July 4th is fast approaching. For many, it will be the first chance of the summer to escape the hot, crowded city. In theory, camping is a cheap, low-maintenance option for total seclusion. But in practice, it’s not so simple: you’ll need a car, a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, a lantern, some cooking equipment. If you don’t already have that stuff, your camping trip will quickly add up to double the cost of a cushy cabin or a rental on Airbnb.
Now, a new startup called Tentrr has entered the space with an intriguing middle-ground option. The company provides an online platform for would-be campers to search for and rent campsites on privately owned land. It eliminates the need for equipment by providing literally everything a camper could need—from shelter and a campfire grill to a collapsible water container. Most interestingly, its sites are standardized: each has a canvas wall tent on a wood deck foundation and is stocked with all the same amenities.
For the time being, Tentrr is only in New England—with sites Northeast from Pennsylvania to Maine—but it plans to expand to the Pacific Northwest in late 2017. The website borrows heavily from the UX of the Airbnb platform, with simple navigation to explore campsites by date and location. Campers and campsite owners have profiles and can leave comments, and a detailed listing offers everything you need to know about amenities and how to get there.
Central to the platform’s appeal are the campsites on offer—all of which are not normally available to campers since they are on private land. There’s a former Catskill Game Farm, for example, which was the site of a world-famous zoo until 2006. There’s an apple farm, also in upstate New York, that stretches over 150 acres. All sites are tucked away in the corners of property that is 10 acres at a minimum (per Tentrr requirements), so it feels private and secluded.
Aside from the digital component to Tentrr, which also includes an iOS app (for access to the platform with or without Wi-Fi), the other half of the company is actually a physical product: the custom flatpack tent. The wooden platform was designed by the fabrication company Kammetal, which engineered the 1 World Trade Center beacon and enclosure. The whole tent kit is modular, and the platform can be snapped together on-site using z-clips. The tents are made from natural canvas, and come with a queen-sized cot, a five-person dome tent, a picnic table, an outdoor camp toilet, and a sun-shower. Tentrr assembles it on-site, and the entire thing is absorbed in a $1,500 membership fee for campsite owners ($1,250 if you pay upfront).
For campers, the sites are listed around $120. If you’re a seasoned camper with your own equipment, this is probably not for you. But for others, it is a nice mix of roughing it (no indoor plumbing!) and having absolutely everything you might need for a weekend in the woods (down to the two Citronella candles each tent is equipped with).
And from a design perspective, Tentrr’s standardized, custom tent is an interesting alternative to something like a Yurt, the ancient structures from Central Asia that are now popular for wooded vacations (a search on Airbnb brings up the top 20 Yurts for rental just in the Catskills). For a generation of urbanites, self-assembled, semi-permanent summer homes do hold a certain appeal.