You might have heard of tree tents, and how they are an increasingly popular choice among people enjoying the outdoors. But there have been some questions from consumers about whether they are comfortable to sleep in, and whether they are even safe to use.
Tree tents are generally a safe and comfortable choice for camping accommodations as long as they are installed properly, and some basic safety protocols are followed.
Tree tents may be a trendy topic in outdoor living, but they’re not the only minimalist option for camping in the woods. Read on to find out more about tree tents and how people use them.
What Exactly Is A Tree Tent?
A tree tent is basically what it says on the tin. It’s a tent that is installed in a tree, rather than on the ground. Unlike a hammock, a tree tent is designed similar to a ground tent in that it is designed to completely encapsulate the person inside. This protects the camper from insects a well as the elements.
A tree tent is installed by hanging the tent between adjacent trees, but many tree tents are also capable of being installed on the ground should nearby trees be unavailable when it comes time to set up camp.
Like tree houses, tree tents can be accessed by a rope ladder or similar mechanism. However, unlike tree houses, tree tents are completely portable. Tree tents are lightweight enough that they can be carried on a camper’s back easily and are suitable for multi-day camping trips.
These types of tents have gained significant popularity over the past few years as the materials for constructing tree tents become increasingly lightweight at the same time as they’re able to carry more weight. With these engineering enhancements, tree tents are increasingly becoming a good choice for those people who want to go camping but don’t want to sleep on the ground.
Are Tree Tents Safe?
One of the biggest concerns potential consumers have about tree tents is their safety. After all, there are many horror stories out there about hunters falling out of tree stands and being left out in the woods with a broken leg or worse.
However, the truth is that once a camper learns how to install a tree tent correctly, these portable domiciles are perfectly safe. Not only are they just as safe as any tent you install on the ground when installed correctly, but tree tents can also even be considered more safe in certain camping environments.
For example, a grizzly bear or pack of wolves will be much less likely to harass you if you’re sleeping suspended between trees than on the ground. In camping regions with large apex predators, it can be a safer option to sleep off the ground than on it.
Are Tree Tents Comfortable?
Another major question that consumers have about tree tents is whether they’re comfortable, most people probably conjuring up unpleasant images of being wedged uncomfortably in a cheap backyard hammock.
Tree tents are similar to sleeping off the ground in a hammock but aren’t quite as confining. While it might take some adjustment to get used to sleeping suspended off the ground if you aren’t used to it, sleeping in a tree tent is often significantly more comfortable than sleeping on the hard ground.
This is because your body is bearing less of your own weight when you’re suspended in mid-air, and the elasticity of the tent’s bottom absorbs the impact of your body.
Of course, the brand of tent does matter. Here is one that I recommend (Click to see Amazon Listing).
Advantages of Tree Tents
There are many advantages to using a tree tent versus using a traditional tent or a hammock. Here are some of the potential advantages you can enjoy by using a tree tent while camping:
- Clean and comfortable: A tree tent is more comfortable than sleeping on the cold hard ground, especially during cooler seasons when the ground might be frozen. With a good sleeping bag, a tree tent can leave you as snug as a bug in a rug.
- Less buggy than a hammock: A tree tent offers the same comfort of a hammock but allows the camper to close themselves up to avoid mosquitoes and other pests, same as with a traditional tent. Plus, you get to avoid the ground bugs that may wriggle their way into a ground tent. Bonus!
- No tent poles to carry: A tree tent lets you carry all of your camping supplies out into the woods on your back more easily, without loading you down.
- Allows camping in rough terrain: Want to camp in wet, rocky, mountainous areas? With a tree tent, it’s no problem. You’ll stay high and dry, without having a sharp rock jab you in the ribs all night to boot.
- Lower camp impact: If you’re concerned with leaving less of a mark when you set up and pack up camp, tree tents are a good solution.
- More campsite options: Unlike a ground tent, using a tree tent allows you to set up camp way off the beaten path, so you don’t end up camping next to the forest RV park. This allows campers who seek solitude in the woods to get some privacy.
Disadvantages of Tree Tents
Even though tree tents come with a variety of benefits, there are some downsides to using a tree tent versus a traditional ground tent or hammock as well. Here are some of the disadvantages of tree tents:
- Need trees: To use a tree tent, you’ll obviously need trees of adequate strength to hold a person’s weight and also trees that are spaced out far enough to install a tree tent. This can somewhat limit your options, depending on where you’re camping.
- Cold: In cold weather, tree tents can feel colder than sleeping on the ground because the wind causes heat loss, and the ground actually retains heat to a degree. So tree tents might not be the best option in near-freezing or freezing temperatures.
- May wake light sleepers: Due to the bouncing involved with a person moving around in a tree tent, one person rolling over in their sleep might disturb someone else also sleeping in the tree tend due to the weight shift.
- High cost: Some tree tents are economical or at least comparable to ground tents, but the really nice ones can easily run over five hundred dollars. That’s not a small chunk of change for a camping tent.
- Can be dangerous: If a tree tent isn’t set up correctly and a person falls out of it and hurts themselves, they can be in real trouble if they’re in an isolated area and don’t have a cell phone or options for help.
- The learning curve involved: Unlike ground camping, which is quite simple and can be learned even by children in scout groups, setting up a tree tent requires a bit of a learning curve and can be difficult to pick up on the fly, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. Best to practice at home first.
How to Set Up A Tree Tent
Ground tents are fairly easy to install, but tree tents can be slightly trickier. Here are some tricks for having an easier time while setting up your tree tent:
- Scout out your campground first. Because you’re dependent on having the right trees to set up a tree tent, figure out a good place to install the tent and make sure it has trees that are close enough together to set it up before dragging everything out.
- Find three trees that are bunched together in a triangle. If one of your trees is closer than the other two, your tent will not install evenly and will sag in one corner, so try to get the trees as close to an equal distance apart as possible. It isn’t necessary, but it does make the final setup look better.
- Tie the tent straps to the trees. Make sure that the tent straps are tied onto the tree at approximately the same height all the way around, or the tent will not sit evenly when
- Attach ratchets to the tent straps and tighten up the tent. These ratchets will tighten the straps on the tree tent until the tent is taut and suspended mid-air without any sag. Ratcheting the tree tent is one of the most important steps in the process of installing the tent to make sure that it stays suspended with a person’s weight in it.
- Adjust the corners of the tent for balance and tighten the straps further: Unlike a hammock, in which you want to allow a sag in, a tree tent is designed to be pulled taut.
Safety While Using a Tree Tent
Safety is an important factor to consider when using a tree tent. While many tree tents are safe when installed correctly, installing one incorrectly can cause a tree tent to collapse under the weight of a person.
For this reason, the following safety rules should be adhered to when using tree tents out in the wilderness:
- Hang your tree tent low to the ground to prevent dangerous falls. If you aren’t experienced with using your tree tent yet, it’s best to keep the distance you hang your tree tent off the ground as low as possible, around three feet. This will help prevent any serious injury should you install the tent incorrectly and cause it to collapse.
- Do not hang your tree tent over water, ravines, or sharp objects: Make sure there are no sharp branches or rocks on the ground underneath where you are installing your tree tent, and do not not install it over a chasm or over water. This could lead to deadly consequences should you become trapped in your tent after a collapse.
- Don’t keep food in your tree tent. Just because bears and raccoons are less likely to hassle you in a tree tent doesn’t mean you want to give them the excuse to try. Keep all food tightly sealed and packed away in coolers away from the camp sleeping area.
- Watch out for wasps and bees. Be sure to look for beehives and wasp nests on the trees you are planning on installing your tree tent in before you begin to unpack it. The last thing you want is to agitate an angry swarm of yellowjackets right after you got done dragging all of your gear out.
- Beware of bears. When looking for a site to hang your tree tent, be aware of any bark or low-hanging tree branches that look rubbed away on the trunks of trees. While this can sometimes be an indicator of buck deer in rut, it can also be a sign of bears in the area (the rubbed-looking areas are where they scratch themselves on trees).
- Know where you are. You might be tempted to camp off the beaten path with a tree tent since your options for setting up a campsite are greatly increased but be careful not to stray too far from known trails. Make sure someone else knows you are going camping and when you’re supposed to be back.
- Set up before twilight. Nothing is more obnoxious than trying to set up camp when it’s half-dark already. Especially if you aren’t very experienced with your tree tent yet, leave yourself plenty of time to set it up properly before nightfall, so you don’t end up struggling in the shadows to finish things up.
- Take care of yourself. No matter what kind of tent you use in the woods, you’ll need to stay on top of hydration, sunscreen, and other basic survival essentials to make sure you stay healthy and safe. Be sure to stop and rest when you need to.
Ways to Make a Tree Tent More Comfortable
While tree tents are inherently more comfortable than sleeping on the ground (at least according to many people who use them) there are certain ways you can make a tree tent even more comfortable and attractive to camp in. Here are some ways that a tree tent can be cozied up:
- Use an underquilt. Rather than a sleeping pad, which is used in most conventional tents, an underquilt is typically used in a hammock and is designed to reduce convective heat loss due to cold wind being blown beneath a hanging sleeper. Underquilts help protect the camper against temperature loss from this wind and keep them warm. If your tree tent doesn’t come with one, here is one that I recommend.
- Sleep one person to a tree tent. While many tree tents are designed to hold the weight of more than one person, the nature of a tree tent means that it will sway any time any of the people in it shift their weight. This can disturb lighter sleepers. For the best sleep in a tree tent, stick to the one-man varieties.
- Try a knee pillow. Lying flat out in a tree tent can cause hyperextension in the knees of some people, and this can be uncomfortable. Getting a small knee pillow can force a bend into the knee and relieve some of this pressure for better quality sleep.
- Install drip lines on your tent straps if you get caught in the rain. In wet weather, a drip line will allow excess rainwater to drip down off the tent straps rather than travel all the way down to the tree tent itself.
- Let there be light: Make sure that you have a conveniently located flashlight or LED lamp somewhere inside your tree tent, so you don’t fall out of a tree at two in the morning trying to get up and use the bush lavatory.
- Go to the bathroom before bed: Just trust us on this. It’s much easier to take your pee break before you climb up into a tree tent for the night than it is to clamber down from one in pitch darkness at midnight.
Alternatives to Tree Tents
Tree tents are a good option for camping, but for those who don’t want to use a tree tent, there are a few similar alternatives:
- Hammocks: A hammock is similar in design to a tree tent but lacks its protective cover. This can be emulated with a tarp, however. Hammocks are generally considered to be less comfortable than tree tents. If you decide to go the hammock route, here is a really good one that I recommend.
- Bivouac shelter (bivy tent): A bivy tent is a temporary pup tent setup that is a good option for those campers who want to minimize their camping supplies as much as possible. A bivvy tent offers the same portability and versatility as a tree tent but does not get the camper up off the ground, so it shares the disadvantages of ground tents. In case you’re interested, here is my favorite Bivy found on Amazon.
Give Safe and Comfortable Tree Tents a Try
While tree tents have their disadvantages just like any other form of camping, they are no less safe or comfortable than a traditional camping tent or hammock. On the contrary, these tents are potentially much comfier than anything you’ve carried out into the woods to date.
So if you’re looking for something new on your next camping trip, be sure to give tree tents a try!
For more, don’t miss 10 Ways to Build a Shelter in the Wild (In Any Environment).
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!