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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 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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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.