Jun 10, 2024 5 min read

Why I created Camping.Tools, A Story From the Founder

love for camping
A picture of my dad, my sister, and me, along with our first family camping rig– my dad sparked my love for camping, and his loss sparked my motivation for creating Camping Tools.

By Robert McMillan, CEO and Founder of Camping Tools

A few days ago, I had breakfast with a mentor and friend, and he asked an important question. Why did you create the business?

This is a seemingly simple question. But as I start to unravel the answer I'm learning that the answer is not so simple. The truth is that "the business" has evolved from a personal passion into something that I believe can lead to many good things.

My writings here on Camping.Tools begin with my attempt to explain how things started, who they are for, and hopefully entertain to the extent that others may join me in this passion for camping. The backstory is that it started long, long ago on a trip that led us far, far away.

The photo at the top of this story is a picture of my dad, my sister, and me, along with our first family camping rig. My dad was an outdoorsman who grew up in rural central Georgia. He was an avid camper and hunter.

Before this rig, he relied on canvas surplus tents that usually required some sort of truck to haul and several friends to assemble. The towable trailer in this photo is a 1972 Coleman popup being pulled by a 1972 Chevy Impala. Those were the days when you'd let the kids lay up on the package shelf, the space between the backseat and the back window, and tuck the seatbelts down in the seat so they didn't poke you in the butt when all four kids were in the back seat.

We set out on a six week journey across America that took us from central Georgia to the Great Red Wood Forest and clam digging on the Washington coast. This lit a fire for camping deep in my soul that I believe can never go out.

So, let's roll this story forward to 2012. I was an active leader in Cub Scouts, and I felt the timing was right to begin the camping tradition with my two sons. They had both been on many camping trips at this point and seemed to really enjoy the outdoors. At the time, the oldest was 11, and the youngest was 6. The trip was to begin the day after Father's Day in June.

I started planning in February. We were gone for a total of 28 days, driving for 8 hours, camping for two or three days; rinse and repeat. There was almost as much fun in planning the trip, anticipation building daily, as there was in the actual journey. When we reached June, I was nearly bursting at the seams, ready to hit the open road. 

I overloaded the 2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon, added some heavy-duty springs, got my mom and the boys, and hit the road (picture below).

We had the best time.  Our first stop was The Garden of the Gods, IL.  Tent setup was easy.  The campsite was great. 

Deer were all around and we did some kid friendly bouldering, even though I got a few emails from the wife where she claimed, "I DO NOT APPROVE!" 

Here's another photo that is iconic in my heart and the inspiration for our trademarked logo.

But I digress... Let's get back to the question, Why Camping.Tools? It was on this trip, sitting around the fire and watching that pot of coffee percolate, that I had the desire for a tool like Camping.Tools website and app. 

I was experiencing some of the most incredible memories of my life.  Better than experiencing them for myself, I was helping build them in the minds of two boys who I am convinced will do great things. 

And I wanted to capture them.  Like this story, I wanted to write other stories about my adventures.  And I wanted to memorialize them because I wanted to relive them as often as possible. 

And I wanted to share them in an organized fashion - pull up a trip, browse the timeline, and see some photos that I knew I took and now can find. This is my passion: exploring the outdoors, building a campfire, and creating life-altering memories; I hope others will find it useful, too.

The challenge I faced at the time was that no single app or site did what I wanted. I ruminated about it for years, thinking of features and designs. I bought the domain name as soon as the .Tools top-level domain became available.

And then COVID hit. Again, we hit the road. But this time, I was ready to take action. I was determined to create and become part of a community equally passionate about camping. 

Now, it's a reality, with a website and mobile apps on Android and iOS.  We are growing, evolving, and adding features daily.  It is our sincerest hope that you try it, and like it. 

If you do or don't like it, please give us feedback. Without you and your opinions, we'll never know everything we need to become. We hope to see you on the road, so keep an eye out for the Camping.Tools rig, and give us a shout if you see us out.

Here are some other photos from the trip:

Thank you for reading and make sure to subscribe. We're constantly exploring new destinations and share our stories, tips, and the beauty we discover along the way.

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