WHO ARE WE AND WHERE DID WE COME FROM?
1983: A six-year-old boy in London called Alex Shirley-Smith saw the first images of the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest on the BBC World news. A few weeks later, his grandmother took him to see Return of the Jedi in a West End cinema and it was the Ewok tree village on Endor that sparked the idea. He knew from that day that the forests of the World would only survive if their trees could be made more important than their value as timber. He knew he had to build treehouses.
Alex trained as an architect, a stepping stone towards his goal of realising real house-in-the-trees architecture. After ten years, he conceived 'Tentsile' as a tensioned-fabric, portable treehouse that uses only three anchor points to create a suspended shelter that you can take anywhere...and so began the process of designing and prototyping habitable, tensioned, tree structures.
March 2012: After two years of bloody fingers, a massive learning curve on the qualities of fabrics, sewing, and how none of it is anything like conventional architecture, a leading green design forum featured the Tentsile Giant prototype. Praising the concept's unique advantages over ground based tents and contemporary hammocks, the review held Alex's idea up as a flagship of 21st Century innovation and zero-impact architectural design. A month later, Tentsile's first model was featured on primetime British television and went viral overnight. The public reaction was phenomenal, with over 40,000 visitors in 24 hours.
April 2012: Alex teamed up with product designer and co-inventor, Kirk Kirchev after answering one out of hundreds of emails. Kirk helped turn the concept into a simpler, lighter and leaner model that could be mass produced and more importantly, affordable. This became Tentsile's flagship model - the Stingray.
March 2013: After a year of prototyping, testing and 14 failed attempts, they launched the Stingray - Tentsile's first production model tree tent, capable of providing unparalleled comfort for multiple occupants, in almost any environment - but especially the forests. Now available with a variety of different coloured fly sheets, the Stingray is the world's first truly portable treehouse.
September 2013: After making the first Stingray, they sold it. With that money they made two, and sold them. By November 2013, they were making 10 at a time and the UK based manufacturer was falling behind with orders! Alex and Kirk got paid for the first time in late September (£1000 each) after 18 months of working in every spare minute. It wasn't easy, they both have families and mouths to feed, but they are selling tree tents and in mid-October 2013 they gave up their day jobs. Phew!
December 2013: Tentsile was offered land in Fiji to create the first tree-top eco settlement in a unique rainforest6, featuring an organic farm and a secluded sandy beach. Many thanks to Max Cross, Gavin De Becker and everyone from Fiji Charity for the opportunity.
April 2014: REI takes a punt on Tentsile and start selling the tents online. One of their iconic images catches the eye of a top tier manager and Tentsile is taken in under their wing on exceptional terms! At the same time, they also unveil their newest creation, the Connect - an even more lightweight, flexible, and this time, modular creation. Things were really cooking now and Robert Shirley-Smith was brought in to help Alex and Kirk cope with enquiries and customer service! BY this time they were making 100 units every 3 months.
June 2014: Tentsile were consistently unhappy with the quality of the tree tent batches that were coming out of the Chinese manufacturer they had been using since outgrowing the UK-based production. They decided to take control, cut out the middle man and set up their own factory! They took all the money they had made in the first 9 months and poured it into a factory, sewing machines and fabric. They were left with $200 and held their breath...and a week later they got shut down by the Chinese government. The old manufacturers had pulled strings to have the factory sealed off, citing that Tentsile had stolen the tent design from them! The reality they faced was a hostile takeover by the old factory, a much larger and more powerful firm with government links.
Again, Alex and Kirk had to fight, this time for Tentsile's very survival. They hired an expensive, English-speaking local lawyer (what else would you do?) and they fought the case, bringing indisputable evidence to the table that their designs had been produced in the UK long before they brought it to China. Luckily for them, the rule of law is slowly but surely over-riding the bribery and corruption that has dogged the Chinese manufacturing environment for the past two decades. After three tense weeks (and 231 waiting customers) they won the case and reopened the factory. Shaky knees all round but back on track and still on their own terms.
November 2014: Stingray won the Summer Hardware category of ISPO Brand New 2015. Production was in full swing, and there was stock in warehouses on four continents, ready to be sent out to customers as soon as their order is received. The days of trying to work a sewing machine are (mostly) left to the experts.
January 2015: The launch of Tentsile Vista and the Trillium super-hammocks - our most versatile single-set up designs. Aimed at people that camp on the side of a mountain, want more out of their experiences in the wild, who just want to hang out in the park or garden, the Tentsile range of tree tents has made a big impression across the globe. One Australian newspaper said that they are 'taking the world by storm!'
February 2015: We team up with legendary high-liner Ryan Robinson and intrepid adventurer Mina Young Lee for some spectacular adrenaline-packed Tentsiling action. Follow us on Facebook for more - www.facebook.com/tentsile
March 2015: Backcountry in the USA starts selling our tents. Cabela's, LLBean and others are also interested.
Kirk and Alex. We promise to replace this with a better picture of us soon! :)
Because the World is not flat...
Tentsile combines the comfort and versatility of a hammock with the security and multi-person-occupancy of a tent. Our range of suspended shelters are unimpeded by wet, rocky or unlevelled ground conditions and will literally take your camping experience to a new level!
What is Tentsile?
At Tentsile, we create some of the world's most versatile tents. All our tree tents are made to be suspended over the ground, but in dry conditions can also be pitched on the ground like a conventional tent.
Whether you are looking for an all terrain camping solution, a safari safe house, a mountain or beach retreat, or a portable treehouse that avoids all planning restrictions, with the Tentsile tree tent the sky really is the only limit.
What are the benefits?
The unique design provides comfortable and spacious accommodation in any environment. The Tentsile Stingray and Connect tree tents both come with a fully enclosed insect mesh roof (with opening doors) and removable rainfly sheets so you can enjoy the stars on a clear night! As our tents are designed to be suspended in tension, the tents are unaffected by topography or water, and they also provide increased separation from bugs, snakes and other, larger predators.
How's it made?
The elegant structure comprises an adjustable frame of 2.5ton webbing straps, a micro insect mesh roof, and a UV resistant, PU-coated and waterproof polyester fabric fly. The webbing frame is held in tension at each of the three anchor points by being ratcheted tight while internal floor straps divide the space into individual hammocks.
How can you use it?
All Tentsile tree tents provide shelter with no ecological footprint or environmental impact. We recommend that the tent is set up no higher than 1.2m/4 feet off the ground for ease of access and to minimise risk of injury. The Tentsile tree tents come with all the elements needed for instant set-up including an instruction manual.
The Tentsile is adaptable for uses such as: