Outdoor recreation, including camping, have become a popular escape from work, cell phones, cable TV, and the Internet. Yet, according to BlueSky Designs, the 1994 Forest Service-sponsored National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE) found that people with disabilities have cited physical barriers and a lack of accessible facilities as two of the most frequently encountered barriers to their participation in outdoor recreation. It is true that since the Americans with Disabilities Act, public facilities and programs at campgrounds and parks have been made more accessible. Accessibility standards for campsites have been developed, including the establishment of a recommended minimum number of accessible sites. Still, the most important “facility” a camper needs is access to a tent. That is the challenge St. Paul-based BlueSky Designs embraced.
Basically, BlueSky Designs is an “idea development studio” focused on universal design. Meaning, they take a problem, develop solutions, perform market research, establish intellectual property, identify manufacturing partners, and create licensing agreements to bring those products to consumers. They specialize in developing comfortable, safe, and efficient products that are useful for a broad population at work, at play, and at home regardless of ability level; the unique meld of ergonomics, assistive technology, and universal design. In relation to accessible tents, they partnered with Wilderness Inquiry, the University of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Outdoor Program, and Courage Duluth. Then, they commenced a research project with funding assistance from the Small Business Innovation Research grant offered by the US Department of Agriculture. The resulting ideas were later tested by various inclusive or accessible wilderness programs such as Colorado-based National Sports Center for the Disabled, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, and ‘SPLORE, an organization in Utah that took prototypes down the Grand Canyon. One of the products developed was the Freedom tent, a new addition to the Eureka! Outfitter tent product-line now available to consumers through any Eureka! authorized dealer.
The unique, three-season tent was designed with ease of set up, easy access, and a usable vestibule space for mobility devices as top priorities. It is a five pole tapered rectangular dome style shelter with sleeping space for two people. A patent-pending zipper-less vestibule door requires minimal dexterity and reach. It pivots open like a fan, providing quick entry out of the elements and has no zipper noise. Pull handles on the internal door and window zippers provide easy grasp and operation. The design allows easy set up from a wheelchair, with continuous pole sleeves originating at the rear corners and one side of the tent. The poles are slid through one end of the sleeve and are captured in pockets on the far end. The other pole end attaches to the tent with posts and grommets. A large vestibule offers easily accessible and protected storage for gear or chairs, as well as space for sitting, eating and recreation. It can also be used for drying wet gear or a sleeping area for pets. The combination window and side entry doors in the sleeping area allow side transfers onto a sleeping cot while also providing excellent ventilation. The mesh roof increases ventilation and reduces condensation in the sleeping area.
The Freedom tent measures 6’6″ wide and 11’8″ long. The height of the vestibule door is 5’2″. It features an aluminum frame, 70D nylon taffeta walls, 40D nylon no-see-um mesh, 210D nylon oxford bathtub floor, and a seam taped 75D StormShield® polyester fly. The packed weight is 16 pounds, 8 ounces. All this with a price tag anywhere between $329 to $575. Be sure to search around for the best prices and “specials.”
The tent’s licensed manufacturer and distributor is Eureka!, a division of Johnson Outdoors. Johnson Outdoors is a well-known leading global outdoor recreation company that turns ideas into adventure with innovative, top-quality products. The company designs, manufactures and markets a portfolio of winning, consumer-preferred brands including: Old Town® canoes and kayaks; Ocean, Necky and Dimension® kayaks; Minn Kota® motors; Hummin-bird®; Scubapro® and SnorkelPro; Uwatec®; and, Eureka!® tents.
If you would like more information regarding the Freedom tent, or any of BlueSky Designs’ innovative solutions, please feel free to browse their website located at http://www.blueskydesigns.us/ or contact them toll-free at 877-603-0828.