A downside to a conventional tent is that you are on the ground, exposed to not only what’s on the ground but any potential predators that can come poking around.
This was remedied to an extent with people moving over to hammocks, but they posed their own problems. For one, a hammock can effectively sleep one person and they can be cramped.
Tree tents are the evolutionary answer to this dilemma. They combine the shelter aspect of a tent with the suspension off the ground that is associated with hammocks.
This innovation is designed to give you a tent experience with the comfort of a hammock. A suspended tent sounds dangerous, how safe and comfortable are these tents really?
The way tree tents are set up makes them a safe alternative for camping. Of course, this is all dependent on proper anchoring. Being suspended in the air provides less stress on the body when lying down which is why many people find them much more comfortable than traditional tents.
Let’s take a look at what makes these tents so comfortable and what you can do to enhance your tree tenting experience.
How Comfortable Are Tree Tents?
If you are a fan of hammock camping then you understand how awesome sleeping suspended in the air is.
The only issue with hammocks is that you are very much bound to a small space with little exceptions to sleep on your side or stomach.
Here are some ways that a tree tent works really well to keep you comfortable.
During Inclement Weather
The one downside to sleeping in a normal ground-dwelling style tent is when it rains.
Usually, the tent itself is protected by a rain fly; however, it’s under the tent that you need to worry about. Primarily this is a problem when water runs underneath the tent and starts to soak through the floor.
Since a tree tent is elevated off the ground there is no chance that the bottom of the tent will get wet.
This is great for both the person using it and the tent itself as it won’t be subject to potential mold problems from the tent floor being soaked.
Great Air Flow
Since your tree tent is suspended in the air you will have more airflow throughout the shelter. This is great for the hot summer months when airflow might be a bit stagnant.
Much like a hammock, they are great for hot days as the air will be circulating underneath you as well.
Sleep In Any Position
The ability to sleep in any position is a huge sell for people on the fence about using a tree tent.
Having the floor space of a traditional tent gives you the freedom to sleep on your side or stomach without having to deal with the hard ground or a hammock not conforming to your body.
How To Set Up A Tree Tent
Setting up a tree tent does take more time than a hammock or ground tent but for good reason, setting it up incorrectly can make for a jarring surprise.
Ensure you take your time setting one of these up because they can be tricky.
You’ll Need To Find The Right Trees
This is the hardest part and can make or break the entire setup process. You need to find three trees, equally spaced(or as close to), in a triangle.
Not finding the right trees can be the most frustrating part for beginners, and can often discourage them from bringing their tree tents out on future trips.
Tree tents use ratchet straps as the tensioning system. The straps are usually quite long as well, this gives you a little bit of leeway when it comes to tree spacing. Just be sure they are in a somewhat triangular position.
You want to source out live trees that are pretty thick around the trunk, you should be able to get the ratchet straps around. As long as the trunk seems sturdy you can proceed.
It’s not as difficult as it may seem, you can find them easily in many older growth forests. It’s the younger forests with the smaller trees that make it tricky. If you’re going to a site that can host a hammock or two, you should be fine.
Ratchet It Up
You’ve found your trees and now it’s time to secure the webbing straps around them.
Tree tents should only be about 4 feet off the ground, not very high. Secure the webbing straps around eye level so that they are easy to access if needed.
Attach the ratchets if they aren’t already integrated into the system. The key thing to remember is you want to make the tent centered between the three trees.
This may involve ratcheting a certain number of times around all three anchors instead of working on them one at a time.
Remember, they are the main reason your tent will stay taut and not sag when you get into it. It’s wise to take your time to make sure they are all equal distance apart.
If your tent has any ridge poles or ladders that need to be installed. This is where you want to start working on that.
Walk around your tent to make sure everything is taut and if you have any tie-out points you can use them now.
Tree tents may have an integrated fly, a separate one, or none at all. If your rain fly is separate it’s best to tie it out right above the webbing straps you used for setting up your tent.
This will give you adequate coverage from rain and it won’t be hard to reach if you need to adjust.
Are Tree Tents Good For Protection From Predators?
A concern among many avid campers is how well they are protected from potential predators.
There is nothing quite as unsettling as being woken up during the night to some animal or human trying to get inside your tent.
The good news is that since you are suspended off the ground you more than likely won’t be noticed by any land-dwelling animal.
Since animals don’t generally like the smell of us, they will tend to shy away or run when they catch wind of a person.
There are some possibilities of bears being more than interested and trying to check out what’s in your tent, but this is more than likely only to occur with habituated bears.
Campgrounds are notorious for these kinds of incidents because the bears are so used to humans. They tend to only come around if there is a dumpster nearby or if you’ve left food out on your site.
You should be safe from spiders, snakes, and any other creatures that you would normally see in a ground tent. Don’t be surprised though, if you feel a squirrel or raccoon scurrying across your tree tent, it happens.
Safety Tips For Using A Tree Tent
You want to be present and aware when you’re setting up a tree tent. A simple mechanical failure in the ratchet or a loose knot could injure someone. Let’s look into some tips to make your tree tent experience safe and fun.
Do Not Hang Your Tree Tent Off Dead Standing Trees
This rule applies to hammocks as well and is just as relevant in this scenario.
Hanging your tree tent off dead-standing trees can cause your tent to buckle. This is because dead-standing trees can be rotted out and not have the strength they did when they were alive.
Keep The Tent Hanging Low
Much like a hammock, you shouldn’t be more than about 4 feet off the ground.
Any higher, and you could hurt yourself or others as the tent buckles and hits the ground. Make sure you’re not camping over sharp rocks or an overhang.
Avoid Keeping Food In Your Tree Tent
This goes back to the discussion about bears and how to avoid them. Keeping food in your tree tent is a recipe for disaster.
Keep your food away from your tent and up in another tree. You’d be surprised at what critters will try and get into your tent for your food stash
Use A Sleeping Pad If It’s Going To Be Chilly
Coming from the hammock world you’ll find that there is a similarity with tree tents in the sense that you’re going to be cold if you have nothing under you.
Using a sleeping pad on colder nights will stop the heat loss that generally happens underneath you.
Much like how the ground will take your body heat, the air has the same effect and you can find yourself waking up shivering.
Sometimes, taking the best aspects of two things and incorporating them into one idea really works out.
Tree tents are one example of where you can be comfortable and safe in the backcountry. Keep these safety tips in mind and you should have no problem spending a few nights sleeping in these innovative shelters.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.