How I Discovered GentleTent (so we could bring it to the USA)
Bringing GentleTent to the USA is the story of my lifetime. I just didn't know it at the time. I grew up camping with my parents and brother in small travel trailers in the 1970's. In my youth, we spent literally the entire summer living out of small trailers at "Boulder Woods" campground in Pennsylvania, and also taking occasional longer trips to places like "Cherrystone" campground on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, Canada and even the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, New York (yes, this was a long time ago - yes we were there when they burned the tour bus in the bog, look it up before you say "OK Boomer").
In married life, we've gone camping a number of times, first in tents (which I always had to re-erect when I got home to dry it out), then in my ancient 1997 Econoline "Cave Van", which was really more of a steel tent than a conversion van. Last year, my brother and I even took the Cave Van for a road trip and finally returned to the races at Watkins Glen International Raceway for the first time in decades.
Now I was really hooked, and you already know the next part of the story. I wanted to camp more and travel more. And, of course, I wanted a new van -- a van like the ones you see on YouTube. So my new hobby became designing the fantasy van that I never actually expected to buy. One day, I realized that, even though it has a shorter living space, a Nissan NV2500 was wider than the typical Ford and Sprinter vans and could have just as much living space (and still be used for work purposes) if you had a removable, folding bed at floor level that ran from side to side. It was elegantly simple, but had two problems. One was bears. We live in an area with bears. Sleeping with the door open in bear country is an invitation for bears to walk across your your face to see what's on the menu. (Interestingly, bears view any opaque surface a "wall", which is why you're supposed to put your cooler in your tent.) The second problem was rain. If it rained and your feet were at the edge of an open doorway, your feet and your bed would get soaked in the middle of the night. That might not be as bad as a family of bears in your bedroom, but it's still not good.
After brainstorming a lot of ideas, I finally realized that the best solution would be an "add-a-room" annex like we had on our 16 foot Sprite when I was growing up. Sprite was an English brand, and RV annexes are common in England because the roads are generally too small for American-size RV's. An annex is an easy way to "travel small but camp big". Growing up, we lived in the "add-a-room", but only actually went into the attached trailer to cook or sleep (until us kids were relegated to a separate tent outside of the trailer). However, RV annexes were rare in the USA. And the ones that were available had lots of parts and took considerable time to put up -- fine if you you're staying in one place for a few months, but useless for short stays. I started hunting for an annex that could be erected in a couple of minutes, in the rain, while boon-docking overnight during a trip. A few days later, I discovered inflatable annexes by GentleTent. Further investigation for another two days revealed that you couldn't buy GentleTent in the USA. Now, at this time, I was looking for a new direction and new products for my business. So, a couple of days later, we had arranged to meet the staff at GentleTent and had plane tickets to Vienna. And, a few weeks later, we had a deal to bring GentleTent to the USA.
So that's the story of how GentleTent came to the USA. A vibrant, visceral memory from 45 years ago led to daydreams. And those daydreams led to the opportunity to create vibrant, visceral memories of a lifetime for other families.