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Tensa Indoor?

Most people looking for portable hammock stands are interested in camping. But why limit it? All the recent advances in hammock camping comfort and popularity have a growing number of people embracing hammocks as full-time beds, as people in the American tropics have for centuries.

Hanging hammocks indoors requires more expertise, commitment, or permission than many people bring. Placing wall hooks is clean and simple in some cases, but difficult, dangerous, or impossible in others. Meanwhile, stands suitable for indoor use tend either to have ginormous footprints, or else put their supports far too low or close to support full-size sleeping hammocks far enough off the floor for ease of entry, sitting, and exit.

Simply put, if a stand’s hanging points aren’t at least about 72 inches high and 132 inches apart (6′, 11′; 1.8M, 3.3M), it’s just too small for a compelling adult bed replacement. That’s just about every one available cheap on Amazon, at Walmart, etc. It’s almost as if they think hammocks are just for lounging!

Our Tensa4 stand fits in the footprint of a twin bed with room left over, the high ends being wider. Apart from its portability packed, this means it deploys where no other stand we know of will. Shown in the photo is a 12′ Colombian cotton hammock with underquilt for Oregon’s cool climate, hung properly with foot end higher than head for flattest lay, another detail most stands don’t accommodate.

It’s far more comfortable than any mattress costing several times as much as stand and hammock together. Unlike a mattress, it’s free of organohalogen flame retardants, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds, and doesn’t contribute to the problem of about 20 million of them annually clogging up landfills after they become too disgusting. That’s right, a hammock can be cleansed of mites, mildew, and bodily fluid stains, unlike even the lumpiest vegan organic cotton futon. But mainly, the sleep is heavenly. Experience and science align.

Tensa Outdoor will continue to advance the best stands for camping, while sidestepping toward the ultimately more meaningful goal of packaging a compelling mattress alternative, for the third of your life you spend in bed.

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Origin of the Tensa4 hammock stand

Origins would be more correct.

When I set out to make a portable hammock stand, my first goal was to improve upon the portability of an existing, proven design. That effort failed. In attempt to recover losses having bought expensive carbon fiber poles for the failed prototype, I tinkered for months with alternative designs until stumbling upon what worked, far better than I had hoped.

As soon as I showed anybody the design, all told me to keep it under wraps until I applied for a patent. I did that in a provisional filing, enjoying the little ego stroke that comes from giving the government money to file away a formal statement of how clever you think you’ve been. The lawyers said it was well-written, even, for a non-lawyer. I told myself at the time that I was trying to wrap the idea in a protective container so some entrepreneur could safely buy and manufacture it. I didn’t think I would be involved directly in anything so quixotic as a hammock stand company.

Soon came to my attention a 2011 photograph published on the Hennessy Hammock web site’s Letters page showing a pair of remarkably similar structures on an airfield:

I set out to find the person responsible for this, using the aircraft’s markings to look up the registration. Pilot Leonard Jensen designed and built those two, enjoying them briefly before stashing away with no further action. I admit I felt a pang of disappointment that the photo had been published, since the prior existence of so similar a design put a big hole in the side of my provisional patent claims. Leonard shared more detailed photos of his creation recently, built for the ages in heavy aircraft aluminum:

Meanwhile, Cheryl and I teamed up to evolve my expensive, fragile (but really light) prototype into a viable product. Known as Raftingtigger on Hammock Forums for energy levels reminiscent of A.A. Milne’s Tigger, Cheryl was already busy making and selling hammock stands of her own design, so there was nothing too momentous about taking on a new design, just a lot of fun collaborating on the details. Our confidence buoyed by the enthusiastic reception of what I dubbed the “tensahedron” design in Hammock Forums, (now with over 150,000 views and over 1000 comments in the largest thread alone), we formed Tensa Outdoor, and we’ve been busier than expected ever since.

Thunda down unda

Just this week, another bomb dropped in the origin story. Not only weren’t we the first, neither was Leonard. Earlier still there was a whole product line built around essentially the same concept, a stunning example of convergent evolution. From the crypt of dead websites, circa 2007-2012, the Wayback Machine, comes The Aussie Anchor, available in six fantastic colours:

It’s slightly terrifying that the company shuttered, of course. It’s like finding the dessicated corpse of the twin sibling you never knew you had in an attic crawlspace. Are we next? Cockiness is no asset. While I can rattle off half a dozen ways our realization is better, it’s also more expensive. I prefer to think the Aussie Anchor was merely ahead of its time. I have more than once been involved in commercial endeavors where this was the case, a pioneer laboring in fields that, a decade or more later, afford others more success. Hammocking has come a long way in popularity since, with crucial developments like underquilts, more generous cuts, structural ridgelines and so on becoming common, raising the waterline for all.

It can’t have helped that shipping their less-compact product outside of Australia was no less costly than it is for us today to ship into Australia, while Australia’s entire population is roughly 60% that of California alone. At a time when hammocks seldom seemed serious alternatives to other sleeping arrangements, worthy of similar outlays, the product was priced well below ours. Knowing what it costs to make such things, I suppose profits were insufficient to carry on, let alone grow. Inventor Joe Askey-Doran of Tasmania: if you’re reading this, drop us a line please!

Massachusetts, 8 August 1876

Been there, done that:

Plunder gratefully

Today is Thanksgiving in the US, a harvest festival overlaid with colonial narratives about moments of peace between indigenous people and those who received asylum on this continent. I digress, but do read about Tisquantum, who helped the Pilgrims even after he escaped slavery from those same Pilgrims’ countrymen years earlier.

Hammocks were the bedding of the Taino people Columbus encountered, and of the tribes Amerigo Vespucci met all along the northeast South American coast, where hammocks remain normal bedding to this day. These people were conceived, born, bred, wed, healed and buried in their hammocks. Pressed for gold, the friendly Taino instead gave Columbus their most elegant technology, hamacas. In 500 years of obliviousness to the gift, the colonizer culture still thinks $1000 slabs of petrochemical foam offer the ultimate in sleeping comfort, while hammocks (ignorantly complicated with tippy spreader bars to look more like European beds) are regarded as summertime lawn furniture for the indolent rich.

Post-genocide, we can never know how many generations before Columbus’s encounter the people had risen above lumpen, filthy, critter-crawling beds in hammocks, all the ways how and to what geographic extent, but in the Caribbean they were hung from posts in their houses, not just to trees. Did they have stands? If three people from hammock-naive cultures conceived of this simple 4-pole design independently within little more than a decade, what could people who made hammocks their lifetime beds invent over centuries?

At a stone complex estimated to have housed 200 people, the Puerco Pueblo ruins in eastern Arizona, abandoned over a century before Columbus, are petroglyphs of mysterious meaning. One guess is that we are seeing looms. I see ancient alien hammock stand technology transfer.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Sneak peek: tarp extensions for Tensa4

A persistent criticism of our Tensa4 stand is that, while it does accommodate most tarps, it doesn’t accommodate them well enough. Specifically, while tarps up to 11′ fit well, longer tarps require some ingenuity to tension properly. Regardless of tarp length, the height of the tarp is low. Low tarps still afford more crouching space than 2-3 person tents, and are warmer, but don’t allow standing headroom.

Some customers have taken to packing stand-alone tarp support poles in address of this, which seems to us more than a gentle nudge to do better. We have been steadily at work on addressing this. We’re now in late production prototyping of the tarp extensions shown in use with a 12′ hex tarp in the photos below. We hope to have this shipping early 2019. Yes, it will be fully retro-fittable to previous product. If it proves popular enough, we may bundle it with the stand by default.

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Bushcraft

Simon of Tier Gear Tasmania posted this stunning capture by M. Coss of a bushcrafted tensahedron hammock stand under a massive chalcedony overhang, amid giant tree ferns, in front of a marsupial tiger’s cave lair.

Tensa4 offers a degree of portability beyond what people can easily make for themselves, but portability isn’t always important. We love that the basic design is at once non-obvious and simplicity itself, within reach of anybody with a machete, some rope, and a few minutes. Of course, leave-no-trace camping ethics preclude chopping down poles on site, just as they may preclude hanging from delicate trees. In this case, the culled vegetation was the invasive weed Large Leaf Privet.

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Hammock vs. tent

This fun video is making the rounds. OK, it might not be completely fair:

Hammocks are easy to love, but it’s a rare hammock camper who’s never had trouble finding just the right trees in just the right place. It’s this uncertainty that compels many hammockers to keep a tent in reserve, and discourages many tenters from even getting started with hammocks, especially outside of heavily wooded regions. We aim to change this.

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Boundary Waters

Customer JSBar shared some photos of our kayak-friendly Tensa4 hammock stand in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. Too good not to share!

Yes, plenty of trees around, but the stand lets you pick your spot, even moving it easily to suit wind, sun, or viewpoint conditions. JS noted the welcome absence of sway from the high winds in the trees.

Tensa4’s low-tension anchoring requirements let it work in shallow soil over bedrock. Even a big rock is often enough.

Also works without a tarp. Otherwise you might confuse it with a tent on stilts.
Prêt-à-portage
Porch mode with a paddle
Nice to be off the ground. Winter cometh. Thanks to the recent invention of the underquilt, the ancient, elegant sleeping technology of the Taino and other Native Americans of the tropics now works even in arctic zones.
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Tensa4 is shipping again

After what felt like ages awaiting receipt of our now factory-finished tube sets, yesterday we got them. The last 500 miles was the slowest. Cheryl finally rented a truck to fetch the shipment from the local freight terminal rather than wait another 3 days. Within an hour of cracking the boxes, we began shipping backorders. It doesn’t look too glamorous, but it’s glorious to us, and we hope soon to you too!

This is a milestone for our company: having more product on hand than we have orders. We have now ended the “deposit and wait” model to get a Tensa4 hammock stand. You can now order one the normal way, and expect shipping without any delay for the manufacturing to catch up. I mean, right after we finish clearing backorders, but that’s going fast.

We’ve also dropped the price a whole $5 to $295, but no longer include “free” shipping, which would put in-person sales at some disadvantage. Shipping is pretty cheap in the US via USPS flat rate: $20.

There’ll be more news to drop soon.

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Life’s a beach?

Customer Alan Smith sends video with the message: “This mindful moment was brought to you by the Tensa Outdoor Tensa4 hammock stand, Warbonnet Blackbird, and the Orange Screw which held my 250 pounds while screwed into the sand even after gently shaking, wiggling, swaying, and bouncing.”

The Orange Screw he mentions comes bundled with our stand. Made in Washington state of recycled polycarbonate, the Orange Screw is the best all-around ground anchor we’ve tested. Some less expensive anchors hold as well in sand or mud, but can’t be driven into harder ground. Some anchors can be pounded into very hard ground, but those don’t hold well in loose stuff at all.

When the ground is too hard to drive in an Orange Screw, we’ve found that thin nail or shepherd’s hook tarp stakes are enough to hold up the Tensa4, where the anchoring is necessary only to maintain the stand’s balance, not to bear the weight of the user.

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We’ve been Shugged!

Shug Emery is well-known and loved in hammock circles for his informative, entertaining videos. Shug is a professional clown by trade, obviously a perfect line of work for this many-talented man. We were excited when he bought one of the first hundred stands we made, but kind of hoped he’d hold off on any review until we could get him a sample of the improved version we’re now projecting to be able to ship from late September. He did.

This is Shug’s first look at the Tensa4:

Have a look around Shug’s Youtube channel if you haven’t already. One of my favorites is his account of hammock camping at -40F°. Which happens to be -40C°, as well. That’s the point that his thermometer wouldn’t show any lower; maybe it was 2 Kelvin.

Thanks Shug!

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Big changes for the better

We started Tensa Outdoor without a crowdfunding or other capital push, instead bootstrapping to refine the products as we went, testing the market with a build-to-order model. We (well, Cheryl) have been building each Tensa stand with hand and home shop tools from small lots of raw materials purchased mostly at consumer prices. You read that right: no fat markup. However romantic, this has been a huge effort alongside real day jobs, frankly not sustainable either as a business or a hobby.

This phase of our company is now over. For the next several weeks, we’re not shipping stands. We are waiting for our first factory order of custom-made tubing to be finished and delivered. In the hiatus, we’ll build up stocks of the other necessary components, revise documentation, and possibly sign up some dealers.

We estimate, but cannot promise, that orders placed in the interim will ship before the end of September. As before, we will fulfill orders in order of deposits placed. Once we fulfill backorders and have ample stock on hand, we will end the “deposit and wait” model, and sell product normally.

With the shift to custom-made tubing, today we announce some major improvements to the Tensa line, sample quantities of which have been quietly trickling out to customers for a few weeks.

Keyed tubing

First-generation Tensa stands used round drawn telescopic tubing. Readily available from specialist industrial suppliers, and having a better stiffness to weight ratio than other shapes, round tubing has done the job. But round tubes rotate freely within one another. This has been an annoyance. It has meant that extending the tubes to engage the spring buttons has required careful visual alignment, dozens of little “hunts” each time you set up the stand. While not difficult, it’s slow and prone to accidental disassembly when buttons drift out of alignment with their engagement holes.

This is over. Tensa stands now use custom-made keyed tubing, meaning manual alignment is no longer necessary. Just pull the collapsed assemblies to extend, and all the buttons pop into place. The keys are subtle and curviform, unique to each tube size, preserving nearly all the favorable stiffness to weight characteristics of round tubing. This one change knocks a few whole minutes off setup time!

Anodizing

First-generation Tensa stands used raw aluminum tubes, hand polished and waxed to remove mill marks and provide corrosion protection. This is both labor intensive and not very durable anyway. After the wax wears off, the tubes can blacken hands, and the surface of the metal is naturally soft, so it scratches pretty easily.

Anodizing is the best way to finish aluminum. By running electric current through the tubes as they are immersed in an acid bath, a smooth hard oxide layer builds on the surface, protecting the underlying metal from scratches and corrosion. Early on, we got lots of quotations for anodizing all 28 tubes of a Tensa4 stand. All exceeded the already high cost of the tubing itself.

By working our way higher up the supply chain to custom-made tubing, we finally got to a tolerable price point for anodizing. We chose a bright clear finish instead of colors, since colors often fade in sunlight, and scratches look worse than on clear finishes. We think it looks great, and hope you agree.

Head tether

While it isn’t necessary to guy both ends of a Tensa4 stand, enough of our customers prefer to do so that we’re now bundling a second, head end tether line and anchor. It’s deliberately lighter duty and stretchy to encourage users to set up their stands with proper reliance on a higher foot end, but it helps assure that odd weight shifts, gusts of wind, or groggy wee-hour happenings don’t result in a fly-trapped stand.

I got a first-generation stand and wish I’d waited!

To our early adopter customers and beta testers: thank you. Your purchases and kind words, private and public, gave us the confidence and revenue necessary to pursue these improvements. If you bought one of our early stands or were in our beta test program, we’re offering you a new stand at $100 off the regular price. Offer expires 31 December 2018.