Camping with class

Emily Wermager of Austin enjoys a modern camp setup. Photo provided

Emily Wermager of Austin enjoys a modern camp setup. Photo provided

Former Austin resident to release book, e-business on luxury camping

Cara Schulz enjoys getting close to nature, but not too close. She’s not going to rough it by any means — after all, who has an air conditioner in his or her tent? Schulz does.

“I always liked camping,” Schulz said. “But I don’t really like to be dirty, and I don’t like bugs.”

Schulz

Schulz while enjoying a camping trip during the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

In the past decade, the former Austinite has taken camping to the next level and is teaching others how to do the same. The trend is called “glamping.” Like plenty of others, Schulz enjoys the campfires, outdoor cooking and sleeping in tents, but not without life’s luxuries.

“Glamping is extremely personal,” said Schulz, a 1988 Austin High School graduate who now lives in Lakeville, Minn. “I bring sheets that are at least 800 thread count.”

Of course, Schulz has taken her fair share of stabs from hardcore, outdoorsy campers. Still, plenty of upscale campers share her view, including her husband, who grew up in the northwoods. Those who had never enjoyed camping have taken her side, as well.

“Some of them were not interested at all until they went camping with me,” Schulz said.

Schulz started to do more upscale camping about 10 years ago, she said. In fabric and craft stores, she found items that worked perfect for camping, such as a magazine rack that seems to work for holding keys, cell phones and other personal items.

“That thing is invaluable in your tent, next to your bed, because you can put your keys in there; you can put your phone in there — all of that stuff is not rolling around and getting lost in your tent,” Schulz said.

Among other functional items, such as mini fridges, traveling bars and energy-efficient mini stoves that double as cell phone chargers, Schulz focuses on style, too. To her, traditional tents are ugly, but not with custom-printed rain flys.

Schulz took her obsessions and expounded upon them. Now her newest venture is a book and a retail website where other glampers can find useful, stylish products for their own vacations.

“People were saying, ‘Why don’t you write a book on this,” Schulz said. “I had pushed back against it because writing a book is a huge endeavor. It’s not just sit down and type. There’s so much more to it.”

Yet Schulz found a useful way to draw attention to her book and future business, along with the monetary support she needs to undertake such projects: crowdfunding. Schulz posted her ideas — complete with videos, pictures and explanations — on kickstarter.com, where anybody can help fund the projects by donating money.

As of Wednesday, Schulz had just three days to go. She had raised $3,852 of her $4,500 goal, which will help pay for editing, designing and publishing the book, “Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping,” along with launching her online business.

“I love crowdfunding, and I love the idea behind it,” Schulz said. “It’s entirely voluntary.”

Thus far, family members, friends and strangers have donated to Schulz’s cause. One person even dropped $500 to see the project succeed. While Schulz perused the Kickstarter site on Wednesday, the 102nd person joined the effort, pitching in another $10, bringing the total to $3,862. Those who donate more to Schulz’s cause receive more kickback, too, including signed copies of her book, acknowledgements and more.

With the help of a master craftsman, Scott Wermager, of Austin, Schulz will sell functional, stylish items for glampers. The first item she will offer is a traveling bar, like ones used by British on African safaris.

Schulz hopes the book and website will both be ready by late June. However, if she doesn’t meet the $4,500 goal, the donors are off the hook, as the website won’t bill anyone unless the goal has been met.

To find out more about Schulz projects or to donate to her fund, search for her book on kickstarter.com.

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