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This Airbnb-style camping startup wants to help eclipse watchers without a hotel room

Key Points
  • Hipcamp, an Airbnb-style camping startup, has turned the shortage of hotel rooms along the solar eclipse's "path of totality" to its advantage.
  • The company arranges for private campsites, which can help bring eclipse watchers closer to nature, while the experience the rare event.
Joseph Barrak | AFP | Getty Images

There's no better place to watch Monday's eclipse than the great outdoors. Literally.

Families all over the country have been rushing to secure a viewing spot along the eclipse's path of totality, where the full eclipse can be seen. But for those who didn't plan far enough in advance, Airbnbs, hotels and public campgrounds are booked through the roof.

Hipcamp, an Airbnb-style campsite startup, is using this to its advantage, to help spread the word about its service.

The startup hopes win customers by offering the change to dodge the lodging madness by creating over 3,000 new private campsites on the path of totality, connecting landowners to visitors who want a private getaway when they tilt their heads to the sun. Venues provided by Hipcamp include nature preserves, farms, and ranches; sheltered getaways away from the public madness.

"The eclipse is this incredible natural phenomenon," said Alyssa Ravasio, the founder and CEO of Hipcamp. "I think seeing it in nature is the perfect way to experience that."

Ravassio started Hipcamp four years ago, when she felt compelled to create something more accessible after frustratingly being unable to find somewhere to camp.

Hipcamp differentiates itself in its partnership between landowners and nature-enthusiasts, booking all their sites on private land. These locations can be near waterfalls or among fields of sheep. This allows customers to avoid the struggle of finding a hotel when vacancies run thin, while creating revenue flow for landowners who might otherwise have to turn their land over to developers.

"We're all about connecting people over this incredible awe," Ravassio said. "When people get somewhere near nature, this feeling of awe tends to sweep over you."

When Hipcamp started to grow, the nature-based startup decided it wouldn't participate in any event-based bookings because it would go against the idea of being outdoors, Ravassio said. If Hipcamp marketed around events like Coachella, for instance, it would be discouraging people to explore nature, she said.

But Ravassio changed her mind about event-based bookings when she heard about the upcoming phenomenon that couldn't be passed up. Amidst the eclipse hype, Hipcamp decided to market campsites along the path of totality, adding 1,000 new campsites in Oregon in the past week. It was a new experiment, both for the startup and the customers.

"A total eclipse is a human's only chance of grasping our solar system," Ravassio said. "For me that did it."

And the customers answered her sentiments — with a boom in sales, the eclipse has been "superfuel" for the startup, Ravassio said.

Hipcamp is planning to pursue the same path for other natural phenomenons in the future, such as asteroid showers, superblooms and monarch butterfly migrations. But for now, it's staking its tents all across the country as it prepares for the sun-dazzling eclipse that looms early next week.