An entirely new camping experience will be offered at state parks throughout Maine this summer, and it involves spacious canvas tents, stylish picnic areas and tiny wood stoves that will keep campers warm on chilly nights.
To build these fancy, new campsites, the state partnered with Tentrr, a New York-based company that’s often referred to as the “Airbnb of camping.”
“It’s different for us,” said Melissa Macaluso, assistant to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner for Special Projects. “We’re always looking to enhance visitors’ experience and offer new things in the parks.”
The new sites, 10 in total, will be divided among seven state parks: Bradbury Mountain, Rangeley Lake, Camden Hills, Mount Blue, Lamoine, Peaks-Kenny and Warren Island. Installation is being completed this month, with plans to have all sites complete and open for reservations by the Fourth of July.
“Maine State Parks don’t have cabins at this point, so this is a great way to add some use to the parks, to give people who may not have equipment to come and enjoy the parks and try camping out,” Macaluso said. “They arrive, and it’s already set up for them.”
Aside from the scenery, each Tentrr site is identical, featuring the company’s custom tent, deck, bed, stone fire pit, grill, picnic table, dry food storage, wood stove, Adirondack chairs and more. However, at Maine state parks, some small components of a typical Tentrr site may be missing (such as the sun shower) because campers have access to campground amenities (such as a bathhouse).
Staying at these new sites may be considered “glamping,” a term that combines the words “glamourous” and “camping” to describe amenities that are more luxurious than traditional camping. But Tentrr’s founder, Michael D’Agostino, isn’t sold that this term accurately describes the Tentrr experience.
“We provide the luxury of space and really comfortable, stylish outdoor lodging,” D’Agostino said. “But there’s no butler bringing you a tray of croissants. There’s no air conditioner or running water. It’s nice and stylish and cool, but it’s rustic.”
A former investment banker, D’Agostino founded 2015 after he and his wife experienced a few “slightly disastrous” getaways that involved disappointing rental properties.
“We thought, there must be a better way to do this,” he said. “We wanted to create an experience for people that had an element of privacy and seclusion and would allow them to reconnect with nature.”
Beginning with one campsite in New York’s Catskill Mountains, the company has rapidly grown. Their booking website now features nearly 700 Tentrr campsites in 38 states. But up until now, the company has only worked with private landowners.
“It’s been really a pleasure working with the State of Maine and the park system,” D’Agostino said. “I think what it’s taught us is that we should have probably done it sooner. We’re really excited to reach out to other state park systems.”
The new Tentrr sites at Maine state parks will cost $100, the majority of which will go to the state — eventually. After paying off the one-time start up fee for the installation of each site, the state will receive 80 percent of booking fees, with the other 20 percent going to Tentrr.
“We picked some sites where we have great visitation and some sites that are a little bit more off the beaten path,” Macaluso said. “We want to put a new twist on camping. Even for our current campers, this might be something they want to try.”
About 40 percent of the people who book Tentrr camping trips have never been camping before, D’Agostino said.
“For some people, even those who’ve been camping for a long time, there’s an element of trepidation in going out in the woods and camping,” D’Agostino said. “The idea is that we can remove an element of unease or anxiety. [With Tentrr sites,] people know they’re going to have wonderful, high-quality equipment, that they’ll be warm and they won’t have to set up in the rain and all that. It makes getting out in the outdoors more approachable and accessible, which is our whole goal.”
One thing you may notice about these new sites is that they’re set apart from other campground sites. This honors Tentrr’s mission to offer privacy and seclusion to their campers.
“We’re doing this as a pilot program,” Macaluso said. “At this time, we have no plans to add more, but if it’s a success, we would look at exploring that option.”
Watch: Camping, paddling and hiking in Deboullie Public Lands