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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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