Hipcamp, an innovative new way to connect campers with thousands of outdoor sites, was born out of one frustrating weekend. The founder, Alyssa Ravasio, struggled searching online for camping spots where she could simply kick back to watch the sun go down on a beach in her native California. After scouring the web for local, state and national parks, she couldn’t find much at all about private spots. The internet failed her, with no features to search for amenities and no camper reviews to help her in her hunt for the perfect chill zone.
Tired of digging, she blindly picked a spot that looked good and started packing. Before she and her friends embarked on their trip, she unloaded her surfboard from her car, leaving it behind because the weekend didn’t seem to point in the direction of waves. But as soon as the group arrived at the campsite, what did she see?
“The most amazing surf break!” she recalled to me in an interview. “And nothing I had read online even mentioned surfing. I would have left the board in my car and brought it.”
Out of this annoyance came an idea: Why not create a searchable database of all the camping sites in California? Ravasio realized there were thousands more private camping spots just like this one that also weren’t centralized online. So she decided to do something about it.
Ravasio co-founded Hipcamp, the first site that welcomes curious campers of any level to find exactly what they’re looking for. It’s part of the growing awareness travelers are developing about alternatives to the mainstream and how to stay healthy while traveling. The project offers a new way for campers (and would-be campers) to discover and book their next adventure. You can search more than 280,000 campsites across the country, including those in public parks and on private land. The site is full of high-quality photography, user reviews and a database to search for all kinds of amenities.
Privacy? Check. Waterfalls? Sure. Kid-friendly and dogs allowed? You got it. And yes, it will even tell you if there’s a good place to surf.
The whole point of the website is to help people enjoy the outdoors more, regardless of the level of experience or the equipment they might have for the wild.
Hipcamp also recruits landowners to host campers on their property. The landowners — some entirely off-site, others hands-on — receive extra income and a way to help preserve nature, while the campers get a broader range of options. It’s a smart marriage for green travelers who want to be conscientious while exploring.
The database is now nationwide, focused around major cities and contains 3,000 private land sites to reference with hundreds more added all the time. Ravasio says the Hipcamp community includes more than 1.5 million campers. And the group is as diverse as it is growing. On one end of the spectrum are people who want to rough it and pay just a few dollars a night. On the other end, you have glampers who might favor a luxurious tree house with hot-water showers.
And Ravasio knows the value of a private spot: It’s a great enticement for people who don’t want to visit crowded public parks.
“You can have the whole area to yourself,” she says. “You can really feel like you’re out on your own in nature, and that’s a special thing to be able to offer people.”
Ravasio and team also aim to connect city dwellers with farmers and other rural landowners. Some of them offer activities or the chance to volunteer in an environmental cause — like installing solar energy systems or nurturing fish runs or organic farming.
So this isn’t an elite group for experienced campers only. Rather, the site aims to help people of all kinds enjoy being outdoors, understand their communities and protect precious ecosystems by supporting private landowners.
“You’re using recreation to support the conservation of these environments,” Ravasio told me. “Camping is fun, but it’s really nice to know that you’re making a good impact at the same time.”