Tent meets treehouse: innovative roof tent keeps predators at bay

This article was a feature for the Calgary Herald.

Tent meets treehouse: innovative roof tent keeps predators at bay

Chad Kendrick and his fiancée woke in the middle of the night to grunting and snorting. A bear was outside, rustling through their campsite. They were in a tent, and they were trapped. Terrified, they stayed still, even as the bear rubbed against the flimsy nylon and bowed the wispy fabric in toward them.

“We were having a quiet freak out,” Kendrick says. He finally managed to frighten the bear away by hitting his car’s remote alarm. But the fear they felt, and his fiancée’s refusal to return to the great outdoors at night, became the inspiration to invent for Kendrick, a born and raised Calgarian, who now runs his fledgling business from Turner Valley.


He did some research, then started drawing and designing a better tent option. He didn’t want something as fuel-hungry as an RV, and even a tent trailer seemed like bringing too much of home to the wilderness.

“We really like to travel as light as possible and get to places you would never be able to get to pulling a trailer behind you.”

So Kendrick built his first rooftop tent, one that’s stable, comfortable and safe, and his new company, Treeline Outdoors was born.

Kendrick decided his tents needed to be compact and fully collapsible. While each model packs into a square the size of most rooftop cargo boxes, all unfold to create a base platform twice their size. The tent, packed inside, pops up on its own and is ready to climb into in seconds by using a lightweight ladder that also doubles as the lever to open and refold the tent.

The stable aluminum platform is both a solid base, and a de-facto wildlife barrier. The height advantage, and the positioning of the tent on top of a vehicle is, according to Treeline Outdoors, a great start as far as protection goes.

“We all know what bears are capable of,” says Kendrick, “A tent trailer is nothing to a bear, but that sense of being on top and having that hard shell … the height advantage … it’s just a sense of security.”

Kendrick admits the tents are certainly not bear-proof. But they definitely provide more peace of mind.

“There is a distinct difference between sleeping on the ground in a fetal position, with nothing standing between you and potential threatening wildlife but a thin layer of material.”

The tent’s 23-millimetre aluminum honeycomb base, says Kendrick, means, “there is zero chance of any wildlife attacking from the bottom.”

The tent is without a doubt a bizarre-looking contraption; half suspended over nothing but air. Setting it up took no longer than our traditional tent.

Once open, it looks like an exercise in Photoshop, and while I was testing it out in my driveway, I had more than one neighbour come over, eyes wide, and wondering in disbelief, “What is that? And how did you get it up there?”

That’s partly because there are no legs to support these tents, they flip open and hold flat thanks to that thick aluminum base and a sturdy hinge that locks into itself.

It was surprising how much I actually enjoyed going up and getting into one of these tents for the first time. I felt like a giddy little girl as I climbed the ladder and popped my head inside my temporary home. I actually started to giggle. I was back to being seven years old and climbing into a tree house for the first time.

Inside, there’s enough room to kneel comfortably without hitting the roof. Peering out the windows, looking out over the top of everything, was truly cool. It’s a penthouse view of the Rockies, or wherever you’ve chosen to spend the night.

Perched on top of my truck, I expected some bounce, or give. There was none, and the mattress base platform was as comfortable as an inflatable mattress. It’s not luxurious, but if you’re looking for a Serta Perfect Sleeper, you’re down the road at the Holiday Inn, anyways.

While I’ve never feared for my safety on a camping trip, I must admit that sleeping high above the world does give an added feeling of security that makes it even easier to drift off. And never underestimate the fun of driving around with your very own tree house.

The pop-up tents are available from Treeline Outdoors’ website. Prices start at $1,699 and go to $2,399.