Each week, we feature members of our community who inspire us to get outside and help spread the #campvibes. This week, we got in touch with Melissa and Mark, the Hipcampers behind the Instagram account "HipcampChamps." With a handle like that, we had to learn more about these campers! Melissa and Mark live in NYC but have mastered weekend warrior concrete to campsite trips.
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How did you guys first hear of Hipcamp, and what inspired you to create the Instagram account @hipcampchamps?
Mark: The Great American Solar Eclipse was headed our way… but not quite. We made the spontaneous decision to drive 900 miles to reach the path of totality. Non-negotiables for the trip: sleeping under the night sky and a (small) fire. After calling dozens of public campgrounds, we were disappointed by the unavailability and inflexibility of public campgrounds – and that’s when we stumbled upon Hipcamp.
Melissa: We created @hipcampchamps to share our love for camping, remind ourselves that the world is not man-made, and pay it forward to anyone looking for ways to the appreciate the great outdoors.
Living in NYC, how do you make time to reconnect with nature? Why do you think this is important?
Melissa: At first, we planned day trips to upstate New York to explore the Hudson Valley, which evolved into weekend getaways along the Appalachian Trail. Before long, we were finding ways to include the great outdoors in all of our travels. For example, going home for the holidays turned into a scenic, 2,500-mile road trip to the Midwest. Knowing that our upcoming weekend would be spent in nature, removed from the built environment, gave us something to look forward to – in stark contrast to the daily hustle of living, working, and surviving in NYC.
You've been on 7 Hipcamp trips so far—what have been some of your favorite memories?
Mark: We challenge each other to “go primitive.” As an Eagle Scout, I learned the camping fundamentals growing up. Melissa, on the other hand… is an aspiring backwoods chef. Teaching her survival skills – then applying them in winter conditions – has proved to be as challenging as it is entertaining. For the record, home-made chili has never tasted better if you’ve just spent an hour cooking it in 11°F snow showers.
Melissa: Besides the glory of surrendering to nature, we have met incredible Hipcamp hosts. Dennis from Camping & Caving Homestead gave us free-range to explore his lands, so we camped in an old rock quarry. Anna Marie and Ed from Oak Mountain Hideaway (#couplegoals) were the loveliest hosts, supplying us with freshly-baked cookies upon arrival and a tour of their gorgeous, one-of-a-kind wooden home – which they built themselves and now use for live concerts!
Do you remember your first camping trips?
Mark: My first camping trip was at the ripe age of ten, with my Boy Scout Troop. It was a weekend trip to Starved Rock State Park, about halfway between Chicago and Peoria, IL. I remember how much fun I had just hanging out with my childhood friends, exploring all the trails around the campground by day and night, listening to ghost stories, making s'mores, going "snipe hunting” – you know, the classic camping activities. Ever since then, I've been hooked.
I hear you're going to Patagonia in a few weeks. What are your plans for the trip? How are you preparing for the whole new-level of off-the-grid camping you'll be doing while on your trek?
Melissa: We are heading to Chilean Patagonia to backpack the 130-km Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine – which will be a testament to our mastery of camping (and relationship, ha!) Luckily, most of our camping gear is already lightweight and weatherproof – so we only had to invest in a backpacking stove kit and waterproof layers. I admit that I’m relying on Mark, given his off-the-grid camping and hiking while in the US Marine Corps. He tends to know his way around a map and has some hardcore survival skills... or so he claims. He's also great at doing the heavy lifting! (Just kidding, we’re proportionately sharing the burden… right?)
What do you love most about Hipcamp—and camping in general?
Mark: Hipcamp connects us with people who truly appreciate the outdoors and want to share that passion with others. The quality of Hipcamp sites are miles ahead of any public grounds we've been to – and not ravaged by the end of camping season. We love that every Hipcamp site we’ve visited is secluded – and hosts treat us as independent adults.
Melissa: Camping allows us to remember what it means to be human – and that as a species, we have spent far more time outside than inside. There is something deeply fulfilling about being able to toss a few belongings in a backpack (or into Mark’s truck bed) and go "into the wild." It reconnects us with our more primitive roots.
Any tips for people living in cities wanting to make more time for nature?
- Start small. In the New York/Tri-State Area, there are plenty of day trips to take advantage of, from relaxing walks to challenging hikes – and many of them are just a public transit ride away.
- Forget the fancy gear. We started with the absolute basics: a simple tent, blankets, and a lighter is all you really need… and don’t forget snacks! Step up your game and upgrade your gear as the need arises.
- Grab a friend. If you have never camped before, take an overnight trip with someone who has a bit of experience. Make it easy on yourself and look out for good weather – so you can discover just how fun camping is… You just might get hooked!
Check out where Mark and Melissa have camped below!