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. Most palms are notoriously shallow-rooted, while hanging 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:
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.
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 as bedding maintain and travel with a separate ground-based system “just in case.” Tensa Outdoor is putting an end to this.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.