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Why more people are rejecting Black Friday in favor of 'Campsgiving'

For people who hate Black Friday's long lines, there's Cyber Monday. For people who hate both, here's another option: "Campsgiving."

Hipcamp, the Airbnb for camping, said that Campsgiving bookings are up four times over last year. (The event started as a social media hashtag shared by people who rejected popular holiday activities — like door buster sales — in favor of unplugging and being outdoors.)

"They don't want to go and buy a bunch of stuff on Black Friday," said Hipcamp CEO Alyssa Ravasio.

In coordination with outdoor retailer REI's #OptOutside initiative, which encourages people to get outside instead of hit the malls on Black Friday, Hipcamp is waiving all service fees over the Thanksgiving weekend. In fact, more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving Day this year than ever before.

Camping
Jordan Siemens | Getty Images

Hipcamp connects people looking for a place to pitch a tent with landowners looking to make money from idle space, and takes a cut of the transaction. The company is working with almost 2,000 campsites on private land, from basic wilderness spots to full-service glamping-style retreats.

"We saw an increase in camping reservations after the election," said Ravasio. "Nature, for many people is an amazing place to go heal and restore and recharge and just find that balance in your life again."

Forty-four percent of U.S. households camp at least occasionally, according to the 2016 North American Camping Report.

Though camping might seem like a good option for escaping a politically charged Facebook news feed this holiday season, it's likely not a key motivation. Most campers do not unplug: 88 percent use cellphones, 76 percent go online and 41 percent check email, the study found.

Camping
Robert Lang Photography | Getty Images

Ravasio started Hipcamp two years ago when she became frustrated by not being able to find a campsite by the ocean. She almost booked an Airbnb, but really wanted to be outside, she said.

Its customers are the same demographic that has helped Airbnb build a business which has garnered a $30 billion valuation, and its hosts sometimes list on both platforms. Ravasio rejects the idea that the two companies compete for bookings.

"The intention of going camping is very different to finding a cool alternative to a hotel," she said. "Our campers are more understanding around things like there will be bugs and dirt. They have really different expectations."

That said, Hipcamp may have started with tent camping but bookings of structures, including yurts, treehouses and canvas tent cabins, are becoming an increasingly important part of the business, said Ravasio. The company has raised $3 million in funding from investors.


— With reporting by CNBC's Jeniece Pettitt.