Salt Lake City—Among the many companies currently showcasing their wares at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market is Tentsile, a company that builds tents that hang above the ground using tension from being suspended between trees. While the UK-based company first opened its doors in 2013, the inspiration for their products came to their founder, Alex Shirley-Smith, long before. As a child, Shirley-Smith was taken to see Star Wars: Return of the Jedi—and the sight of the tree-dwelling Ewok village of Endor lit a light bulb in his head that never turned back off. Years (and architecture training) passed, and Tentsile was born.
“He thought ‘if we’re in the trees, they can’t cut them down,'” said Grego. “He’s very ecologically aware. He wanted to come up with a tree house that was portable, that you can put in your bag and take it with you.”
Shirley-Smith created a prototype in 2012, the Tentsile Giant, that quickly went viral. The first iteration of the tree tent was too big for practical use, said Grego. “So they developed it to make it a bit more useful for people backpacking, car-camping. And it’s just gone from strength to strength,” she said.
The Tentsile line is meant to combine “the comfort of a hammock and the security of a tent,” allowing outdoor enthusiasts to pitch a comfortable dwelling without worrying about challenges like hard, uneven ground. All that’s needed is three anchor points and the tent can stay aloft. Because the line was created by an ecologically-conscious architect and designer, the line also offers a tree-protective strap to keep people from harming the trees that they use to keep the tents up.
“You have to make sure you’ve got a healthy tree. You don’t want a dead tree and you don’t want a young tree. You want to give it plenty of space to grow first,” said Grego. “We also offer tree protective straps. So, if you’ve got a tree with particularly weak bark, you can put tree protective straps around it.”
Tentsile currently has six tents in its line, and is debuting its new tent, the Flite Plus, in the near future, along with an insulation mat that fits to all their tents. They also opened the doors to their first brick and mortar in Ogden this past March. Being twice-a-year guests at Outdoor Retailer turned the brand on to the idea of having a permanent home in Utah, especially as the brand does between 70-80 percent of their business in the U.S., according to Grego.
“We [opened in Utah] because of the Outdoor Retailer, partly,” said Grego. “It was tough to fly the whole team over twice a year. But we’d also heard great things—that it was very outdoorsy. Ogden particularly is a very up-and-coming outdoors center… It’s been fantastic. Already, we really feel like part of the community. It’s lovely.”