Tree tents get campers off the ground and into the air

Some of the gravity-defying devices were on display this week in Salt Lake City at the Outdoor Retailer show.

SALT LAKE CITY — Campers and outdoor enthusiasts are embracing a unique way to sleep under the stars while in the mountains or at the beach — dangling between trees on hybrid hammock-tents that get them off the ground and into portable treehouses that soothe their inner child.

Some of the gravity-defying devices were on display this week in Salt Lake City at the Outdoor Retailer show, which brings thousands of people for a business-to-business expo that allows retail store owners to meet with companies and manufacturers that display products.

The so-called tree tents are still too small of an industry segment to track sales separately. But retailers report they are generating growing demand from customers, said Matt Powell, sports industry analyst with market research firm NPD Group.

“The millennial camper is looking for products that are going to keep them dry and comfortable, which is one thing these do,” Powell said. “Millennials are also attracted to versatile items that have more than one purpose, as these do.”

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The hammock-tents, which can be broken down stored in bags like normal tents, are designed to be used anywhere a person can find trees, boulders or rock crevices sturdy enough to anchor them.

Tentsile’s colorful polyester hammocks and tents that stretch between three trees are the creation of an English treehouse architect who started the company four years ago with another designer based on his childhood dream of creating something resembling the Ewoks’ tree villages from the “Star Wars” movies.

The company’s flagship model is the “Stingray” tent that holds at least three adults up to 880 pounds, selling for $650. It has a front entrance as well as hole in the middle you can climb through. The company sells five other models that range in size and design and sell from $150 to $550. They are tied around trees using straps and ratchets.

“You’re in the trees so you’re shaded, and it’s nice and cool. It also keeps you off the ground from snakes and spiders and all that creepy stuff,” said Melissa Benjamin, a company representative.

Sales have skyrocketed from 10 in 2013 to about 10,000 last year, Tentsile spokeswoman Kirstie Grego said.

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