First Look: Tentsile’s Floating Universe Tent

Essentially a three-person paddleboard base with a mesh tent upper and nylon fly, the Universe is happy on the ground, in the air, and on the water


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Tentsile made a name for itself with its mesh-nylon tree tents, which use robust webbing to stay suspended above the ground, sort of like a campsite treehouse. Now the company expands on that concept with the Universe ($2,000), a multifunction design that can be used as a traditional tent, a hanging shelter, and even a walled-in paddleboard.

The triangular contraption combines an inflatable plastic bottom (essentially a giant SUP) with mesh tent sides and a 70-denier nylon fly. Tent poles anchor the corners, and the mesh and nylon pieces drape over the top. Set the whole thing up on the ground like a camping tent, use the straps to dangl it from a sturdy branch, or shove off from the beach for a luxurious float, with the nylon fly as a sunshade.

With 195 square feet of floor space, five feet of head space, and large pockets on the fly, the Universe has plenty of room to stash gear (or beer) and even more to sprawl out and relax. (Tentsile says it accommodates five people on the ground and three on the water or while suspended.) There are three doors, so there’s no need to climb over sleeping tent mates when nature calls. And despite being firm enough to stand on, the inflatable floor is plenty comfortable when reclining.

The Universe isn’t light or compact. It weighs a whopping 100 pounds and requires as much storage space as a large suitcase. But all that versatility could make for some legendary car-camping trips and family excursions. It’s far too big for backpacking, of course, but it might be a comfortable close-to-home winter-camping companion—that SUP bottom provides ample insulation to keep your backside warm when the temperature drops.

Undoubtedly, however, it’s the Universe’s water-borne potential that has us most excited. The tent is available for preorder in November and ships in spring 2019, just in time for car-camping season and day trips to nearby lakes and rivers. Sitting on it on the Demo Day grounds at Denver’s Confluence and Commons Parks, where temperatures crested 94 degrees, all I could think about was loading up with a cooler, a Bluetooth speaker, and a bunch of friends for some summer splash time.