I’m not quite sure how I feel about Tentsile, a temporary outdoor housing solution described as a “portable tree house for camping and playing” — translation: it’s a crazy hammock-cum-tent — that’s been positively blowing up across the interwebs as of late. Sure, it alleviates one of my greatest fears associated with roughing it in the woods in a tent — waking up to find that a snake has curled up beside you in your sleeping bag for warmth — but the thought of floating high above the ground in a bespoke “portable suspended habitation unit” with up to eight other people also makes me slightly uneasy (thank you, claustrophobia and acrophobia). And what if the winds pick up?

Regardless of my own personal issues, the U.K.-borne Tentsile concept is quite clever and quite practical in many situations. Here’s how it works:

The structure comprises a collapsable frame of webbing straps with fire retardant, UV PU and water resistant polyester fabric infill panels. The frame is held in tension by elongates which collect at each of the three high level anchor points, and at the base to form internal spaces.
Tentsile offers the beneficial comfort of a hammock with the accommodation capacity of a multi-person tent. By utilising a three dimensional tensile force, the most stable and versatile lightweight accommodation is achieved.
Due to the nature of Tentsile’s inverted pyramid shape, the single point of ground contact allows comfort with a level floor in any terrain or inclination. It’s elevated position provides separation from flood risk, sand storms, earth tremors and cold ground as well as offering increased protection from wildlife, including insects, snakes and other predators.

It’s that last part that resonates and not just because of the snake and critter protection. The few times (and I mean very few) that I’ve had to pitch a tent, it’s never been in a lovely, lush open field but in lumpy, bumpy, and sometimes soggy terrain where I've needed to spend a fair amount on time clearing away debris before even pitching the tent. Tentsile makes it possible to set up camp in the deep woods without disrupting the surrounding habitat by clearing away foliage. Now, all you’d need is a hanging bonfire contraption. And somewhere to go to the bathroom. I suppose for this, you'd have to make like a sloth and descend from your elevated hangout for a different sort of treehugging.

Anyways, as pointed out by team Tentsile, the contraptions could be used as a low-cost housing solution in natural or humanitarian disasters. On the other end of the housing spectrum, I’m thinking they could also make for simple, building-code-dodging backyard hideout.

As of now, three Tentsile models are available: A two-person model, a three- to four-person model, and a five- to eight-person model. They’re also available in a range of colors and, as mentioned, they are made by hand.

Apparently, the London-based Tentsile team are in the process of creating even larger models. Yikes. My question is: what serious backpacker would want to haul one of these bad boys deep into the woods? Sure, they’re portable but a bit heavier than your average three-season backpacking tent with the two-person model weighing in the 11 to 18 pound range. And then there's the matter of ladders ... you have to scale those trees to securely anchor a Tentsile, right? Calling all sherpas with excellent tree-climbing abilities …

Lots more, including an image gallery, over at the Tentsile homepage.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Pitch no more: Floating portable tree houses offer alternative to tents
From the U.K. comes the Tentsile, a tent/hammock hybrid that allows wilderness adventurers and backyard campers to socialize and sleep high above the ground —