4 . 15 . 2024
“Outercamp is in the business of connection — connection of nature, of mind, of body, and of spirit.”
The Young Outdoorsman That Could.
Dreams really can come true. Young entrepreneur and outdoor enthusiast, Evan Winterhalter, has taught us all a lesson of faith, love, and perseverance. Over the last 3 years, his relentless efforts and infectious care for people and nature have produced a thriving business. Outercamp is a network of creative, communal, and ecocentric outdoor camps that feature a variety of lodging types from primitive camping to treehouses, and encourage a reconnection with nature and engagement with outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and climbing.
Above all, Outercamp is a conservation effort. Their mission is to preserve and sustain natural areas through the acquisition of land and education of their visitors while also allowing people to connect with that land in meaningful ways that promote their own health and well-being. When asked what business he was in, Evan responded,
“Outercamp is in the business of connection — connection of nature, of mind, of body, and of spirit. Many people want to “protect” nature from the humans. That is not what we’re doing here. It’s important to consider the root of the problem. We are an extension of nature, just as nature is an extension of us, and when people experience this, it produces a harmony that we believe will ultimately lead us to a better world — not just protect nature.”
Outercamp reaches far beyond what we initially thought. Evan has an incredible ability to capture the essence of things in all that he does. Just another reason we think this incredible business has grown so quickly.
We were blown away by the energy, positivity, and infectious joy seen amongst Outercamp’s team of staff. They all seem to be excited about being there, always laughing and joking, and ready to lend a hand. They are truly grateful for the service they get to provide for the world. This can be contributed to the strong culture that has been cultivated around Outercamp’s vision and the continued investment into its’ employees’ health and well-being as well as its contributions to the surrounding community. We asked Evan how he was able to build such a great team and culture: “The preservation of nature, of mind, of body, and of spirit does not start with our visitors. It starts with our employees and our community. We would not be able to build anything without this incredible community dedicated to our mission. This is why we spend so much time and resources on the well-being of our amazing team. They truly deserve all of the credit for the success that Outercamp has seen.”
Outercamp organizes quarterly retreats and camping trips for all of its’ local staff members. They also encourage staff to spend paid company time walking nearby trails and meditating in the designated quiet areas. Each employee is given access to life-coaching sessions, a gym membership, and paid travel time. They can also stay with their family at any of Outercamp’s locations completely free of charge. Outercamp believes that taking care of their team is vital to creating a successful business, and a welcoming atmosphere for their visitors.
Outercamp is not your run-of-the-mill campground. It’s experiential, down-to- earth, and well-designed lodging sets it apart from the crowd. We stayed in one of their Bird’s Nest Tiny Homes to get a better idea of what all the hype was about. Upon entering the park, we were surprised to be driving into the middle of what seemed to be a magical remote forest. Old growth and thick rhododendron welcomed our civic with a warm hug and guided us gracefully into the foothills. Stick-built and hand carved signs directed us to the “Cardinal Branch,” our wooded home for the night. After easily locating our parking spot, we headed up the hill on a well-kept trail. As the sun set, subtle solar lanterns illuminated the forest floor, guiding us up the hill toward our camp. We passed a fire ring on our left with tree stumps for seating before being greeted by our home. Cardinal Branch looked as though it had spawned from the earth like the surrounding oak trees, as though it was sown into the mountainside and shaped in a way that happened to work well as a shelter. It was truly incredible.
We entered the wooden door behind the structure to find a small, but warm and inviting space. Lanterns hung from the arched ceiling, complimented by string lights and Cherokee inspired patterns that danced along the walls of the space. Every detail seemed precisely calculated to welcome you into a new, down-to- earth life. A life that provided the essentials for comfort in the wilderness and not an ounce more. We started the wood-fire stove and turned the kettle on, which quickly heated the small space. All we could hear was the crackling of the wood-fire as dusk fell, and stars blanketed the sky. We gathered on the rug with our backs against the bed and mug between our fingers as the room fell still.
The silence was unbelievable. Two large windows gave way to the hazy blue ridge valley as we gazed in utter awe. I am not exaggerating when I say that my body was literally buzzing from what seemed to be absolute contentment. The Danish describe this feeling as hygge, “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being” that I never quite understood until my stay in the Cardinal Branch.
When we asked how they were able to create such an incredibly authentic feeling in the space, Evan replied, “I owe that all to our amazing team of builders and designers. They beautifully executed the vision that I painted for them. Our team knows that cutting corners is not an option when you are building something extraordinary.”
We finally understood why the competition wasn’t really competition at all. My partner and I are now repeat customers of Outercamp and have already booked our second trip to their Linville Gorge location.
Outercamp is more than just a place to stay for the weekend. They work diligently to connect their visitors with local outdoor experiences. Leading group day hikes, backpacking trips, and climbing expeditions, and partnering with local breweries, coffee shops, and food joints to give guests unique access to the area’s outdoor culture. They also foster an inclusive environment within the park to encourage their visitors to connect with one another. With a communal kitchen, giant fire ring, open music room, and caffeine-filled reading lounge, we found it painless to make connections with other travelers. It’s almost as though just being in the park makes people more open and mindful.
Where to Next?
It’s no secret that Outercamp has had success in achieving its’ mission. In just 3 short years since buying their first property, Evan and Outercamp have developed 4 parks with 60 campsites, conserved almost 100 acres of raw land, and hosted over 2000 guests. With this amazing growth we wonder, what’s next? We asked Evan this question.
“More land. More camps. More fun. And more happy, connected people. I’m 27 years old. I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. The only thing that will change is that we’re going bigger. By year 6, we will have 300 campsites and 500 acres conserved. We are also going to be putting in more of our own trail systems into these conservation easements — hitting 20 miles of trails by year 6. We have seen lots of demand for weddings recently, so we will be getting into that as well.”