In the camping and overlanding world it’s hard not to know or recognize iKamper and their innovative roof top tent: the Skycamp.
iKamper broke the scene with their incredibly successful Kickstarter Campaign, which collected more than $2 million to produce their expandable hardshell rooftop tent.
Many already know their story, of how their founder did a road trip across USA inspired by the travels of Jack Kerouac. He wasn’t satisfied with the sleeping options and that lead him to design the Skycamp.
Now, almost 6 years later it has become an incredibly well known brand and model of RTT, it is a fast growing company and it has become the shelter of thousands of camping, traveling and off road adventurers all over the globe.
At Off Road Tents, we’re proud dealers of iKamper, and as such we wanted to interview them to get a better feel of how their everyday is, what plans they have for the future, and the challenges they’ve had to overcome.
Nathan Hendrix, the Global Operations Manager and Soon Park’s right hand, gave us the opportunity to interview him. Here’s what he said:
Interview With iKamper’s Global Operations Manager:
Since Soon Park was extremely busy, Nathan Hendrix was kind enough to take his time to answer the questions. And as such, we thought it was better to start from the beginning of his journey with the South Korean company, how it all began.
“It began in January 2016. The Skycamp was starting to get a lot of attention on social media, and I joined the team to help launch the Kickstarter campaign and grow iKamper on the world stage”, said Hendrix.
For Hendrix, jumping into it was definitely fun, yet somewhat challenging, perhaps a bit more than one could ever imagine.
“The best part was probably seeing the Skycamp explode on Kickstarter ($1 million in the first few hours!), shipping the first units a few months later, and now one year later to see the Skycamp taken on adventures in 46 countries around the world”.
That’s the impressive thing about the iKamper Skycamp, how it broke into the global market, breaking barriers that were unthinkable before. Suddenly people that enjoy the outdoors from all over the world were ordering Skycamp; from USA, to Argentina, South Africa or Taiwan, you name it.
The secret? For many it lies on the design, the innovative look of the Skycamp rooftop tent that differentiates from its more traditional peers.
Where did that design come from?
“Soon Park, iKamper’s founder and designer, went traveling with his family all over the US between 2009 and 2012.
They had a great time but weren’t satisfied with the sleeping options they had on the road.
For a family of four, soft-top tents were too much of a pain to set up, pop-up trailers took too much space, etc. Originally a guitar player, Soon’s a self-taught engineer, and he decided to found iKamper once he got back to Korea.
The Skycamp’s the result of 3 previous iKamper RTT models, many prototypes, and countless hours of hard work”, replied Nathan.
That result ended up in one of the most successful KickStarter campaigns in history, and we wonder how that feels, so we asked.
“We knew the Skycamp was a great product and that people would love it. But that didn’t necessarily guarantee success on Kickstarter, especially with it being one of the most expensive crowdfunding projects.
When the campaign launched, I was in our tiny office with Soon, and I still get goosebumps now thinking about it.
Backers jumped on the opportunity, and a few hours later the Skycamp had already become the most successful tent ever on crowdfunding, eventually raising $2.6 million in 45 days”, said Hendrix with a lot of excitement.
It’s imaginable that after such a success, challenges were going to arise, and they did.
“Before the campaign, we were only producing about 15 units a month for the local market here in Korea. Suddenly we had 1000 Skycamps to make: this required finding a new factory, new suppliers, hiring new staff, all while maintaining good communication with our backers who were growing increasingly impatient to get their long-awaited Skycamp.
Overall, my main challenge has been managing the growth of iKamper: Going from a team of 5 to 21 in 1.5 years, shipping to 46 countries, growing distribution in 22 in the past 8 months…
I think most people believe iKamper is much bigger than it actually is. Despite its global presence, iKamper is still a family-run business with only 6 office staff”.
However, as challenges become harder, tougher, bigger, satisfactions grow too, probably double as much. Who hasn’t had that feeling of how, satisfaction, even bliss after overcoming a huge challenge?
For Hendrix, Soon and all the iKamper team, seeing pictures of the customers with the Skycamp, reading the great reviews, and hearing how their product has made their outdoors experiences and travels much better, are some of their biggest satisfactions.
In the end, Soon’s goal wasn’t just selling, but creating a product that would enable other families just like his to go wherever they wanted, whether it was from New York to California, or from Sydney to Perth, in their vehicle and sleeping in the comfort of the best roof top tent possible.
How Is The Skycamp Rooftop Tent Created?
Unfortunately, Nathan isn’t exactly in charge of design, but here’s what he said:
“I don’t personally design or make our products, but one thing that’s unique about iKamper is that the office is only a 10 second walk from the factory. Everyday I walk through the factory to watch assembly, test new parts, contribute ideas, check new prototypes, etc.
Before working at iKamper, I didn’t realize all that it takes to make a product like the Skycamp: hundreds of individual parts that all need to arrive on time from suppliers, packing materials that are custom-made, boxes designed by us in a way to reduce shipping damage…”
That last phrase caught our eye particularly, since it’s funny how iKamper was very smart to design custom-made boxes that have inscriptions of LED TV’s for carriers to handle them with care and reduce damages as much as possible.
The picture above, showing the Skycamp Box was taken by Sam Lambie, a proud owner of a Skycamp.
Plans For The Future:
iKamper wasn’t going to stop just with the Skycamp roof rack tent. Judging by the innovation they brought into the car top tent world, it was likely something new was going to come out.
“The Skycamp 2X (CLICK HERE TO SEE IT) was just released, our next RTT will be revealed at Outdoor Retailer in July, and we already have our next one planned as well in 1-2 years”, revealed Hendrix.
It doesn’t stop there, iKamper won’t just limit themselves to the RTT world, but they want to grow, expand, and become a major outdoor gear manufacturer. They already introduced the EatOut Outdoor Kitchen-In-A-Box, and they have other products in mind too.
Is that what makes iKamper different from other roof top tent brands? Their drive for innovation?
“There are so many great brands out there, but in the RTT world iKamper is one of the only brands that makes its own tents (not OEM China).
I also think Soon’s creativity leads to very innovative RTTs: first expandable hard shell tent, and our next model is in the process of being patented”, added Hendrix.
We honestly can’t wait to see what they have to offer, hopefully something that will make the life and experiences of outdoors and camping enthusiasts an easier one.
It’s no secret the RTT market is growing a lot, so it’s important to stay focused, innovating, improving. Fortunately, that’s also what Hendrix thinks.
“According to the Wall Street Journal, the RTT market in the US grew 3x in 2017, but I think it’s about to get much much bigger.
It’s certainly going to be a more crowded marketplace, but most new RTT companies I’ve seen are sourcing their RTTs from China and not adding much innovation. I’m a very competitive person: competition just leads to better products”, he said.
Wrapping It Up:
To close the interview, we asked Hendrix about some of his favorite overlanding spots or memories.
He said he’s been fortunate to travel around many beautiful places, from the French Alps to the Korean beaches, or even the Masai Mara in Kenya.
Yet his favorite places and stories are those that were discovered by accident, after asking locals which was the best spot off the beaten track.
Lastly, does he have any advice for those looking to buy a roof top tent?
“Do your research before investing in one. There are tons of models out there, from $1,000 to $5,000, so learn what’s different about each, and get the one that’s best for you. Invest in one that you can use for years”.
We can’t agree any more. Rooftop tents can certainly change your whole outdoors and camping experiences. It can allow you, your family, couple, kids and friends have comfortable, adventurous and unforgettable trips.
Just like Kerouac said: “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”