By Chelsea Davis
Northern California’s recently opened AutoCamp Russian River combines the best of both luxury accommodations and authentic outdoor ruggedness for an unforgettable, eco-friendly experience suited for people of all ages and camping skills. This is founders Ryan Miller and Neil Dipaola’s second AutoCamp launch, which brings these two creators one step closer to building a worldwide franchise of high-end camping sites that place utmost importance on being environmentally sound, while providing unparalleled outdoor lodging for guests.
AutoCamp’s success is the result of decades of relentless commitment to sustainability. Moreover, it’s a prime example of this company’s philosophy put into action. The three core focuses of the company are: environment, community and design. AutoCamp’s ability and desire to invest in these aspects ⎯ while infusing their own unique perspective and creativity ⎯ is a huge reason they have been able to create innovative and successful projects that make for a more happy and integrated community.
“Our company is anti-urban sprawl and anti-cars,” says co-founder Miller. “Urban development has been detrimental on native habitats, led to plowing over nature for single-family homes, and propagates a car culture which doesn’t provide much in the way of community connection.”
At AutoCamp Russian River, guests feel right at home in any one of the 24 lavishly equipped classic Airstream trailers or in one of the also-lavish canvas tents. Casper mattresses, high-quality linens, sleek bathrooms, kitchenettes, flat-screen TVs with cable and built-in sound systems, and upscale Malin+Goetz bath products are some of the top-notch amenities that can be found in the silver bullets. And though bathrooms and showers aren’t available in the canvas tents, a lounge building that features spa-inspired facilities is located in the center of the campsite.
Before AutoCamp, there was The Loop ⎯ five stories of student housing in Isla Vista, California. It was during this project that Dipaola and Miller first began working together at Mesa Lane Partners, where Dipaola is founder and current CEO.
The Loop is a state-of-the-art, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building where all of Mesa Lane Partners’ experience and design expertise are implemented. With a team full of passionate outdoor-lovers, most of which came from UCSB’s Environmental Sciences Program, The Loop was designed with features such as solar panels, a green roof, permeable pavement, and non-toxic paints. Utilizing the German-created environmental design philosophy, Passive House, The Loop was built to be as sustainable and energy efficient as possible.
Founders Miller and Dipaola understand something that many developers don’t ⎯ that the community plays a huge role in the ultimate success or failure of a project.
“The community is your number one resource. They can be your advocates. Or not. We value that connection,” explains Miller during a conversation on sustaining growth in the future. “It’s so important to get the community’s point-of-view. When we do new projects, we ask the community first about what their priorities are. We’re sensitive to the community and because of that we have been embraced with open arms. The connection that gets filtered through projects ⎯ like AutoCamp ⎯ and the community is extremely rewarding.”
An instance of actively executing the community’s suggestions can be seen in how founders Miller and Dipaola approached accessible facilities. “We knew going in that this was important to the community and so we made it a priority to make this project wholly accessible.” said Miller. “We’re happy to say that we offer a 100% custom wheelchair roll-in shower suite.”
The minds behind AutoCamp are both designers and environmentalists that strive to use recycled materials as much possible, whether in operations or by using compostable materials and utensils. AutoCamp offers a totally different model of construction than almost any other hospitality brand by pre-fabricating the buildings in a factory, which is more efficient than assembling on site.
“With an assembly line there’s very little waste. It’s precise, consolidated work in a factory which lowers CO2 greenhouse gases.” asserted Miller. “This is just a glimpse of an amazing potential shift that can be implemented worldwide.”
Despite originally being a rundown area known for nefarious activity, both founders immediately saw the space’s potential, and knew they had found the right place for AutoCamp Russian River. With natural landscaping that showcases California’s common native species, such as redwood trees, red bark manzanita trees, and coffee-berries, tons of wildlife come through the property.
“We designed this true-to-nature experience to help people better connect with nature. We want to do this all around the world. We want to spread this experience to people who otherwise may never go camping because it can be hard. To be able to spread that persuasion is just really exciting,” said a very enthusiastic Miller.
Inspired by the Tiny House Movement, living with less and with only what you need, AutoCamp’s lodging options are real-life examples of how enriching small living spaces can be.
“AutoCamp is all about education ⎯ showing first-hand how much more enjoyable life can be with less. This is our brand; we want to share our vision for a greener feature and exemplify how small space living is being adopted in the world. We are promoting environmentalism through experience.” Reiterates Miller. “We believe that if you come to AutoCamp and soak in the majestic presence of nature, you’ll have an amazing experience and leave the campsite more mindful of your footprint on earth.”
Hailing from California, Chelsea is an inquisitive dessert enthusiast and Golden State Warriors fan. She is a New York based full-time freelance journalist whose work has been featured on Thrillist, The Daily Meal, Fodor's Travel and MSN, among other nationally recognized outlets. Follow her on Instagram and her blog.