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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.

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About Tensa Outdoor

We are two people who love camping, who prefer hammocks to sleeping on the ground. We’re known on Hammock Forums as Raftingtigger and Latherdome. One of us has slept nightly in a hammock at home for five years, and the other has pitched hammocks while trekking above the treeline, in desert canyons, and once underwater scuba diving. Stubborn and inventive, we’ve each come up with novel ways to hang hammocks when no trees are available.

We formed Tensa Outdoor when we saw that we could improve our stands by using the same materials, joining them into a modular system. The four-pole Tensa4 is the lightest and most compact hammock stand that works anywhere, even indoors on top of a twin bed. It packs easily in hand luggage or on a bike. Tensa Solo is a one or two-pole stand that’s even smaller and lighter, backpack-friendly, and works wherever strong ground anchoring is feasible. Both work with tarps, and are compatible with full-size gathered-end and some bridge hammocks.

Our products make hammocks reliably usable, helping people everywhere rest and sleep in unmatched comfort while traveling, for leisure, or at home as a bed.

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Why the Tensa4 hammock stand exists

Our Tensa4 hammock stand came about from hammock hanging needs that go way beyond camping, but cover full-time hangers like me. I developed the stand to avoid ever needing to try to sleep in a bed again, such as when staying in hotels. I’ve succeeded, with Cheryl’s expert help, and Tensa Outdoor has come together to help others enjoy the same freedom.

The photo above shows a Tensa4 set up on a twin bed, one of two in a cramped motel room. The hammock is an insulated LaSiesta Colibri (no affiliation, just a simple cheap all-in-one). I was attending a wedding on the coast, 2 nights. The first night, I attempted to sleep in the bed. As usual I slept terribly, so spoiled have I become by a hammock as bed at home. This is not the first time I’ve set up a Tensa4 in a motel room, but the previous night may well represent the last time I ever attempt to do without. I’m free now.

This stand packs and sets up just about anywhere, well below carry-on luggage dimensions, with no need to clear a space, drive anchors into anything, tie to trees or posts well-spaced, or even create trip hazards. It is truly unique in these respects, and we’re thrilled to bring it to market.

I first camped in a hammock in 2006. I liked it better than a tent and pad, but that’s as far as it went then. I went back to my bed at home, and continued to toss and turn, and to suffer back and neck pains, as I had all my life. Then in 2010 I took an 11-day bikepacking trip down the Pacific coast with my hammock. The trip was life-changing in many ways, among the simplest of which is that after several nights, I noticed my back pains went away completely. I slept like a baby every night on that trip, with sweet lucid dreams of holding my body in the cup of my hand, my hand become the hammock, in an infinite recursion of older me to younger me, oversoul to little me. I feel well taken care of in a hammock, the caretakers being me, an unknown Pre-Columbian genius likely from the Caribbean, and the universe dynamically balancing tensile and gravitational forces, cool in summer and warm with quilts hung below the rest of the year.

There is something womblike and protective about a hammock missing in beds, profoundly regenerative, like reconnecting to some universal umbilicus. Yes, I often sleep on my side in fetal position in a hammock, which has now been almost every night for 5 years. I’m never going back to a bed if I can help it.

Hammocks for camping are becoming hugely popular, but a constant limiter of their adoption is the scarcity of suitable trees in some otherwise wonderful places to camp. What’s more, many places with trees prohibit hanging hammocks, for reasons good and bad. These facts make hammocks less reliable as bedding choices than tents and pads. Tensa Outdoor is about fixing this, letting people hang truly anywhere, inside or out, whether full time at home or on the go.

Now, if ever I’m hospitalized, do you think they’ll let me set up in the ward, so I can rest?

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On the road

I’m on the road testing the Tensa4 hammock stand, camping, and visiting Cheryl at the Tensa factory (kitchen table and toolshed) in Woodland. Did you know you can now pre-order the stand? Yes. See the Shop page.