The approach to the campsite was hidden in the woods of a remote Catskills neighborhood — we passed it at least once. When we discovered it, we turned our white minivan onto the dirt road and rumbled uphill through the trees. The road turned to grass, but we knew we were on the right track as we could make out two grooves that extended further through a grove of trees.
Beyond the trees was a large field on the crest of a hill. It was foggy and misty when we arrived — we could just make out the field’s size and shape by the line of trees that ran around it. At the far end the rough shape of a valley emerged from the mist. It was mysterious and beautiful, like something from an ’80s fantasy movie. Was all this ours? Yes, it was! At the field’s edge was what we were looking for: our own Tentrr campsite.
We pulled up to the site and hopped out to survey our new home in the wild. It was unmistakable: a handsome square beige canvas tent, like something out of a Napoleonic campaign, stood about three feet off of the ground on a solid wooden platform. Next to it was a custom wooden picnic table, benches and a little wooden cabinet. Nearby was a deep fire pit and a pre-cut pile of wood. Here was our weekend escape from the city, all set up and waiting for us.
J. and M. had spent the entire day climbing the nearby Gunks, that is, the Shawangunk Ridge — one of the best climbing spots in the Catskills. An old foot injury kept me out of the harness, so I hiked a dozen miles along the ancient paths that ran through the adjacent Shawangunk Conservancy. Our day started at 5am since we had to drive north in time for the climbing class. It was 5pm when we arrived at camp; we were exhausted and just wanted dinner and time to relax.
Our muscles were sore, but our spirits soared seeing our whole campsite was ready for us when we arrived. Had we been camping anywhere else, we would have had at least an hour of work just setting up camp. Fortunately we chose Tentrr. Instead of a mad scramble to get our tents up, start the fire and cut the veggies, we cracked some beers, kicked about, and lazily got our bits of kindling glowing hot.
We were worried the canvas tent would be soggy from a day of moderate rain and mist. We were delighted to find the thick canvas was waterproofed, the inside completely dry. Good thing, because just as we finished dinner the skies opened up and we were forced to retreat inside for card games and cookies.
We were glad for that wooden platform too. A regular tent would have leaked water at some point during this storm, even with a footprint tarp. Being elevated off of the ground, our tent stayed completely dry. It made me wish I could bring a raised deck on every camping trip.
Herein lies the beauty of Tentrr. Regular car camping is easy, except you’re limited to official camp sites, which invariably means a crowded lot with neighbors on three sides, and nosey rangers who want you to keep the noise down. It’s more like camping in a policed parking lot than experiencing the wilderness.
You could get the freedom and privacy campgrounds lack by backcountry camping. That means hiking for miles over rough ground with all of your junk on your back. For many of us that’s not a relaxing way to spend a weekend. Oh, and don’t forget the $100 boots, $200 backpack, $300 tent, $200 sleeping bag, the $50 water filter and $50 camp stove — just to get started.
With Tentrr you get the ease of car camping, throwing everything in the trunk and driving right up to the site (in our case, an old dairy farm-turned-campground-heaven) and the solitude that comes with being the only campers for miles — or at least feeling like it. And you don’t have to drop all that money on expensive gear.
Tentrr connects you, the casual camper, with landowners who’ve got spectacular views and tons of space. Yeah, it’s like that other house-sharing site, except way better. Instead of getting a patch of dirt and nothing else, you get a pre-made campsite with a massive tent, a queen-size air bed (yes, BED), fire pit and grill, a picnic table, a camp toilet (no squatting behind a tree, thankyouverymuch), a solar shower, slick Adirondack chairs, and even a six-person pop-up tent for those last-minute additions to your group. And if you’ve got a question, you can call up Tentrr right there. All this costs less than the price of a hotel room; split it across six friends and you’re paying less than the price of a cocktail in Manhattan!
The best part: the site is yours alone — no sharing the space with noisy families or drunken louts (save the ones you bring with you) and no rangers reminding you of quiet hours. Try asking for all of that at a state park!
For us, the rain let up overnight. We woke up with the sun to find that hazy valley was actually a knockout view of the purple, layered mountains of Minnewaska State Park — something no other campsite in the area offered (believe me, we’ve tried them all). And it was just for us.
Want to try it out? Use code BROKELYN for a 15 percent discount! For more information on Tentrr or to book a campsite, go here.