Last summer, Chicago couple Emma and Blair Sheade were celebrating their one-year anniversary with a camping trip. Though they’re frequent campers, they jokingly refer to themselves as amateurs because they always seem to forget something or have trouble starting their campfire. On that particular trip, “everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” says Emma. She went to bed that night thinking that there must be an easier way for people to camp. And if there were, perhaps more people would want to do it.
That was the genesis of Pitch, the pair’s recently-launched on-demand camping concierge service catering to Chicagoans who want to experience nature, but might not have the tools or time to organize a camping trip on their own. Emma considers Pitch to be an authentic outdoor experience that provides a middle ground between traditional, do-it-yourself camping—which can be intimidating to novices—and the often pricier glamping.
When you book a night with Pitch, the service sets up your campsite and stocks it with the essentials—a tent, sleeping pads and bags, a lantern, a welcome cooler stocked with essentials, water, snacks, games and a fire log—and tears it all down after you leave. If you have questions about the area or the equipment during your stay, a “scout” is on-call to help you. Outdoor recreation has become extremely popular as a safe and easy travel option throughout the pandemic, but it’s still not as easy an option as it could be.
“So many people want to try [camping] they just don’t know how, and living in the city, it just doesn’t make sense to buy all this gear that you might use once a year,” says Emma.
Primarily providing services in Wisconsin at the Kettle Moraine State Forest and Northwoods Forest outside of Minocqua, Pitch is planning to expand to sites in Michigan next year. The service also offers a custom option called “Destination Midwest,” allowing campers to choose an outdoor area within a three to four hour drive from Chicago.
So how does it work? Using the service’s app, campers select their ideal site, adding on extra amenities like pillows, hammocks and cooking equipment. You'll also decide how many people to camp with—up to six adults and five children are welcome. The app features photos and detailed descriptions of the areas and specific campgrounds with information on the region, nearby trails, water access, available recreation activities and shower and bathroom options. Food isn’t included, so campers should make sure to bring enough for their stay.
The best part? It’s meant to be “foolproof,” says Emma. No more tents collapsing in the middle of the night or dismal fires. At least not when a scout is just a text message away.