Jam Xterior Max portable speaker review

JAM Xterior Max Rugged Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (HX-P950) As sound quality on mobile devices improves, portable Bluetooth speakers continue to impress in both design and sound quality.

By special guest blogger Ron Leung

JAM Xterior Max Rugged Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (HX-P950) review

I had a chance to test the Jam Xterior Max which is a rugged Bluetooth speaker designed for the outdoor enthusiast. The speaker claims to handle rough and tumble conditions while still providing superior sound quality. Continue reading “Jam Xterior Max portable speaker review”

Goutte D’O rain drop cabins from Parks Canada entice campers

gouttedo590_I LOVE this idea.  A six meter mini-cabin in the shape of a drop of water is now open to campers in Canada.  The Goutte D’O (water or rain droplet) is a small portable accommodation option designed to entice campers who might find tenting too rustic.

Gouttes D’O make debut in Canada parks

gouttedo275The Goutte is a hard-sided wooden structure with screened windows and a suspended net loft to add space. Parks Canada says, “there is a sofa bed on the main level and a hammock loft above. TheGoutte d’Ô can accommodate a couple or a family. Ideally, this accommodation is suspended or on stilts. For the piloting phase, the Goutte d’Ô will be installed on a wooden platform at Point Wolfe Campground in Fundy National Park.”

It goes without saying that there are no bathrooms inside these tiny huts, and campers need to bring their own bedding and supplies, but that’s not unlike regular tenting. Pets are also verbotten in the Gouttes. Four people can fit inside and sleep inside the gouttes; two in the sofabed and two in the loft, thhough I’m guessing it might be a bit more comfortable with two adults and two kids.

A handful of these would look so cool hanging in a campground, don’t you think?

The Gouttes are $70 a night to rent during a trial phase. This structure is just one of a handful of new structures appearing in Canadian National Parks in hopes of enticing more people to commune with nature. Micro Cubes, Tree Cocoons and Tiny Homes are some other examples. (Read this cool blog from This Big Adventure about the cocoons)

Check out the new cabins here. I’d love to know who is making these chic spaces, because honestly, I’d love one for my backyard! I’ll see what I can find out from the fine folks at Parks Canada.

Tiny home_website

 

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Photos courtesy Parks Canada and Big Adventure.

Mpowerd inflatable lamp is fun & versatile

img_2756When we’re spending more time outdoors, decorating our outside space can be fun.

img_2755Whether you’re chilling in your backyard, or camping in the wilderness, you can spice up your space with a solar powered space saving lantern, like this one from Mpowerd.
The Luci light comes flat-packed; you blow it up with lung power, then let it get juiced in the sun.  Once it’s ready, you can select any number of colours, and the sparkly skin of the lamp makes for a subtle and interesting glow. I’ve been using it outside on the deck, but it also looks chic inside on a side table or as part of a centrepiece for your next dinner party.  When you need to store it, deflate the lamp and pack it away.

I found the lamp took quite some time to charge up in the sun (Mpowerd’s website says 7-8 hours, or 2 full days if it’s cloudy, which for me is way too long), and it was necessary to keep it anchored to something so it wouldn’t blow away or turn over.  The light is said to last for 12 hours, but I found it was more like 8.luci-color.gif

I wanted to leave this outside, turned on, so that it would come on at night, then recharge in the day, but it doesn’t really work like that.  It really needs to fully charged while turned off, so it’s not so much a dusk-to-dawn option as I might have liked. Nonetheless it’s a fun party light, and it’s waterproof and it floats so it’s also a fun option for the pool, hot tub or koi pond. They retail for $24 USD.

I’ve tried out some more fun garden gadgets too this season. Read about them here.

 

Napier Sportz Truck-bed Tent Review

Getting out of the city, away from the job and into the outdoors can really make you feel relaxed. That’s why I love camping. I can turn off my mobile, light a fire, and sit and contemplate the stars.

I’ve been a tenter from the beginning; no fancy RV’s for me! I’ve had a couple different tents over the years, and had a hand in setting up even more for tag-along friends and family, so I was excited to try out a whole new type of tent. The Napier Sportz Two-person Truck Tent was along for the ride as I took a two-week road trip through the northwestern USA.

Napier Truck tent featuresnapier tent poles
The Napier Sportz Truck Tent fits into the box of a pickup truck, and has straps that keep it anchored and in place. The tent is tall enough to stand up in, and has three large, wide windows with both screens and covers, plus a wide door opening at the tailgate. There’s also an included gear loft, plus a rain fly. A couple of pockets on the inside also allow you to stash small items where you can reach them easily.

There are some major considerations with this tent, including some potential limitations, and some trouble I had with the tent poles splitting. As this review was published on the Best Buy Plug In blog, please click here to read the full review, or watch the video review below.

My Top 10 Tech Gadgets of the Year

I’ve had the great fortune to test some of the best and most-coveted tech gadgets this year. I’ve reviewed a lot of devices, but only these make my top 10 list for 2015.  My criteria? They have to be easy to use, perform as promised – or better – than the companies advertise, they have to be useful, practical, and well made. It has to be something I’d actually buy for myself, and there’s also bonus points for coolness.

Here’s the list, in order.

10. Belkin Mixit Charging Cables

IMG_7398With the battery life of many phones in a sad state, it’s imperative to carry extra cables or a portable battery pack. But they can be heavy, or clunky, or get tangled up inside your bag.

Belkin has come up with a WAY better option that I think is going to be a huge hit.  There are three smart additions to their MIXIT line of cables.

Made from natural leather, the MIXIT Lightning to USB Tassel is a chic handbag charm that hides a premium metallic charging cable in its tassels. Belkin says, “its fringe design takes a purse from bleak to chic, keeps the cable tidy and prevents it from getting tangled.” I also love the chic lobster clip that makes it easy to attach and swap it from bag to bag. Read the full review HERE.

9. Vitamix Blender

IMG_6963I like using frozen fruit and fresh kale in my smoothies, however my blender will only chop the hearty greens so well.  Inevitably I’m choking down tiny kale fibers, or having them get jammed in the straw. Oh, and there’s usually some giant pieces of frozen fruit left in the bottom too.

Not with the Vitamix.  This blender is able to absolutely liquefy its contents, usually on just one blending cycle. That means no bits of kale, and no frozen chunks. I was sceptical at first, but I can attest the Vitamix is on another level when it comes to blending. Full Review HERE.

8. Biolite Campstove

rsz_biolite_recropThe BioLite CampStove was the company’s first production piece. The concept is simple and genius at the same time: the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and the company says, “flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves.” Then at the same time, the stove’s heat generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. The stove’s USB connector will charge up most devices, and every twenty minutes of charging with a strong fire gives you about an hour of talk time on most smartphones. Probably more than you need out in the bush! The stove can also boil a litre of water in about 5 minutes in the small, Thermos-sized kit. I tested this gadget on a summer camping trip and it was compact, easy to use, produced a lot of heat, and gave me juice on the go. It’s a must-have for the serious camper. I love Biolite’s NanoGrid light kit a lot too. Read about both HERE.

7. Phonesuit charging case

phonesuitAre you the type who always runs out of juice on your device? The Phonesuit Elite battery case will keep you going all day long.  On its own, it protects, then when you need the extra hit of power, you just turn it on, and it gives you an additional 120% charge. The beauty of these cases are they recharge in 2 hours, and are quite slim, considering all the power it packs.  I liked these cases because they’re really durable, they recharge quickly, and the deliver that extra power punch quickly. Read how to get one, and about some other great case options HERE.

6. MyFox Security Camera

myfoxA small oddly-shaped camera, but it works like a dream.  A beautiful HD video picture, and set up is super easy. With the free app downloaded, I was able to set up the account in no time, and the camera was fully operational in about five minutes.The MyFox camera is without a doubt the easiest camera with the best video quality for your home secutity dollar. Read the full review HERE.

5. Fujifilm Instax Share Photo Printer

IMG_2828Wondering what to do with all the digital photos that sit on your device for years and years?  Start printing the best ones!
The new Fujifilm Instax Share printer is truly pocket sized, but it operates basically as you might remember a Polaroid camera operating; it spits out a small photo instantly that takes a couple minutes to fully develop. The result is retro-cool prints in an instant. The printer is easy to operate, and makes great quality prints.
Read more about the Instax printer HERE.

4. Felony Case

IMG_0380I only picked two cases as tops this year, and this is one of them. These plastic shell cases from Felony Case are definite winners for most eye-catching.  The 3-D raised texture on the  Kaleidoscope case is stunning, but the softness of the design means it’s comfortable to hold, despite looking menacingly like a torture device. In gold, rose gold, black and white, these cases are stunning accessories. Not to mention the case is barely a millimeter thick, so it adds absolutely zero bulk to your device.  While the business-types have been coveting the Moshi cases and the hipster are after Fuz, the fashionistas all want my Felony Case!  Check out the full write-up on Felony Case, as well as som other great options HERE.

3. Osram Lightify Flex

IMG_6431I’m sure under counter lighting is going to be a hugely popular use for this product, but you could see getting really creative with it too: lighting around a mirror, a headboard, under a glass table top, or stone bar. There are endless possibilities because this lighting is ultra thin and completely bendable. The Flex kit is super easy to install, and gives you the option of turning the lights different colours. I absolutely love changing the look and mood of the room with coloured light, and Flex makes it easy and chic. Learn about the Flex kit HERE.

2. Qwerkywriter Bluetooth Keyboard

QWERKY111Qwerkywriter is a solid aluminum metal (but not heavy!) keyboard that connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacPros, Macbooks, Android Tablets Devices, Windows Tablets, and more. It also has a functional carriage return bar that works as an ENTER key.
I absolutely love the feel of the industrial strength mechanical switches that give the device a unique clacky feel and sound. Punching typewriter keys requires just a touch more force than a younger generation will be familiar with, but those old enough to appreciate Mr Dressup reruns will love the stress relief properties.
Read all about Qwerkywriter on my blog HERE.

1. Ring Video Doorbell

IMG_4769It’s a simple gadget that’s infinitely useful. Ring is a video doorbell that lets you respond to visitors remotely via your smartphone from anywhere.  Got a package being delivered and you’re not home? Use Ring to answer the delivery driver’s call and instruct him to leave the package with a neighbour.  Annoying salesperson? Know before you open the door and get stuck in conversation. Ring is ultra-easy to use and get set up and has a sharp HD camera and high quality 2-way voice interaction. Added motion-detection alerts can also keep you safe from people lurking around or casing your place. I have Ring at my house and love it.
Read the full review HERE.

Have you got a gadget you think deserves top billing? Is there a gadget I should look at for next year’s list? Let me know in comments, below.

 

 

 

Read more tech news! Surf cool tech topics HERE.

8 Great Gadgets & Toys for Camping – With VIDEO

erin tech talk julySummer is camping season, and there’s nothing better than getting out to the mountains, or the badlands. This month on Tech Talk on CTV, we’re showing you both high-tech and low-tech gadgets to make roughing it more enjoyable.

Watch the Video by clicking here!
I’ve blogged previously on each of these gadgets, but I’ll put links to each here just to make finding them easy for CTV viewers.

First up, this awesome Stanley French Press Coffee Kit I got at Campers Village. IMG_3278This versatile set up allows you to boil water in the compact narrow kettle pot, add your coffee (grounds are conveniently stored in the lid!)  then use the French press plunger grid to press fresh quality coffee, and transfer it to the thermos where it’ll stay hot for 24 hours. It also keeps drinks cold or iced if that’s your thing. I also thought it was really clever that the lid unscrews into two coffee mugs.

I also got a lot of use out of this kit by pairing it with a Biolite CampStove. More on that below!!

black diamond ember power light
Black Diamond Ember Flashlight

Next, I tested out a handy flashlight charger. The Black Diamond Ember Power light gives you light when you need it, which you always do when you’re camping, plus its USB port will also charge any gadget you have with a USB plug.  Dead camera?  No problem.  Phone out of juice? Easy to fix. I kept this gadget in my purse and also found it really versatile when we were short-cutting home through a park after visiting a neighbour after dark. My husband’s also been stealing it for everything from finding some papers in his truck after sunset, to recharging his phone on the golf course.

Speaking of light, I also love these new 10″ LED Light Tent Pegs from Coghlans.  They secure your tent, tarp or lines, and have a simple twist on/off bright LED light which will keep you from tripping in the dark. I found myself using these to mark hazards around the campsite too, like big rocks and roots.

I also picked up a couple other low tech options that I find I’m using constantly while camping and on the road.Nemo Helio Shower

The Nemo Helio Pressure Shower is super handy if you like to camp away from crowds and off the beaten path.  It comes in a tiny zip pack about the size of a mixing bowl.  The 11L capacity means plenty of water, and because it rests on the ground, you don’t need to worry about hefting it overhead, or trying to fill it while it’s dangling from a tree. So how does it work then?  You pressurize the “tank” with a foot pump then use the sprayer to enjoy 5-7 minutes of shower time.

Lastly, I snagged one of these versatile hooks, thinking it would come in handy and it did. The Nite Ize Gear Line is a handy line with rigid twist-tie-like tabs on each end.  It’s got several different carabiner-type S-clips along its length, meaning you can string up whatever you want and keep it there with ease.  You can use it on a tree like I did to keep a garbage bag within easy reach, or use it in a tent to keep gear, towels, water bottles, or keys off the floor and within grabbing distance.

nite ize gear line
Nite Ize gear Line

That’s just some of the new gear I’m loving this season.  You can find everything I mentioned at Campers Village in Calgary and Edmonton, or online at Campers-Village.com

Also on CTV Morning Live, we looked at the BioLite Camp Stove. I reviewed this product for bestbuy.ca, so check out the full review HERE. The BioLite CampStove was the company’s first production piece. The concept is simple and genius at the same time: the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and the company says, “flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves.” Then at the same time, the stove’s heat generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. The stove’s USB connector will charge up most devices, and every twenty minutes of charging with a strong fire gives you about an hour of talk time on most smartphones.

You can also watch my video review below.

We can’t forget about the BioLite NanoGrid, a great gadget which I also reviewed in full for BestBuy.ca. biolite nanogrid 22It’s a compact but powerful lighting kit that gives you amazing options and versatility for bright, powerful LED light while camping, hiking, and barbecuing, even out in your yard, or anywhere you may need portable light. The BioLite NanoGrid consists of two main parts: the USB Power Bank, and the String Lights. The Power Bank is the hub of this kit. It provides power to recharge smartphones, it acts as a lantern, and it’s also a flashlight plus it connects and powers the peripheral string lights. The powerful Li-Ion battery can be recharged from any USB source (including BioLite products, like the aforementioned CampStove) and then you can share its power to any USB chargeable gear.

Read all about it here.

Lastly I just loved these handy little cube lights from Enevu. They have three light settings, low, medium and really bright.  The low light is really subtle and a nice glow, while the highest setting is perfect for using as work or task light. You can also remove the plastic diffuser cap and use the base as a directional flashlight. The lights come in different colours as well, so you can have bright clean white light, or fun colours.

enevu cubeHave you got some gear ideas I should check out?  Let me know in comments below! -erin

Cool New Camping Gear!

IMG_3278
Stanley French Press Coffee Kit

You can usually find me testing out the latest gadgets and high tech gear.  But this time, some of the new gear I got that I’m most excited about isn’t as high-tech as I’m used to.  I love it nonetheless and want to share.

First up, this awesome Stanley French Press Coffee Kit I got at Campers Village. This versatile set up allows you to boil water in the compact narrow kettle pot, add your coffee (grounds are conveniently stored in the lid!)  then use the French press plunger grid to press fresh quality coffee, and transfer it to the thermos where it’ll stay hot for 24 hours. It also keeps drinks cold or iced if that’s your thing. I also thought it was really clever that the lid unscrews into two coffee mugs.

I also got a lot of use out of this kit by pairing it with a Biolite CampStove. Check out my video of how it all worked together!

black diamond ember power lightNext, I tested out a handy flashlight charger. The Black Diamond Ember Power light gives you light when you need it, which you always do when you’re camping, plus its USB port will also charge any gadget you have with a USB plug.  Dead camera?  No problem.  Phone out of juice? Easy to fix. I kept this gadget in my purse and also found it really versatile when we were short-cutting home through a park after visiting a neighbour after dark. My husband’s also been stealing it for everything from finding some papers in his truck after sunset, to recharging his phone on the golf course.

IMG_4025
LED Tent Peg

Speaking of light, I also love these new 10″ LED Light Tent Pegs from Coghlans.  They secure your tent, tarp or lines, and have a simple twist on/off bright LED light which will keep you from tripping in the dark. I found myself using these to mark hazards around the campsite too, like big rocks and roots. Now, if only we could build LED lighting fibers into the tent strings….

I also picked up a couple other low tech options that I find I’m using constantly while camping and on the road.

The Nemo Helio Pressure Shower is super handy if you like to camp away from crowds and off the beaten path.  It comes in a tiny zip pack about the size of a mixing bowl.  The 11L capacity means plenty of water, and because it rests on the ground, you don’t need to worry about hefting it overhead, or trying to fill it while it’s dangling from a tree. So how does it work then?  You pressurize the “tank” with a foot pump then use the sprayer to enjoy 5-7 minutes of shower time.

Curious how it works?  Watch the short video!

Lastly, I snagged one of these versatile hooks, thinking it would come in handy and it did. The Nite Ize Gear Line is a handy line with rigid twist-tie-like tabs on each end.  It’s got several different carabiner-type S-clips along its length, meaning you can string up whatever you want and keep it there with ease.  You can use it on a tree like I did to keep a garbage bag within easy reach, or use it in a tent to keep gear, towels, water bottles, or keys off the floor and within grabbing distance.

nite ize gear line

That’s just some of the new gear I’m loving this season.  You can find everything I mentioned at Campers Village in Calgary and Edmonton, or online at Campers-Village.com

I’ll also be showing off these gadgets and some other cool camping gear later in July on CTV’s Tech Talk!

Cool EcoCapsules Are the Future of Housing

eco1I found these cool homes while surfing the web for new tech news and ideas.  Ecocapsule is a portable house offering, “an unmatched dwelling experience. With its immense off-grid life span, worldwide portability and flexibility it is suitable for a wide range of applications: from an independent research station or a tourist lodge to an emergency housing or a humanitarian-action unit,” according to the company’s website.

Ecocapsule is said to be a low-energy house packed into a compact form.The design uses what the company dubs, “an energy efficient shape, compact volume and off-grid capabilities with the luxuries of a warm bed, running water and a hot meal.”

eco4

The Ecocapsules can hold two adults, along with a kitchenette, storage, bathroom and eating area, but the bed looks pretty cozy for two!eco plan-1024x677ecoinside ecoinside2

These pod homes are said to be off-the-grid living, since they get power from a built-in wind turbine plus a set of solar cells that charge a high-capacity battery. The shape of these capsule homes is also optimized for rainwater collection.

eco power schemy-energo1-1024x354

Ecocapsule fits into a standard shipping container, and can be shipped, airlifted, towed or even pulled by a pack animal!

While these could be used as emergency housing, they’d also make really cool campers!

BioLite’s cooking and camping gear charges devices and may blow your mind

rsz_biolite_recropI’m forever sourcing out new camping gear. Every time I pack up, I realize how much duplication we have, how heavy or unwieldy some of our items are, or that we often bring things we just don’t need. So when I read about BioLite, I was intrigued. The company develops and manufactures what it dubs, “advanced energy products that make cooking with wood as clean safe and easy as modern fuels”, but recently it’s also been working on ways to create electricity to charge your electronics too.

BioLite for Cooking and Charging

biolite nanogrid 22
BioLite NanoGrid lighting system.

The BioLite CampStove was the company’s first production piece. The concept is simple and genius at the same time: the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and the company says, “flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves”. Then at the same time, the stove’s heat generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. The stove’s USB connector will charge up most devices, and every twenty minutes of charging with a strong fire gives you about an hour of talk time on most smartphones.

BioLite also has several options for lighting up your campsite, but the one I most want to get my hands on is the NanoGrid. BioLite calls it, “a revolutionary lighting and energy storage system” that consists of a main PowerLight, and peripheral SiteLights. The PowerLight is the central hub, and can be used as a flashlight or a lantern, plus it will power your gadgets and devices. Interestingly, Biolite says the PowerLight doesn’t have any burning-bright hotspots, because it uses what the company calls ‘Edge-lighting’, where the lantern’s panels “bend light around the internal battery, resulting in a compact design and soft light”. The SiteLights connect to it, and then allow you to string more lighting around your campsite. These extension lamps throw off about a 10-foot circle of light and they can be individually controlled, and even dimmed.

Read about the rest of the gear in the BioLite line on the Best Buy Plug In blog I wrote.

Review: Roof Rack Tents are the COOLEST New Way to Camp in Comfort & Safety

A bear I photographed years ago on a remote highway in Yukon. Photo copyright: Erin Lawrence
A bear I photographed years ago on a remote highway in Yukon. Photo copyright: Erin Lawrence

 

It was the groaning and snorting that woke Chad Kendrick and his fiancée  in the middle of the night while camping.    The unmistakable sound of a hungry bear rustling through their campsite. Inside a flimsy tent, they quickly realized they were trapped, and the bear seemingly had no intention of going anywhere. Even as the bruin leaned against the flimsy nylon and bowed the wispy fabric in toward them, they had to try to stay calm — and quiet.

“We were having a quiet freak out,” Kendrick says, “She was literally in a quiet panic.  It was like, we’re in real trouble now, how do I get my fiancée out of this? I don’t have my gun, I don’t have my bear spray, it’s in the car.”  He finally managed to frighten the bear away by hitting his car’s remote alarm. But the fear they felt, and his fiancée’s refusal to return to the great outdoors at night, became the inspiration to invent for Kendrick, a born and raised Calgarian, who now runs his fledgling business from Turner Valley.

So what to do?  Give up tenting altogether?

There are two kinds of people in the camping world; the tenters, who consider themselves the purists, and the RVers, who want the comforts of home and the security four walls and a door provides.  Until now the only in-between on that score was a tent trailer; requiring a (not inexpensive) trailer hitch, and a half-tank of extra gas to get you there.

Enter Treeline Outdoors.  After that frightening midnight encounter with a bear, owner Kendrick realized he needed something more durable than nylon film, but he wasn’t ready to upgrade to a diesel pusher or tent trailer, or to give up the flexibility and ease that comes with tenting.

Treeline Outdoors tents.
Treeline Outdoors tents.

After some collaboration and some sketching, and a lot of research, Kendrick realized a roof top tent was the way he wanted to go.  Packing the tent onto the roof meant he could add some modifications that would weigh down a traditional tent, like warmer canvas, and a better mattress, without having to worry so much about weight, and size, or the ability to fit it on your back.

“We really like to travel as light as possible and get to places you would never be able to get to if you were  pulling a trailer behind you,” explains Kendrick.

I knew I had to try one of these tents for myself.  The idea was intriguing.  I’ve never felt the need or the desire to upgrade to a camper or RV (it just seems like so much work and trouble when I can simply grab my tent and go) and I’ve never felt unsafe enough to warrant a more secure sleeping situation.  So I wanted to see what this kind of camping experience would be like.

The tenants look otherworldly; they jut out over nothing but air once unfolded. In fact, while I was getting Kendrick to run though the tent with me in my driveway, I had neighbours I’d never met before making a beeline for the tent, eyes wide, and wondering in disbelief, “What is that? And how did you get it up there?”

Part of what makes it look so strange is that  there are no legs to support these tents, they flip open and hold flat thanks to that thick aluminum base and a sturdy hinge that locks into itself. These tents are designed to be pop open and climb in. Or pop closed and hit the road.

Treeline's base model tent, strapped to our Pathfinder for our trial.
Treeline’s base model tent, strapped to our Pathfinder for our trial.

Set up was really easy. Chad walked me through each of the simple steps, from unzipping the cover and pulling it aside, to an easy unfold-and-lever to open the springy tent.  The base unfolds easily, and from there, the tent structure pops up all on its own. Hardly any assembly required!

With instructions and a practise set-up fresh in mind, my husband and I and some friends headed off to our selected campsite in a bear-prone area.  It probably took about 10 or so minutes to get the tent set up without Kendrick’s guidance. That’s mostly because we were taking our time, as we didn’t want to wreck the tent we had been loaned. In truth, it was very easy. Lots of Velcro and easy to use straps plus hooks, loops, and other buckles just where you would expect them to be.  It felt kind of like the iPhone of tents. When we were stuck on what to do next, we just thought of what would be most logical, and low and behold there was the needed strap, loop, or lever.  With the tenant in place, it wasn’t long before nearby children needed to get a look inside, followed closely by curious parents.

It’s impossible to describe what seeing one of these tents fully set up in person for the first time feels like. I felt like a giddy little girl as I climbed the ladder and popped my head inside my temporary home. I started to giggle as I climbed up inside. It really felt like I was back at age 7 climbing into a tree house for the first time.  The first thing I noticed, was the comfort. The mattress base of the tent is very thick and spongy. Peering out the windows and looking out over top of everything was really cool; it really felt like a pricey penthouse view of the wilderness.  I was excited to be able to get to sleep later on.

I will say, the first few times up or down after having a campfire adult beverage was a little odd. You need to watch your step both in and out and make sure you’ve got your footing; it’s a motion most campers would not be used to when tenting! But once up in the roof tent, it was very secure. There was none of the expected to bounce or give on the platform. It was truly rock solid.  The mattress was reasonably comfortable for a night of camping. It’s certainly not luxurious, but I would equate it to the use of an inflatable mattress. It gets the job done and keeps you from having a sore back in the morning.

One of the impressive things about these tents is the attention to detail.  Kendrick has solved some  of the most pressing camping concerns about storage, and erm, elimination.   If you are concerned about having to get up in the middle of the night and make a run to the local outhouse, or large tree, Kendrick has thought of that.  He  equipped his tents with a plastic bathroom jug, made for both men or women. If it’s too cold, or too scary, and you just can’t bear to climb down the ladder in the middle of the night, open up the jar and you can stay where you are.

Velcro shoe bags that hang from the tents.
Velcro shoe bags that hang from the tents.

Another touch I found very smart; shoe bags at the top of the ladder, so when you’re climbing in, you can remove your shoes, drop them in the velcro bag, and have easy, dry access to them in the morning! There’s also hooks inside to clip a light to, and pockets for wallets, eyeglasses and yes, cell phones.

The tent itself is made from a heavyweight waterproof canvas. It’s definitely kept us warm through the night. The only downside I noticed, was a good amount of condensation inside the tent on our second night. Now, granted, it was an extremely cold night and pretty much any tent is prone to a lot of condensation when it’s warm inside and cold outside. Once the sun came up, most of it evaporated in short order.

Treeline also points out the tents, while not bear-proof, give you an advantage over any predatory wildlife arriving in the middle of the night. “There is a distinct difference between sleeping on the ground in a fetal position, with nothing standing between you and potential threatening wildlife but a thin layer of material,”  Kendrick explains. “We all know what bears are capable of.. a tent trailer is nothing to a bear.  But that sense of being on top of your vehicle, having that hard shell beneath you, having that height advantage over an animal like that.. when you’re in the middle of nowhere, that’s just a sense of security.”

Taking the tent down was a bit quicker than putting it up. I reattached certain elastic cables that keep the tent structure taught inside, took out the awning poles that hold the window awnings open, and then basically just used the ladder as a lever and folded it up, then pulled the cover over top and strapped it down. We were ready to roll in about 10 minutes or so; just as much time as it would have taken us to pack up our regular nylon tent.

Using the ladder as a lever to close the tent.
Using the ladder as a lever to close the tent.

 

While I’ve never been bear-scared, I have to say sleeping high above the world and any wayward wandering wildlife does makes it easier to fall asleep.  And of course there’s a lot to be said for driving around with your very own tree house.

The Lodgepole is the company’s entry-level model with basic aluminum sheet base.  The Tamarack is the next level up, with improved base material, made of aluminum honeycomb. The Constellation model is the top of the line, with the more rugged flooring and dual skylights to let in light and condensation out.

The roof-rack pop-up tents available from Treeline Outdoors’ website. Prices start at $1,699 and go to $2,399.