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Tree Tents: 9 Dangers and What to Do About Them

Image by Tentsile

I personally, like tree tents. I made my own when I was on the farm and loved being suspended in the air away from snakes and bugs. But since those days on the farm, tree tents have come a long way in the right direction. Today's tree tents are sturdy, strong, large, and can be safe.

There are inherent dangers in camping in a suspended tent above the ground. In this article, I will go other the 9 Dangers of tree tents and show you how to avoid them.

1.Not choosing a safe location to hang your tree tent.

Your tree tent experience is only as safe as the place you choose to set up your tent. Here are a few things to remember when choosing a safe place:

  • Choose three trees that are alive, healthy, and at least 8 inches thick. Never attach your tree tent straps to a dead tree no matter how large it is. This will ensure your straps are attached to trees that are sturdy and strong.

  • Inspect the trees you are attaching your tree tent to by looking up and down the trees to make sure there are no dead limbs or branches that can fall on your tree tent when the wind picks up. And it will.

  • A limb falling on you in the middle of the night could put a dangerous end to your tree tent experience. Also, make sure that the surrounding trees do not have dead limbs. Dead limbs fall on people more than most realize.

  • Your tree tent will sway back and forth from you getting into it to the wind picking up. So be sure that there are no other trees or limbs within 6 feet of your suspended tree tent. Surrounding tree limbs could put a hole in your rainfly or tent.

  • Also, either choose a location that has no bushes, rocks, or debris under your tent or that you can clean away these things before setting up your tent. Even though your tent will be above them, you do not want to step on them especially at night when you are getting in and out of your tree tent. A sprained ankle from your foot rolling on a rock would not be fun.

2.Not inspecting your tree tent before setting it up

All though most tree tents are made of quality material, if you are in a hurry like me at the end of your camping trip you could make a few mistakes when packing it up that could damage your tree tent. So, inspecting your tree tent is a MUST before installing it.

If you packed it up in a hurry at your site before you left your last trip that you take it out and do the inspection before you leave before your trip. Over time equipment can wear out. Here are a few things to look for when inspecting your tree tent.

  • Make sure it is clean on the inside. Nothing is worse than trying to sleep in the tent with sand, twigs, leaves, dead bugs, or spiderwebs. By the way, spiders love anything suspended in the air that they can attach their webs to. I hate spiders.

  • Is it clean on the outside? Look for tree sap and anything that may have attached itself like a stick, and leaves. Twice a year I give my tents a good bath just to make sure they are fresh and clean. I wrote this article to help you with this. How to clean, repair and waterproof a tent.

  • Inspect for holes, rips, and tears. Many little things can happen to your tent while camping that can damage it without you knowing it. Small holes that can let the rain or bugs in can come from sparks from your fire. Small limbs can cause rips and tears in your rainfly as well.

  • Check for jammed zippers. This usually happens when zipping it up to fast while using it which can cause you to get to your site and not being able to zip up the screen net or secure close the door because you have a jammed or damaged zipper. One trick to help keep this from happening is to run a graphite stick or wide pencil (like a carpenter’s pencil) up and down the teeth of your zipper.

  • Inspect the straps, rope, guy lines, carabiners, stitching, and connectors. I don't like using carabiners because they easily jam but keeping them clean and putting a little WD-40 on them can go a long way than trying to set up your tent in the cold or at dusk dark.

  • Your straps should be clean and free of twists, knots, and tares. These are critical because they support your tent. If they are damaged, you could find your tent hitting the ground at night without a warning. Not my best experience.

3.Not using a quality tree tent.

Since you and your loved ones are sleeping suspended in the air in your tree tent, please, please buy a quality tree tent. I'm frugal, but this is one piece of camping equipment that you don't want to be "penny wise and dollar foolish." After all, do you really want to use an inferior and cheap tent while you are hanging in the air?

Below is a database I created to help you to make a wise choice when purchasing your tree tent.

Tree Tent Database

Here are the 12 best make tree tents for safety

4.Not properly setting up your tree tent

Tree tents are safe when they are installed properly per the manufacture’s requirements. Each tree tent comes with all that that you need to safely set up your tree tent. I recommend you watch this video on how to set up your tree tent safely and properly.

Then below I have a written version on how to set up your tree tent for folks like me who like to have a page of notes as well.

Example of how to set up a suspended tent and connect it to trees.

  • Open the bag, take out the tent, tent cover, straps, and rachets (carabiners).

  • Wrap the looped end of the strap around the nearby tree and put the tail of the strap into the loop end and pull out the slack at the desired height you want the tree tent above the ground. Repeat this for each strap provided.

  • Unfold the tent on the ground and stretch each corner towards the trees your straps are now attached to.

  • Take the rachet’s strap which has a loop and put the loop through the D-ring provided on the corners of the tree tent and run the ratchet through the straps loop. Do this for each ratchet for each corner of the tree tent.

  • Take the end of the strap now from the tree and thread it through the end of the ratchet tumbler. Then give the ratchet a couple of cranks to start the tree strap to tighten around the rachet. Do this for each strap attached to the tree.

  • Go around to each rachet and it a few cranks until the tree tent begins to be suspended above the ground at the desired height.

  • Lock the ratchet by pulling the lever under the hand and push the handle back until the locking ears go into place. This prevents the ratchets from coming loose when weight is put on the tree tent.

  • Here's a quick video (click here) on how the straps are attached to trees and how to thread and the loose end of the straps into a ratchet to tighten.

  • To raise the roof of the tent you feed the tent pole through the sleeves and into the end pockets provided on the top of the tent. One is provided for each corner of the tree tent.

  • Now the tree tent is pretty much set up. Time to load your sleeping bag, pillows, and clothing.

5.Too high off ground and improperly getting into your tree tent

Mounting your tree tent a safe distance from the ground may seem like common sense, but often folks get this wrong and have severe injuries.

It’s not easy to get into your tree tent. The recommendations are to have it 4 feet above the ground which for short folks can be a challenge to get into. Any higher than 4 feet can result in a surprise at night when you are headed to the potty. Here are my recommendations for easily getting into your tree tent.

  • Back up to the tree tent and sit on the edge like you would a stool at your kitchen bar. When you do your weight will pull the tree tent down.

  • Next lean back, pull your knees up and lay back into the tent and swing your body around, and lay down.

  • Use a step or something to stand on if you are setting up your tent higher than 4 feet above the ground, but the process is the same.

  • Since tree tents have full windows on both sides you can easily get in and out without disturbing the other person. You can choose a tree tent with a center opening at the bottom of the tent. This makes entry easier for some.

  • You can also purchase rope ladders as well as attachments that will help you get in and out safely day or night.

6.Not using your tree tent properly.

One of the places that can put you in danger with your tree tent is not improperly using it.

Here are a few things to look out for or rather not do with your tree tent.

  • Don't put sharp objects in your tent. You might be thinking, "of course I would not put sharp objects in my tree tent", however things like knives, metal containers, and even some hunting and fishing gear can cause holes and rips that you may not find out about until the wee hours of the night or when it starts to rain.

  • How much weight can your tree tent hold? A lightweight suspended tree tent can hold a whopping 700 pounds. That's good, but just be sure you think about how much you and your loved ones weigh before you start piling your gear into your tent just because it's pouring rain outside.

  • Every tent has weak points that wear out over time so overloading your tent is not a good idea for two reasons. The extra weight can cause your tent to sag even to the ground which is not one of the reasons you bought and second over the limit weight will cause your guy's lines and straps to be very loose.

  • A strong wind can cause you and everything in your tent to not only sway a lot (think motion sickness) and even dump you and your good out on the ground below. Stay safe, don't overload your tree tent.

7.Lighting strikes and tree tents don’t go together

I live in Florida, the lightning capital of the world. My son and I have experienced way too many close calls with lightning. So, a tree tent suspended between trees is not the best place to ride out a lightning storm. Trees get struck a lot here and it's best to check your weather forecast before deciding to spend the night swinging from trees.

8.Not checking the weather

Can you keep warm in a tree tent? You can stay warm in a tree tent and here is how.

  • Be sure your tree tent does not radiate heat from the bottom of the tent causing you to freeze. During cold windy days, you can lose a lot of heat, especially at night through the bottom of your tent. Think cold feet all night long.

  • Make sure your tent at least has a double-walled floor and use a sleeping mat or pad between the two bottom layers. These mats can reflect the heat back up to your body.

  • Even in temperate weather tree tents will keep you about 10 degrees cooler when sleeping. So, I recommend you use a sleeping bag that is rated 10 degrees warmer than you would normally use.

  • · I recommend you read my article, 10 Tips: Stay Warm in A Pop Up Camping Tent. Even though the article is about using pop-up tents on the ground in cold weather there are a lot of tips to help you keep warm without using electricity in this article (It's one of my best).

9.Not choosing the right type of hanging tent.

Choosing the right type of hanging tree tent is very important. Hammocks and Swag tents are not tree tents. Even though they are attached to trees they are very different and here are a few of the most important differences.

  • Hammocks and Swag tents use two trees to hold them and can use guy lines. However, these hanging tents are not a stable as tree tents. Winds and even shifting at night from side to side can toss you out or even roll you up, I know this from experience. No fun. If you are going to sleep suspended in the trees use a tree tent designed for it. Having three trees to stabilize your tent is better than two trees.

  • Tree tents hold more people and gear. Besides not having enough room for more than one big person (like me), if you do need to get some gear off the ground because of a small flood, then you have room in a tree tent that other hanging tents just don’t have.

  • Hammocks and Swag tents can be claustrophobic. Unfortunately, I have issues with tight places like elevators, small, crowded rooms as well as Hammocks and Swag tents (well maybe not hammocks so much). If tightly enclosed spaces bother you then nice roomy tree tents will help with that. I only mention this because some folks like me need a little help in this area. That’s probably why I like being outdoors so much.

More things to ask about tree tents

Are tree tents heavy?

Tree tents are very heavy. A three-person, 4 seasons, 800 weight capacity tree tent can weigh 24.5 lbs. They are epically heavy when compared to a Coleman 3-person Dome tent that weighs 8 lbs. That is over three times the weight for a three-person tent. This means that you will need to have camping sites that are very close to where you park your truck or a big person to carry it to your site.

How long does it take to set up a tree tent?

You've probably watched the video link I included earlier, so you know how to set up your tent, but what you probably don't know is that it takes a beginner about an hour to set up a tree tent. If two people, then two hours (just kidding). So, get to your site early enough before dark to have time to carry all your gear, an hour to set up your tree tent, and an extra hour for the unexpected. In other words, I recommend you arrive at least 3 hours before dark as I do.

And in case your are wondering this is how I choose a camping tent.

Thanks for reading.

Do yourself a favor, take a kid camping!

Alex Anderson


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