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Last week we “opened” our campground property to guests using Hipcamp—even though we haven’t built out RV pads yet!
Since we’ve shared our campground dream, many people have emailed us to share that they have a similar dream. And quite a few people have said “I have ## acres and would love to just invite people to camp on my property. How can I do that?”
I’ve always replied with the link to sign up for Hipcamp.
Hipcamp is a site that allows private landowners (or wannabe campground builders) to make money by charging nightly fees for campers. When someone’s planning their next camping trip and want to stay on private land (versus the rules that come with free public land), they can stay on your property. It’s kinda like Airbnb for camping. Plus it’s way less involved than a full-on campground or short-term rental because no one expects hook ups or dump stations or dog parks or playgrounds or paved roads.
(Which is good because we don’t have any of those things.)
People are simply looking for an outdoor experience. Plus they are often looking for camping near national parks which can be hard to come by! We are only about 20 minutes from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park here in Colorado.
Since we aren’t a full-functioning RV park yet, we decided Hipcamp was the perfect place to list our property to open up boondocking for campers through the rest of 2021.
We set up our listing last Tuesday and shared the link with you all. Bookings started rolling in but we quickly noticed something…
Only about half of the bookings were from people on our email list.
The rest were from campers searching the Hipcamp site just looking for a campsite out here on the western slope of Colorado.
And we were like…
A little bit shocked.
A little bit nervous.
A little bit like hey…this campground thing might actually work out. 🤯🥳
(Heath already asked me if we really needed to take the time and money to build out RV pads because setting up our Hipcamp listing was so easy. Yes, Heath. Yes we do.)
This past week of bringing in our first guests, getting paid (payments are direct deposited every Tuesday and we made exactly $22.50 for our first campers but IT FEELS GOOD), and figuring out how to run a boondocking campground taught us a few things.
1. Choosing the right platform for building your business matters.
Find the platform that has the best functionality to make your business run seamlessly. It’s the same reason we give the advice to sell a book on Amazon versus on your website. Hipcamp makes it ridiculously easy to set up your profile and we were up in running in a day.
2. Go where customers are ready to buy.
Hipcamp has been around for long enough to have a great reputation among campers and a growing customer base. Heath and I both worried that no one other than people who double tap our Instagram photos would ever choose to camp with us. Strangers booking our campsite is unbelievably encouraging and exciting. They are growing in popularity, making it a no brainer to list where campers are actively looking for sites.
3. Automation makes everything easier.
We can accept reservations, send automated check-in messages, and address questions all from our phones. Very handy when you spend most of your day playing with a one-year-old.
4. Be okay with version 1.
Heath and I went back and forth a LOT on if we wanted to open up to campers in 2021.
It usually went something like this:
“We aren’t ready. What if someone drives over the leach field and sinks and has to be towed out? We haven’t even figured out where to order commercial-size toilet paper yet! We haven’t furnished our 4,000 sq. ft schoolhouse yet. We need to buy a washer-dryer set before anyone camps!!” 😬
“We have a fully renovated schoolhouse that’s ready for use. We have huge shade trees and a leveled, gravel area for RVs. No other boondocking sites have showers and fiber internet and a kitchen so I don’t think people will be mad about our lack of a washer. People are emailing us asking every week if they can boondock. Why not open up?” 🤷🏻♀️
After a solid month of back and forth, we are both feeling good about our decision—even though it means giving people an up-close and personal look at our messy version one of a campground.
Yes, there is some customer support and we installed coded locks so people can access our building and bathrooms. But no one has complained once about our messy version one and we’re continuing to see more reservations (and more money) come in.
5. Most of all, it was a good reminder that taking action is always scary and always worth it—whether it’s starting a new business, buying an RV, selling a house, or just inviting someone to camp under your trees.
We still have a long way to go. Thank you for sharing this journey with us ❤️🏕
You can discover and book sites for your next camping trip on Hipcamp 🙂
Note: We are in no way affiliated with Hipcamp, although I am biased that the founder Alyssa Ravasio and I share the same first name. It instantly made me like Hipcamp more. But it also a truly great way to make money with your property and based on our experience, we would highly recommend it!
I’m a programmer, and my former boss (definitely a “mentor”) would always say “release early, release often”. As related to your “version 1” statement, it’s probably a good thing. Work out the kinks early!
I like that saying!!
I tried to list my camping lot on Hipcamp and was rejected because I have under 5 acres. It is a camping lot we have had for 15 years. I was confused about the objection. If you are renting RV spots on a lot, I cannot figure out how that is better. Not to discourage your efforts, I am more curious how you get around that requirement. Maybe the tone has changed since your post.
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