Unusual modern and vintage tents.

The tentomatic

1965 – (Cue RP voice over)

The days when only tough people went camping are over. The car and tent have joined forces to provide camping in a matter of minutes…


The tentomatic was dreamed up by Ivor Pollard and was a wonderful contraption where the roof rack of your car formed the square roof frame of the tent. Simply park up, press a button to release spring loaded arms, extend the telescopic legs and drive away with a fully formed canvas tent left behind.

Easy, in fact so easy that you could set the tent up in “less time than it takes to smoke a cigarette!”

My experience of this tent was however a little different. My Grandad used to own one and I remember take it camping on a number of occasions. Although at the age of 8 I didn’t have much knowledge of smoking, I am pretty sure that it didn’t involve two hours of raised voices and having to duck airborne telescopic legs.

There were other problems, you had to be very careful not to run over the tent when you drove the car out and if you were foolish enough to put the canvas over before doing so you could expect on a muddy day with bad traction under tyre to cake the whole inside of the tent with mud.

The telescopic design of the legs meant that the weight of the canvas was too much for the frame and the lack of guide lines and boxy shape combined with a fresh breeze would leave you waking up halfway across the campsite in a duck pond.

The Wallace and Gromit of the tent world and wonderful tent in its aspiration. Sadly this tent is no longer available as despite all its many faults I have very fond memories of this tent and I would still have one over a modern poly tent any day.

The bubble tent


The brain child of Pierre Stephane Dumas the bubble tent has to be one of the most unusual tents available. They keep their shape by an air compressor and stay cool via an air conditioning unit.

bubble tent

Some of the tents have screening walls but the tent pictured is part of the crystal bubble range, a completely transparent bubble.

The principle is for minimal materials for maximum immersion with the environment.
The space created is described by Pierre as ‘a magic’ and ‘dreamlike space’.

Although it would be easy to criticise the tent for its lack of practicality and environmental considerations of having to run a compressor to keep cool from a pure design perspective its simplicity I think is undeniably beautiful.
The notion of opening up your bedroom to the cosmos is also truly appealing.
Would I have one? Definitely not, This isn’t my cup of tea but I very much admire the design and concept and would love to spend the night in one (just once though)

The Overcraft

Another tent from the 1960’s that is no longer around. One third roof box, one third tent and one third roof rack. Due to its weight it required an elaborate roof rack system to slide it off the roof.


The bottom of the roof box became the floor and the top a plastic roof. To make the walls you were required to release the hinges from the roof and plastic panels would swing down that could be locked into the floor.

Heavy bulky plastic, small size and an overly elaborate transport system was this tent inevitable down fall. As such you were probably more likely to see them as allotment sheds than on campsites.

“Tree tents were conceived as a tree house you can take with you anywhere” The versatility of a hammock with the comfort of a tent.


Especially for children I really love the idea of this tent (although certainly I hope it doesn’t replace the good old fashioned tree house made from pallet wood, corrugated iron, bits of old sock etc)

What I find most interesting however is the two vastly different applications for it. On first appearance I see it as a recreational tent, just being a bit if fun, great for children and for the rare occasions where you can find a suitable campsite to pitch it (Inwood camping – Basingstoke for example, a great site)

However,  this tent could also be used  for a more professional application such as in a jungle environment or in the outback where the need to be off the floor and away from whatever else is crawling or sliding over it wouldn’t  be a bad thing.