I just wrapped up what is likely the final camping trip of the year with my family. This trip was different, though. My 13-year-old twins, Jon and Aidan, slept suspended from the trees instead of in the trailer with the rest of us. They were helping me test out the Flite tree tent from Tentsile. Spoiler alert: it got a huge thumbs up.
Who doesn’t love a tree fort? Tree tents from Tensile promise the closest thing to actually sleeping in the trees. They’re suspended from tree trunks, so you sleep in hammock-like comfort with no ground contact.
Our first time setting up the Flite wasn’t exactly under ideal conditions. We’d never done it before, darkness was approaching, and rain was threatening. We were camping at McGregor Point provincial park, and while our campsite was nice and open for the trailer, the choice of suitable trees was a little thinner.
Setting up the Flite tree tent requires tying the three corners off to decent sized trees. Generous lengths of heavy duty orange polyester web straps are provided for this purpose, along with a ratchet. Basically, you lie the triangular tent out between three trees, tie it up with two of the straps positioned three to four feet off the ground, then use the ratchet on the third to tighten the whole thing.
Tension holds the tree tent securely in place and it ends up looking like this. Getting into it required using an overturned crate as a step.
Tentsile says you should be able to set it up about 10 minutes, but we ended up taking closer to an hour. Much of that time was experimenting with ideal tree locations, and we also had to figure out how to tie the proper knots (three cheers for YouTube and smartphones). Now that we know what to expect, I’m sure we can knock that down considerably the next time.
The Flite Tree Tent Experience
We were camping with several other families, with a combined total of 5 teenagers. The Tentsile tree tent was a big hit, with a constant rotation of kids wanting to try it out. During the day, they treated it like a spacious hammock, complete with very effective bug-proof netting. Considering the punishment it took during this constant rotation, I’m confident the Flite is built to last…
At night, Jon and Aidan slept in the Flite—equipped with sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows—despite the fact that we had torrential rain and, in the dark, we hadn’t properly set up the rain fly. Even though we winged it with the fly, they stayed completely dry. Because it’s off the ground, there was no worry about water seeping into the tent from below, either. There was plenty of air circulation and the tent seems to be extremely tough. Tensile says it’s rated for up to 485 pounds.
Once I’d cleared them out, I even climbed in the Flite myself. It was much more comfortable and stable than I’d been expecting. No creaking or other alarming sounds, and it was very stable. With the fly off, the view (all the walls are mesh) was spectacular.
A few things about the Flite need to be grounded with somewhat of a reality check. First, there are many photos circulating of these things set up over a stream. I’m not sure how anyone could get into the tent without soaking it in that situation. I’ve also seen photos of tree tents nestled way up in the trees, but, in reality, the maximum recommended height is four feet from the ground. Tentsile does sell webbing ladders, so maybe that’s how people manage.
Finally, the Flite is described as a two person tent, suitable for two adults under 6 feet one-inch tall with a combined weight of 485 pounds or less. With the boys—who are much smaller than that, although prone to jostling and elbowing—we found they had a tendency to roll together into the middle of the tent. When I was in there by myself (I’m a hair under the maximum height and close to half that maximum weight), it was perfect. There was enough room for my shoulders and to stretch out a bit.
In other words, like most tents I’ve tried, that maximum occupancy estimate seems to be on the generous side. Luckily Tentsile makes bigger versions, some of which even look like a multi-room tree fort…
We loved the Tentsile Flite tree tent. Yeah, it was a bit of a pill to put up the first time, but it is so much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. And the elevation adds a new element to the camping experience. The whole thing weighs only 7 lbs and stuffs into a very compact sack, so the Flite would be a great choice for wilderness camping. In fact, that’s probably the best application as not all parks (especially those catering to RVs) will have the necessary trees to set it up.
And speaking of trees, Tentsile pledges to plant three trees for every tent sold. In partnership with WeForest.org, it has already planted over 7,000 trees in Africa.
Disclosure: Tensile provided a Flite tree tent for review purposes.