by Jon O’Connell
LAKE TWP. — Paul Reining pointed his wife’s Ford Super Duty pickup down away from the power lines toward a small hole in a wall of trees.
The trail to the campsite he and his wife built for traveling strangers meandered through close trees.
The truck slid and bounced along the rutted path slicked with mud from a rainfall an hour earlier. A sheer drop on the right spilled down to a trickling creek. The Wayne County landowner, a forester and timber buyer by trade, deftly guided the pickup like he knew every inch of the trail.
In the belly of the hollow, heavy greenery embraced a waiting oasis.
Paul and Penny Reining were getting ready for their first guests. The couple, the so-called campkeepers, recently signed on with a company called Tentrr (pronounced tent-er) to offer up to strangers the 660-plus acres they and their family own.
“To teach somebody from the city about camping, that’s super cool,” Paul Reining said. He and his wife, whom he affectionately calls “my bride,” spend their free time outdoors. They find forests off the beaten path, and kayak down the river, camping along the shore as they go.
Tentrr is one of the gig economy’s latest manifestations.
Like Uber or Airbnb, it uses the internet to connect paying campers to campkeepers, then takes 20 percent off the top.
The tech company was founded two years ago, with its first installations in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
It now has about 40 campsites in Eastern Pennsylvania, including sites in Dallas, Shavertown, Carbondale, Factoryville and Honesdale. For now, the investor-backed company is only in northeastern states. It is expanding to California this year, said spokeswoman Baxter Townsend.
When the Reinings first went to an information session, they balked at the idea that someone would spend $100 or more per night to go camping. Then they realized what’s included.
After picking the spot, Tentrr builders drove in with a truckful of lumber and furniture.
They spent about three-and-a-half hours installing a wooden platform for the tent, a canvas-wrapped pole structure just big enough for bunk beds with queen-sized air mattresses, a few small end tables and a wood stove.
They dropped off a picnic table and pantry and a toilet and shower. The Reinings paid $1,250 for the setup, then built an enclosure for the toilet and shower (the default is to have those things in open air) and put in a bear box for storing food away from bears.
Yes, bears live in the woods in Wayne County.
Tentrr manages the transaction and the scheduling. It holds campers accountable for their behavior. For example, anyone who steals a blanket or campstove gets an extra credit card charge to replace the item and then is blackballed from the program, Penny Reining explained.
With the basics in place, she went to work adding her personal touch. There’s a giant tic-tac-toe board carved into a tree stump. Art hangs from the canvas walls inside and the end tables are stocked with books.
She plans to leave biodegradable craft supplies like sticks and twine so guests can build “pixie houses” to leave behind like a sort of diorama guestbook.
“I really would love to see more interest in the woods, in the forest, in nature,” Penny Reining said. “There’s no cell phone service down here, which is cool.”
The Reinings set their base price at $130 per night.
On average, Tentrr guests stay two nights, Townsend said.
Campers can pay for add-ons, such as firewood or kayaking, or to have the site set up and ready before they arrive with the campfire ready and wine chilling on ice.
“We encourage it all the time. Not only do they make more money, but it also helps bookings,” Townsend said. “We find that those sites get booked more as well as make more money.”
Campkeepers set the price for extras.
The Reinings include firewood in the base price. Paul Reining said he’d rather guests didn’t go hacking through his forests looking for firewood, or worse, bring in their own and accidentally smuggle in invasive pests.
He plucked a bright green leaf from the ground.
“You can tell it’s a Christmas fern because it looks like a stocking,” he said, pointing to a little toe poking from the bottom of the leaf. “And it’s an evergreen.”
He’s knows just about every growing thing in his woods by name, so he offers guided nature walks to guests to share his knowledge.
As his pickup bumped along the forest’s edge, two adult turkeys scurried out in front. He slowed as about a dozen chicks chased behind their mother. It was late for chicks so young.
“Usually they’re fledged out by now,” he said.
The chicks flapped and hurried off into the woods.
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Tentrr opens Pennsylvania logistics hub
Tentrr, a consumer technology marketplace that connects landowners with people seeking to effortlessly enjoy and explore the great outdoors, recently celebrated the grand opening of its logistics hub and warehouse at 200 Airstrip Road, East Stroudsburg.
The new 3,000 sq/ft logistics hub and warehouse will serve as Tentrr’s base to partner with local landowners and scout properties and install campsites. In its first month of operation, the logistics hub created 10 jobs and installed 50 campsites in 12 counties throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey including Monroe, Wayne, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Carbon, Berks, Bucks and Schuylkill counties. By the end of the summer, Tentrr plans to have installed 200 campsites throughout the region.
Tentrr was founded by adventurer and former investment banker Michael D’Agostino.