There’s a reason why camping is often referred to as “roughing it.” I’m not talking car-camping — where the cold beer on ice and an air-conditioned couch are only as far as the nearest parking spot. I’m not talking about glamping either, with its fancy yurts and catered dinners. No, I’m talking about take-only-what-you-can-carry and hike or paddle out into the middle of nowhere camping. I’m talking sat-phone-only reception area camping. You know, real roughing it.
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s get to the problem with camping: It can be uncomfortable as hell and the idea of adding even an extra pound to your gear makes the notion of luxury an impossible trade-off. Which is why the Crua Hybrid — launching today on Kickstarter — could become an “overnight” success. The latest offering from Ireland-based Crua Outdoors (crua being an Irish word for “hard” or “tough”), the Hybrid blends the sheer practicality of a tent with the creature comforts of a hammock and the thermal qualities of a sleeping bag, all in a compact, 7.5 lb package that’s designed to sleep one person.
“The Crua design is too heavy. Unless I were car camping, I would not use a 7-8 pound tent.”
“It’s very much a hiking-throw-it-in-the-bottom-of-your-backpack product,” Crua Outdoors Co-Founder Derek O’Sullivan told Digital Trends.
The Hybrid — starting at $249 for early birds — is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts and weekend campers who might find themselves on varying terrain during their trip. If the ground is really uneven, but there are nearby trees, its hammock mode will let you suspend your bivouac in the air, across a span of up to 16 feet. If you’re simply using the hammock mode to relax and the weather begins to turn on you, the Hybrid can switch to a ground-based tent with fly in less than 5 minutes. Two or more Hybrids can also be zipped together, creating an almost infinitely expandable interior space.
The ground-based capability is what differentiates the Crua Hybrid from other products on the market. While there are great choices for hammock-style tents such as the Tentsile and the Hennessey, and too many ground-based tents to list, O’Sullivan insisted the Hybrid is the first to successfully merge the two designs into one.
“[We] Weren’t happy with the first few versions that came through,” he said of the company’s 12-month development process. “We were adamant that this wouldn’t be a hybrid product that does neither thing correctly. It had to function perfectly as a tent and as a hammock.”
The Hybrid comes with a custom-fitted sleeping bag, which zips into the base of the tent. When installed, the sleeping bag doesn’t move at all, which O’Sullivan said is a chronic problem with a traditional tent and sleeping bag arrangement. On the other hand, he was quick to note that “some people are very attached to their sleeping bag,” so project backers can opt-out of the sleeping bag and save themselves $100.
For the Hybrid’s structure, Crua used traditional aluminum poles, which split in half and keep the overall dimensions of the packed tent small: Roughly 19-inches by 11-inches. Originally, O’Sullivan wanted the Hybrid to be supported by an airframe instead of poles, but it required too many trade-offs. “There was a strong negative vibe from this market,” he said, because the higher PSI requirement of the airframe would force campers to carry a foot-pump, too.
The built-in thermal pad (which doubles as an air mattress) can be self-inflated for basic padding, or boosted further by mouth-inflation for uneven terrain.
The Crua Hybrid certainly looks like a worthy addition to a nature lover’s toolkit, but what do the experts think?
Richard Pawlowski and his wife, Laura, are the authors of 2 Years In A Tent, a guide to camping under extreme financial conditions (when the couple were in their 70s, they were forced to leave their home, thus the title of the book). Pawlowski has had his fair share of tent experiences — “Far more than the average person,” he contends. For him, the Crua Hybrid’s short assembled height is an issue. “We need (for our type of camping) to be able to easily stand up and also put in cots to get off the ground,” he noted. It could be a good addition to an avid camper’s outdoor arsenal, but, “It’s definitely not going to replace the dozens of other types of tents,” he told us. Of course, the Pawlowskis probably have a different set of criteria for choosing a tent than the younger, 25-40 year-old customer O’Sullivan is targeting with this new product. Pawlowski suspects the Hybrid is best suited for “survivalist” camping, though he admits it’s tough to gauge any product without actually trying it.
Elizabeth Doyle, a Toronto-based former Outward Bound instructor who was impressed by Crua’s last project — the Thermo Tent — isn’t as bullish on the Hybrid. Though she says it looks comfortable and likes the 3-in-1 design, its weight is its Achilles heel. “Solo tents are fine if you need a small lightweight tent,” Doyle said, “but I still would not carry this tent in a situation where a solo tent made sense — the design is too heavy. Unless I were car camping, I would not use a 7-8 pound tent.”
Vehicle-based campers could be the perfect audience for the Crua Hybrid. O’Sullivan said he received an especially enthusiastic response to the tent from avid motorcycle tourers, who are less concerned about weight and have a proven willingness to pay for a top-quality product.
Curiously, neither Pawloski nor Doyle ranked the Hybrid’s hammock mode as high on their wish-list for tent features. “It certainly adds value to the tent,” Doyle offered, “who doesn’t enjoy a nap in a hammock?” However she pointed out that if you really want a hammock tent, you’re better off buying one of the existing models on the market because they’re so lightweight (hers clocks in a 2.5 pounds).
If you like the idea of the Crua Hybrid, there’s probably no need for anxiety about the company’s ability to deliver on its promise to backers. Its Thermo Tent beat its 40,000 euro goal by about 10,000 euros and was only 6-8 months late on its shipping date (a minor delay by crowdfunding standards).