Meet Chris O’Donnell, CampKeeper at the Lothlorien campsite. Chris is also Tentrr’s Head of Operations. We caught up with Chris as a part of our “Meet the CampKeeper” series, where we introduce you to the CampKeepers that make Tentrr possible.
How did you first hear about Tentrr?
My wife and I bought some property up here, and I was reading through all the magazines, and I’ll be honest I can’t remember which of the magazines I was reading, but one of these magazines had a beautiful tent in it. I was so excited about it I tracked down the CEO Michael D’Agostino and gave him a call. I was one of the first few campsites Tentrr installed.
What drew you to Tentrr?
I just felt incredibly lucky and grateful to have this beautiful piece of property, and I was sharing it with friends. I really wanted to share it with other people and for them to have the experience of what I get out of it, which is a calm connection with nature.
What did you think of the Tentrr concept at the time?
It allows people to have very close access to nature but without all the hassle that comes with going camping, especially if you have a kid or a dog. Bringing all your stuff and trying to put up tents can turn what should be a good time into a stressful time. Tentrr allows you to access nature easily.
What was the onboarding process like?
The onboarding process was early days, and it was really informal and fun. A scout came out, and I showed them around our land. They asked me some questions, and I had questions too— how to welcome people, what the commitment really was, and insurance related things, etc. I felt that the scouts were really there to answer my questions. After that it was an easy decision. From there, they came over and set up the platform, tent, and camp kit.
How did you choose the location of your campsite?
Well, I have about 15 acres of land, but there were really two locations we were looking at. One was on top of a hill in a meadow and one was in the forest. Finding the right spot was really more of just following a feeling. The Tentrr staff recommended a spot nestled nicely in the woods, perfect for placing a campfire and lots of shade. There is criteria they have for a Tentrr campsites, but in the end, it’s about what feels right.
How would you describe the perfect day on your property?
Waking up at dawn at a Tentrr campsite is really important to me. It’s that time of day when nobody is around and it’s totally still. You can hear the soft hoot of owls. Then use the Tentrr woodfire stove to make yourself a cup of coffee. Then getting into the day; it’s great to get out and do an activity, rock climbing, hiking, fishing. If the campers have kids, then I recommend horseback riding. My son goes horseback riding so we can direct campers to the right spot. Throw a line in the pond and go fishing. Try not to pack in too much stuff, absorb the property and nature for what it is. And when night rolls around, it is great to find some fresh produce, and meat. There’s nothing like a fire and some fresh meat that you know has been carefully raised in the area.
What do you think makes a great Tentrr campsite?
It really needs to be a space where the camper feels like they have tranquility and are alone. The camper needs to feel like it is their space. You also need to have some natural beauty. You want to wow people with the beauty of your property, present it well so it’s something special for campers to always remember.
What’s your favorite thing about being a Tentrr CampKeeper?
I said it before, but it is sharing something you value. Sharing land with someone you don’t really know is something very special. I think people pick that up as well, they feel gratitude. There’s something special about sharing something that is personal to you with other people. That is my favorite thing, you’re sharing nature and nature should be for all.
When campers arrive, do you greet them?
How I greet campers is very important to me. As a CampKeeper I try to be there when people arrive. Sometimes it’s not possible, but I think it is important to welcome campers. Plus, I have an antique tractor that campers can put their luggage in with, because my campsite is a few hundred yards away. And also some people have a lot of questions, and if you’re there to reassure them then they feel more comfortable. Also, I like knowing who is on my land and who is camping, and I genuinely like meeting new people. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people being a CampKeeper.
What surprised you about being a Tentrr CampKeeper?
I think what surprised me is how quickly things got started up. Campers were rolling in every weekend. This happened relatively quickly. I thought it was going to be a slow start, but that wasn’t the case. What surprised me about this season is people were coming during the weekdays.
Do you have a favorite story from having campers?
I have a few favorite stories that I’d like to relate. I’ve had somebody propose on my campsite. What made it a little nerve racking is they told me they were going to do it. So the pressure was on. It was a successful proposal, what good karma for my land to have that happen. Other things in general, I love when people come with children and it is the first time the kid has really been on the woods. Seeing kids discovering new things and wandering around is amazing. One of the first campers was really amazing. They had never fished before, and I have a pond stocked with trout. Seeing a 30-something woman catch her first fish ever was amazing. She was so excited, similar to what kids experience. Then after they caught the fish, they looked at me like “what do we do now?” I ended up cooking the fish and having it with them over a glass of wine. Now, you can’t do that with every camper, but my first experience with campers was a really special one.
What do you think it takes to be a successful tentrr CampKeeper?
I think what it takes is just paying attention and making sure you’re making the camper feel comfortable. It doesn’t take that much. For example when a camper sends me a message via email, I usually tell them to give me a quick call. Then I can give them some tips and find out what their favorite outdoor things to do are. If they’re unsure, I tell them my favorite parts of camping. Things like that make all the difference. That little effort really affects the comments on your profile.
Did you find that campers are respectful of your land?
99.9% of the campers I’ve had have been very respectful. I think I mentioned it before, but most campers have gratitude and with gratitude comes respect. Most people coming out have a certain respect for nature. Tentrr really does cater to people that want to share nature. I’ve had one or two over the past couple of years who weren’t as respectful as the rest, not that they did any serious damage to my land, but it was a little bit of an annoyance. Still, most people leave the land the way they found it.
What has your experience with the Tentrr staff been like?
My experience with the Tentrr staff has been so great that I became a staff member. I’ve had a unique experience. I’m currently the Head of Operations for Tentrr. I was not last year. I started out as a CampKeeper, and I’m still a CampKeeper. I really do believe that Tentrr is something more than just a business. I wouldn’t do something that doesn’t have a positive impact. It is more than just a job. You’re bringing joy to people. You’re bringing nature to people. There’s an environmental aspect to it. Life’s hard and city life is hard. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of stress. Tentrr offers an opportunity to address those problems with an accessible escape into nature.