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The unique inflatable geodesic "Cave" tent provides stability and room to move

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December 6, 2011

The inflatable geodesic 'Cave' tent from Heimplanet

The inflatable geodesic 'Cave' tent from Heimplanet

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Camping can be fun but to be honest, tents are a pain. The romance of carrying your accommodations with you and the excitement of arriving at a new destination can both be swiftly tempered by reality. Erecting your tent using bent aluminum poles, bits of string, damp plastic sheeting and too few pegs becomes old very quickly. Add in pitch darkness and/or rain and the temptation to head for the nearest dodgy hotel can become irresistible. It doesn't have to be that way. Eight years ago two Stefan's from Germany had an idea for a better tent - and now it's here. Time to erect - 1 minute.

In 2003, two surfer dudes from Hamburg, Stefan Clauss and Stefan Schulze Diekhoff, sat on a beach in Portugal and had a vision for a new type of tent. By 2008 that had got themselves in a position to start their company, Heimplanet, and properly develop their concept. Now, with a little help from a European development fund they are in production.

There are two central concepts to the design - the use of an inflatable skeleton rather than rigid poles, and the use of a geodesic shape for the structure - actually part of the shape of a carbon molecule in its diamond form. These two concepts compliment each other perfectly to produce a very stable form that can be raised in short order. Inflatable elements have been used before in tent construction but it's their combination with a geodesic arrangement that is unique (and patentable) and provides the stability. The support members are designed to be strong with a dual layer construction and, although inflation is one continuous operation, the inflated beams are valved into five separate sections so that the structure remains viable even with the failure of one or two sections.

Traditional tents are not very efficient shapes - the sloping sides remove a lot of potential airspace. The roughly circular 54 square foot (5 square meter) floor plan and near-perpendicular sides of the Cave tent make it much more expansive with sleeping space for three plus gear and 'pow-wow' seating capacity for six in a circle.

The inflatable geodesic 'Cave' tent from Heimplanet

There are inner and outer tent surfaces with storage in between and an integral high strength fly sheet with five ventilation openings. The stability of the structure means that no pegs or guys are required to anchor the tent when some baggage has been stowed, though pegs are supplied for storm conditions. When deflated, the package measures 20" x 12" x 8" (50 x 30 x 20 cm) and weighs 11.5 pounds (5.2 kg) so it's just about luggable if your partner is carrying the rest of the provisions. The one slight fly in the ointment is the requirement for a large hand-pump - though more compact solutions are being investigated. More likely it's going to be a bike or car ride.

In the Northern Hemisphere it's not exactly tent-buying conditions at the moment and if the truth be told the two Stefans expected to be in production for the season just gone. However the delay allowed an extensive 16 week pan-European test of the prototypes and if you are planning a trip South of the equator, or just planning for next year, you can order a Cave tent now from the Heimplanet website for US$669 or €499 plus shipping.

About the Author
Vincent Rice Vincent Rice has been an audio-visual design consultant for almost 30 years including six years with Warner Brothers Cinemas. He has designed several large retail installations in London and a dozen major nightclubs across the world from Belfast to Brno to Beruit. An accomplished musician and 3D computer graphics artist, Vince also writes for AV Magazine in the U.K. and the Loudscreen digital signage blog.   All articles by Vincent Rice
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14 Comments

Nice concept. Nice to see them used in a geodesic shape.

These type of inflatable tents have been around in Holland since 1981.... see www.karstententen.nl

bartheil
6th December, 2011 @ 06:27 pm PST

I have a self-erecting tent I bought a dozen years ago: take it out of the bag and toss it in the air, it's ready to stake to the ground. Setup takes maybe two minutes if I install the rainfly. The framework is spring steel and unfolds when it's released. It takes longer to fold it back up, some of the fabric is worn through, I need a replacement and can't find the company I bought it from. This was advertised heavily on TV back in the '90s.

William H Lanteigne
6th December, 2011 @ 08:14 pm PST

Old concept, also if you get the right pole tent it will be lighter and take way less time to set up than it takes to inflate that thing. Thats gotta be at least several minutes of pumping. Who likes pumping? Even though pole tents have slightly less room, who needs it? Tents are for sleeping, the outdoors are for moving around in.

Brett Reid Himeda
6th December, 2011 @ 08:17 pm PST

yes we use to have an inflatable igloo tent in the 70's and 80's it was very convenient.

Peter Jacops
7th December, 2011 @ 02:09 am PST

This one is lost on me. Sounded interesting until I looked at the specs - why would I pay 500 Euros for a tent weighing over 5 kilos when I can get a Vango 3 man Halo 300 weighing 25% less and costing less than 200 Euros? And is twin layer, perfectly stable and easy to erect? And there are plenty of existing alternatives from other manufacturers.

Techjunkie88
7th December, 2011 @ 02:47 am PST

This is a unique design. Inflation takes under a minute and it is lighter than a comparable geodesic pole tent. check their site: www.heimplanet.com

Stefan Clauss
7th December, 2011 @ 03:16 am PST

I have visions of this tent rolling away like a ping pong ball in a high wind. One advantage of having to pump. It will warm you up in cold conditions. You could carry a small canister of compressed air (good for several inflations) charged up at a garage previously.What would be good, would be a double wall, for insulation purposes. I just noticed: time to erect, one minute. That is fast pumping!

windykites1
7th December, 2011 @ 03:47 am PST

The Cave is a double layer tent. You have an inner- and a outer- tent. It was tested up to 120kph of wind and was absolutely stable. Check the bios on the website: http://heimplanet.com/performance/?lang=en

Stefan Clauss
7th December, 2011 @ 05:54 am PST

I couldn't justify paying $669 for a tent, unless I was doing some serious outdoors activities, and then I'd probably get a pole tent so that I wouldn't have to worry about it deflating.

Anything you take camping is likely to come back filthy and ruined. This means I want my camping gear to be something I can afford to replace.

If it was cheaper, though, it would be great for car camping. I already have a battery-powered pump for my air mattress, it would easily inflate this as well.

Jon A.
7th December, 2011 @ 11:06 am PST

@Stefan C.

The fan on a trailer is a good start but claiming that shooting 120km/h wind at it from one direction for a while was a test is a bit of a joke. Want a test? Go set this thing up at Burningman or Nowhere festival for a week and keep a timelapse camera on it. See how the tent reacts to its air-beams being heated and cooled repeatedly and battered by wind from all directions but the bottom. See how it handles having a dust-devil rock right on top of it and then stay there for a minute or so, then take it up onto a glacier and assemble it at altitude and let it get get beaten on by the wind for a while, after a few of those types of tests you can say that it was wind tested.

Also, I would expect a tent that expensive to be 4-season capable. This one looks like it would be in a world of hurt under a snow load. Have you tested it in winter conditions at all?

Alan Belardinelli
8th December, 2011 @ 04:00 am PST

OK, 1 minute to set up - GOOD!

..... how long to deflate all that air and pack it back into it's bag? ..... Hmmm?

Schuy1
8th December, 2011 @ 06:47 am PST

Basic tent design 101 - the fly should be tight, not sagging. Otherwise you end up with water getting inside.

And it needs more attachment points for the fly as well, as otherwise I foresee rips a plenty from high wind loading, which is made worse by the saggy fly.

It's also way too bulky when deflated, probably about 40/50L and taking into account the weight you could carry two 2 man tents for the same or less weight and much less space via folding the tents up instead of rolling them up. Price-wise, it's not that bad and could do pretty well as an expedition basecamp tent owing to the easy to repair inner tubes (pole breaks = ripped fly/inner and other fun) and weight, but unless it can stand up to heavy weather it's more a toy than anything useful.

Nicholas W Sullivan
9th December, 2011 @ 07:53 pm PST

Too heavy and impractical for any serious robust and spartan use.

Company claims of withstanding high winds seems like a joke. Bone structures win hands down in harsh climes. This undoubtly will not be good enough other than your weekly weekend picnic warriors.

Seems like the designer never went to camping anyplace othr than his own backyard.

SpaceBagels
12th December, 2011 @ 09:36 pm PST

Should make one of the door zippers blue and the other one orange.

Gregg Eshelman
5th January, 2012 @ 08:25 pm PST
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