Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: Tensile style Skytent

I love tents and I love hammocks, and I've expressed a desire for one of the Tentsile aerial tents for a long time, but they are quite expensive. Not wanting to miss out forever, I kept an eye out and checked out AliExpress, where real things go to be replicated. For Giftmas I bought myself the one-person equivalent. I always feel a bit bad buying knock-offs but at the very least, its getting the very innovative concept out there.

So, given my ongoing stroke recovery and my work situation, we haven't ben able to go away camping, so I hadn't been able to tryout my aerial tent. Australia Day came around and we were invited to BBQ in a park, sounded like the perfect opportunity to try it out. I took some extra webbing strapping, in case we had trouble finding tree's to sling it on, but as it turned out the picnic table we picked was close to three gum trees. I unrolled the skytent from its stuff-sack bag and took stock.

The contents included the triangular base, made from webbing reinforced ripstop with a low (70D) Cordura number and (high quality silicon coating to give it a waterproof index of 2000-3000 mm) the base, which is about 4m a side, had built in reinforced eyelets for the two sets of shock-cord threaded anodised aluminium alloy poles and a light, waterproofed (to 1500-2000 mm)fly sheet to connect to.

It also came with three sets of 6m (19') loop-ended webbing, and shackles to for it to the base. At one end a ratcheting system for increasing the tension was supplied.
The base triangle comes with a breathable B3 bug-screen net with twin zippers. Built into the "roof" are two sleeves to feed the poles through to keep the roof in place and add stability when setting it up and to drape the fly over.

Once set up, which took a bit of doing (pro-tip; set the tent part up on the ground in the middle of your space, then string your straps. I rigged my straps with a truckers hitch. Getting partial tension on the tent to set it at a good height was just matter of sliding the webbing up to the right height, one tree at a time and tightening the truckers hitches once they were even. PRO-TIP 2: get the three corners as evenly high as possible. this will stop you sliding "downhill" on the slick ripstop nylon.

Once set up, the remaining slack can be eaten up with the ratchet, but this takes some doing. I'm glad we weren't setting it up in the rain. Once fully tensioned which it really needs to be, we put the fly on, which  had nylon hook hardware and shock-cords. The 240D fly has a single up-and-down zipper which coupled with the wide door in the flyscreen, makes a nicely framed entry/exit and window when pegged back. with its attached toggles.

The interior is spacious, the 4m sided equilateral triangle provide  almost 7m². of floorspace, with 1.2m (the almost 4') of loft, with its quite steep sides, there is  a lot of real-estate.

The wide webbing reinforcements throughout the base distribute weight nicely. I'm 192cm (6'4") and weigh 90kg (200lbs).  Laying right down the middle, legs splayed to the bottom corners, I was very comfortably supported.

This skytent is rated to carry 400kg (880lbs) and the heavy-duty ratchets buckles have a staggering 2.5 ton minimum breaking strength. Even so, the makers recommend only stringing it at a maximum 1.2m / 4' from the ground. As a good rule of thumb, you shouldn't set a hammock up from higher than you would want to fall from. Or climb into.

The supporting poles that give the skytent its vertical structure are seated in these washer equipped eyelets, and with the shaped ends of the poles, they seat securely and remain in place even with the rambunctious efforts of Tactical Baby. The seams are all also all double stitched. The whole tent is well finished.  I had had worries about the quality, given it was a knock-off, but it's been well made and put together.

All packed down, the tent weighs3.0kg or so, including the included webbing and the ratchet. and packs down into a stuff sack measuring 50cm x 20cm x 20cm. It's not too bulky nor heavy and would make an excellent addition to a backpack for a camping trip.

Internally as I've said it is spacious, but good set-up is key. if any one point of the triangle is higher or lower than the others the effect is a slow and steady slide to the lowest point.

I took it camping off to a full-emersion live action roleplaying weekend, "After The Fall" .
So I found myself three trees and set myself up. As with most tents, second time was much quicker and easier, and i'd had my lessons learned from my first attempt so it was pretty quick.  I even slung a second hammock along side, for lounging in when I was in my full tyre-armour kit. TO somewhat disguise the bright green of my tent and its fly sheet  I draped the whole thing in some scrim. One thing I didn't want was anyone tripping and falling onto me as I slept, so I put it a little higher than previously.

So high in fact I needed to step up onto one of my tactical milk-crates that I pack my camping gear into. I also stowed my kit under the hammock, off to one side from the Skytent, in case I did have a fall.

Inside at one of the three apexes was a pocket system which worked quite nicely with a jumper stuffed in it as a pillow. I used the zipper as an attachment point for my night-light as there weren't any internal loop hangers.

All in all I am both impressed by and happy with my SkyTent, and would heartily recommend you al lgo check out the original design at TENTSILE - Stingray

After an afternoons romping by Tactical Baby, and perhaps more roughhousing than was necessary, one of the poles has been warped and now adds an uneven curve to the dome, but no real issue there.  Certainly no fault in manufacture. I've managed to straighten it out a little but eventually  I might either replace it or run it through a pipe bender in reverse.

The Skytent handled nicely when occupied by two. even if one was little and bouncy and the other big and lumpy. Alas, I haven't tried it with two adults, but they are rated for it.
I put  a yoga mat in it when I camped, just as insulation, it was plenty comfortable to lay in in warm weather but any breeze below will chill you right down. Setting up an under-quilt like those made by the Go-Outfitters would work  a treat, but you'd need a triangular one.   

One thing I found was that the fly lifted and flapped about a bit, so I lashed it down underneath with some handy paracord.

All in all and excellent product and not just a gimmicky concept. all the benefits of a hammock and tent combined.

Pro-tip #3: set your doorway at chest height if you-re expecting friends to pop by. Nicer conversations for everyone when you can be eye-to-eye.


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  2. I love to read your article its an amazing thoughts. Tensile fabric structure is one where the walls, etc. is made of fabric stretched over a framework, like a tent, that's you are using in camping or some building roof systems for some ideas of what can be done with tensioned fabrics. This is a totally amazing man!

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