1983: A six-year-old London boy, Alex, saw the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest on the BBC news. A few weeks later, his grandmother took him to see Return of the Jedi. The Ewok tree village on Endor planted an idea - our forests would only survive if trees had a value to us humans, he thought, other than a monetary one. If we used trees as living accommodation, that might just save them! The seed of treehouse architecture had been sown.
Many years later, after training as an architect, Alex conceives 'Tentsile' as a usable space created through pure tension. The lightweight, portable treehouse would use three anchor points to create a "living space" suspended between the trees ...and so began the process of designing and prototyping affordable, habitable, tensioned tree structures.
March 2012: A leading green design forum, Inhabitat, features the Tentsile Giant prototype, praising the concept's unique advantages over ground-based tents and contemporary hammocks. The review held Alex's concept up as a flagship of 21st Century innovation and zero-impact architectural design. Overnight, the design goes viral, with 40,000 website visitors, and a month later, Tentsile's first creation gets featured on prime-time British television. The public reaction was phenomenal, and just like that, the market place had opened up for a new kid on the block.
April 2012: Alex Shirley-Smith teams up with designer and co-inventor, Kirk Kirchev. Together, they redesign the concept into a consumer product - a simpler, lighter, leaner, more affordable model that could be mass produced. This was to become Tentsile's flagship model - the Stingray.
March 2013: After a year of prototyping, testing and many failed attempts, they sold their first Stingray, the money from which they used to make another two. Which they sold. From that two, they made four. And so on. And by September, Alex and Kirk could now pay their own (meagre) salaries and give up their day jobs. Phew!
December 2013: Tentsile was offered land in Fiji to create the first tree-top eco settlement in a unique rainforest, featuring an organic farm and a secluded sandy beach. Many thanks to Max Cross, Gavin De Becker and everyone from Fiji Charity for the opportunity. April 2014: REI take on Tentsile and start selling their tree tents online. Tentsile also unveil their newest creation, the Connect - an even more lightweight, flexible - and this time, modular - creation. By now, things were really growing fast; production had stepped up to making 100 units every 3 months, and Robert Shirley-Smith was brought in to help Alex and Kirk cope with enquiries and customer service!
June 2014: Tentsile opens its own factory!. A week later, however, the factory gets shut down by the Chinese government. An old supplier had pulled strings to have the factory sealed off, citing that Tentsile had stolen the tent design from them! Tentsile was facing a hostile takeover by a much larger, better connected and more powerful local firm. Alex and Kirk would have to fight for Tentsile's survival.
They teamed up with a top lawyer and they brought evidence that their designs had been produced in the UK long before they entered China. After three weeks, they convinced the government to reopen the factory. Now standing on our own two feet, albeit with shaky knees, they continue to produce and develop Tentsile products on our their terms.
November 2014: Stingray won the Summer Hardware category of ISPO Brand New 2015. With this prestigious exposure, production flourished evermore, enabling Tentsile to fully stock warehouses across four continents, ready to fulfill orders from around the world. The days of trying to work a sewing machine themselves were numbered; they could pass this over to the experts and begin focusing on an ever-blossoming business.
January 2015: The launch of Tentsile Vista and the Trillium super-hammocks. Aimed at people who want to camp on the side of mountains, who want more out of their experiences in the wild, or who just want to hang out in the park, Tentsile's range of tree tents has made a big impression across the globe. One Australian newspaper said they were 'taking the camping world by storm!'
September 2015: The Tentsile team grows to almost twenty people. Kirk and Alex continue researching and developing new ideas, and as a team, Tentsile remain committed to working with and supporting organisations around the world, donating tents to flood relief efforts, sending tents to orangutan sanctuaries in Asia, campaigning against deforestation in the Amazon and partnering with WeForest.org to help replant vast swathes of Africa to stop the desertification of Southern Saharan countries. And in the summer of 2016, Tentsile broadened its tree planting efforts by teaming up with EdenProjects.org, which aims to reduce extreme poverty and restore healthy forests in Haiti, Madagascar and Nepal by employing local villagers to plant millions of trees.
Because the World is not flat... Tentsile combines the comfort and versatility of a hammock with the security and multi-person-occupancy of a tent. Our range of suspended shelters are unimpeded by wet, rocky or uneven ground conditions and will literally take your camping experience to a new level!
What is Tentsile?
At Tentsile, we create some of the world's most versatile tents. All our tree tents are made to be suspended over the ground, but in dry conditions can also be pitched on the ground like a conventional tent. Whether you are looking for an all-terrain camping solution, a safari safe house, a mountain or beach retreat, or a portable treehouse that avoids all planning restrictions, with the Tentsile tree tent the sky really is the only limit.
What are the benefits?
The unique design provides comfortable and spacious accommodation in any environment. The Tentsile Stingray and Connect tree tents both come with a fully enclosed insect mesh roof (with opening doors) and removable rainfly sheets so you can enjoy the stars on a clear night! As our tents are designed to be suspended in tension, the tents are unaffected by topography or water, and they also provide increased separation from bugs, snakes and other, larger predators.
How's it made?
The elegant structure comprises an adjustable frame of 2.5 tonne webbing straps, a micro insect mesh roof, and a UV resistant, PU-coated and waterproof polyester fabric fly. The webbing frame is held in tension at each of the three anchor points by being ratcheted tight while internal floor straps divide the space into individual hammocks.
How can you use it?
All Tentsile tree tents provide shelter with no ecological footprint or environmental impact. We recommend that the tent is set up no higher than 1.2m/4 feet off the ground for ease of access and to minimise risk of injury. The Tentsile tree tents come with all the elements needed for instant set-up including an instruction manual.
At Tentsile, we are passionate about trees! We love them. We want to do our part in conserving them and helping to raise awareness so that others might also do their part. So we invented tree tents that allow people to hang out in complete comfort; after all, if we're all hanging out in trees, they can’t be chopped down!