Where Camping is Headed in the Next Five Years

Recent years have seen some pretty big changes in the way that we all approach camping, from the range of equipment available to types of experience on offer (think glamping, low impact trips and the growing list of festivals that are about so much more than simply music).  With this in mind, and having tried some new experiences ourselves lately, our thoughts have turned to what the next five years will hold for campers.  Here are our predictions.

It's Heading Up

As we discovered recently in Sequoia National Park, there are a lot of campers who are keen to get off the ground.  Whether they're professional arborists, climbing hobbyists or just keen to put a couple of feet between them and the earth, there's a growing appetite for life in the trees.  If you fall into the latter category, are yet to camp at height and wonder whether it's possible for you, reassurance is at hand.  We've been lucky to witness many people enjoying their first Tentsile experience, and without exception, they've all commented on how easy and normal it feels.  The advances in equipment and expansion of our range will also make the portable treehouse experience more accessible to more people as time goes on.  Watch this space.

It's Going Wild

As the pace of modern life increases to a seemingly unsustainable level, more and more of us are feeling the urge to get away from it all and take our holidays (or even just our weekends) in the wild.  While eco-lodges and hidden away cottages still flourish, we think more people will turn to camping to get their fix of nature.  Increasing numbers of people are educating themselves about foraging, bushcraft and wildlife, and that naturally translates into spending as much time as possible surrounded by the kind of open space where you forget the city exists.  Of course, in some places there are restrictions on where you can pitch a tent, but we're confident that enterprising land owners will increasingly start letting environmentally conscious, low impact campers share their areas of natural beauty by opening sites for just that purpose - and by sites, we just mean a permissible piece of land where you still feel largely alone with nature.

It's Getting Technical...

You've read enough of our blogs about gear and gadgets to know that outdoor brands are inventing ingenious equipment at quite a pace.  From clever solar stuff to super-efficient stoves via beds so comfortable you forget you're lying on the ground, these advances make it ever easier to live in the manner to which you are accustomed when you're on a trip - to have your camping cake and eat it too.  It's not just about comfort, though.  We're huge fans of the way that the newest gear allows campers to be environmentally conscious, keep their impact low and stay safe on big adventures.  Gone are the days of scarring the ground with inexpert fire-making or going through pack after pack of batteries to keep your torch alight, and camping is a whole lot better for it.  

...but Not Too Technical

Above all, camping will keep heading where it's always headed - to happy faces around glowing camp fires, delicious meals rustled up from tin foil and sandwich bags, and the thrill of waking up to the smell of damp earth and the promise of a day of new adventures.  We're excited about all the people who want to get involved - who brave all weathers and make time around their daily lives to come out and experience the world by getting closer to it and deeper in it.  We've been asked if camping as we know it is becoming a dying art, and honestly, we don't think it is.  Regardless of equipment, location or who's involved, the central tenets of camping remain the same.  As long as there are adventurers out there with an eye for a view and a bit of creative spirit, the art of camping will go on.

 

February 09, 2015 — Lucy Radford

The WeForest Story

As we mentioned on the blog last week, trees are incredibly important - for animals, for people, for the environment - in every way you can think of.  You've probably gathered by now that we at Tentsile are big tree fans, and today we want to tell you about an organisation called WeForest which is making life a lot better for people all over the world through tree-planting and reforestation projects.  Their current tree planting count stands at over 7.5 million trees in 11 countries around the world - an amazing contribution to our planet's future.  Here's a bit more about the project we're very proud to have partnered with.

How Does WeForest Work?

Individuals and companies can join WeForest in their mission to support biodiversity, food and water security, people's livelihoods and the health of the Earth's climate.  As an individual, you can buy trees as gifts for your loved ones, make a direct donation to pay for trees to be planted, or even adopt a search engine that plants trees in Burkina Faso.  

Companies can partner with WeForest in innovative ways that allow their customers to contribute to planting trees with the products or services they purchase.  Some companies do 'buy 2, get 1 tree', others donate a percentage of their revenue, and some have specific ways of support that fit perfectly with their business - the architecture firm that plants a tree for every metre square built is a shining example.

What Do The Trees Do?

Through WeForest's partner projects across the globe, the trees purchased through individual and company support start their lives as part of a myriad of initiatives that make a difference - initially in specific, grassroots ways, and eventually in a broader context for us all.  From reversing desertification in the Sahel to providing the structure for biodiversity corridors in the Amazon, via improving livelihoods and conditions for communities, these trees make a difference.

Case Study

In Kenya, WeForest works to halt the decline of the forests that is causing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.  The country's forest cover is less than 2%, with a large part of the remaining forest land on the slopes of Mount Kenya.  By reforesting this area, food crop productivity will increase, poverty will be alleviated, water availability will improve and wildlife can begin to flourish once again.  So far, over 137,000 trees of 19 species have been planted, and the project is ongoing. It's amazing to think that something as simple as buying a gig ticket, renting a car or purchasing a bar of chocolate can put into place a small but crucial piece of the environmental puzzle we all so desperately need to solve.  

WeForest and Tentsile

As we mentioned at the beginning, we are one of WeForest's company partners, and we couldn't be happier about it.  For each tent we sell, three trees are planted in one of WeForest's project sites.  It joins the circle - if we're up trees, people can't cut them down, and by encouraging more people to get up trees, we're contributing to new trees being planted, too. 

You can find out more about WeForest through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and by continuing to follow our blog - we'll be bringing you more in-depth information about them as the weeks go on.

All images by Lucy Radford.

January 23, 2015 — Lucy Radford

Why Are We Passionate About Trees (and Why Should You Be)?

With some of the team about to jet off to California to share the Tentsile experience with tree enthusiasts in Sequoia National Park, we thought it was high time for a blog about just why it is that we love trees so much, and why the Tentsile ethos is 'if we're all hanging out in trees, people can't cut them down'.  

Back in November, Alex explained why we tent in trees, making reference to the Tentsile team's passion for all things green and tall.  Why are we passionate about trees, though - and why should you be?  Here's a roundup of our reasons.

Water

Trees have a huge impact on the quantity of water in any given area.  Deep-rooted in the soil or other substrate in which they grow, trees stabilise land and help prevent soil erosion and flooding in times of heavy rain, storms or overflowing bodies of water.  Not only this, but their presence helps the soil to act like a giant sponge, retaining water that is then slowly released over time, either gradually into rivers or by being taken up by plants.  

Water quality is improved by trees, too.  They filter out minerals and nutrients that would otherwise end up in rivers and lakes, with the dual benefit of keeping the minerals and nutrients safely stored, and preventing the growth of oxygen-depleting organisms that reduce water quality.

Climate

In their immediate locality, trees have an effect on humidity, temperature, light conditions and moisture availability - that's a long way of saying that trees make places just that bit more pleasant!  On a global scale, the presence of forests regulates temperature as branches and leaves absorb sunlight.  If the trees disappear, light is reflected, rather than absorbed, and this alters atmospheric circulation and rainfall patterns.  

You probably remember learning in school that trees absorb carbon dioxide, and this is another key factor in their importance.  When forests are chopped down, and especially if they are burned, huge amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming.  This is why deforestation is now tipped as the biggest man-made contributor to climate change, even more so than transport.  On the other hand, if they are left to do their job in peace, trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and if mass-scale reforestation were to take place, some of the damage of global warming could be slowed down.  

Biodiversity

It's no secret that forests are good for species diversity.  Rainforests are home to more than half of the world's plant and animal species, despite covering less than 5% of the earth's surface.  It's not just about the ecosystem of the forest as a whole, though; every tree, in temperate forests too, contains a teeming ecosystem of its own.  From the roots to the tips of the leaves, each tree has tens, if not hundreds, of species relying on it - from bacteria, fungi and earthworms to caterpillars, which are eaten by small birds, which in turn are eaten by the birds of prey soaring overhead.  Take away the tree, and you're not just taking away a tall piece of structured wood - you're taking away a whole world and its inhabitants. 

People

We've already talked about water quality and the prevention of floods, but there are plenty of other things that trees do for people the world over.  Agricultural systems that closely resemble natural forests suffer less soil erosion and are less environmentally damaging, enabling increased food production and all its knock-on effects on poverty and food security.

By preventing soil erosion and keeping sediment out of rivers, trees protect marine fisheries, coral reefs, river biodiversity and, as mentioned above, water quality.  Trees also act as natural windbreaks, providing shelter for crops, settlements and and people themselves.  In a beautifully neat cycle, windbreaks also reduce the rate of water lost by crops through evapotranspiration, meaning they need less water - the trees contribute, once again, to water availability.  

Using trees as barriers can also protect crops from grazing animals, and provide carefully harvested fodder for domestic livestock.  Fruiting trees, of course, also provide food for people, and agroforestry and tree nurseries provide employment and economic opportunities.  

Health

Apart from the more tangible benefits mentioned above, trees are good for us because we just need them.  You'll have heard people talk about all the medicines - in use now and yet to be discovered - that we wouldn't have without trees and forests, and especially in recent years, a growing body of research has shown how good they are for our mental health too. One study even revealed that the positive effects of living in a city with green spaces sustain for far longer than the perhaps more obvious positive effects of a new house, pay rise or exciting job.  Trees are also great for people in cities as well as people in rural areas because they filter out smog, provide shade and reduce the incidences of pollutant-related diseases.

We Love Trees

Apart from anything else, being under, in or around trees makes us feel great.  That's why we're committed to making tents that can allow as many people as possible to commune closely with trees and grow to understand and love them.  We want to keep trees around and see their numbers increase, so that everyone can enjoy green space and the benefits it brings.  So, whether you're a die-hard arborist or making your first forays into tree-shaded picnics on summer days, take a moment to think about the trees, be thankful for everything they give us, and tell the people you know why it is that trees are important to you.

All photographs Andrew Walmsley/Tentsile.

January 14, 2015 — Lucy Radford

Tentsile City: 17th of Jan 2015, California USA

17th JAN 2015 WE WILL SETTING UP THE BIGGEST EVER TENTSILE VILLAGE. COME JOIN US.

2PM at the General Sherman Giant Sequoia.  See you there!

For those of you that just cannot wait for the summer to have an adventure, we will be in Sequoia National Park in mid Jan to brave the cold and have a bit of tree climbing fun!  Any of you that own Tentsiles, or just want to come and meet our team can put there details down the comment section of this post and we will keep you well informed of our plans for the 17th!  Cell / mobile numbers + email address would be useful - also, keep an eye on the Facebook thread as we will give specific location details nearer the date.....

January 07, 2015 — Alex Shirley-Smith

New Year, New Challenge.

Two days into 2015, today I'm bringing you the story of a new challenge for the new year.  Having climbed many trees and been inside Tentsile tents on several occasions before, today, in a personal first, I combined a Tentsile Connect with a 15 metre climb. 

January 02, 2015 — Alex Shirley-Smith

New Year, New Opportunities. What Does It Mean To You?

As the sun begins to set on another year, it can be easy to get drawn into turning a wistful gaze onto missed opportunities - all those things you said no to because you were tired, because staying an extra couple of hours at work seemed imperative, or because the weather at the weekend just wasn't doing what you wanted it to.  

December 29, 2014 — Alex Shirley-Smith

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Camping Hacks: Part 1

As much as we all love complex and beautifully made camping gadgetry and equipment, sometimes it's the simple (and even silly) things that can make a trip more enjoyable.  This post, keeping with our recent winter theme, begins our series on camping hacks - a beginner's guide to the tricks and tips that will make you the envy of your friends and the most comfortable person at the camp site.  

 

1. Sleep with your clothes

By stuffing your clothes for the next day into your sleeping bag with you, you'll have warm clothes to put on in the morning, avoiding that awful feeling of wriggling out of a warm sleeping bag and into icy fabrics.

backpackingbuzz.com

www.backpackingbuzz.com

 

2. Use your rucksack as a foot warmer

You can keep your feet even cosier at night by shoving the end of your sleeping bag into your rucksack once you're inside it.

www.buzzfeed.com

 

3. Use a tarp as a wind break

Not only will a tarp rigged between two trees keep your tent protected from gusts of cold wind, it'll help shelter your fire and make it easier to build and sustain as well.  Good quality tarps like this one are available from Vango for £27.99.

www.gooutdoors.co.uk

 

4. Keep matches in a metal container

If it's cold enough for plastic to freeze, it can break, and a broken plastic match container quickly leads to lost or soggy matches. Keeping them in a metal container will ensure their safety and usefulness.

Wikimedia Commons

 

5. Two person sleeping bags are the ultimate way to use the Buddy System

Having a two-person sleeping bag allows you to make the most of the Buddy System, whereby you share warmth with others to keep your body temperature up at night.  The Vango Aurora Double Sleeping Bag is a three-season rated bag with a glove-friendly zip pull, and is currently available for £95.

 

www.gooutdoors.co.uk

 

6. Don't let your gloves get cold

If you take your gloves off for a minute to wash your hands or do something fiddly, keep them inside your jacket until you're ready to use them again.  This way, they'll stay dry and warm rather than forming a frost from any moisture that was inside them when you took them off.

Wikimedia Commons

 

7. Shake it up

The insulation in sleeping bags is designed to trap air, and therefore functions better the more air it traps.  You can facilitate this simply by giving your bag a good shake before you go to bed at night.

www.cotswoldoutdoor.com

 

8. Bring spares

It sounds obvious, but you really will kick yourself if you lose one glove halfway through your trip and are stuck with one cold hand. Even worse, if you lose your hat and have nothing else handy to keep your head warm, your whole body temperature will suffer,

www.tomdickandharry.co.uk

 

9. Keep your water upside down

If there's a chance the temperature will drop below freezing at night, store your water bottles with the lids facing down.  Ice forms from the top down, so by keeping the lid at the bottom, you'll be able to drink from the bottle in the morning even if some of the water has started to freeze.

www.pinterest.com

 

10. Eat big and eat late

Eating at 6pm and going to bed at 10pm when you're already starting to feel slightly hungry again will not help you keep warm through the night.  By delaying your food and eating a lot of it, you'll go to bed full and warm, and be better able to maintain your body temperature.

For more ways to up your camping game, stay tuned for next month's Camping Hacks: Part 2.  In the meantime, let us know if you can think of any to add to this list - the crazier, the better!

December 17, 2014 — Lucy Radford

And the winners are...

If you follow our Twitter or Facebook accounts you'll have noticed the excitement building around our competition to win a Tentsile Vista over the last few weeks.  With just a few simple clicks, six lucky people have so far become proud owners of our 'portable treehouse' - the new, stackable tree tent poised to take the camping world by storm.  So, without further ado, let's introduce them. Matt Williams, Matthew O'Brien and Lydia Rogers are all outdoor enthusiasts who retweeted us to win, and the winners from Facebook are Johnathan Williams, Anca Stefan and Erin Marie.  We know they can't wait to trial their Vistas, and we can't wait to hear how they get on!  

So, what can our winners expect from their prize?  The Tentsile Vista offers a unique outdoor experience by combining adventure, comfort and a new method of communal camping.  While the basic Vista sleeps three people, by purchasing extra floors this can be tripled to allow for a large group to join the fun.  The roof of the tent is a removable fly sheet that facilitates group star-gazing and spotting shapes in the clouds, and it provides fantastic ventilation as well.  The floor is a spacious triple hammock, accessed via either the hatch in the centre of the floor, or through any of the sides, and it can be suspended above any ground conditions.  With the rainfly roof extending outwards and upwards away from the floor, the porch area is a generous 110 square feet/10 square metres, and the insect mesh creates an additional dry storage space for personal belongings or clothes that have properly endured a hike and need to dry out. Full specifications are available here.  Shipping on the tent is free worldwide, so anyone from anywhere can get their hands on one of these fantastic outdoor homes.

 

Vistas are priced at approx. $680CAD / £380GBP / €480EUR / $720AUD, but if you want to be in with a chance of being the next person to win Tentsile gear for free, follow us on social media to get involved in promotions as they come up.  Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/Tentsile and you can follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tentsile - both pages are full of great pictures, anecdotes and information from the Tentsile team and our friends around the world.  

 

To our Tentsile Vista winners, happy camping!  To all our other readers - good luck in future competitions, and keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter - we love hearing from you.

 

 

December 15, 2014 — Alex Shirley-Smith

Strategies for Lightweight Backpacking Without Sacrificing Comfort

A major key to comfort when backpacking, but one that can elicit a groan from even the most experienced travellers, is packing light. It’s a skill that can be difficult to acquire, and it’s tempting to abandon all thought of it when you’re not entirely sure how cold you’ll be at night, or which pair of new hiking trousers will actually dry quickest after an unexpected downpour. However, if you put in the extra thought and preparation time necessary to shave extra grams (or even kilograms) off the weight of your pack, your body will thank you for it. Not only that, but the positive effects of reducing back pain, shoulder strain and fatigue will make the whole experience more memorable for all the right reasons. Here’s the Tentsile crew’s list of top tips for keeping your backpack light and your journey comfortable.

  1. Be ruthless. There are a lot of things you might think you need, but if you’re honest with yourself, it could turn out they’re actually just things you want. When it comes to clothing, for example, ‘wear one, wash one’ is a good mantra to live by for things like socks, underwear and lightweight t-shirts. For heavier garments like jumpers and trousers, you can easily make do with one of each on short trips.
  2. Make things multi-purpose. By being creative about the way you use things, you can drastically reduce the amount of stuff you have to pack. Why take gloves when your spare pair of socks will cover your hands just as comfortably? Do you really need bowls to eat out of when soup, porridge or cereal can just as easily be served in a mug? If you’re really serious about saving weight, you can just bring cooking pots and cutlery and eat straight out of your saucepans, and of course there’s the ever-useful spork if carrying a spoon and a fork is too much.
  3. Minimise individual items. For perfectly serviceable cover at night, you can use an ultralight shelter such as the Lightwave Starlight 1 Cuben Fibre Tarp or even repurpose your existing tent by using trekking poles instead of the original tent poles. Even better, you can simply bring a hammock and get some arboreal nights under your belt for good measure. Sleeping bags can add a lot of weight, so try a lightweight option like the Laser 300 Elite Lightweight Sleeping Bag or be really strict and pack only a space blanket. It’s unlikely you’ll want to sacrifice the comfort of a sleeping mat, so go for the lightest one possible - these closed cell foam mats weigh in at 175g and are still great for a sound night’s sleep.
  4. Don’t sacrifice safety or comfort. Having a lighter pack but carrying constant worry about what will happen if you have an accident with your first aid kit sitting on a shelf at home is not worth it. Likewise, the benefits of an ache-free back won’t seem so great if you’re shivering all night because you brought only a blanket when you know that you feel the cold and a sleeping bag would have been better. What works for one person won’t necessarily work in quite the same way for another, but if you’re travelling in a group you can get around this. If you feel the cold and need to bring a sleeping bag or a heavier jumper, negotiate with someone else who only needs a blanket and ask them to carry the heavier items of cooking equipment. Team work is always a good thing!
  5. Make the pack itself as light as possible. If you’re putting this much effort into reducing the weight of the contents of your backpack, it just makes sense that the pack itself should shed some pounds as well. The Lightwave Wildtrek 60 weighs less than 1.5kg, and of course the smaller the volume of the pack you choose, the less it will weigh. If you go for a frameless pack like the Terra Nova Voyager 55, you’ll be carrying less than half a kilo in pack weight, and it even has removable parts if you want to shed even more grams.

Finally, here are some other recommended purchases for lightweight backpacking in style. For cooking, try the Mimer stove and pan set, which fit inside each other for minimum bulk and, with two saucepans and a frying pan, provide everything you need for meals on the go (apart from the spork, of course). If you’re expecting rain, the Integral Designs Sil Poncho doubles as a tarp with 12 guy points, so it can keep you dry on the move and function as a shelter when you set up camp as well. Another item that many backpackers won’t travel without is a multi tool such as the brilliantly named Leatherman Skeletool, which weighs only 142g and, with both a straight and a serrated knife, would reduce your list of cooking equipment even further.

So, now you know what we’ve whittled our packing list down to, we’d love to hear your ideas. Are there any must-have items you’d sneak into our bags, or have you devised an ingenious system for overnight comfort that’s even lighter than a tarp/space blanket combo? Let us know in the comments below.

December 05, 2014 — Lucy Radford

The Tentsile Vista - how the dream became reality

Tentsile Vista came to us in a Eureka moment. We've already had Stingray and so we didn't actually aim for a new product but when the idea opened itself we knew we had to jump for it...

It all started as a dream. A daydream more precisely. Imagine this: you are shrunk to a size of a bug (much like Alice in Wonderland) and you have just climbed to the top of a beautiful flower where you are now sitting on a petal comfortably and enjoying the view. (We at Tentsile are very in touch with our silly childhood dreams - you'd notice) This flower could be your new home. It closes at night or when it rains and opens for the sun and fair weather... Bliss eh?

Well, we already had the "petal" - the base layer of Stingray resembles just that. We just had to figure out a convertible style roof. Then I came across a unique structure that hadn't been utilised in the camping tent industry before. A triple pole free-standing arrangement that offers great side views and stays up by itself. Bingo! 

So here it is - (pic 1) a triple layer tree tent - the bottom is pretty much the same as the Stingray - a spacious and well taught triple hammock, the roof is completely detachable 3 pole structure, and the (also detachable) bug mesh can be hooked up to the underside of the roof (Pic 2). Simples!

So what's the fuss all about?

Well, we now have a summer/tropical tree tent that is truly convertible. Suitable for the hottest tropical environment it will give you maximum ventilation even when it's raining. It also is modular - you can add extra floors to create a multi-story layered tree camp. This one - (pic 3) sleeps 9 adults in comfort (note: the top level is a Stingray). The floors will be available to buy separately soon and even Stingray owners will he able to add extra layers to their tree camp.

So my dear ewoks. Enjoy, and may the force be with you! 

 

December 01, 2014 — Alex Shirley-Smith