I’d first seen this futuristic space age style tent on someone’s Instagram post. It was slung in an impossibly strange place hovering over a body of water, strapped inexplicably to some trees. It was a tent, but looked like a type of hovering spacecraft. I had to know more about what this crazy contraption was.
I learned eventually that what I saw was a Tensile tent and ever since I’ve been dying to give one a try.
Tentsile makes specialized suspension tents for campers and outdoorsy types. The tents come in a variety of sizes and configuration options and they look as though they’re defying gravity. At the same time the tents look like it would be impossible for them to support actual humans.
Recently I reached out to Tentsile and requested to review one of their tents to see how it works, how comfortable they are, how strong they are and what the overall user experience is. They were gracious enough to send me a demo tent called the Connect which I tested out over a couple of months and several different camping excursions.
How Tentsile tent works
The Tentsile tent consists of several parts and pieces; the tent itself, the fly (available in different colours and patterns), three wide seatbelt-style straps, three ratchets, two articulating tent poles, screw-style pegs, and bungee cords.
The tent uses the wide seatbelt-style straps to wrap around nearby trees, then the straps are fed into large ratchets which cinch the tent to the straps tightly to provide a stable base for the tent. With a stable and even base, you slide poles into the tent to pop it open, clip on the fly then peg it down or wrap it around the tent if you prefer.
The tent has a flat and stable bottom, and despite what you might think, two people do not really roll into eachother. The Tentsile Connect tent also has a strap that runs along the spine or the base of the tent which can be tightened to create two hammock style areas inside the tent if you prefer.
Setting up the Tentsile Connect
You need three strong and sturdy trees to attach the Tentsile tent to.
The first time you’ll use this tent (or even the first two times) will be a challenge. Don’t attempt to do this for the first time after arriving late and in the dark to a campsite. You’ll go insane. You definitely need some practice with this tent in order to get it right. For me that took about two or three tries in various different locations.
Tentsile tent- First try
The first time we set up the tent it was an utter failure. We set the tent up, tightened the straps and attempted to climb in. In seconds and with a snap, the tent dropped to the ground taking us with it. Fortunately it was not a far fall and we didn’t get hurt. What went wrong, we wondered?
It turns out the steel ratchets that are used to tighten the straps were not locked into the closed position. This is a majorly important step, though I’d have to be taught this lesson one more time before it really sunk in. More on that later.
Tentsile tent- Second try
We tried a second time, only this time (with ratchets locked!) we were in an odd configuration where my husband and myself were kind of tossed into the middle of the tent almost as if it were a giant single hammock. Something was clearly not right. Was one strap too high, we wondered?
Tentsile tent – Third & fourth try
We tried the set up again, only this time we seem to have gotten it a little too low to the ground. When we climbed in we were basically touching the ground with our butts. Down came the straps and on to another attempt we went.
Confused, we tried our set up again.
This time it seems like we’d gotten our angles wrong. When choosing a set-up location, you’ll need to ensure the trees you pick to connect to are at the correct angles for the tent. Despite seeming like you should seek out trees in an equilateral triangle configuration, you’ll want a little more of a V shape (isosceles triangle, friends. Remember high school geometry?) for the Connect tent.
Tentsile tent – Fifth try’s a winner!
We re-strung the tent and moved the front two straps to trees that were more forward of their previous position and that seemed to work better. This time when we got in we had a solid and mostly flat surface that allowed us both to lay flat on our own sides of the tent. This was how we slept for the first night in our Tentsile tent. Hallelujah!
Tentsile Tent Tips
-don’t attach to dead trees (they’re likely to be pulled over. Yep, this happened to us)
-don’t attach to trees smaller in diameter than about the size of two fists (they won’t be strong enough)
-don’t hang it much more than 4 feet off the ground – a height you’d feel safe falling from
-always remember to lock the ratchets
-remove rocks and avoid stumps and debris underneath. Just in case.
-practise your set up in daylight, and with some time to spare
-know that other campers will be curious. Plan to be an ambassador for Tentsile!
Extra safety proceedures
It’s important to employ the safety procedures Tentsile recommends, since if you fall, it’s likely gonna hurt. For starters, make double sure you lock the ratchets. We are now in the habit of calling out, “Ratchet locked!” and we both check all three, just to be sure.
It’s also recommended to tie part of the excess strap into a knot to prevent it accidentally being able to slide out of place if the ratchet failed.
Also, I’m not going to say how I know this, but don’t attach the straps to a tree narrower than two fists, and don’t strap it to any standing dead trees. You’ll pull them over. Trust me.
Tentsile tent is supremely comfortable
After waking up I was surprised. I had no backache, and no stiffness from laying on a slowly decompressing air mattress. It was as though I’d been cradled for the night in a completely weightless environment. I felt amazing and my husband said he did too. It’s quite surprising what not having to sleep on pressure points can do for a good night’s rest! We were instantly hooked.
Tentsile tent – It’s all about the trees
On our next trip we arrived to our first campsite early only to find there were not enough trees properly spaced to accommodate the Tentsile. Fortunately we had anticipated this could happen at some point, and brought along a second ordinary ground tent for just this emergency.
This brings me to an important point about the Tentsile tent. It’s not going to work in every situation. Even in the heavily wooded and rustic Rocky Mountains where we tested it out, many campsites just don’t have the right tree configuration to make this tent set up work. If you’re using this at a campground, it’s quite possible that on a busy weekend you may only get one or two choices for campsite, and they may or may not have the right trees for your Tentsile.
I brought this tent along on camping trips to the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Kananaskis Country, as well as to the Olympic National Forest in Washington state. We also had it with us as we road tripped through eastern Washington with its largely desert environment.
I’d say realistically we could only find proper tree configuration to set up the Tentsile tent in about 50% of the places we stopped; and this was while deliberately trying to find opportunities to set up and test the tent.
I think it’s worth knowing that you may not be able to go into the wilderness with this tent as your only means of shelter. Now, I suppose you could just unfurl the tent, put up the poles, and lay it out on the ground, and just peg it into place. In fact, Tentsile does say that’s a viable option, though it is quite tight on the inside.
“You can pitch on the ground in dry conditions. You can also use a spare rain fly as a ground sheet, wrapping the “wings” up to create a barrier against rain coming in under the top fly sheet. Please remember these are Tree Tents and as such, the head room will be tight as you will not benefit from 8″ of sag you get when in the air.”
The Tentsile is versatile. You can use it with the fly on, off, or unzip the screen mash and lay right out in the open. The choice is yours depending on your environment and the bugs.
Is a Tentsile tent comfortable?
I can say unequivocally that this is the most comfortable tent I’ve ever slept in. Being suspended in the air relieves all pressure from your joints and muscles, and means you’re not sleeping on any pressure points. Waking up from a sleep in a Tentsile tent is the height of camping comfort. Plus it means you don’t need to pack things like bed rolls, cots, air mattresses, pumps, and the like. (Unless of course you feel the need to keep those on hand in the event the Tentsile doesn’t have the right tree configuration for setup.)
I love the fact that I can sleep suspended in comfort, and not wake up with one of those weird headaches from accidentally having my head at a lower point in the tent then my feet as often happens with conventional ground tents.
Of course it’s also nice not sleeping on the cold ground or having to deal with dampness. We did use the tent one night when it was quite cool overnight, and did find we got pretty cold. That was remedied the next night when we laid a blanket across the bottom of the inside of the tent, then put our sleeping bags on top. Toasty!
Overall when it comes to comfort, this is definitely my number one pick of all time for tent camping.
Will we roll into each other in Tentsile tent?
We were camped at several sites and had numerous other campers come over and ask about the Tentsile tent. One of the key questions everyone seems to have is,”Don’t you roll into each other at night?”
The answer is a definite no. The base of the Tentsile tent features a wide heavy strap down the middle that forms a kind of spine which keeps it taut and stable. The result is while there is a bit of drop or sag in the center, you’re definitely not rolling into each other. It was a surprisingly stable and flat surface to sleep on.
Lay flat or create two sleeping ‘hammocks’ in Tentsile tent
There’s another option for sleeping two people in this tent. That is to tighten the base or spine strap of the tent before you set it up. What this does in essence is creates two halves, or pockets inside on the base of the tent which essentially creates two hammock-like compartments inside. My husband and I found this was our favorite configuration for sleeping. It allowed us each to be cradled and comfortable, and mitigated any slight rolling into the other person.
Can Tentsile really hold us? – Strength & Durability
Getting into the Tentsile tent to sleep for the first time was a bit of a leap of faith. Because the fabric is so thin and light, your brain will be telling you that it can’t possibly hold your weight. While we got over the hump and I got in first, there was a second leap of faith required when my husband got in. You’ll definitely hear the straps pull and groan as the tent adjusts to the weight of two adults. It’s a bit freaky the first couple of times, but you get used to it.
Tentsile says the tents are built to hold 400kg/880lbs for the larger models, and 220kg/485lbs for Tmini and Flite models.
Another consideration is that unlike sleeping in a regular tent, with the Tentsile, every time someone moves, the entire tent moves with you. It’s a bit like sleeping on a waterbed, for those of you who remember that experience of the 80s and 90s.
I expected a certain amount of wind to affect the tent while we were sleeping in it, but I was surprised to find the heavy weight straps keep it pretty stable.
Getting in & out of Tentsile tent
If you suspend this tent the recommended three or four feet off the ground, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting in or out. You can really just unzip the Tentsile, sit on the edge and then lean back into it. If you’re up a bit higher, you can use a log or rock to give yourself a step. (Just make sure it doesn’t remain underneath the tent.)
It might be worth pointing out here that some photos online and on social media show the Tentsile tents suspended over great heights, and over water. Tensile doesn’t recommend this, and in fact addresses this on its website. The company says these types of installations are done by professionals with Rope Access experience. The company’s line is, “your Tentsile should be set up at a height that you would feel safe falling from” and I’d say I agree wholeheartedly with that statement.
Safety, bears & wildlife – Tentsile
I had it in my head that I could suspend this tent five or six feet off the ground, and become a less likely target for potential predators. Turns out I’ve got it wrong. Tentsile recommends the tent only be placed about three or four feet off the ground; just enough to keep you out of the muck, and off uneven ground. Placing the tent any higher could seriously hurt you if something went wrong with one of the straps or ratchets. Unfortunately, that means you’re likely still within range of any wandering wildlife.
Overall review of Tentsile Connect suspension tent
I absolutely loved my experience with the Tentsile tent and would definitely get one of my own. The primary reason I like it so much is because of the sleep comfort. It’s a game changer to wake up without any aches and pains and to feel really refreshed.
While there was a definite learning curve in how to set up and use the tent (and I was VERY frustrated early on, I’ll admit), after a few tries, it’s now much easier and we have improved at being able to find just the right trees to properly configure the tent.
We are still bringing along a ground tent on longer road trips in case we end up somewhere that’s not suited to the Tentsile. For us car campers, this is easy. For backpackers not so much, but as I pointed out you can use the Tentsile on the ground in a pinch.
I’m very impressed with how durable and strong the fabric is, and really feel as though it will be quite long-lasting. As of the date of this review, I have set up and taken down the Tentsile tent about eight times, and slept in it about four or five. Unlike some other tents I’ve reviewed which started to break after just a couple of uses, the Tentsile seems to me to be durable and very well made.
I have no hesitation about recommending the Tensile Connect tent as a superb and outstanding purchase for your camping kit the will keep you comfortable for years to come.
Tentsile Connect sells for about $570CAD/$450USD from Tentsile’s website.