings . For anyone who has ever slept in a hammock, or perhaps laid back in one on a sunny day, will know that a hammock provides a very comfortable place to relax and sleep. Unlike a tent, there is no need to clear the ground before pitching the tent to remove those little sticks and stones that, if not removed, will ruin an otherwise good nights sleep.
Another excellent reason for using a tree tent is that, like a hammock, you don’t need to worry about the suitability of the ground on which you would otherwise be camping. You can pitch a tree tent over rough or over sloping ground or even over a pond or stream -I’m looking forward to more challenging locations!
Our first nights camp was in the woodland where I run courses and the first task was to find a suitable location for the tree tent, three trees from which to suspend the Tentsile Stingray tree tent. The instructions recommend trees that are a foot thick, with trees evenly spaced from each other (ideally forming or approximating to an equilateral triangle). We were in luck, with a nice setting right next to our campfire circle. Erecting the tent was simple enough (well for anyone familiar with setting up a tent on the ground), aided by the excellent videos on the Tentsile website and luckily for me an introduction by Alex Shirley-Smith, owner of Tentsile (thank you Alex).
Like a tent, you need to have insulation underneath where you are sleeping to keep warm at night. In our case, we also had a Trillium Hammock which can be suspended underneath to create a second base layer, between these layer we placed our Thermarest insulation mats. The Stingray can comfortably sleep three people, but with the Trillium suspended separately and with the addition of the optional side walls, there would be room for another tree people down stairs – take a look at this amazing Tentsile configuration!
With the tent platform evenly positioned between the three trees, it was just a matter of inserting a couple of polls into sleeves in the tent fabric to pop up the tent and pull over the flysheet and we were ready to try it out.
There are two entrances, a hatch underneath (see picture above) and a doorway (see below). I put a wooden bench below the hatch, slipped off my shoes and climbed up into a whole new world of camping. We were just a few feet above the ground, but that was enough to see things from a new perspective. It was high enough to see blue tits fly past and yet be at the same level as them too – wonderful.
Well our first night in a tree tent was amazing, it really was a completely new experience, lots of fun too and very comfortable. It was a beautifully clear night and lovely to watch the stars suspended above the ground, that insulation really paid off! And where do you put you morning cup of tea, well as you can (just about) see above, I rigged up a tripod upon which to perch a mug of nettle tea. The flysheet was then removed and we relaxed, sipping tea, listening to the dawn chorus and watching the birds fly be, what a great way to start the day.