How to Find a Campsite, Airbnb Style

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The Tipi Village Retreat in Oregon is just outside the 'path of totality' for the 2017 eclipse. (Photo: Hipcamp)

If you love to camp (or you like to road-trip to cool spots in your camper van), you know that finding a great place to set up for a night or two can be difficult. Public campgrounds are often filled months in advance, and private campgrounds are often crowded and noisy. Quite often, they can also be expensive for those in tents or small vehicles because they're geared toward RVs. And there's nothing worse than setting up in a cool spot and getting kicked out in the middle of the night because you chanced spending the night outside of a designated overnight spot.

Enter Hipcamp, which offers places to camp that you find online, Airbnb style. There are simple tent sites with running water, spots with bathrooms, some with showers (or tubs!), and others that include a shelter, like a yurt or lean-to.

The site is especially useful for those with an eye toward Aug. 21, when people across the country will head outdoors to view a total eclipse of the sun. The eclipse will best be seen within an arc about 70 miles wide that runs from the Carolinas to the Pacific Northwest. Hipcamp boasts more than 700 sites to choose from along the arc — and more are coming — on both public and private land.

Beechwood Cabin Tent in South Carolina
Beechwood Cabin Tents in South Carolina offer shelter in the woods on a family farm, perfect for eclipse viewing. (Photo: Hipcamp)

The idea for the site, founded by avid outdoorswoman Alyssa Ravasio, came when she was looking for a place to stay near Big Sur in California. She had spent hours looking around online to find what she thought was a simple thing: a campsite somewhere that would give her a great view of the sunrise on the first day of 2013. She found a spot, but was missing some important info: “When I actually arrived at the campground,” she relates on the Hipcamp About page, “I found out that even though I'd read so much about this place, I hadn't learned that it was home to a great surf break — and I'm a surfer and hadn't brought my board!”

What you can expect to find

Knowing exactly what outdoor travelers needed, she set out to create it, as the video above explains. Ravasio headed to a computer coding camp and built the site in 2013, and began in the state of California, with other states following. It now covers: "... all national, state, regional and Army Corps parks in all 50 states. Which comes out to 3,339 parks, 10,391 campgrounds and 298,054 campsites across the USA."

Hipcamp has private spaces, rented out via individual landowners too: Farms, vineyards and more are available. There's a lengthy description of the campsites, details about bathrooms and fire pits, swimming, fishing and hiking nearby, and other local features. Most places include reviews from people who've stayed there, and a section on the "vibe" at each location features local weather conditions and distance from your current location. And of course, there are images of each spot. There are also tips (like when to bring extra layers, bug spray — or your surfboard) and whether a location is pet-friendly.

romantic tree house in California
This romantic rustic tree house in California offers a couples-only nature escape. (Photo: Hipcamp)

“We wanted to be able to quickly answer a question like, ‘Where can I go camping next weekend by the beach with my dog?' then expedite the booking process,” Ravasio told Conde Nast Traveler.

“With all the technology surrounding our daily lives and consuming so many of our waking moments, I think people are waking up to the reality that getting outside is a really powerful way to reset and recharge,” says Ravasio. “We often say you have to disconnect to reconnect, with your family, your friends, yourself, and the amazing nature all around you. I think this is only the very beginnings of a huge movement.”

Cowgirl Glamping Cabin in Tennessee is off-grid camping but with a bed.
Cowgirl Glamping Cabin in Tennessee is off-grid camping but with a bed. (Photo: Hipcamp)