Outdoors

The flying, floating, roof-riding and otherwise cool and unusual tents of 2017

37.5 Cliffside Shop
37.5 Cliffside Shop
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With a divider strap, the Treble Hammock 2.0 splits into two bunks for sitting and sleeping
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With a divider strap, the Treble Hammock 2.0 splits into two bunks for sitting and sleeping
By adjusting the straps, the Treble 2.0 lets you enjoy a hammock recliner in the wilderness
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By adjusting the straps, the Treble 2.0 lets you enjoy a hammock recliner in the wilderness
The Treble 2.0 includes a long gear pocket up top for keeping your pack and other gear up off the ground
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The Treble 2.0 includes a long gear pocket up top for keeping your pack and other gear up off the ground
The weatherproof "Element Shield" (fly) turns the Treble 2.0 into a weather-protected shelter
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The weatherproof "Element Shield" (fly) turns the Treble 2.0 into a weather-protected shelter
The Treble 2.0's fly can be left open like a clam shell or closed for better protection
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The Treble 2.0's fly can be left open like a clam shell or closed for better protection
No rain here, but the fly seems to be providing some nice shade under the hot beach sun
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No rain here, but the fly seems to be providing some nice shade under the hot beach sun
Laid back in the Treble 2.0
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Laid back in the Treble 2.0
The Treble 2.0's mosquito net keeps pests out
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The Treble 2.0's mosquito net keeps pests out
With some experience building inflatable tents for the ground, Gentletent tries its hand at inflatable roof-top tents
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With some experience building inflatable tents for the ground, Gentletent tries its hand at inflatable roof-top tents
Gentletent's pickup truck model extends out to the bed to create a living area
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Gentletent's pickup truck model extends out to the bed to create a living area
Gentletent pickup RTT sketch
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Gentletent pickup RTT sketch
The basic Gentletent GT Roof pulls you up off the ground and into an inflatable shelter
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The basic Gentletent GT Roof pulls you up off the ground and into an inflatable shelter
The Treble Hammock 2.0 all ready for a night of sheltered sleep
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The Treble Hammock 2.0 all ready for a night of sheltered sleep
With its lightweight design, the Gentletent won't make the vehicle too top heavy
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With its lightweight design, the Gentletent won't make the vehicle too top heavy
The Hold Up Le Tunnel is a tunnel tent for your SUP
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The Hold Up Le Tunnel is a tunnel tent for your SUP
The Le Tunnel works with Hold Up's Trekker paddleboard
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The Le Tunnel works with Hold Up's Trekker paddleboard
During paddling, the Le Tunnel packs into a cone-shaped pack and rides on the board
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During paddling, the Le Tunnel packs into a cone-shaped pack and rides on the board
Inside the Hold Up Le Tunnel
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Inside the Hold Up Le Tunnel
The iKamper Skycamp combines the driving aerodynamics of a hard-shell with some of the space of a fold-out tent
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The iKamper Skycamp combines the driving aerodynamics of a hard-shell with some of the space of a fold-out tent
iKamper says the Skycamp sets up in about a minute
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iKamper says the Skycamp sets up in about a minute
iKamper offers accessories like an awning and an annex
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iKamper offers accessories like an awning and an annex
We're sure they're glad not to have to camp right atop the freezing, snowy ground. iKamper also offers an inner insulation tent for added warmth in cold weather
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We're sure they're glad not to have to camp right atop the freezing, snowy ground. iKamper also offers an inner insulation tent for added warmth in cold weather
The Skycamp at camp
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The Skycamp at camp
iKamper Skycamp
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iKamper Skycamp
iKamper Skycamp
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iKamper Skycamp
iKamper Skycamp
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iKamper Skycamp
A look inside the Skycamp sleeping a family of four
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A look inside the Skycamp sleeping a family of four
A comparison of standard hard-shell RTT footprint to Skycamp footprint
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A comparison of standard hard-shell RTT footprint to Skycamp footprint
iKamper SkyCamp
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iKamper SkyCamp
Coolest use of a hanging tent in 2017: The 37.5 Cliffside Shop
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Coolest use of a hanging tent in 2017: The 37.5 Cliffside Shop
37.5 orders up a little viral marketing while handing out clothes on top of a local climbing route
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37.5 orders up a little viral marketing while handing out clothes on top of a local climbing route
Trebble 2.0 
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Trebble 2.0 
The Trebble 2.0 packs up into a carry bag and weighs 13 lb in all
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The Trebble 2.0 packs up into a carry bag and weighs 13 lb in all
The RhinoWolf is a modular tent system that can be used as a solo backpacking tent or linked up into a much larger multi-person/group tent
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The RhinoWolf is a modular tent system that can be used as a solo backpacking tent or linked up into a much larger multi-person/group tent
We've seen other modular tents before, but the RhinoWolf is interesting in its caterpillar-like design
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We've seen other modular tents before, but the RhinoWolf is interesting in its caterpillar-like design
Each RhinoWolf tent is a light, simple freestanding tent weighing in under 3 lb
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Each RhinoWolf tent is a light, simple freestanding tent weighing in under 3 lb
The RhinoWolf has been designed to work with a Klymit inflatable pad and a quilt
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The RhinoWolf has been designed to work with a Klymit inflatable pad and a quilt
A look inside a RhinoWolf group camping tunnel
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A look inside a RhinoWolf group camping tunnel
RhinoWolf tent
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RhinoWolf tent
The Treble Hammock 2.0 ready for sleep
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The Treble Hammock 2.0 ready for sleep
SmithFly's Shoal brings camping right onto the water
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SmithFly's Shoal brings camping right onto the water
SmithFly Shoal
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SmithFly Shoal
The TreePod Camper hangs from its peak, making for more straightforward placement and set-up versus multi-point tree tents
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The TreePod Camper hangs from its peak, making for more straightforward placement and set-up versus multi-point tree tents
The TreePod Camper includes an integrated frame
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The TreePod Camper includes an integrated frame
TreePod introduced the Climber at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2017 back in January
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TreePod introduced the Climber at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2017 back in January
37.5 Technology goes to extremes to advertise its fabric
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37.5 Technology goes to extremes to advertise its fabric
37.5 Cliffside Shop
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37.5 Cliffside Shop

As much as young, adventure lovers have helped push forward a new generation of camper vans, they've also been behind an ever-evolving tent camping scene. Suddenly high-flying tree tents and roofed hammocks are all the rage and tents are getting as social as the Web. The basic ground tent was nearly more the exception than the rule in 2017, as tents that dangle from trees and cliffs, float on water, and ride atop motor vehicles hoarded the spotlight.

Camping in thin air

Hammocks have become an extremely popular and trendy piece of outdoor kit, and more than a few outdoor start-ups have devoted themselves to letting you enjoy that tree-swaying, high-slung comfort for nights at a time, all comfy and protected from the weather.

TreePod Camper

Adding to the broadening tree tent market, TreePod puts its own spin on the suspended tent. Instead of securing to trees via the corners of its floor, like the Tentsile Flite and others, TreePod's Camper hangs by the peak of its roof, relying on aluminum body and floor frame pieces and high-tensile-strength fabric to create a canopy structure.

TreePod introduced the Climber at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2017 back in January
TreePod introduced the Climber at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2017 back in January

Since the two-person tent secures to a branch via a single point, it's supposed to be easier to set up than more complex designs with multiple attachment points. Beyond that, you just stake out the guy lines and enjoy your hovering camp.

The US$575 Camper had been scheduled for an April launch, but as of publishing, it's not listed on TreePod's Web store.

Treble Hammock 2.0

Designed to relax like a recliner but sleep flat like a bed, the Treble Hammock 2.0 is designed to be the perfect day/night tree tent solution. Like many tree tents, it features a triangular floor, but Treble has created sit and sleep modes. So you can sit up in your own no-gravity camp chair before quickly adjusting to a flat sleeping position. A divider strap splits the floor right down the middle, creating individual seating/sleeping nooks for two people. The rain fly can be used in both modes, either popped open for breezy views or battened down for maximum protection. A separate bug net keeps the pests out.

Laid back in the Treble 2.0
Laid back in the Treble 2.0

After its Kickstarter was unsuccessful in August, Treble was successful with a more modest goal in September, and it said it would use the money raised for a smaller production run, with deliveries beginning in January 2018.

37.5 Technology cliffside pop-up shop

The prize for coolest hanging tent of 2017 is up for debate, but we don't think there'll be much argument about the award for coolest use of a hanging tent. Back in August, the folks at performance fabric company 37.5 Technology created what they called the "world's most remote pop-up shop." We're inclined to believe them because they operated out of a Black Diamond Cabana Double Portaledge climbing tent hung on a sheer cliff face above Boulder, Colorado at an elevation just under 6,700 feet (2,042 m).

37.5 orders up a little viral marketing while handing out clothes on top of a local climbing route
37.5 orders up a little viral marketing while handing out clothes on top of a local climbing route

The "shop" part is a bit of a misnomer since 37.5 actually handed out free clothing made from its volcanic sand and coconut fiber-based fabric. But we guess if you climbed up the 350-ft (107-m) crag in Eldorado Canyon State Park, you earned yourself a bit of swag.

Sure, it was basically just a marketing stunt, but it was pretty unique and did raise $15,000 for various climbing organizations – $100 for each of the 150 climbers who stopped by. You can read more about the effort it took to "open shop" from 37.5 ... or just keep your eyes set high, as it hasn't ruled out popping up at another popular crag.

Camping the high seas ... or at least a pond or lake

You love playing in the water all day, so why not sleep there (or at least on your favorite water toy)? That's the strategy a few tent makers are taking, and if you're using an inflatable watercraft, it might just make sense.

SmithFly Shoal

Out of the few different watercraft tents we saw this year, the SmithFly Shoal looked like the least capable watercraft. In fact, we're not sure you'd want to paddle it very far at all. But the Shoal also looked like the one you'd most enjoy camping in. Its flat inflatable raft/floor looks downright cozy, and the broad-sided tent rises high enough for about 6.3 ft (1.9 m) of standing room after inflating into shape. SmithFly says it'll hold up to high winds and weather, but we reckon you better have a good anchor when out on the water. If water camping doesn't work out, the tent can be used back on land.

SmithFly Shoal
SmithFly Shoal

The $1,499 price tag looks a little ridiculous, but there's not exactly a ton of competition in the water-top camping market. SmithFly is advertising January deliveries on new orders.

Hold Up Le Tunnel

Whether or not you like the idea of sleeping on the water, using your inflatable watercraft as a sleeping pad does make some sense. Why carry an inflatable sleeping pad when you already have one in the form of a raft or paddleboard?

The Le Tunnel works with Hold Up's Trekker paddleboard
The Le Tunnel works with Hold Up's Trekker paddleboard

The folks at Hold Up have designed the Le Tunnel tent to work with their Trekker paddleboard in creating a solo shelter with inflatable SUP mattress below you and weatherproof shelter over your head. On the water, the tent stows in a dry bag strapped to the board, so you have a familiar, performance-oriented paddleboard to use during the day and a shelter at night.

Hold Up and its products came to our attention during the ISPO show back in February, but the company has not yet added the Le Tunnel (or pricing information) to its online store.

Living at penthouse level

Roof-top tents (RTT) is another category of outdoor shelter that has seen an explosion in recent years, pulling campers up off the ground for a comfy night of sleep. Basic soft-sided flip-outs and hard-shell pop-tops still rule, but 2017 saw several companies exploring new tent types and tweaked designs.

iKamper Skycamp

When we first saw the Hardtop One, we knew iKamper was on to something. Hard-shell roof-top tents are prized for their sleeker form and easier set-up and teardown, but they're limited in interior space due to the fact that their footprints are contained within the confines of the vehicle roof. IKamper gives the hard-shell RTT the ability to expand out beyond that footprint and sleep a family of four.

In place of the Hardtop One's sliding floor extension, the new Skycamp uses a fold-out extension to create a more spacious interior for three adults or two adults and two children. And though it pops and folds, instead of just popping up like other hard-shells, you're still only looking at about a minute of set-up time. Another nice feature: detachable fabric, so you can go breezy mesh in the summer and heavier canvas in the cooler months.

iKamper Skycamp
iKamper Skycamp

It seems the market was ready for exactly this type of RTT, as iKamper raised over $2 million on Kickstarter earlier this year. It's been shipping tents out to backers and is now offering tents at retail prices between $3,300 and $3,500, depending upon fabric selection. You'll find these tents, along with some accessories, at iKamper's online store.

Gentletent GT Roof

While iKamper and others were working to improve upon traditional RTT designs, some other industry minds were thinking outside the box. Australia's Moab Rooftop Tents plopped a dome tent on the roof, while Austria's Gentletent put some air into RTT design, introducing the GT Roof inflatable tent at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. The GT Roof's five-minute set-up is actually a bit longer than hard-shell RTTs, but on the plus side, the two-person comes in at a company-estimated 44 lb/20 kg (the Skycamp above weighs around 150 lb/68 kg, for comparison).

With some experience building inflatable tents for the ground, Gentletent tries its hand at inflatable roof-top tents
With some experience building inflatable tents for the ground, Gentletent tries its hand at inflatable roof-top tents

The inflatable floor sounds like a comfortable bonus, but we have trouble thinking about a lightweight, inflatable roof-top tent without picturing those giant wind tube men that local businesses use to catch your attention. Hopefully, the €2,300 (approx. US$2,700) Gentletent GT Roof experience is better than the one we're picturing.

Go it alone or with the entire crew

RhinoWolf

The internet isn't the only place that folks like to be social. Millennials have been transforming outdoor activities from goal-oriented, gear-obsessed sporting ventures to more relaxed social experiences. So grab a beer, play a little cornhole and prepare to retire in a monster tent with a dozen or two of your bestest and newest friends.

A look inside a RhinoWolf group camping tunnel
A look inside a RhinoWolf group camping tunnel

The RhinoWolf was one of the modular, expandable tent systems we saw this year, and it took on a different form from others. Each 2.8-lb (1.3-kg) freestanding shelter is small enough to use as a solo backpacking tent, but if you find yourself missing the experience of tenting with others, you can zip one RhinoWolf together with one or two more to create a larger two- or three-person shelter.

This capability is limited only by the number of tents at the campsite, and perhaps the terrain, so, with the right number of RhinoWolfs and a desire to do it, you can create a long camping tunnel for everyone at camp. Each RhinoWolf is designed specifically around a Klymit sleeping pad and zip-in quilt, creating an all-in-one sleeping solution that weighs in at around 5.5 lb (2.5 kg).

RhinoWolf held a successful Indiegogo campaign earlier this year, and according to a late-November update on that campaign, it was on track to start shipping before the end of 2017.

If you're looking for outdoor gear every bit as cool and innovative as these tents, be sure to check out our camping gadget and gift favorites.

1 comment
Bob
Almost all of these could be replaced with a $20 pup tent and a $10 air mattress. When the price of gas was really high, I left my RV at home. I loaded up my motorcycle, pup tent and air mattress in the back of my pickup and toured all of the National Parks in the Pacific Northwest. Touring the mountains by day on the motorcycle and sleeping in the tent at night was one of my best trips ever.