‘You had me at tree tent.’ That was a friend’s response when I asked her to drive an hour over to my house for some backyard camping.
The Tentsile Stingray is a cross between a camping hammock and a three-person tent. It is complicated looking but was easy to set up and fun for anyone that entered, children and adults. My 9-year-old daughter thought it was so cool and invited all her friends. It evoked nostalgia for me, reminding me of the tree forts that I treasured as a suburban kid.
I tested the third-generation Stingray for over 6 months, with the bulk of it on my property (I live within a wildlife refuge). During that time, it acted as a playhouse, guest house, man cave, and a peaceful shelter to seek solace during breaks from work. It withstood rain, winds, intense sun, and a tornado-producing wind storm.
In short: The Tentsile Stingray ($729) is an amusing way to camp in the front country. Suitable for car camping and backyard adventuring, it’s a niche product that delivered a unique experience to even the most hardened camper.
What Is a Tree Tent?
The Tentsile Stingray is a three-person suspended tent. It has a triangular floor with each corner terminating in a 35mm-wide strap. The straps are 20 feet long, and use ratchets rated to an incredible 2.8 tons to generate and hold tension.
Much like a standard tent, the inner fly uses no-see-um mesh. Tentsile uses 70D polyurethane-coated (PU) polyester for the rainfly. Two 8.5mm anodized aluminum poles provide the vertical structure. Tension applied to the 240D PU-coated nylon and polyester floor supplies the horizontal structure.
Unlike a camping hammock, the floor remained taut when the Stingray was set up correctly. There was some “suspension” feel, but the sensation is far different than in a tent on the ground.
The Stingray is Tentstile’s flagship product, but they didn’t design it for hauling into the backcountry. It’s too heavy. Instead, it’s a useful and entertaining piece of gear for car camping and backyards. We can see this tree tent would also be handy on canoeing or rafting trips where dry ground is scarce.
The Tentsile Stingray Components
Tentsile Stingray Tent Kit
- Stingray 3-Person Tree Tent with built-in insect mesh
- 5,000mm water column rain fly
- 2 x 8.5mm diameter anodized aluminum alloy poles (green)
- 3 under-storage nets
- 3 heavy-duty large ratchet buckles (2.5-ton breaking strength)
- 3 6m/19-ft. polyester straps
- 3 low-impact giant yellow screw pegs
- 3 WaterGates large
- 3 2m bungee cords 4mm thickness
- 3 2m Blue tree wraps with Velcro
- Spare repair kit
- Tent bag
The verified weight of the Stingray Tent kit is 25.5 pounds.
Tentsile Stingray: How to Set Up
Because the Stingray is such an anomaly, I felt compelled to watch a setup video (which we also recommend for those interested in purchasing this tent).
The exact triangulation of the three chosen trees wasn’t necessary. They only had to be in the general line of pull for each corner of the tent floor. Adjusting the length of each strap provided leeway, but the final tensioning had to produce fairly equal tension on each strap.
There were spacing requirements. There wasn’t an actual footprint of clear ground to worry about. But there was a large area that needed to be clear of anything that could interfere with the path of the straps or the tent body. Any vegetation or structures in line with the tent or straps had to be lower than the floor or straps. Tentsile recommends a height of 4 feet.
It didn’t matter if the ground was wet, muddy, rocky, covered in sticks, or flat. But it did matter if the three tree trunks were large enough, as the tension on the straps was significant. Tentsile recommends a minimum tree diameter of 16 inches.
I set the Tentsile Stingray up once, and it was an easy solo affair on every other occasion.
Tree Tent Life
First off, kids were super attracted to the Tentsile Stingray! My 9-year-old daughter jumped in as soon as it was up and asked repeatedly during the spring to stay in it. She told her friends at school, and they all made the rounds.
But here’s the kicker: every adult that entered also felt that gleeful joy that I connected to camping for the first time. Maybe it was because it’s so unique that it was a fresh experience even for experienced campers. Or maybe it reminded us of treehouses. Whatever it was, adults flocked to my tree tent as much as children.
Getting in was more difficult than in a normal tent, but it was fully dependent on how high I suspended it. I preferred to enter through one of the three side doors, but my daughter liked getting in through the trap door on the floor. Both entry methods required a hop to either a seated or lying position.
The taut floor provided a different sleeping experience than anything I’ve ever used. My daughter didn’t need a sleeping pad under her bag, but she sleeps on her back. I used it a few nights without a pad, but I’m a side sleeper. An inflatable pad improved sleep dramatically.
My logic said loosening the straps would create a softer floor, but then we would slide toward the center of the tent. High tension in the straps was akin to having flat ground for a regular tent.
Tentsile claims the Stingray is appropriate for three adults or two adults and two children. I found that to be more than accurate. Because campers sleep on the perimeter of the triangle-shaped floor, I never felt squeezed. Nor did anyone infringe on my space while moving while asleep. I also didn’t touch the tent wall with my feet or head, and I’m 6 feet tall.
One downside of the suspended tree tent was when anyone got up in the middle of the night, we were all woken up by the entire tent moving. This happened upon exiting and re-entering, even though each person had their own door.
There was enough space left over for each camper to have a personal bag, and three storage nets kept smaller items off the floor. The floor hatch acted as a spot to keep things from rolling around and also has a storage pocket. Three exterior under-floor storage nets handled anything else.
Cooler (Literally) Than Ground Tents
When it was chilly, the Tentsile Stingray was noticeably colder than a normal tent, similar to a camping hammock. The cold air underneath was the added thermal suck, which was mitigated by foam sleeping pads. Wind also drew away heat from below, and the relatively large gap between the inner wall and rain fly wasn’t thermally efficient.
But, the upside was that in the summer, the tent felt cooler, mostly because there was no ground vegetation blocking wind, but also because of conduction through the floor to the overnight air. The inner walls of the Stingray are entirely mesh, so ditching the fly created vast amounts of airflow.
I had to tighten the straps a few times, as moisture from morning dew or rain caused them to elongate, a common issue with both hammocks and tent flies. And tying down the fly to the ground or to the floor hatch was a must for anything other than a light drizzle to keep water from pooling in the fly or coming in the doors.
Tree Tent Survives Turbulence and Storms
The Stingray is rated as a four-season tent by Tentsile, which I didn’t believe. But after a typical Texas storm that landed tornadoes in my area and downed a huge oak tree nearby, the tree tent emerged undamaged. I officially gave it a personal four-season rating.
The Tentsile Stingray was a hit for both children and adults for backyard or car camping. It’s unique, fun, and cooler in the summer than in regular tents. After 6 months of almost constant use, visiting kids and adults still want to get inside of it.
The tree tent is heavy, so using it in the backcountry is a big ask. Even splitting the load three ways is problematic, as the main tent body is heavy by itself. But it’s not impossible, and for a short trek, it could be worth the novelty and fun.
The Stingray proved extremely robust during a crazy windstorm, and regular three-season car camping tents would have been decimated. Of course, this was dependent on the anchoring trees being storm-worthy.
At an MSRP of $729, this is a large investment. But if you view it as a playhouse for kids and an extra room for your outdoor-oriented friends like I did, it may be worth it.