April 13, 2021

Must have vacation planning with Mark Koep and CampgroundViews.com [EP 271]

CampgroundViews.com uses video, data, and photographs to provide Tent and RV travelers with vital information to help them plan their vacations. And with over 40M Americans going camping every year, this is a must-use in trip planning.     …

Show Notes

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Rick Saez
Must have vacation planning with Mark Koep and CampgroundViews.com [EP 271]
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TOBP 271 | Campground Views

 

CampgroundViews.com uses video, data, and photographs to provide tent and RV travelers with vital information to help them plan their vacations. With over 40 million Americans going camping every year, this is a must-use in trip planning.

 

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Show Notes:

Intro to Outdoors

My outdoor experience has been long and varied. I originally started outdoors back when I was 13. I started mountain bike racing at a very high level all the way up to racing the world championships in 24-hour races.

 

So I was always outdoorsy, but our introduction into the camping and RV space happened about 12 years ago when my wife and I decided to sell everything we own, buy a fifth wheel, and start traveling the country.

 

We weren’t rich. We had student loan debt, the typical stuff, and just felt let’s go adventure while we’re young. So we sold everything and bought this RV and headed out on this epic adventure traveling the country.

 

How Campground Views Came to Life

When we started traveling, we recognize that the biggest problem for other people that would want to travel like us was actually finding a campground. It’s a real pain in the butt.

 

So we ended up coming up with this crazy idea to launch a business called CampgroundViews.com and focus on photos and videos of campgrounds and allow people to see it. As we built that business up, we recognized that the next big problem in this industry, this being the outdoor hospitality industry, is that a lot of the owners and operators of those businesses are not the most sophisticated business owners. They love the outdoors, they want to run a campground, but they don’t necessarily know how to do all of that and really provide a good customer experience. And so we believe our mission is to help people get outdoors and experience camping. If we could help these owners better operate their parks, that would create a better experience for the campers.

 

Through that, we’ve focused all of our attention on that experience. Over the last year in COVID times, we ramped that up and we run a few organizations that basically have more members than any other association out there of RV park and campground owners. We help them by just providing them tons of free content to run their businesses better.

 

Another Mission

Now the big thing for the outdoor industry is helping train all these new people on how to properly treat the outdoors. It’s one thing to go camping, hiking, whatever. It’s another thing to do it right. There is definitely a knowledge breakdown there, and I think it behooves all of us to help the newbies come along.

 

This actually goes back to 2020. One of the big things is, through the efforts we’ve done, we’re talking to the park owners all the time. About early July, we started getting feedback from the owners that they’re seeing this massive wave of new campers coming in. It was great for business, but it was driving them nuts because these people did not know basic camping etiquette there.

I went to the owners and said, “What do you want to tell these people and teach them to do?” The owners laid out this massive list. We took it and assigned it to our graphic designer and created a tri-fold brochure and an infographic. We put those out there for free. We said, “Anybody, take them. All we ask is that you leave the logo created by Campground Views, but you can put your own branding on it and share it.”

 

We also partner with a number of influencers to help them get the word out because the industry has changed, and this is for all the outdoor spaces. There are so many voices that you and I may never have heard of, but the people that are in that space are idols. They’re the type of personalities that get the information out. Helping them get the information out is a good way to educate the audience.

 

Favorite Campgrounds

We used to be able to easily say yes. Camping in Springdale, Utah right at the base of Zion national park used to be our best spot to go. As we’ve traveled more and more, we have found that there are so many amazing, unique places that we no longer have a favorite.

 

For example, we stayed in the Florida Keys for a month, camped on sunshine key. Every day we’re able to go out kayaking in those blue waters around the keys. But then that same summer, we spent a month outside of Acadia National Park, and we’re able to go ride the trails.

 

One of the great things about camping and RV, in particular, is it allows you to go to these unique locations and actually stay closer to them than if you were in a hotel or whatnot and really get to enjoy them. There are so many places like you say. How can you have a favorite? They’re all beautiful.

 

New Project

Traditionally, we’ve been marketers for campgrounds and RV parks. We help them get people in their parks. Through that experience, we have found that video imagery is the best tool available to help people choose the right campground. Over the last three years, we’ve been doing standard 360 videos just to help.

 

Through that, we now know that 360 videos can have a profound impact on a few things. Number one, it gets more people into the campground because it allows them to see it and all that stuff. Number two, it actually drops customer service calls into the campground, because many of the questions you want to ask, you can answer on your own by looking at the 360 videos. By dropping that demand on their time, on the phone down, it allows them to be more present onsite for the people that are in their face.

 

The reason a lot of campgrounds can’t post on social media is the managers may be stressed because they’re always on the phone and they just don’t have the time. By reducing that phone need and helping the campers pick a better place that meets their needs, we’re dropping the demands off camp hosts, all the stress, and we’re allowing the campers to be more empowered in picking their campus sites.

 

Activities

We’re hikers and we’re bikers. My wife and I have a tandem mountain bike, a Ventana. It’s got eight inches of travel and we’ve raced that thing. We’ve had it for a decade now. I just love it. We’ll tow a trailer with our little one. Our son is now old enough. He’s got a Scott mountain bike. And so we’ll go mountain biking or riding on trails, and then a lot of hiking. As you get older and you get a family, your adventures change. Instead of going on a five-hour hike, you now take five hours to get going on the hike and then you hike about half an hour.

 

Connectivity

Connectivity is a big deal now. When we started full-time RV, it was 2009. At that time, I had a Nokia flip phone with a keyboard slid out and my connectivity was a USB toggle that I attached via USB card. It was a 3G connection. That was before the iPhone.

 

The 3G connection was almost as fast as a 4G connection back then because nobody else was using the network. As time has gone on, you have all this usage we’re now on. We carry with us a Verizon 4G, a Sprint 4G, and an ATT 4G card. We utilize Wi-Fi routers that tie into those 4G cards within the rig.

 

We also are now at the point, because of our data needs, that we actually look for RV parks that have high-speed internet and travel to those locations. There’s still nothing that works truly mobile, no satellite option or that kind of thing because you get the latency with satellites. It becomes an issue. The 4G cards are “the best,” because the problem is that there are so many people seeking the outdoors and working remotely that the 4G networks are now getting overloaded.

 

Suggestions or Advice

The one thing we didn’t do that we should have done is rent an RV and go out for a week or two and act as if that RV is your home for a week or two. If you’re going to go full time and live on the road, do that because it’s a big commitment. Then the second piece of advice that we got and we followed and I think is absolutely true is to buy the biggest thing you possibly can. Because if you’re living in it, when it’s raining, when it’s crappy weather, you’re stuck inside. The Airstreams look really cool, but most people that full-time in an Airstream generally make it about a year and a half before they finally quit because it’s a small space.

 

If you’re looking just to get into RV camping, the same rules apply. Go rent something for a weekend, see if you like it, and then start doing your research as to what type of unit is appropriate for you and your camping type. Ask yourself questions about budget. What can I afford? What’s the vehicle that you’re going to be towing it with. Is it drivable or not? Do you have a place to store the darn thing when you’re not using it? Those are some big questions. There’s a lot more to ask along that journey. Where are you going to go camping at, how often are you going to use it, those types of things. The big thing is that RV rentals have become very accessible now with companies like RV Share over the place.

 

360 Insider Crowdfunding Campaign: https://www.campgroundviews.com/join-the-club/

Connect with Mark: mark@campgroundviews.com

 

Snippets:

03:57 – 04:17 Our Idea

05:50 – 06:35 How we help Camp Hosts

26:10- 26:56 Advice

Must have vacation planning with Mark Koep and CampgroundViews.com

 

Welcome to episode 271 of the show with Mark Koep from CampgroundViews.com brought to you by TeePublic. CampgroundViews.com uses video data and photographs to provide tent and RV travelers with vital information to help them plan their vacations. With over 40 million Americans going camping every year, this is a must-use in your trip planning. Mark, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

It’s great to catch up with you. I look forward to meeting you someday at a campground or maybe up at your family’s place up in Coalville. It’ll be fun.

The eastern side of the Sierra Nevada is one of those perfect places.

It’s a good place to hang out if we get inundated a little bit especially with the pandemic. If you live here, there are places to go and secret places you can go and hideout.

We won’t share those publicly.

We won’t talk about those on the show. Tell us about your introduction to the outdoors. How did you get into the outdoor world?

My outdoor experience has been long and varied. I originally started outdoors back when I was thirteen. I started mountain bike racing and raced at a very high level all the way up to racing in the world championships and 24-hour races. I was always outdoorsy. Our introduction into camping and RV space happened when my wife and I decided to sell everything we own, buy a fifth wheel and start traveling the country. I was working as a digital marketer at the time. As long as I had an internet connection, I could work anywhere.

We weren’t rich. We had student loan debt, the typical stuff. We felt, “Let’s go adventure while we’re young.” We sold everything, bought this RV and headed out on this epic adventure traveling the country. It was through that experience where we recognized, number one, it’s popular. It’s a great way to travel. Number two, it’s one of the last best ways to disconnect from all the insanity around. You can go camping and forget a little bit about the nuttiness. Getting more people out and experiencing that is a good thing.

As big as some of these campgrounds are, when you’re in the campground, people are chilled out and relaxed. A lot of them are on vacation. It’s pretty cool. That’s good. You’ve been doing that ever since?

Yes, for years.

Good for you. You must be on the road all the time.

We’ve been in all 48 states at least twice. Here’s a little side story. What’s weird is I was flying back to a conference a couple of years ago. I fell asleep on the plane and it was night. Mind you, I’ve been asleep for an hour and a half. I woke up. I looked out the window and I was able to look down at the roads by the lights and the towns by the lights. I pulled up the GPS on the airplane, they have it behind the seat there, I guessed exactly where it was. Not only did I know where I was but I knew what town that was. I had stayed in that town and I knew everything around it. It was a little bit surreal to have that type of personal experience with random unique places in the United States.

I bet you’ve been to some great campgrounds too. In your bio, it said you are the most connected person in the outdoor hospitality industry. How did that happen? How did you become that person?

That’s a long story. When we started traveling, we recognized that the biggest problem for other people that would want to travel like us was finding a campground. It’s a real pain in the butt unless you know where you’re getting into. We ended up coming up with this crazy idea to launch a business called CampgroundViews.com and focus on photos and videos of campgrounds to allow people to see it.

As we built that business up, we recognized that the next big problem in this industry, this being the outdoor hospitality industry, is that a lot of the owners and operators of those businesses are not the most sophisticated business owners. They love the outdoors and want to run a campground but they don’t necessarily know how to do all of that and provide a good customer experience. Our mission is to help people get outdoors and experience camping. If we could help these owners better operate their parks, that would create a better experience for the campers. Through that, we’ve focused all of our attention on that experience.

Over the COVID times, we ramped that up. We run a few organizations that have more members than other associations out there of RV park and campground owners. We’re providing them tons of free content to run their businesses better. Through that experience, what we do is we network, we connect and we find people that have that same passion. Through that, we become the most connected guy. If you want to reach somebody in the outdoor space, I probably know them.

You’ve been to all the shows. Have you been to Outdoor Retailer?

Camping is one of the last best ways to disconnect from all the insanity around us.

I went to Outdoor Retailer back when it was in Salt Lake City.

You look familiar on your profile. We’ve probably met at that show over the years at some point. How do you train these folks? In addition to the online content, do you do workshops? If you’re in their park, do you go and say, “Let’s walk around your park and we’ll give you our evaluation of how you’re doing.” Any of that stuff?

It’s all virtual. I was doing interviews previously. The biggest problem with the camping space is the seasonality. It’s one thing to say, “I’ll be at your park.” It’s another thing when twenty people want you at your park on the July 4th weekend. You can only be in one place at a time. We do a lot of it virtually. Right out of COVID, we ran an event called the Back to Camping Summit. It was a virtual event.

From concept to reality, we did it in under four weeks and had over 500 attendees, a bunch of vendors and a ton of good content. It seeded the idea that our industry was going to recover quickly from COVID and become the escape route for people. That event did help these owners get ready for the wave that hit them this summer in 2020. We saw that coming.

We had data already that was coming in and showing us that there’s this massive demand spike in our website traffic at Campground Views. In the middle of COVID, it was essentially nothing. All of a sudden, it took off and we started seeing all this data showing that people were going to see camping as a refuge from the insanity.

We saw it up here on the East side that everything was impacted, it was amazing, campgrounds, trailhead. It’s great to see people out. That’s pretty cool.

The big thing for the outdoor industry is helping train all these new people on how to properly treat the outdoors. It’s one thing to go camping or hiking. It’s another thing to do it. There is a knowledge breakdown there. It behooves all of us to help the newbies come along.

I was talking to Todd Walton from The Winter Wildlands Alliance. They introduced an initiative in the winter called Ski Kind. You not only need to be kind to the land but we need to be kind to each other when you go out there. Give people social distance and help them if they need any help or if they’re maybe doing something not exactly appropriate, go coach them up. You’re right. That has to happen in campgrounds, trails, all over the place. Are you rolling out any initiatives? Do you have any successes that you can talk about in that area?

This goes back to 2020. This is through the efforts we’ve done. We’re talking to the park owners all the time. We started getting feedback from the owners that they’re seeing this massive wave of new campers coming in. It was great for business but it was driving them nuts because these people did not know basic camping etiquette.

I won’t take credit for this. I went to the owner and I said, “What do you want to tell these people and teach them to do?” The owners laid out this massive list. We took it and assigned it to our graphic designer. We created a trifold brochure and an infographic. We put those out there for free. We said, “Anybody could take them. All we ask is that you leave our little Campground Views logo created by Campground Views. You can put your branding on it and share it.” That thing went wide.

One of our team members was driving along in the Phoenix market and he was listening to a hip-hop station. All of a sudden, the commercial comes on and it’s for Geico RV. At the end of the Geico RV commercial, it says, “If you want to learn more about campground etiquette, go to CampgroundViews.com.” He wasn’t even listening for it. He’s like, “Was that us on a Geico commercial?” We’ve been working hard there. We also partner with several influencers to help them get the word out.

The industry has changed. This is for all the outdoor spaces. There are so many voices that you and I may have never heard of. People that are in that space, those people are idols. They’re the A-type personalities. They’re the ones that get the information out. Helping them get the information out is a good way to educate the audience without telling them that you’re educating them.

We used to have those two folks traveling around in their Subarus educating 1% of the people on the planet and protecting land and so forth. Maybe campgrounds, it’d be fun to put a group like that together and get some of these influences sponsored by Subaru and Chevron for the fuel. They can travel and physically show how to teach people campground etiquette.

It’s funny, I belonged to a fishing club when I lived in Alameda with a buddy of mine and we used to go camping with him. We would always camp 2 or 3 sites down because they didn’t know to camp. We tried to coach them up and stuff. Sometimes if you’re into it and you know what you’re doing, it can be a little bit embarrassing. We got to coach everybody up. That’s a good way to do it.

I’m sure the influencers in the RV space would be happy to get some free fuel.

Also, a free vehicle. We’ll have to see if we can put that together. You’ve visited over 5,000 campgrounds in all 48 states. Do you have any favorites?

We used to be able to easily say yes. Camping in Springville, Utah right at the base of Zion National Park used to be our best spot to go. That place used to be our go-to. As we’ve traveled more and more, we have found that there are so many amazing and unique places that we no longer have a favorite. For example, we stayed in the Florida Keys for a month. We camped on Sunshine Key.

Every day, we’re able to go out kayaking in those blue waters around the Keys. That same summer, we spent a month outside of Acadia National Park. We’re able to go on the Acadia and ride the trails. That’s one of the great things about camping. An RV, in particular, allows you to go to these unique locations and stay closer to them than if you were in a hotel and get to enjoy them.

TOBP 271 | Campground Views
Campground Views: Our mission is to help people get outdoors and experience camping. If we could help owners better operate their parks, that would create a better experience for the campers.

 

There are many places, how can you have a favorite? They’re all beautiful. Whether you’re in the Eastern Sierra or Springdale, Utah, it’s fantastic. The coast is great.

California 1 and you go down through Big Sur, it’s epic. There are some amazing forest service campgrounds right there on the water’s edge. You get down to Pismo Beach and Oceano and stay at those campgrounds or stay out at Pismo Beach there and go driving out on the sand. The thing about camping is there are so many opportunities to adventure in a little bit different style than you would in any other way or form of travel.

Let me go back to the work you do to help these guys run better campgrounds. Have you done any work or any plans to work with some of the private or public forest service campground-type folks? Some of those folks could use some help too. Those are the camp hosts if you will.

A lot of the forest service campgrounds are being operated by concessionaires. There’s a recreation resource management company that’s growing fast. American Land & Leisure are running a lot of those forest service campgrounds. Where we’re trying to help though is a new technology we’ve created to help people better find these locations. What we’ve done is we’re capturing the Recreation.gov properties in 360 videos. Think of it as a virtual tour. We’re augmenting it with the booking information. As you virtually tour the campground, you can look around, see if the site’s available and then click on that site to book it.

Traditionally, we’ve been marketers for campgrounds and RV parks. We help them get people in their parks. Through that experience, we have found that video imagery is the best tool available to help people choose the right campground. Over the years, we’ve been doing standard 360 videos to help. Through that, we know that 360-video can have a profound impact on a few things. Number one, it gets more people into campgrounds. It allows them to see and all that stuff.

Number two, it drops customer service calls into the campground because many of the questions you want to ask, you can answer on your own simply by looking at the 360-video. By dropping that demand on their time on the phone down, it allows them to be more present on site for the people that are in their face.

A lot of campgrounds, the reason they can’t host and the managers may be stressed is because they’re always on the phone and they don’t have the time. By reducing that phone need and helping the campers pick a better place that meets their needs, we’re dropping the need off that camp host of all the stress and we’re allowing the campers to be more empowered in picking their campsite.

I didn’t realize they had all the phone interaction. I thought they went to a phone bank or something.

For Recreation.gov, it does. When we’re talking to forest service campgrounds, we’re still dealing with people arriving. Their big stressor is people that are coming to look at the campgrounds because they want to book next year or they want to see the sights. They get a lot of that volume.

“Can you give us a tour?”

“Can I go check out things?” At the end of getting a little jaded, they’re working there as a camp host and then you’ve got somebody who’s rude. It’s a thankless job for the camp host.

You got to be able to pull it back up. You got to go deal with that in the middle of the night or whatever it might be. That’s got to be tough.

Some camp hosts are amazing and some are not. The forest service is saying, “We got a free campsite. For anybody who wants to work it, take it.” It’s not like there’s a real interview process going on. They’re like, “Are you breathing? Do you have an RV? Do you want to stay there? Okay, go.”

There are campgrounds all over the place. As we saw, they’re inundated. That is a tough job. I wouldn’t want to do it. You guys have a ton of resources on your website. You must have a small army to produce all that. How big is your team?

We have a team of four people. We’ve got a tech developer, sales operations and a sales team. We’re doing all this crazy stuff. We run Campground Views, the Facebook groups and the outdoor business pros. We’ve also developed this new technology. We’re out seeking investment capital to bring that thing to market. We’re doing all this stuff. We’re hungry to succeed and hungry to help people. It keeps us busy. At the same time, we see this vision of our industry. 2020 has been the jumpstart for tech and it’s also been the jumpstart for the outdoors and we can keep it going.

Do you get a lot of videos submitted? Do you have someone at the Campground who would go shoot some video, submit it to you guys and then you upload it? Do you have the team traveling around and keep true to yourself?

There are two answers. Our existing videos on Campground View are a standard video you’d shoot with your cell phone. Campers send those to us. We edit them and put them up. For the 360 video tours, we contract with various teams who would go out and capture that footage. It’s a little bit of a process. We also have to be careful. We want to protect people’s privacy and make sure we’re not taking advantage of these natural places. We wanted to do a little bit more control over that experience to make sure that we weren’t stepping on anybody’s toes.

How often do you update that, pretty frequently?

Providing information is a good way to educate the audience without telling them that you’re educating them.

Pretty frequently. The 360 stuff, we captured 400 parks. Those are in the pipeline to be done. That’s where we’re raising the investment capital of bringing that out there. Once we capture it, it depends. If you’ve been to a lot of the campgrounds, they don’t change. Nothing happens.

Some of that is part of the draw. You know what you’re getting. There’s a little place I go to. My sister lives on the coast in Oregon. It’s a two-day drive from Bishop to go see it. I have this spot in Oregon and then I go to the north of the Klamath River. I go there because I know what I’m getting. It’s off the beaten path. I checked it out on video. Part of that is they don’t change and that’s a good thing but some people want change.

The biggest thing, this goes for all the outdoor spaces, is the amount of demand coming on has caused people to rethink how things are going. We’re going to see a lot of change over the next several years. You get that Great American Outdoors Act bringing money into those national parks and stuff. We’re going to see some development.

Even that being said, we may see ten campgrounds be built or upgraded. It’s not hundreds of thousands. The actual footage stays pretty good. Although we joke that every ten years, we’ll have to shoot it anyway. By then, the vehicles will be outdated. Several years from now, everybody will drive around electric cars and they’re like, “What are these gas vehicles doing in these videos?”

It’s too bad they don’t build more campgrounds frequently. Part of it is the land thing, I’m sure. I have a good buddy of mine that I camp with here in California and we talk about that all the time. There hasn’t been a new campground built in Southern California in my lifetime. It’s pretty interesting. That’s all financially driven. That’s tough.

Environmental reasons. For example, California State Parks got a proposal to build two campgrounds over at Oceano Dunes. They started that process years ago. That’s probably going to be a ten-year process before they even get that built.

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You go to all the RV shows. How many events do you go to a year?

In a normal year, we usually go to ten different events from industry events to consumer events. The last consumer event we were at was the California RV Show, which was at the AAA Motor Speedway down in Irwindale. COVID hit and that changed the world for in-person events. We’ll see how things pan out here over the next years.

How else has COVID impacted your business?

The biggest thing was the change in the type of business. Traditionally, we’re a marketing services firm for RV parks and campgrounds. When COVID hit, all business stopped because nobody knew it was going to happen. When the business started to back up in the camping space, the campgrounds were immediately full. The same problem this 2021, advanced bookings are up about 51% over the same time in 2020. This is pre-COVID. Before COVID hit, we’re up 51% year over year in advanced bookings.

Our other problem is that the parks don’t need marketing because they’re full. The biggest change is that we’re working with a little bit more of the larger investment groups who are investing in marketing and so forth. We’ve also pivoted a little bit for the business services and then also developing out the technology for the 360 booking experience.

Areas like the Eastern Sierra where there’s a lot of public BLM land and stuff, it’s dispersed camping and that’s going to get a major impact because all the campgrounds will probably be full again.

It’s an interesting problem. Dispersed camping was popular in 2020 also. What happened was most of the people that were going to it were not campers. They didn’t know how to treat the lands. This is a problem for BLM and forest service, all their dispersed lands had serious resource damage. You’re already seeing that Shasta National Forest eliminated a large portion of their dispersed camping areas and you’re going to see more and more of that as time goes on. We have more campers but there’s going to be fewer places for them to camp. You’re going to start seeing some condensed traffic into the more public lands. Also, the private RV parks and campgrounds are trying to help fill that slack.

We have the tableland east of here and it’s pretty much a wide open BLM space. It’s a beautiful place to camp. It was inundated. Where mom lives, the West Walker River and stuff, it’s crammed on holiday weekends. I was there on July 4th fishing. It was a zoo. I couldn’t believe it.

Was that with the fires?

TOBP 271 | Campground Views
Campground Views: The big thing for the outdoor industry is helping train all these new people how to properly treat the outdoors.

 

Yes, it’s with the fires.

The smoke was unbelievable in the whole Eastern Sierra and yet people are out camping and fishing and you’re like, “I can’t even see. My eyes are burning.” They’re out there fishing.

It’s like Downtown LA, “What’s going on?” It was bad. They were out there. We got to figure out a way to get them educated. In addition to camping and that kind of stuff, what other outdoor activities do you participate in? What do you do when you go camping, hiking, biking?

We’re hikers and bikers. My wife and I have a tandem mountain bike. It’s Ventana. It got eight inches of travel. We’ve raced that thing. We’ve had it for over a decade. We love it. We’ll tow a trailer with our little one. Our son is old enough. He’s got a Scott mountain bike. We’ll go mountain biking or riding on trails and then do a lot of hiking. As you get older and you get a family, your adventures change. Instead of going on a five-hour hike, you take five hours to get going on the hike and then you hike about half an hour and return back to the car and you’re done.

I don’t know that experience but I can relate. It sounds about right. I don’t do it so much anymore because the body’s getting broken down but I still get out there. Kids are a whole other group of equipment and personalities to deal with and all of the above.

Of it all, hiking is usually the most convenient. We spend a lot of time in national parks. It’s usually easier to go hiking on the trail. One of our favorite spots is The Glacier National Park, which is an epic area to go visit. Anybody who’s been there knows that the hiking trails are amazing. The same thing was Zion, it’s amazing hiking trails. You’re not taking the family up Angels Landing but still amazing trails nonetheless in the area.

Is there a place on your bucket list that you haven’t been to that you want to go to?

Yes. We have not gone to Alaska yet. We know we’re missing out. The problem is work, getting there and the connectivity. I’m a digital nomad. We’ve already decided that when we go to Alaska, we’re taking a vacation. We’re going to go there for a month, not work and go adventure.

I’ve been looking into taking the show on the road and doing that kind of thing. I follow Technomania. Those guys are great. What’s your setup to stay connected? They have some pretty cool resources on how to do that.

Connectivity is a big deal. When we started full-time RVing, it was 2009. At that time, I had a Nokia flip phone and it had a keyboard that slid out. My connectivity was a USB toggle that I attached via a USB card. It was a 3G connection. That was before the iPhone. The 3G connection was almost as fast as a 4G connection back then because there’s nobody else using the network. As time has gone on, you have all this usage.

We carry with us a Verizon 4G, Sprint 4G and an AT&T 4G card. We utilize Wi-Fi routers that tie into those 4G cards within the rig. We also are at the point because of our data needs where we look for RV parks that have high-speed internet. That’s a thing. There are super high-speed RV parks and we travel to those locations.

There’s still nothing that works truly mobile, no satellite option or that kind of thing?

No because you get the latency with satellites. It becomes an issue. The 4G cards are the “best”. The problem is that there are so many people seeking outdoors and working remotely that the 4G networks are getting overloaded. As a massive user, on any given month, we’ll usually move about 500 gigabytes through our data plans. It’s fine when you’re in the middle of nowhere. The second that tower gets loaded up, we’re the first to get throttled down to, “Let’s wait for the email. Let’s go for a walk while the email downloads because it would take forever.”

It’s become a real issue for the working professionals on the road because the data networks are so loaded. My fingers are crossed that maybe Elon Musk solves it with his Starlink thing. Maybe that’s the solution, I don’t know. There are a few companies. Axis Park is installing it. For example, Lake Mead Recreation Area, Yellowstone, they’ve installed broadband connectivity to the urban centers of those parks where you go for groceries and all that stuff. You can get broadband internet in those areas. It doesn’t help you in the campgrounds.

That was my issue because I like to be off the beaten path. There’s still no solution for that. Maybe Starlink will work. He’s putting a bunch of those things in the sky, I can tell you. We’ll see.

It’s an interesting time we live in.

In many ways. Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks wanting to get into an RV?

Yes. I’ll preface it with our journey and maybe it will help you on your journey. We started the conversation a year before we committed to it. I spent a lot of time online learning and everything else. The one thing we didn’t do that we should have done is rent an RV and go out for a week or two and act as if that RV is your home for a week or two. If you’re going to go full-time and live on the road, do that because it’s a big commitment.

Camping provides so many opportunities to adventure and a little bit different style than you would in any other way or form of travel.

The second piece of advice that we got and we followed and is true is to buy the biggest thing you possibly can. If you’re living in it when it’s raining, when it’s crappy weather, you’re stuck inside. The Airstream looks cool but most people that full-time an Airstream generally make it about a year and a half before they finally quit. It looks cool but it’s a small space.

If you’re looking to get into RVing and camping, the same rules apply. Go rent something for a weekend and see if you like it. Start doing your research as to what type of unit is appropriate for you and your camping type. Ask yourself questions about the budget, “What can I afford?” What’s the vehicle that you’re going to be towing it with? Is it going to be drivable or not? Whatever it is, do you have a place to store the darn thing when you’re not using it? Those are some big questions. There’s a lot more to ask along that journey. Where are you going to go camping? How are you going to use it? Those types of things.

The big thing is the RV rentals become accessible with companies like RVshare. You can rent people’s personal RVs and go experience it a little bit. The other thing is if you’re reading this, it’s 2021, one thing I will note is 2021 will be the year of camping. Everybody’s going to go camping in 2021. If you’re going to head out for the first time, know that you’re going into peak camping. It’s going to be bonkers out there. Don’t hold that against the industry. Eventually, that’ll die out and we’ll get it to equilibrium.

Were you campers before you got into RVing? That’s a big thing too to know how to camp.

We tent camp. When you go to a mountain bike race, we used to sleep in the back of a truck, a cheap RV way to sleep.

Back of the truck, you throw up a tent. That helps if you’ve done that thing. If you don’t want to go to the expense of renting an RV, rent a family tent or a couple of tents and go do that kind of camping before you get into the whole RV thing. At least you get the experience of being outside, being dirty and cooking outside. That’s the whole thing too.

The team we had that went out and filmed part of these 400 videos was a very young couple. They were engaged. I met them to show them how to do it. I shared this line from the Tandem community. In the Tandem community when you’re talking about a Tandem bike, the line is, “Wherever your relationship is going, a Tandem will get you there faster.” In a way, camping is the same thing. If you’re going to go off camping, wherever your relationship is going, that tent is going to get you there faster.

If you were able to hang a huge banner to the entrance of one of these shows or events, what would it say?

The outdoors can save you. It’s because it can. If you take a moment to turn off the technology and go experience nature, sit against a tree and hug a tree. There’s measured energy coming from those trees. If you take that time to truly take in the outdoors, it will save you. It has so many magical benefits that you don’t know about. Simply go out and enjoy the outdoors.

It could save you from your crazy day and your crazy life. It could save you in many ways. That’s well said. That’s why I live up here. I get outside all the time. Do you have any daily routines you use to keep your sanity?

Exercise and all that stuff. In the morning, I wake up and do my routine, do some exercises, do some stretching. Depending on where we’re at, go for either a bike ride or hike in the morning. At some point, either during the day or that evening, take a break and go on for another walk. It’s hard. We’ve been working hard. We’re reminding ourselves that to take those breaks is important.

Do you have any favorite books or books you give as gifts?

We wrote anRV joke book. You can go and look it up on Amazon. It’s the RV Joke Book: You Might Be An RVer IF. I’m playing on Jeff Foxworthy’s You Might Be A Redneck If… If you don’t own an RV, it’s not funny at all. I’ll be honest. If you own an RV, you’re going to find it very funny because it’s pertinent to you. That’s the one we give as a gift. As for books that we read, I’m into a lot of business-type stuff. The best book that I’ve read from a business standpoint is Grant Cardone’s The 10X Rule. It’s true to starting a business. You have to work ten times harder at everything you’re doing to move it a little bit.

TOBP 271 | Campground Views
Campground Views: Camping is really popular and huge, but most of the people that were going to it were not campers and didn’t know how to treat the land.

 

What’s your favorite outdoor gear purchase under $100, a gadget? $100, it’s a gadget.

I’m not an outdoor gadget person at all. I don’t have a bike computer. I don’t run with anything. My best purchase is I bought a pair of Gaerne mountain bike shoes off eBay, brand new for $60. Those are great. They’re classic Italian motorcycle boots but they also make mountain biking shoes. I got a set of those for $60 off of eBay. My last pair lasted me almost a decade. These should last me as long.

As we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to say or ask our audience?

What I’d like to ask is take the time to check out what we’re doing with Campground Views. If you’re interested in the outdoors, look at the 360 product that we’re trying to bring to the market. We’re going to be doing a crowdfunding campaign. Whether you’re interested or not, if you can share it with other folks, we’d love it.

They can find you on email, Twitter, Instagram, all those places on your website.

It’s CampgroundViews.com and then Mark@CampgroundViews.com. If you own or operate in an outdoor destination, you can go to Facebook and look up the      RV Park Owners, Managers and Operators’ Facebook groups. It’s got over 2,000 members. You’ll know which one and join that up.

That’s been great, Mark. It’s good catching up with you. I look forward to seeing you in person someday.

I appreciate it. I had a great time.

Thanks.

Important links

About Mark Koep

TOBP 271 | Campground ViewsCampgroundViews.com makes camping easier. The company has reimagined the way travelers find, select and book their next campsite. Using groundbreaking and proprietary technology to virtually tour a campground, get information on the campsites and then click on the campsite to book it.

An early adopter of the technology stated it best: “Congratulations! You get it. You are well on your way to achieving what may be the Holy Grail of modern day campers. Yours is an effort so far unsurpassed by the many, many camp site finders I have looked at so I consider the format, data collection and updating methodology nothing short of genius.” LZ, Ohio

The company maintains a database of over 3,000 video tours of campgrounds and RV parks across the country with major locations like Yellowstone, Smoky Mountain National Park, and the Florida Keys all included with videos of every single campground and RV park. The company also controls 50,000+ photos and a database of over 16,500 locations.

“The biggest problem in the industry is that no company is providing a solution to both sides of the equation: campers AND park owners/ managers… we do.”

Prior to CampgroundViews.com Mark, with a Marketing Degree from California State University, Northridge and a MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business, founded Optimized Image to help small businesses own, improve, and maintain their placement on major search engines. The company was the first in the local SEO space and maintained a sizable market share through the prime of the LSEO season.