The first thing you’ll notice about the Tentstile Stingray 3-Person tent is its heft. This is unavoidable. To open the thing, to pack it in the car, to unpack it, you need to wield its considerable 40 pounds and ponder what you’re doing in a world full of sturdy sizable ultra lightweight tents. Get rid of the thought: The Tentstile is not here for such pragmatism. This is a tent to make your basecamp standout, an inviting home among the trees that offers a cool nap during the day and a warm place to sleep soundly at night. It’s a tent with flash, one that will have passing campers asking about it, that will get the kids excited to go to bed. Think of the weight as the low cost of a peerless night’s sleep in the woods.
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If you think that setting up camp is one of the more exciting parts of the great outdoors, that unpacking your equipment and building your home away from home is an essential part of the experience, then you’re in luck. Pitching the Tentstile is something of an endeavor. First and foremost, you must find the perfect spot, one with three trees that create as close to an equiangular triangle as possible. Huh? Yes, it’s time to dust off your trig books, folks.
Vocabulary Terms Necessary for Setup:
- Trigonometry; the branch of mathematics concerned with specific functions of angles and their application to calculations.
- Equiangular triangle; a triangle in which all three internal angles are also congruent to each other and are each 60-degrees.
- Equilateral triangle; a triangle in which all three sides have the same length.
- Temerarious; rashly or presumptuously daring; overconfident.
According to the Stingray manual, the trees need to be “less than 90 degrees” from each other with 7 degrees of wiggle room in the tent itself before “performance is impacted.” These parameters are not nearly as rigid as they sound. Go to one tree and hold your arms out 90 degrees. Are there trees within your embrace? You’re probably good. Trees not cooperating with your Euclidian ideals? There's a fourth strap available to pull any of the three sides into angular compliance.
In all honestly, it’s less complicated than it sounds. You can get a pretty good gut visual on your trees and adjust from there. Find a dense grove and you will have plenty of wiggle room. Happily, the next part — setting up the webbing, ratchets, and tightening the tent — is truly a cinch. If your trees are in the right spot, the tent pops up as you tighten, the floor miraculously stiffens, and the rain flap and dome are as intuitive as can be. Word to the wise: You might be tempted to put your gear — clothing, etc. — under the tent, but if a rain storm hits, it is likely to wash under. So check the weather, and maybe keep your gear in a car or separate shelter.
Once your tent is set up, you enter and exit through an ingenious little hatch in the middle. The three sides of the triangle offer spacious sleeping segments that are naturally separated. The bottom of the tent is off the ground meaning on a hot day you get a cool breeze beneath you and on a cold night, you’re blessedly far from the freezing ground. You’re in for a comfortable night’s sleep, made all the more comfortable by the flat separated sleep sections. In other words, your family is not going to end up sleeping on top of each other in the low corner of the tent (if you know, you know).
During an overnight test in the Shenandoah mountains (with cold snowy early spring weather), the warmth inside the tent was ample and the fabric of the tent stretched a bit — pleasantly so, offering hammock-like cradling through the night. The folks at Tentstile tout the ability for this 3-person tent to hold 2 adults and 2 children and we can see that happening, in theory. You just need to have kids who aren’t going to fight for pole position and are young enough to not care for a little bit of late-night elbowing and jostling (the four-year-old on the trip offered never made it this far, ceding the hanging tent to the 10-year-old out of fear and exhaustion).
The Bottom Line
The sleep in the Tentstile was one of the best our testers ever had in the woods. The play was maybe even better: The tent turned into a tree fort the following morning that the kids did not want to leave in the least, for hikes, snacks, or anything else. The pinnacle of a week in a National Park in the kids’ imaginings was a tent. It was therefore a savior for the parents as well. Tentstile isn’t just a camping party trick — it’s a remarkable and unique home away from home.
+ Weight: A whopping 40 pounds… this is for car camping only
+ Limit: 3 huge campers — up to 880 pounds; potentially 4 if you have two kids who can share an exciting new space
+ Killer Feature: The rain fly locks down the tent so that camper will hang dry even in the mightiest winds.