The Story of Tentsile

The Story of Tentsile

Tentsile started off as a string sculpture, held up by books in a London living room back in 2002.

I wanted to make a structure that used pure tensile strength from 3 points to create usable space as I thought that a collapsible treehouse could be an interesting option for those who love treehouses but didn't want to by limited to their backyards to enjoy it!

I was still an architecture student at the time and figured that the principles were so simple that someone would have done it by the time I finished school never happened; no one was looking at that space.

I got made redundant after the crash of 2008 and so I thought I would put some time into seeing if the model could be scaled up to hold some real weight. I put a cat in the next one (that was about 3 foot wide) and when it proved workable, I got started on making a full scale version.

The Spider and Giant Tentsiles were huge. Spider had a 10m / 25' diameter and Giant had a 15m / 35' diameter. They were impossibly hard to make as the dodecahedron centre could only be created by painstakingly adjusting the cords that pulled it part. Each cords was attached to a “loom” with 7 ratchets on each. It was like tuning a 28 stringed guitar from a ladder 5m / 20' in the air.

Slowly we managed to put a water tight skin on the structure and insert suspended hammocks into the “arms”. We worked but it was big, heavy and expensive. They did however, allow us to get some marvellous photos and the whole thing went viral when Inhabitat posted our picture. 40,00 hits in one day and boom, we were running.

That is when Kirk contacted me. We met for a coffee (out of all the crazy tent designers in the world, he happened to be 4 miles away) and his product design background became instantly essential. Together, we refined the designed, made full scale prototypes and tested all kinds of materials to make it work. We worked on final tweaks for more than a year after we soled the first one, incorporating customer feedback and designing out reoccurring problems.

Now we have a list of new models that Tentsile will be making over the next few years, each will have a slightly different focus (playful, extreme, ground based... ) watch this space...

November 14, 2014 — Alex Shirley-Smith

Join us in China: A look at our factory and why it’s not what you think.

Good morning from China. Here we are, our operations manager Matte to the left, our head seamstress Janeu and me, Kirk to the right. A look at our factory and why it's different to other factories in China.
November 12, 2014 — Kirk Kirchev
Why We Tent In The Trees

Why We Tent In The Trees

Here's the deal: We love trees. In fact, we're down right passionate about them (in a healthy way, we believe). Some look at them and see timber, pulp, and dollar signs. We see trees and our hearts pump faster…. Trees are things of beauty, majesty and inspiration. You can hide away in the trees, shelter within their carpet, survive among them, nourish your soul and feel part of the living landscape.

I was six when I first saw the Ewok Village. I knew then that I wanted to build things in trees and so spent the time to get certified as an architect. I thought that by qualifying, my peers could not look down on treehouse architecture! It's a real thing! I have been lucky enough to have worked with many of the top treehouse design and build teams in the world and could see that they had so much fun working up in the tree tops. That's where I want to spend my time!

The Treehouse Industry and Turning it Around..

Treehouse companies seem to reach a plato in terms if size. The problem is, treehouses are very elaborate to design and completely unique to build! All the companies I worked with were aiming to develop a one-size-fits-all solution. None of them managed to get to that point.

I decided that it would be my mission to make a back packable treehouse. A lightweight, portable structure that employed trees to created a stable a firm framework that could support two or more people. There seemed no point in stepping on the hammock industry's toes – I like hammocks!

After teaming up with Kirk, things moved pretty fast. Kirk's product design background helped refine the Tentsile concept and after 6 months we had created a truly compact and immensely strong design, capable of sleeping 3 people in suspended comfort. We call it Stingray.

What have we started?

We brought Stingray into the world so that everyone can enjoy all the happiness and joy that hanging out in trees brings; an experience to share; a shelter big enough to move around in covered space during those long rainy afternoons; a way to sleep in the woods in supreme comfort over any ground conditions, away from bugs, away from water and mud. We gave Tentsiling to the world because we believe that if we are all hanging out in trees, they can't chop them down....

The image that started it all...
November 11, 2014 — Alex Shirley-Smith

Camping Insider Christmas List

Tentsile Stingray reaches No.1 of the Christmas list for outdoor equipment at the Camping Insider


December 02, 2013 — Alex Shirley-Smith

New York Times reviews Stingray

For That All-Important First Tent


The chipmunks might think U.F.O.’s have arrived. A new generation of campers who are tired of finding their sleeping bags laying on sharp rocks has taken to tents that, instead of being staked to the forest floor, hover over it, suspended from trees. Other sleeping shelters sit up off the ground on legs that resemble a caterpillar’s.

Tree tents are a key ingredient in “glamping” — glamorous camping. Think of it as roughing it, minus the roughness. Glamping is for those looking for more comfort (no fear of creepy-crawlies, at least not the kind likely to invade a ground tent) while sleeping out under the stars.

For those who prefer not to tote their own tents, there are glamp grounds that rent treehouses, yurts and pods that hang from trees.
Begin Slide Show »

September 06, 2013 — Kirk Kirchev

Tentsile Giant on FoxNews

"So whether you want to make your backyard into a floating campground, or hike out into the woods and live atop the trees, the Tentsile Hammock Tent transforms camping into an entirely new adventure."   FoxNews

Read more:

June 22, 2013 — Kirk Kirchev

Drool'd Review

June 14, 2013 — Alex Shirley-Smith

Silidrome Review

June 04, 2013 — Alex Shirley-Smith

Gizmag: Tentsile unveils Stingray suspended tent

February 24, 2013 — Kirk Kirchev

Tentsile reviewed on the Gadget Show

February 15, 2013 — Alex Shirley-Smith