Something wild: Local startup CampRents delivers outdoor gear on demand

Brunswick resident Jennifer Owens thinks the Midwest is a “highly underrated hiking destination,” and she founded CampRents to help make it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to explore it—and beyond.

The Northeast Ohio-based startup seeks to make adventuring more accessible by delivering rentable gear on demand. Customers receive a custom-fit, pre-packed backpack a few days before their trip—replete with a bear canister of food (including vegetarian options), tent, sleeping bag, water filter, and camp stove. (Just add clothes and stove fuel.)

Owens has been developing the idea for about two years, after a trip she and her husband took to Yosemite. “The amount of research we did was outrageous,” remembers Owens. “What we learned is that backpacking stuff is expensive, and the nearest backpacking shop was 40 minutes away. As a millennial consumer, I wanted something to arrive right on my doorstep.”

Enter the idea for CampRents, meant to reduce barriers to the outdoors and encourage newbies to “test before they invest.” The site also offers pre-designed itineraries for backpacking in Yosemite and hiking in Arizona, as well as how-to videos for those who feel a little iffy about setting up that tent.

Believe it or not, Owens herself was a little iffy about the outdoors growing up, but answered nature’s call in grad school when she met a group of hiking enthusiasts. After that, Owens never looked back.

“I gained an incredible sense in my own ability to be self-sustaining,” says Owens. “The times that I've spent just hanging out in the woods have been the best conversations and the best times I’ve had.”

Now Owens says there is “rarely a weekend that goes by” that she doesn't visit the Cleveland Metroparks or Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She’s especially fond of the Hinckley Reservation, and she plans to add more Ohio-centric itineraries to the site (such as Mohican State Park, Wayne National Forest, and camping in Zion).

By founding CampRents, Owens also hopes to pave the way for more females to join the outdoors business. “I recently got together with a woman in Canton who makes soaps specially designed for the outdoors and we both agree that there is a lack of female representation in the outdoors business, especially in the Midwest,” says Owens.

Currently, Owens works as an administrator at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Clinical Genomics, but she’s open to taking CampRents full-time in the future. And for someone who’s hiked mountains upon mountains, turning CampRents into a thriving venture shouldn’t be an uphill battle.

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