Cushy hammock or bed of rocks and twigs? It doesn't sound like a hard decision, which might be why tree tents and hammock shelters have exploded in popularity. The latest to find its way across our desk is the Sky-Pod, a dangling, semi-rigid, two-person sleep chamber engineered to be as comfortable to sit or stand in as it is to lie in.
Sky-Pod may be fairly new to market, but it is no Johnny-come-lately in the tree-dangling space. Its design actually dates back to 2002, when it was conceived as an art project, a mobile space that could be set up around London as a cozier, more dramatic public bench alternative on which to sit, relax and socialize.
The original Sky-Pod was actually based upon Victorian-era dressmaking, specifically the crinoline, a semi-rigid petticoat designed to give the dress volume and form. The design team melded that dressmaking inspiration with experience in ballistic body armor construction, using military surplus materials to create the urban cocoon.
That original Sky-Pod traveled around to galleries, museums, festivals and other venues, serving as an art and social experiment. As Sky-Pod tells the story, it was even used to facilitate conversations between rival gang members, its unfamiliar form serving as an icebreaker and its circular seating arrangement working as a round table-style equalizer.
"When two members of rival gangs both first sat in the pod, they were not expecting the level of movement that greeted them," Sky-Pod recalls. "This led to them momentarily setting aside their differences as they both got to grips with their new moving environment. It was at that exact moment of equal unease that something special appeared to happen, a hither unknown connection now connected."
We reckon watching Tentsile and other hanging shelters launch helped Sky-Pod along in its decision to develop a commercial version after more than a decade of experience and feedback with its artsy original. The team expanded with fresh blood and began the journey toward commercialization in 2015, turning the Sky-Pod into a more portable tree tent for campers, garden owners, and outdoor and nature lovers of other kinds. It officially launched the retail Sky-Pod late last year.
The dangling, vertically dropped Sky-Pod reminds us more of pod-style hammock chairs and tree houses like the Cacoon than of the typical wide-stretched tree tent or long, horizontal hammock shelter. Inside this hanging, webbed module, Sky-Pod has managed to create space for occupants to lie, sit and even stand up in full comfort.
The Sky-Pod's 7-foot (2.1-m) floor diameter lets two people sleep comfortably, while its 9-foot (2.75-m) height provides room overhead for standing up. The structure of aluminum pole-reinforced load-bearing webbing and mesh provides a supportive backrest for sitting up. In this way, the Sky-Pod tent promises to be as comfortable to relax in during the day as it is to sleep in at night.
The Sky-Pod tent uses a modular fly system so that you can enjoy just the open webbing for a breezy afternoon under sunny skies, a bug-free, mosquito-netted set-up, or a fully weather-protected, rain fly-covered layout.
Sky-Pod identifies ideal hanging height at around 4 feet (1.2 m), but says the tent is easy to adjust in both height and tension. Unlike more complex multi-point designs, the Sky-Pod tent hangs from a single point and can be put up from the ground using a throw bag and line to get it up onto its branch. During particularly windy weather, it can be set-up on or near the ground and anchored out.
Access inside is provided via a floor hatch and available ladder. The tent can hold up to 550 lb (250 kg).
As you probably can tell by looking at it, the Sky-Pod isn't the option for backpackers or other ultralight travelers, who will want to stick with lighter, sleeker hammock alternatives. The main Sky-Pod tent package weighs 23 lb (10.6 kg), the company tells us, with the rain fly adding 11.6 lb (5.25 kg) and the mosquito netting tacking on another 2.2 lb (1 kg). So it's really something for car campers or home/yard owners who don't have to worry about weight.
The Sky-Pod retails for £799 for the main pod, £399 for the rain fly and £149 for the mosquito netting (approx. US$1,120; $560 and $210), making it a substantial investment, as far as tents go.
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