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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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Safety notice: small toggles may break, posing fall hazard

[Edit: this post has been misunderstood by some. To clarify, this is not a recall. There is no need to replace, modify, or purchase any parts. We are simply advising affected customers to use the parts we provided in a more reliable way than we first instructed.]

Most Tensa4 stands sold between December 2018 and April 2019 feature small toggle and loop assemblies to connect the poles. The small toggles, pictured below, should no longer be used as originally directed, because they may break.

Do not use these as originally directed.

Instead, users should secure the connections using the provided carabiners on the end of the loop, like this, making sure the ball is outside, and the carabiner inside the stand.

Correct use of the push pin, formerly “small toggle.”

While these small toggles pass our strength testing when undamaged, they have proven too easily damaged, sometimes invisibly, in rough handling, accidents, or extremes of normal use, and they may then break under load. For example, looping the hammock suspension around the toggle can deform it, leaving it weaker. Pulling on the attached line while the pin is halfway inside the hole: same thing. We have received enough reports of this happening (about one quarter of one percent) to expect more cases without corrective action. We have received no reports of injury.

We will replace any broken small toggles, now called push pins, noting that you should continue using only as a push pin to thread the lines through the holes in the ends of the poles, not to secure the connections as a toggle. Use carabiners or similarly sturdy toggles for that.

We have begun the process of revising all print and video documentation to reflect this change, and of notifying affected customers directly by email. [Edit: the revised documentation, versions 1.0 and 1.1, are now live on our Support page.]

This notice does not affect the currently shipping large toggles, which pass through larger (12mm) holes in the ends of the poles. It is nonetheless good practice to attach the carabiners to the ends of the loops as directed above, facing the opposite inside connection in the stand, because it prevents the carabiners from bending as can sometimes occur with other attachment styles.

These large toggles are not affected.

We thank you for understanding. We cannot prevent all equipment failure or falls, but we will always take reasonable care to minimize the incidence.

— Todd & Cheryl
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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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We’ve been Shugged!

Sean “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.