The Tent That’s Half Yurt, Half Cabin, and Half Something Else Entirely

This Big Sur popup is almost always booked—might be faster (though sure not cheaper) just to buy one yourself.


We all have a friend who has called a tent home—maybe you’ve even done it yourself—but the Autonomous Tent at Treebones Resort in Big Sur blurs the line between house and tent even more than a dirtbag might. The 500-square-foot-plus structure is entirely self-sufficient; it requires no utilities or foundation and could be packed up and moved without a trace. Thus, “tent.” But you’d be hard-pressed to call this roughing it in any form.

With a claw-foot bathtub and an electric fireplace, this is definitely nicer than any tent you’ve ever set foot in (you can even stand upright) and is best compared to a super-fancy yurt. Nestled cliff-side, the tent has a west-facing, windowed entrance perfect for whale spotting and sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The design, by architect Harry Gesner, calls to mind an ivory cocoon or paper nautilus that glows from within at night. Despite the delicate, minimal design, the tent is well-equipped to handle the elements.

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Like a yurt, the tent consists of separate parts—the fabric shell, the flooring, the entryway—that come together on-site during installation. Autonomous Tent Co. works with their client to build the tent (or tents) most appropriate for their location and intended use, and, post-construction, delivers them via semi-truck or shipping container (free two-day Backcountry.com shipping this isn’t).

The pieces are manufactured precisely for a tight seal (typically very hard to achieve with a yurt) and the materials used in construction can be customized based on climate. So, an autonomous tent in Baja might look a little different than one in British Columbia.

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Equipped with solar panels and advanced water filtration and composting technology, the autonomous tent combines tiny-house ethics–build with respect and consideration for your natural surroundings–with beautiful design, more space, and more adaptability. It’s a new form of architecture; one that allows people to live (very) comfortably in beautiful natural environs, but that won’t leave any imprint on that ecosystem once it’s gone.

However, this architectural innovation doesn’t come cheap. The tent at Treebones, which offers yurt and treehouse rentals on the secluded coast of Monterey County, will run you more than your typical tent-bound weekend. Rates start at $495 for a night, and it books out well in advance. Interested in having one built just for you? A cocoon like the one in Big Sur costs about $100,000 to commission and install.

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Photos by Kodiak Greenwood


Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.

 

Showing 4 comments
  • Coryn weigle
    Reply

    As a tentmaker I admire the design and look. However, writing this in a tent during a thunderstorm in cold mid-March in southern Mississippi, my first question would be what about insulation? No matter what the material is, that tent is going to need a lot of heating during cold weather. Can the solar panels provide it all? It will also get hot in the summer Sun. Can the doors and windows, all on one face, keep it cool? It’s going to be noisy inside when it rains. And since it glows at night, will it not be visual pollution for others nearby trying to enjoy the night views?

    • Nick
      Reply

      It’s the Northern California coast. It doesn’t ever really get hot. Or cold for that matter.

  • Dan Murphy
    Reply

    Man, that’s gorgeous.
    I just took a look and it’s now starting at $595/night – and fully booked until Nov.
    Campsites for $95/night!

  • Abe
    Reply

    You could build something similar out of steel and it would last a lot longer, cost less to build but wouldn’t glow.

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