Last Updated on January 7, 2021 by Jody
If you’ve ever booked a room through Airbnb or caught a ride in an Uber, you’re no stranger to the shared economy business model, which uses unique, technology-based platforms to facilitate interaction between a service provider and customer.
Hipcamp came into being in 2013 and has been called the Airbnb of camping. The Hipcamp platform allows campers to connect with landowners to book campsites on private land across the United States.
“As everyone starts planning for summer camping season, we wanted to create a resource that makes getting outside simple, straightforward, and fun,” says Hipcamp founder and CEO Alyssa Ravasio.
Hipcamp is currently the largest booking platform for private camping opportunities, with 300,000 campsites to choose from across the US. It also allows you to find and search for public campgrounds, but those must be booked outside of the Hipcamp platform.
I’ve been using the Hipcamp reservation system to book private campsites since 2015, and while my experience hasn’t always been perfect, it opens up so many new opportunities for unique and secluded camping.
Tent camping? Glamping? RVing?
Our Camping 101 series covers all of them!
Here’s what we love about Hipcamp, what we don’t love, and some tips for finding the best private campsites for your next adventure.
How to Use Hipcamp
From the Hipcamp homepage, type in the city and state you’ll be traveling to or select “current location” to find camping near you. Add the dates you are looking for and whether you want to go camping, glamping, or RVing.
Search through the available listings to find your perfect private or public land campsite. You can add filters based on the preferences you’re looking for, such as pet-friendly camping, Wi-Fi, swimming, electricity hook-ups, and more.
When you are ready to book a campsite, you will see one of three booking notices:
- Many private campsites can be booked directly and instantly on the Hipcamp platform.
- Federal lands, nature preserves, and state parks do not yet utilize real-time availability to make direct booking possible, so for those, you will be redirected to the park’s reservation system.
- For some private campsite listings, you will have to “request to book” by submitting your dates for approval by the landowner.
After you book your camping trip, you will receive the contact info, address, and directions to your home-away-from-home. Be sure to look over the amenities so you know what to bring on your trip.
What We Love about Using Hipcamp
The absolute best part about Hipcamp is finding private campsites that are nothing at all like campground camping – no crowds, no generator noise, no late night parties at the next campsite over. Some Hipcamp properties have more than one campsite, but they are never close to each other.
With Hipcamp, we’ve stayed in secluded forests next to waterfalls, in luxurious treehouses and yurts, and in farmers’ fields. Each campsite is unique to the property where it’s located, and many hipcamp hosts have extras available for purchase, like fresh eggs, meat, veggies, or maple syrup.
Most campsite hosts will give you as much privacy as you want, but they also make themselves available to answer questions, give advice, or just chat if you’re interested, and we have made some great friends during many of our Hipcamp stays.
We especially love booking private landowner Hipcamp sites near popular attractions where we know the public campgrounds will be either all booked up or too crowded and noisy for comfort.
What We Don’t Love about Using Hipcamp
Like many of the platforms that are part of the sharing economy, Hipcamp isn’t perfect. Our biggest beef with Hipcamp is that while each camping experience is unique, you never know what you’re going to get, and we have had some less-than-pleasant experiences.
There was the campsite that we never found because the directions were incorrect and we didn’t have cell service. And the site that was listed on Hipcamp by a family member who didn’t tell the land owners who actually lived on the property. And finally, the super friendly hosts that hovered around our campsite during our entire trip.
These interactions, good and bad, are part of the sharing economy. There is much less oversight than what you would find at a typical campground. When it works, it’s awesome, and when it doesn’t, well, it can be disappointing.
Smart Hipcamp Booking Tips
We have gotten much smarter about how we book Hipcamp properties, and we’ve had some great experiences over the past year. If you’re interested in giving Hipcamp a try, here are some tips for ensuring you have a great trip:
- Looked for verified sites – When searching for private Hipcamp property on the website or app, look for a little blue check mark next to the name of the listing. This means that the site has been verified by other Hipcampers and possibly even a Hipcamp field scout, who gets paid to scout and photograph properties to ensure that the listing is accurate.
- Read the listing carefully – The campsite listing will tell you lots of important information, like how far you have to walk with your gear, whether campfires are permitted, and if toilets, showers, or potable water are available. Unlike many public campgrounds, nothing is guaranteed, not even porta-potties.
- Read the reviews – It’s a good idea to choose campsites that have a couple of reviews already. Here you will glean all kinds of useful information, like whether the camping is on a busy road, or if the sites are swampy or sloped.
- Reach out to your host – If you aren’t sure about something, simply ask. Within each listing is a place where you can reach out to property owners to ask about specifics.
- Look through the photos – The photos included in a listing are a gold mine of information and will allow you to view the layout of the campsite, check out the cleanliness of the amenities, and scope out the lay of the land.
Camping on private land is a great way to see the country from a new perspective, and Hipcamp really does have some incredible campsite listings for every budget. Whether you want a luxurious glamping site or a simple patch of woods near your favorite national park, you’re bound to find something unique on Hipcamp.
Do you have a favorite campsite you discovered through Hipcamp? Let us know in the comments!
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