Thermo Tent is heavy and expensive; still might be worth it

(Source: Press release) Camping: There’s something very appealing about being surrounded by nature, far from the urban chaos that defines our usual existence. But along with the enjoyable bits — sleeping in the woods or under the stars — come the parts that are a lot less fun: the hours spent packing up gear, the seemingly endless assault by insects that want to feast on your blood, and waking up in a freezing cold (or boiling hot) tent.

Derek O’Sullivan, who grew up camping with his family in Ireland, decided four years ago that he wanted to solve the latter, so he invented the Thermo Tent. It’s just like a standard camping tent, but with one major difference: It’s thermally insulated.

“The whole idea is to avoid those spikes in temperature,” O’Sullivan says.

The Thermo Tent is actually two tents in one: the regular tent and a specially designed inner tent made of a three-layer blend of poly-cotton and high-density insulation. The result: a shelter that stays cool when it’s hot outside, or warm when the weather turns cold. And there’s a second benefit too: The insulating layer also cuts down on sound that enters (or escapes) the inner tent — enough to take a loud conversation down to a whisper.

As a former consultant working in the insulation industry, O’Sullivan reckoned that we insulate everything else, so why not tents?

“Nobody has done it before,” O’Sullivan claims of his design, adding that even the U.S. military has resorted to less-than-ideal solutions such as applying spray-foam insulation to the outside of their tents when conditions called for extra warmth. In the last two years, his Tralee, Ireland-based company has grown to six people and recently completed a successful $55,000 round of funding on Kickstarter.

There are two Thermo Tent models, which you can buy directly from the company (they ship worldwide): First, there’s the three-person version ($539) that packs into a single bag, suitable for hiking. Then there’s a bit of a jump. For a more luxurious 6-person tent — aimed at the “glamping” end of the market — that packs into two bags, you’ll pay around $1,880. The company also makes a specialized disaster relief model and recently became an official tent supplier to the U.N.

To be sure, the price of the luxury model might be more than a little steep for some. However, Toronto-based former Outward Bound instructor Elizabeth Doyle says that the cost of the three-person version is actually lower than high-end expedition tents, which go for more than $700.

The tent’s biggest drawback, in her opinion?

“It’s way too heavy for general wilderness travel,” she says. At 26.4 pounds for the three-person model and a whopping 105 pounds for the six-person model, they’re hardly light; other options can weigh as little as 5.6 pounds. So maybe not for your annual camping trek into the bush. However, for guided trips with porters, the insulated tents could “make clients feel more pampered,” Doyle suggests.

If your family wants to heed the call of the great outdoors, without the uncomfortable heat and cold that goes with it (not to mention some of those noisy fellow campers), the Thermo Tent might be worth the investment — in both cash and hauling efforts. This may even be the camping upgrade that coaxes those decidedly non-campers from their comfy hotels and into the woods.