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Crowdsourced instructional video project

We need video help, and we’re offering prize money. The photo above is to help this blog article get seen. We made a not-clear-enough video about how it’s done.

We are grateful for our many happy customers. This is in spite of our written product instructions, that seem always either missing detail, or too long to read. You’ve figured it out, but it should be easier. Most new customers and shoppers want video. We know that our own video production skills are not great, and that we are maybe too close to our products to see them with beginner eyes, to know what needs more or better explanation, and what doesn’t.

We know that many customers already turn to YouTube for help setting up. They find mostly reviews and sometimes shaky “first impressions” instead of confident detailed instruction. Some instructional material is mostly good with a few errors that make us cringe. Some otherwise good videos are obsolete because we’ve changed the product.

That’s why we’re asking you, our customers, to make videos we can compile into curated playlists, to help other customers learn from your experience. We’ll pay you for your effort and skills, and you can also promote your channel, brand, or passions along the way, as long as the focus remains on how to use our products. We hope to “seed the clouds” of our creative customer base instead of hiring hammock-indifferent professionals to make slick videos that don’t capture our customers’ proud enthusiasm.

We have always seen the variety of good ways to assemble and use our stands as a strength. Showing only one way to do things gives a false impression that it’s the only way. Meanwhile, a single video showing many ways to do similar things would be too long and confusing. So let there be many, with a variety of personalities, styles and settings more engaging than what we can muster!

Specifically, we want setup videos for each of our three hammock stands. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  1. Tensa4: first-time basic, on slopes, indoors in hotel rooms, with various hammocks including long and short gathered ends, and various “lay flat” types like bridge, Haven, Amok Draumr, showing different anchoring techniques on different challenges. Using Tarp Extensions. Splitting the stand to hang two from a single support. Joining several together. Wow us with your smooth two-minute setup from bag to reclining, or take a beginner by the hand the slow way through each hand step with clear closeup shots!
  2. Tensa Solo: Basic setup with a single pole and one tree, or two poles. Conversion from Tensa4. Anchoring strategies, including detail on all three of the kinds of anchors we offer, with both guyline types. Use with a bicycle or motorcycle as one support. Tensioning and milking the bury of Amsteel guylines, by wrapping the tails around the pole and pulling backwards for mechanical advantage!
  3. Tensa Trekking Treez: Basic and advanced setup/anchoring for backpackers. Conversion between trekking pole and hammock modes. How not to destroy your tarp lifters by always guying them out properly!

We will pay $100 for each video we choose to add to our public playlist for each of these three product categories, with no quantity limit. In addition, on Black Friday 2023, the entry we judge best in each of these three categories will receive $200, with a grand prize for the best single video of $500. Only one Black Friday prize per video. For example, let’s say you submit three videos that we list: you get $300. Then on Black Friday we deem your Bikepacking with Tensa Solo short the best in category: you get $200. But finally your Tensa4 split-stand kayaking video is so well done that we deem it best overall: you get $500. These add up to $1000 for the three you submitted.

We will link to your YouTube channel if you wish, so you can ad-monetize, maintain ownership, as you prefer. If we love your work and you’re willing to make more with edits going forward, we are open to a longer term business arrangement at market rates, because we keep changing things.

Rules for submission

  1. Product-specific instructional focus, not overviews, brand lifestyle/marketing, or reviews. There is some overlap, but our main goal is to help customers use our stands in detail, not to sell them. Making happy customers is our main marketing strategy, the ones whose setup experiences are easy enough even the first time, and who feel like experts after half a dozen outings. Help us show them. You may even teach us some new tricks that we can roll into print instructions.
  2. No single video longer than ten minutes. Imagine a person with one bar of phone signal trying to set up their stand for the first time without print instructions: make it worth any wait with tight editing. Multiple videos are fine, as long as edited to make sense without having watched others. Two-minute and even shorter portrait-mode videos welcome! What single problem solution or insight are you most proud to share?
  3. When showing close detail instead of broad concepts, the product must be substantially current. We change things often, because we are wired that way, but this contributes to our problem keeping instructions up to date. If you show us video-making skill with older product, we will very likely upgrade your gear to latest spec in hopes you will re-shoot. If you show one or two bad practices in an otherwise great video, we may ask you to edit or re-shoot. If in doubt about whether to show a certain technique, ask! We want you to succeed.
  4. Production quality: at least high amateur. Minimal camera shake, good focus and framing. Easy-to-follow whether scripted or ad lib; live or voice-over narration, or none (mimes get the job done for our worldwide customer base). Naturalistic and casual is our preferred style, but if you can edit in some effective graphical overlays, more power to you.
  5. G-rated. No socially contentious matter such as politics, profanity, controlled substances, firearms, etc. No depiction of unsafe or destructive practices, unless as a warning. Funny is great. People of all sizes, ages, conditions, ethnicities, sexualities or religions etc. warmly welcome.

How to enter? Just email us your YouTube link, public or unlisted.

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Trekking Treez on the Pacific Crest Trail, the End

Above is at Sonora Pass, around 10,500′. It was a windy night, but not too cold, and the hammock’s tie-outs kept the sway down. This was the only overnight two-pole hang north of the desert, as trees were usually available. Here I chose to hike past the trees for this morning view, to say nothing of the jaw-dropping sunset. Besides, here on this treeless side of the ridge was the first signal in days. It was a challenging hang, on steep loose scree where no ground-dweller would ever think to camp, but I’d gotten very confident of my Treez skillz by that point.

The end

Thanks to our unique product Trekking Treez, I believe I’m the first PCT hiker to have used only a hammock properly hung through 100% of the “unhammockable” sections of this trail. I thought often of the ancients of Central America who seem to have invented hammocks on this same cordillera in the tropics, long before Columbus, and how this same elegant technology is enjoying a renaissance among hammock campers all over the world. I’m proud to play the smallest part.

I hiked my best hike. I came home to Portland in early July from Dunsmuir, California, in the shadow of magnificent Mt. Shasta, near trail mile 1500 since Mexico. I wrote about all of my hike personally, and my decision to call it short of Canada on my Facebook, if that interests you. I’m still adjusting to life back in the fake world, slowly navigating a shallow depression after so many overwhelmingly beautiful, soul-shaking days stacked on end. I feel hollowed out and grateful. Tender blissful grief. It’s hard to move on from the greatest adventure of my lifetime by far (except maybe parenting, ongoing!).

It’s not always about the hammock: Trekking Treez as hiking poles

I needed Trekking Treez for hammocking only a few times north of the desert. The most unique thing about them is their hammock function, but they also have some unique features as trekking poles.

If I got a nickel for every set of broken poles, or parts of them, that I came across along the way, especially those abandoned in hiker boxes, I would be a few dollars richer. When you read reviews of ultralight trekking poles, you’ll see that a chief complaint is that they break. This is natural for anything super light. Light is nice for obvious reasons, but I wonder how many of the broken poles I found got replaced with something more sturdy?

Trekking Treez weigh about 12 ounces (340g) in hand, each. (There are more parts weighing about the same per pole in the pack.) This is lighter than some well-reviewed aluminum trekking poles on the market. But because they are instead carbon fiber at this relatively high weight, they are likely the strongest trekking poles you can buy. Most manufacturers using carbon fiber use this strong material to strip away every last unnecessary bit of it, resulting in exceptional lightness. We’ve gone the opposite direction, using the least amount of material necessary to produce poles strong enough to support adults in a hammock. As a side effect, they are strong enough to use in ways that would constitute abuse for ordinary trekking poles.

Icy snow

In the deep, steep, crusty snow fields of the high mountains in spring, an ice axe is often essential, especially to arrest falls on fatal icy chutes. Trekking Treez do not replace an ice axe for this specific critical function. The other main use of an ice axe is to plunge through the crust, deep into the snow, and use the head as a hand-hold, to prevent slipping and falling in the first place. TT are brilliant for this. I used them over dozens of hours traversing snowy spring slopes, never worrying that I’d snap one, even when my feet slipped and my whole weight was on the handle.

I had an ice axe with me in the San Jacinto mountains in March, but entering the Sierra Nevada in May, I brought no axe. This felt foolish on some of the hairier north faces of passes around 14,000′, but that also helped me appreciate that I had such stout poles to stab into the ice.

Water crossing

Safety at water crossings, especially whitewater, nearly requires poles. Hopping from polished rock to rock, or teetering on logs slick and shaky, it’s vital to plant the carbide tips onto the rocks above and below the surface for balance. The more weight you can safely transfer to the poles, the more confidently you cross. And if your tip slips down an underwater chuckhole, and you torque it falling, will it snap? TT aren’t indestructible, but I soon came to rely on them in ways I wouldn’t dare treat ordinary poles, even to vault across larger gaps with no run-up. I became proud of crossing a dozen or more fast streams daily without getting my shoes wet, Parkour-style, where hikers with normal poles would opt to ford, more slowly and with different hazards.

Super long reach

By the time I reached Yosemite, I had embraced another unique feature: their extra length. In normal hiking mode, the poles offer a typical range of height adjustment. But we offer pole extensions for hammock mode, because the foot end must be higher than any normal trekking pole. There’s no reason not to use hammock mode for other purposes, however. At maximum length, TT has the grips at a whopping 63″ (160cm)! I wish I had video of me gondola-ing across a harrowing high log over whitewater, where I used both poles fully extended for stability. We could rename “hammock mode” to gondolier or even trapeze mode. True gymnasts will love our poles even if they don’t hammock. I suppose John Muir would have chopped down saplings at these crossings, that today would violate Leave No Trace. Yes, we called them Treez for their hammock function, but there are many more uses of tree-like poles than hanging hammocks.

Who needs separate tarp poles?

I often hung my hammock between trees on steep slopes. Once, a chance of rain meant I pitched my tarp. The ground falling away downslope meant the tarp would block the view unless I could prop it up. Again, normal trekking poles would have been far too short for this. TT maxed out were just right.

A hiking staff by any other name

A cousin of trekking poles is the hiking staff. Carried singly instead of in pairs, hiking staffs are taller and heavier than trekking poles, meant to bear a user’s whole weight safely as needed. TT fits this bill perfectly when the tall hammock foot is installed. Admittedly, we haven’t tested how durable the hammock foot (as opposed to the carbide trekking tip) is when used over long distances, but on softer surfaces it should hold up pretty well, certainly better than hiking with the rubber tips covering the carbide. (Those feet fall off and get lost really fast; their best use is just to protect other items from the sharp carbide tips when the poles are packed.)

Actually innovative straps

Another feature of TT, unique in a market of barely distinct strap and grip assemblies picked from large factory catalogs, are the hand straps. It’s hard to get excited about straps, but these are special, developed just in time for my hike as a hard test. I made a video about how our ultra-wide, ultra-soft Ultrasuede straps replace sun gloves, sweat mops, and snot rags, and also encourage good technique by supporting your whole hands comfortably, so you don’t feel need to grip the grips, interfering with their free pendular motion. I forgot to mention in the video that adjusting the straps extra long, so you can hold the poles with only 2 fingers below the grips, reduces the swing weight of the poles. This makes them feel lighter in use than they are.

Make with the photos already

For the sake of a complete accounting, below are all instances where I used TT to hang my hammock in the Sierra and Northern California sections of the PCT.

Just land here? This is the last of a three-part series.

  1. Tensa Trekking Treez on the Pacific Crest Trail
  2. Trekking Treez on the Pacific Crest Trail, Part Two
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Trekking Treez on the Pacific Crest Trail, Part Two

I have now reached Kennedy Meadows South, mile 702 of the Pacific Crest Trail, thus ending the desert segment and beginning the Sierra Nevada. I have not once slept on the ground so far thanks to my Warbonnet Blackbird XLC hammock and Tensa Trekking Treez as my sole sleeping arrangement. Mission accomplished!

I have needed to use one or both Treez 20 nights thus far, out of 58 nights total, so about a third. Below is a gallery of all 20 of those hangs. Because it is faster and more convenient to hang from trees, other poles, or rock features than from Trekking Treez, I used TT only when there were no reasonable alternatives. I could have used TT 100% of nights if that were my goal. As trees are more reliably available at points north, I expect to use the poles in hammock mode going forward less frequently.

Even though trees are available below treeline in the Sierra ahead, camping below treeline will not always be desirable, because safety and speed calls for crossing the high passes early in the mornings when the remaining snow is harder. Tomorrow I will set out with 12 days of food aiming to reach Vermilion Valley Ranch without descending below 10,000’ to resupply. I plan to hang from the poles above treeline amid the rocks to speed my way. This should make for some epic photos at the very least.

Another reason I will keep using the poles ahead is that they are much stronger as trekking poles than ordinary ones. While they absolutely do not replace an ice axe where necessary, I feel much more confident using Trekking Treez for stability in deep snow or boulder fields, that commonly cause ordinary lighter poles to break. The trail and hiker boxes along the way are fairly littered with snapped and bent poles. I have salvaged still-new carbide tips from these abandoned poles twice already, as I have worn through the originals.

I began this hike with a small amount of anxiety about whether TT would always work for me, given the unknown ground conditions of the desert segment. These feelings are now completely gone. Ground sleepers often stop hiking earlier in the day than they want, solely because they lack confidence of finding suitable flat, clear tent sites ahead before dark. I always hike as long as I want, knowing I can figure something out almost anywhere, whether the ground is sloped or flat, rocky or soft, and of course whether trees are present. This to me is liberating, and speeds my progress.

Of course, the greatest support to my speed and comfort on trail is the consistently restorative sleep and day lounging the hammock provides. Sleeping with feet slightly elevated is fantastic for recovery, aiding venous return from overworked legs better than the compression hosiery and pack-under-legs strategies ground sleepers often use.

In reality, a bigger issue than lack of trees for using a hammock exclusively on the PCT is the wind. While using a tent in high winds isn’t pleasant either, suffice to say it’s very good that I don’t get seasick. Guying the sides of the hammock out to ground minimizes but does not eliminate the sway. One night a stiff cross wind spinnakered me in the hammock to perhaps 30° off plumb several times. Using a tarp for wind protection can add a little warmth and stability, but at the expense of a deafening roar beyond earplugs’ ability to make soft, and the tarp’s guylines must be very strongly anchored to resist the blast.

Wind passing under the hammock draws away heat that ground sleepers retain for a given amount of insulation. When winds are up, I find using an underquilt protector essential to staying warm even when the overnight low is 25°F higher than the rating of my quilts. Equipped with 20°F quilts and protector, I was always warm enough even on the six nights I woke to ice in my water bottles.

I’m pleased to report that regardless of wind or other challenges, never once did the system collapse to drop me in the night. It is also true that my initial anchor placements failed maybe a dozen times in total during setup and testing. Proving the anchors with some hard bouncy test sits is an important part of setup. In the worst case, in an immense burn zone with dead loose soil, I had to re-set 2 of 4 anchors 3 times over half an hour before I could rest confident that they’d hold the night.

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Tensa Trekking Treez on the Pacific Crest Trail

Just land here? This is the first of a three-part series.

Several people have recounted thru-hiking the 2,653-mile Pacific Crest Trail using a hammock as their primary sleeping arrangement. All of the reports we’ve seen describe frequently sleeping on the ground with their hammock in the ~700-mile desert sections from the Mexican border to the southern Sierra Nevada, after which trees become more reliably available. Sleeping on the ground (or even beds) isn’t what we mean when we say hammocking.

What if you could reliably hammock in the total absence of trees, say above treeline in the Sierra, or on brush-covered slopes where no tent can go, or on a sandy plain full of cactus, all within the constraints of lightweight, long-haul backpacking?

I’m Todd, Tensa Outdoor co-owner, now about 150 miles into my northbound PCT thru-hike attempt, using Tensa Trekking Treez and a Warbonnet Blackbird XLC hammock as my only bed. My business partner Cheryl not only engineered this system of trekking poles that converts to a hammock stand, but she’s retired from her medical career allowing me to step away from the business these months to show what it can do. I’m a very lucky man at 56.

So far, I’ve spent not a single night on the ground or even in beds when overnighting in civilization. My goal is to hammock the entire way, as I have every night since 2013 under easier conditions. Indeed, I’m carrying no sleeping pad or similar ground arrangement. I’m pretty sure I’m the most comfortable hiker on trail, and I’m having the time of my life!

I’m also field testing some new and experimental elements of Trekking Treez that will likely soon become standard or optional elements of the system. So far, everything’s performing beautifully in very tough conditions.

Right this moment I’m in my hammock hung from the log joists of a rustic cabin while resupplying in Idyllwild below Mt. San Jacinto, where I learned backpacking as a child in the 1970s. Nostalgia overload! Tomorrow I take on the mountain.

Here’s a gallery of every hang I’ve made so far, all 14 nights. I’m keeping a record for bragging rights to show how Trekking Treez make it possible to tackle trails like this without compromising on the restorative comfort of hammocks, safely and reliably.

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One tree, two hammocks

It’s much easier to find one good tree than two correctly spaced, especially in the American west. And where there are no trees at all, often a vehicle can support one side of a hammock. We design our hammock stands to exploit these facts to the fullest, offering Tensa Solo and Trekking Treez singly instead of in pairs. This assures better portability and economy than any other stands we know. Even Tensa4, that doesn’t come in a single-side variant, can hang two hammocks from a single tree or similar support.

Earlier this summer my son and I hiked part of Mt. Hood’s Timberline Trail. We brought a pair of Trekking Treez, as the glacial stream crossings are much safer with poles than without, to say nothing of the treacherous scramble below McNeil Point. Using a single pole per person is half the weight and expense of two, while Trekking Treez’s strength, much greater than typical trekking poles, inspires plenty of confidence even under full body weight.

When we reached our overnight destination of Elk Cove late in the day, in the tree-sparse high alpine zone, we made use of a single Whitebark Pine to hang both our hammocks, far more quickly and sociably than if we’d needed to find separate pairs of trees. We could have pitched tarps, but the clear skies gave us unforgettable views of the Milky Way and even the Neowise comet.

Later in the season, we traveled to Crater Lake. Smoke from the wildfires had only begun to dim the views, but we found refuge near the headspring of the Rogue River on the western slope of the volcano. Not wanting to leave our river view or bushwhack too much to find four suitable trees clear of underbrush, we split one Tensa4 stand into two halves to hang us both from one tree.

A single stake under the head end apex secures a V-shaped guyline running along the ground to prevent the feet from sliding treeward. The same stake provides an anchor point to prevent the stand tipping for more security; we just hung our packs from the head ends instead. It was useful to have had two extra ball loop connectors than come with the stand to connect the feet to the ground straps, but otherwise we used no additional parts.

We brought the stand along because we planned later to camp at hot springs in the treeless scrub near the Alvord Desert, where we’d hang from the roof rack of our vehicle in a similar manner. Sadly, the wildfire smoke became too oppressive even that much further east, so we ended our trip without photos of that arrangement.

More detail on the split Tensa4 setup:

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Trekking Treez backpackable hammock stands

After years of development, today we release our Trekking Treez hammock stands. Trekking Treez function as trekking poles on the way to camp, and then as your hammock stand once there. (Bring your own “trees.”) Weighing not much more than the trekking poles you’d normally carry, and packing to just 20 inches long, they are truly ultralight backpackable — something few if any other hammock stands can claim — and will accommodate almost all camping hammocks out there. Hammocks aside, they are probably the strongest trekking poles on the market by a large margin. Also probably the heaviest, but still pleasant to use!

On granite at Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada

The first backpackable stand we know of was the Handy Hammock stand, now apparently discontinued. Its poles were impressively light. These worked with shorter hammocks than Trekking Treez, involved a delicate trussing system, came with 12 ground stakes weighing more than the poles, didn’t support tarps at higher than the level of the hammock, packed to a longish 28 inches, and did not function as trekking poles. Still, they inspired Tensa Outdoor’s Todd to buy a set before ever meeting me, Cheryl. Me, I like to make things, especially if I see a better way.

Backpacking in summer 2014, uncomfortable as often in my tent, I got mad and bailed out to my day hammock for the night. I have not slept on the ground since that eye opening (or eye shutting) night. I joined Hammockforums.net as Raftingtigger, and started devouring information on hammock camping. I saw quickly that a holy grail of hammock backpacking was a trekking pole that doubled as a hammock stand. After several more trips marred by worry over finding the right trees, making such a thing became a project. Then in July 2015, poster Sirenobie posted a prototype mashup of standard trekking poles and a trussing system like the Handy Hammock. Out to the shop, and soon I was hanging from my hiking poles.

This worked for a few nights, but it soon became clear that standard trekking poles aren’t strong enough as a hammock stand even at my 135-lb weight. The adjustment clamps would slip, de-tensioning the critical truss lines. I added hose clamps, and then the smallest diameter segments failed. One night I fell and repaired things three times before dawn. I needed purpose-built poles.

I built those poles from aluminum in small batches, and started a company TiggzCraftworkz to share the fun. I called them NoGround Trekking poles. They were taller than the Handy Hammock, so would accommodate 11-foot hammocks with proper sag and enough room for the underquilt. NoGround poles also used a trussing system similar to Handy Hammock, but the anchors were simpler and lighter. These were also an idea found on Hammockforums.net, now available as our Tensa Boomstakes. I spent an inordinate amount of time handcrafting every single pole, pre-tensioning the lines, turning many parts on my lathe. By the end of 2018, with Tensa Outdoor running, it was time to retire NoGround, or rather reinvent the product in carbon fiber, the only material strong and light enough to work in trekking-pole diameters without fussy trussing.

Trekking Treez have been in prototype for about a year now, and have gone on many of my adventures. They are now ready for prime time. Is there still room for improvement? Of course: we’re always improving everything. But we think we’re already close to the limits of material science on the basics, so don’t expect major changes soon.

Above the treeline on Mt. Hood

Why three hammock stands?

We now offer three distinct hammock stands: Tensa4, Tensa Solo, and now Trekking Treez. Is this really necessary? Which one to choose?

Broadly, our mission is to keep hammockers aloft, off the ground and even beds unless they choose, regardless whether trees or rules cooperate. Seen this way, three stand designs might not be enough.

Trekking Treez (TT) as lightest and most compact is the best backpacking choice among our stands, especially if you already use trekking poles, which makes part of the weight “free.” It is otherwise functionally similar to the less expensive Tensa Solo, which began its life as a budget version of the former “NoGround” predecessor to TT.

Tensa Solo remains the budget choice, lacking trekking pole functionality. It’s heavier than TT, but certainly manageable in a pack, especially if you bring only one to pair with a single tree or other hanging point.

Tensa4‘s design does not depend on strong ground anchoring, so it’s the most reliable choice, working even indoors. It is also the heaviest, and intermediate in cost between Solo and TT. While people have hiked for miles with Tensa4, its weight around 12 pounds makes it better for car or motorcycle camping, at home or in hotels.

As a table:

Deployability Portability Cost
Tensa4 Almost anywhere: tiny footprint, indoor/outdoor, level or sloped ~12lbs/5.5kg, carry-on luggage, easy to move deployed $$$
Trekking Treez Footprint is ~1.5 parking spaces, outdoor only, most soils ~2.9lbs/1.3kg more than typical trekking poles (no tree; half if 1 tree), carry-on luggage $$-$$$$
Tensa Solo Footprint is ~1.5 parking spaces, outdoor only, most soils ~7.3lbs/3.3kg (no tree; half if 1 tree), carry-on luggage $-$$

Hang Safe, and don’t Go To Ground.

Cheryl aka Raftingtigger

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Hammocks banned in hammock paradise

Hammocks and the tropics go together like tacos and more tacos. Hammocks were born in the tropics. Hammocks on a beach are as ideal, iconic, romantic, and often elusively unrealistic as driving a convertible sports car on a beautiful, empty, twisty country road.

You can’t always get what you want.

The sad truth is that fewer and fewer popular tropical travel destinations accommodate hammocks well or at all, at least close to the water. Either trees are absent, too small, or protected by regulation from the damage that visitors inflict with poor hanging practices. Hanging from shallow-rooted palms or under coconuts can even be deadly. Hammocks are not allowed to be hung from trees in Dry Tortugas National Park, for instance, only a few hundred miles from where Columbus found the Taino people enjoying hamacas as their regular beds.

That’s why customer Matt S. and his girlfriend were “the envy of most of the other campers” with their Tensa4 stand, which happens to pack to carry-on size:


Tensa Outdoor partner Cheryl is a passionate scuba diver and an every-night hammock sleeper. She recently enjoyed a 15-day diving trip in Baja California with her husband. In four of the five places they stayed, both outdoors and in, hanging hammocks would have been impossible without Tensa4, either for lack of hanging points or by regulation. With the stand, she was able to sleep every night as she is accustomed, in unmatched coolness and comfort.

On the return leg, in Joshua Tree National Park, she quickly rigged up a novel hammock chair stand she dubs Tensa3, which is simply 3/4 a Tensa4. When the light is just right, the pyramid focuses the cosmic rays to decalcify her pineal gland, right smack dab in the middle:

Could you use such an arrangement to field dress hunting quarry? Suspend a cauldron over a fire? Frame a lavvu or tipi-style shelter? Prop up … most anything? Of course. Poles predate and surpass the wheel in general usefulness.

But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

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Make your own tensahedron stand

Bushcrafted on the spot, lashed connections. Published here previously, it’s just too beautiful not to re-use.

The idea behind our Tensa4 stand is so simple that inexpensive homemade versions are irresistible. There have been several dozen DIY builds shown online since we showed our prototype in October 2017. They can be hard to find in the ephemeral jumble of social media streams, with their poor search features, and build details are scarce. To help fix this, we present below three builds that seem to us especially good: simple, cheap, and not requiring fancy tools or skills to make.

Dane’s bare bones tensahedron

One of the earliest builds is still startling for low cost, at $21. Poster Daneaustin3 presented it in November 2017:

No stand ridgeline necessary when hammock has one.

In his own words:

3/4″ EMT conduit with 220lbs in it. I used steel cable to hold the conduit together.
Parts:
4x 3/4 conduit cut to 95″ (fits in my 8′ bed truck) $4.25 ea
4x 1′ steel cable $.36 per foot
4x cable clamps $.63 ea.
Total cost $21

Travis’s segmented fence top rail tensahedron

Hammocks not commonly seen in these here Utah parts.

Travis Hodgson (aka fivefreds), wasn’t the first to use fence top rail instead of EMT, but he did put up some good photos. Top rails are heavy and strong. These come typically 10′ long with one end swaged. Chop the pole in half for easier transport, and you can insert the swaged end into the middle to rejoin, securing with a pin. 10′ is more than long enough, so you might chop 3-10″ further off the sections.

Travis’s pole connectors are super elegant: continuous loops of Amsteel rope pushed through grommeted holes drilled in the pole ends, and then looped over the pole ends to secure.

It’s important to assure that the holes in the poles don’t cut the rope used to connect them. Grommets are a good idea, because steel can be hard to de-burr adequately. The coolest grommets I’ve seen are short pieces of copper tubing inserted through the holes and hand peened smooth:

Hard metal, meet soft metal. Artisanal peening.

Mike’s telescopic EMT conduit clothes line tensahedron

Save on power bills with this elegant laundry desiccation apparatus where permitted by homeowner covenant.

Mike Jones’ build uses two telescoping sizes of conduit to allow the poles to collapse to about half the full length for easier transport. Multiple stops make the poles adjustable length. The joint is near the middle, the weakest part of the pole, but 1″ steel conduit is pretty strong, and the overlap generous to take up much of the slop between EMT sizes.

The adjustable poles get just long enough to tension your tarp.
Round wire locks pin the poles at desired length.
Note how poles needn’t touch each other? Tensegrity design has compression members floating in tensioned lines.



In Mike’s words, edited:

Maximum length of each pole is 9’6″ and collapses down to 5’4″. Materials added up to about $50 provided you already have tools, hammock setup, and some 550 paracord.

Parts:

  1. Two: 10′ x 3/4″ EMT
  2. Two: 10′ x 1″ EMT
  3. 550 paracord (used to attach the two points that touch the ground together. As well as button knots on a loop, like MeyersTech ties, to run though the 3/8″ holes attaching the poles together.) This will likely be replaced by Amsteel or webbing over time.
  4. One: 1/4″ PEX tubing (I found a 5′ length to buy but I only needed 1.5″ or 2″ per hole in the EMT to create a bushing so the paracord is not cut by the EMT. I had to heat the end of the PEX over a candle to flair it out.)
  5. Various hammock straps and lines to attach the hammock and tarp
  6. Eight: Rubber Leg Tips. I used 3/4″ tips for the 3/4″ tubing but I would likely buy 1″ tips if I make it again. Then I used 1-1/8″ tips for the 1″ tubing. Then I placed 1″ and 1-1/4″ fender washers inside the rubber leg tips so the EMT tubing does not cut through.
  7. Four: 3/8″ x 1-5/8″ Round Wire Locks. These are to secure the telescoping poles at various lengths while in use and in the compact mode for transportation.

I used the 9’6″ set up for my 12′ tarp, and it worked great, but a shorter pole length would also work. If you keep the two poles that touch the ground at 90° to one another, the following table of pole lengths will be a good estimate of ridgeline (hypotenuse) length. There is plenty of wiggle room here, but it gives you a starting point.

Pole Ridgeline
9.5′ 13.4′
9′ 12.7′
8.5′ 12.0′
8′ 11.3′
7.5′ 10.6′
5.5′ 7.8′
Tensa4 is our trademark, Mike! We call other builds tensahedrons (tensegrity+tetrahedron).

Want another EMT version that packs even smaller? See US soldier Kamileon’s build.

Other approaches

In addition to steel, DIY tensahedrons have been made from wood, bamboo, fiberglass, aluminum, and carbon fiber.

The pole material determines the necessary diameter for enough strength. For about 300lbs in the hammock, 3/4″ is adequate for most steel including EMT conduit. 1.5″ is likely enough for aluminum. Wood and bamboo can be very beautiful, but as irregular natural materials, it is important to select carefully: 2 inches is a prudent minimum for clear wood (no knots, straight grain) or structurally sound bamboo.

The poles must be joined at their ends into a diamond shape, with none of the joints having fixed angles, but instead floppy, permitting the poles to assume any angle, and to rotate at least several degrees. We favor rope loop connectors as simple and field serviceable, but various combinations of hardware and even lashing can also work. Avoid using hardware that can put bending moment on the poles when loaded, such as eye bolts protruding from the sides of the poles: poles should be in pure compression, lines in tension.

Joints along the poles can be points of failure, especially near the middle. Best to use either very strong materials, split into an odd number of segments, or both. (Tensa4 poles are divided into 7 segments, with the largest diameter in the middle).

Why are we telling you this?

As a company, our focus is on products offering value beyond what people can easily make for themselves. Why promote cheap alternatives to buying our stuff?

Apart from us doing all the work, burdening nobody with the task of reading long blog posts, the special value of our Tensa4 stand is how we’ve made it pack so small and light: carry-on airline luggage, easy to pack on a bike with a motor or not, in a subcompact car, Cessna 150, kayak, or even a backpack. We realize that this amount of portability isn’t worth the price to everybody, especially large families seldom far from large vehicles, scout troops, extremely cool small national armies, or people who want only a home solution. We can’t compete with your local hardware store for basic poles if you’re willing to contribute labor. We truly love helping people get off the ground with hammocks, especially where they couldn’t without this design.

Meanwhile, we figure the more people embrace the basic design, the more interest may turn to our packable dialed-in version, in 28 segments of custom made telescoping aluminum, keyed and anodized, not available at Home Depot. Quite a few of our customers, in fact, made one or more stands themselves before buying Tensa4.

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Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii

That’s Navajo for Valley of the Rocks, or Monument Valley. Sited within the Navajo Nation, there’s no image more iconic or clichéd for the US desert Southwest. The first written account of the place is from a US Army officer in 1859, who found it “as desolate and repulsive-looking a country as can be imagined,” citing the lack of tree cover. No place for a couple of Norwegian hammocks, surely.

The Mitten and Merrick Buttes, yeah, behind the weird hammocks. Photos by AZsteelman.
Amok Draumr transverse hammocks pining for the fjords. Tensa4 on the right; DIY tensahedron on the left.
Sunrise after what must have been a sublime night of stargazing.

Hammock camping in the US is much more popular east of the Mississippi than west. The humidity of eastern summers makes tents miserable, while hammocks are famously cool without bottom insulation. Then of course, there are lots of trees too. Out west, the most common reaction among tent campers to the idea of hammock camping is “that’s fine if you have trees.” Many who have discovered the comfort of hammocks keep and travel with a separate ground-based system “just in case.” We are putting an end to this.

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Tensa Solo in photos

Tensa Solo with Dream Hammock Darien, jealous Helinox chair, and Honda CB500X, not included with Tensa Solo, on either Mars or Oregon’s Alvord Desert in fire season. Photo by Cliff Volpe.

Our Tensa Solo hammock stand hasn’t gotten as much attention as Tensa4. It may be less striking, but Solo is the ticket when you need a much lighter, more compact solution than Tensa4. It’s cheaper, too! Solo’s relative obscurity stems partly from our prior lack of many good photos of it in use, pictures being worth a thousand words. Now that we’ve gotten a fair number out into the world, customers are starting to post great stuff:

Notice tarp extension, extending the … tarp
Bikepacker’s dream. Yes, that’s a Surly Troll with B+M dynamo lighting system, Ergon GP3 Biokork grips, Brooks Cambium C17 Carved saddle, Schwalbe Big Apples, and Alfine internal gearhub holding up the head end, not that we notice this sort of thing.
Even this earlier version of Tensa Solo is far superior to ACME hammock stands. Saguaro is not for hanging. Dream Hammock Darien. Photo by Cliff Volpe.

Which should you choose, Tensa4 or Tensa Solo? It comes down to reliability versus portability. Tensa4 is extremely reliable, able to be set up indoors or out, but at 10-13 pounds, it’s not suitable for backpacking. Tensa Solo at only 2.3lbs (1.04kg) per side is pack friendly, but you must be able to set down strong anchors, two per side, making it less reliable in uncertain ground conditions. It’s still very likely to work in most places, but that last lacking measure of confidence can loom large when you depend on a hammock for rest and shelter.

You don’t have to choose: you can convert one Tensa4 into four Solos with our Conversion kits, so you can have both at far less than the cost of buying separately.

Tensa Solo anchoring tips

If you suspect that the ground you’ll be trying to pitch in is extremely hard or rocky, you may want to use heavier metal hammer-in nails instead of the Orange Screws we include, which work best wherever they can be driven in. It’s not a matter of one being better than the other generally, but of suitability for specific conditions. More tips:

  • Tie to the base of a firmly rooted woody shrub or exposed rock feature, with or without the Orange Screw reinforcing.
  • Excavate any very loose soil until you uncover firmer, and drive the anchor into that.
  • Hit a big rock, root, treasure chest? Excavate enough opposite the hammock side either to tie to the object itself if massive, or to drive the anchor in behind it.
  • Check your anchors between nights, repositioning if they seem loose, especially if there’s been rain.
  • Anchors driven further away from the stand, with longer guylines, tend to hold better than those positioned close, soil conditions being the same.
  • Heavier users, or those facing exceptionally loose or soft muddy ground devoid of reinforcing roots: more anchors. We include only 2 per pole, but more work. Pass the guyline through the anchor heads in a manner that equalizes the load on them.