One look at Instagram reveals that there are very few places travellers haven’t tried to set up a tent. But if you’re looking for a campsite even further off-the-beaten-path, then consider this inflatable tent that floats on water.
The Shoal Tent is a new product from American outdoor gear manufacturer SmithFly Designs. The tent is on top of an inflatable raft so travellers can set up camp on their favourite pond or lake. It has no poles or rigid structure inside and users just use a pump to set it up and take it down easily. Ethan Smith, the owner of SmithFly Designs, told Lonely Planet that the idea for an inflatable tent that floats on water came when the company was testing a ground-based inflatable tent from the same supplier that was making a raft body. He realized that combining the two would mean campers could sleep right on the water.
While there are houseboats and cabin sleeper boats, Ethan says they are large, expensive and take up a lot of room. What makes the tent special is that users can sleep on the water without investing a lot of money or having to find a spot to store a boat. If you’re wondering how it feels to spend the day on the water, Ethan explains: “The floor is a high-pressure drop-stitched material that feels almost rigid with a nice foam pad. So it’s sturdy enough to stand on and you would think was hard ground when standing, but it has a nice pad built in and the water makes it very comfortable to sleep on. It’s an amazing feeling once you get used to it. Also, the sides come off using velcro so you can take all the sides off and you have a wide open sunshade platform for hanging out on the water and swimming and enjoying your favourite beverage.”
Naturally, there are safety implications to sleeping on the water. Ethan says users must to adhere to all local rules and regulations for boating safety, which could include requiring life jackets, anchors, paddles or oars. The sides of the tent also come off entirely, so he says it’s easy to get out in a hurry if need be. There are also five separate air chambers that keep it afloat, so even if one is punctured, it should remain stable.
Since travellers around the world are fascinated with staying in the most unique camping spots, the new tent has stirred up a lot of curiosity. “It has been amazing to see the level of interest it is generating,” he said. The company has even partnered with a local canoe livery in Ohio, Adventures on the Great Miami, to rent them out on the river through Airbnb. SmithFly is currently taking pre-orders – it costs about US$1250 for a Shoal Tent – for its first production run, with the expected delivery date of January 2018.