Tree tents get campers off the ground

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - BRADY MCCOMBS SALT LAKE CITY —

Campers and out­door en­thu­si­asts are em­brac­ing a unique way to sleep un­der the stars while in the moun­tains or at the beach — dan­gling be­tween trees on hy­brid ham­mock-tents that get them off the ground and into por­ta­ble tree houses that soothe their in­ner child.

Some of the grav­ity-de­fy­ing de­vices were on dis­play this week in Salt Lake City at the Out­door Re­tailer show. The so-called tree tents are still too small of an in­dus­try seg­ment to track sales separately. But re­tail­ers re­port they are gen­er­at­ing grow­ing de­mand from cus­tomers, said Matt Pow­ell, sports in­dus­try an­a­lyst with mar­ket re­search firm NPD Group.

“The mil­len­nial (born 1980-2000) camper is look­ing for prod­ucts that are go­ing to keep them dry and com­fort­able, which is one thing th­ese do,” Pow­ell said. “Mil­len­ni­als are also at­tracted to ver­sa­tile items that have more than one pur­pose, as th­ese do.”

The ham­mock-tents, which can be taken apart and stored in bags like nor­mal tents, are de­signed to be used any­where a per­son can find trees, boul­ders or rock crevices sturdy enough to an­chor them.

Tentsile’s colour­ful polyester ham­mocks and tents that stretch be­tween three trees are the cre­ation of an English tree house ar­chi­tect who started the com­pany four years ago with an­other de­signer based on his child­hood dream of cre­at­ing some­thing re­sem­bling the Ewoks’ tree vil­lages from the “Star Wars” movies.

The com­pany’s flag­ship model is the “Stingray” tent that holds at least three adults up to 880 pounds, selling for $650. It has a front en­trance as well as hole in the mid­dle you can climb through. The com­pany sells five other mod­els that range in size and de­sign and sell from $150 to $550. They are tied around trees us­ing straps and ratch­ets.

“You’re in the trees so you’re shaded, and it’s nice and cool. It also keeps you off the ground from snakes and spi­ders and all that creepy stuff,” said Melissa Ben­jamin, a com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Sales have sky­rock­eted from 10 in 2013 to about 10,000 last year, Tentsile spokesper­son Kirstie Grego said.

Tree­pod makes teardrop-shaped hang­ing tree houses with a large open en­trance that al­low peo­ple to lounge or sleep in them while they swing from side to side. The Boul­der, Colorado-based com­pany formed in 2015 af­ter com­pany pres­i­dent Ri­cardo Bot­tome’s brother chal­lenged him to make the fun idea come to life.

They sell three types; rang­ing from just over one me­tre to two me­tres, and selling for $200 to $300. The can­vas tree houses hook onto trees by throw­ing a rope over a branch and through a steel quick link hooked to the top of the tent. They can be used at the beach, the moun­tains or your own back­yard or porch.

They hit re­tail stores for the first time in 2016, with the com­pany do­ing about $1 mil­lion in sales, Bot­tome said. They are on pace to dou­ble that this year, he said.

“Pic­ture your­self in this one, you’re at a beach, you’re get­ting the breeze, you can see out and you have a shade,” Bot­tome said. “It’s like par­adise.”

Michelle En­nis, owner of pad­dle board rental com­pany in south­ern Utah, stopped at the Tree­pod dis­play be­cause she and her hus­band are con­sid­er­ing buy­ing some to rent to cus­tomers by the hour. She and her hus­band and her two sons lounged in the largest of the swing­ing tree houses as her sons begged their mother to get them one for the back­yard.

“I love how easy they are to set up. I love their com­fort,” En­nis said.

While Tree­pod and Tentsile are new, Cana­dian in­dus­trial en­gi­neer Tom Hennessy has been selling his ham­mocks since 1999. His com­pany, Hennessy Ham­mocks, has de­vel­oped 24 dif­fer­ent mod­els that range from $79 to $350, he said. They al­low a camper to get in­side and zip up in­side a mesh cover that is cov­ered by a rain tarp.

Their slo­gan is, “It’s a tent ... It’s a ham­mock ... It’s a chair ... It’s a lounger ... It’s a su­per­shel­ter!”

RICK BOWMER, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ri­cardo Bot­tome, of Tree­pod, is shown at the Tree­pod dis­play dur­ing the Out­door Re­tailer show in Salt Lake City.

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