Looking for an outdoor adventure this summer? A new website makes finding a place to camp, swim or hike in Texas a whole lot easier.
Hipcamp, which launched two years ago in California, consolidates info from all state and national parks, making finding the perfect place easier through the use of search filters. Filters include amenities (pets allowed, showers); features (caves, swimming holes, forests); activities (biking, fishing) and more. The website expanded to include Texas a few months ago and is quickly growing. They plan to catalogue parks in all 50 states by the end of July, according to Alyssa Ravasio, Hipcamp's founder and CEO.
“We actually chose Texas for our second state because we were just blown away by how big and diverse it is,” she said.
Ravasio got the idea for the site after a camping trip a few years ago.
“I wanted to go camping by the ocean, so I looked at the state park websites online,” she said. “When I got to the park, I realized that the website had missed the most important tip—that the beach was well-known for surfing. I LOVE surfing, and my surfboard was four hours away.”
For that reason, Hipcamp also includes reviews and write-ups from freelancers employed by the site, as well as users. That way campers and day-trippers always know exactly what they're getting.
Ravasio's other inspiration was the economic downturn of a couple of years ago. Hipcamp's not-so-secret secondary agenda is environmental conservation, she said.
“State parks in the US were saying they didn't have enough revenue. They were going to close something like 70 state parks in California, including the park where I had spent every summer since I was 5,” she said.
And the downturn didn't just affect the parks. Ravasio was worried some people's vacations—maybe the only vacation they could afford to take that year—would be ruined by the cutbacks.
“Out of everything (those parks) had to worry about, there was no one focused on making sure people had an amazing experience. Our whole company is very passionate about the outdoors. If we get more people outside, we'll get more people passionate about protecting it.”
When it comes to camping, Texas presents a unique problem. Unlike states such as Idaho, which has lots of public land thanks to the Bureau of Land Management, much of Texas's choicest land is privately owned. But Hipcamp has a solution for that as well. Starting this month, the site is launching a land-sharing program much like Airbnb, where private landowners can list their properties alongside the state and national parks.
“We're working with property owners so they can make revenue on their property. Their other options are logging, mining, farming. This is a way for landowners to preserve their land instead and still pay their property taxes.”
“There's a greater question about the purpose parks serve—are they just for people, or are the for preservation and education? With Hipcamp, we are really able to use recreational activity to fund conservation.”