I first heard about The Dyrt in a list of “Summer Adventuring” apps post from Outside Magazine Online. It noted that there was giveaway for campsite reviews, and I thought, “Well, shit. I camp. I can write reviews. I need some gear.” So I checked it out. The site was easy to sign up for, didn’t ask for a ton of personal info and easy to use. I had a profile up in minutes.

The Dyrt Home Page

The Dyrt in its simplest iteration is like the original Yelp for campgrounds. You write a review, post photos & videos. Other users can then see that review and the aggregate scores of the campground. More of a real life review than what is offered on the campsite reservation sites. In return for your efforts and data, The Dyrt kicked off their site launch with a huge gear & prize giveaway this summer. If you’re interested check it out now. September is the LAST CHANCE to win. More on that later. Full disclosure I won a $100 gift card to Mountain Khaki’s for my reviews in July.

The Dyrt Points system for reviews and contest rulesThe prizes are given on a combination of points and opinion. Write a review get 2 points. Post a photo get 3. Videos equal 10 points and sharing with your social media is worth another 5 (points are capped at 30 per review). Then at the end of the month the top reviewers are collected, and a secret collective of Dyrt’ers (a term I just made up) choose the final prize winners. It leaves room for quality over content but also for personal opinion. For example, I probably should have won again in August but didn’t.

While writing reviews I realized a few sites I had been too were not listed in the site’s database so I sent an e-mail to the site and received a response from Sarah Smith, a founder of The Dyrt. I reached back out with some questions about The Dyrt in its current form, and what’s coming up next.

Lightning Bolts of Awesomeness

Interview with Sarah Smith of TheDyrt.com

SoCalSessions: You’ve (The Dyrt) created a review site, campground resources AND managed to get a bunch of brands to give away gear to reviewers. That’s today. What was step 1? How did this get inspired, than build into thedyrt.com today?

Sarah from The Dyrt: I’m a big camper and was extremely frustrated with the experience of finding a campground online because of the lack of campground reviews from local experts. I wanted to know what the campground looked like from a ground level view. I rarely choose a restaurant without consulting Yelp and I never book a hotel without checking TripAdvisor. We knew that if we could gamifiy the process of submitting reviews, both users and brands would be on board.

Campsite Review Page on thedyrt.com
Link to Ryan’s Reviews on thedyrt.com

SoCalSessions: Giving away $100,000 in contest prizes….putting a number on it implies it will end. When do the contests stop? Why even offer them? Once then end, then what?

Sarah from The Dyrt: The $100,000 Great Camping Giveaway is our current campaign to jump-start the community and it has worked by attracting over 20,000 user-generated campground photos and reviews in less than 90 days! This is only the beginning. We continue to attract brands who want to engage with our community and community members who want to participate. While The $100,000 Great Camping Giveaway will end on October 1st, our contests will continue in some form, as gamification is a core strategy of our platform.

SoCalSessions: What are the people at The Dyrt doing on the weekends? Camping? Glamping? Watching 30Rock reruns on Netflix?

Toilet at Big Pine Campground from thedyrt.com review
Toilet at Big Pine Campground.

Sarah from The Dyrt: I started a campground review website app and have barely been camping since – go figure! As you can imagine, The Dyrt is a massive undertaking. It’s required 6 to 7 days a week of work for the first year. Now that we have proven our technology and brought on some incredible brands, we are expanding our core team, which will provide some breathing room for some fall camping. Very much looking forward getting outside and fall camping is the best camping!

SoCalSessions: Camping really seems to be coming back around as a popular hobby/activity. Why now? 

Sarah from The Dyrt:I think we crave the outdoors to provide more balance in our busy lives. Camping is such a great way to unplug and focus on the simple things in life, like sitting around a campfire, chatting with friends. And I think with sites like thedyrt.com, camping is becoming more accessible.

SoCalSessions: We are literally in the “Golden Age” of user-friendly camping reviews sites. Granted until now there were basically none, at least none that anyone knew about (sorry campsitephotos.com) but now there is you, HipCamp (a combo review/AirBNB) for camping) that is creating a fairly extensive online database as alternatives to recreation.gov/other.gov’s. Why is there a demand for this now, how long before there is an app and are you anticipating more competition in the near future?

Sarah from The Dyrt: The big difference with thedyrt.com is that we have over 20,000 user-generated reviews and photos. From our user testing, we learned that campers don’t want perfectly curated and perfectly cropped photos of campgrounds. They want the real scoop with real pictures of real campgrounds from real users. They want The Dyrt. This is why we put getting user-generated campground reviews as our number one priority. While the Dyrt is currently a web app that works on both a desktop and mobile browser, we plan on getting an app into the app store in 2017.

thedyrt.com leaderboard of campsite reviewers
The Leaderboard.

SoCalSessions: In your about page you mention Guided Adventure Trips, but I don’t see that anywhere else on-site. What’s the deal? Where are we going and when?

Sarah from The Dyrt: Guided adventure trips will be launching later this fall.

SoCalSessions: Anything new that is coming up on thedyrt.com that people should start getting excited about?

Sarah from The Dyrt: We have a very exciting and creative contest launching for 2017. It is going to change the ways brands think about engaging with new audiences.

SoCalSessions: Anything else you’d like us to know?

Sarah from The Dyrt: The Dyrt has gathered over 20,000 user-generated photos, videos and reviews in just 90 days. With that base, we are very excited for the future and we want to play a major role in making the process of finding campgrounds easier for everyone.

Lightning Bolts of Awesomeness

After I wrote my first review my next trip camping was different. I noticed things for the purpose of writing a review. I wanted more points. I wanted to be on The Dyrt’s leaderboard. I snapped a photo of a pit toilet for no other reason that to post it as part of my future review. Gamification works. I wanted to be on that leaderboard.

At first that bothered me. Why should I be thinking about anything except being outside? Why care about the review or TheDyrt or how clean the Big Pine Campground bathrooms were (answer: very clean)?  That angst didn’t last long. The few minutes I devoted to extra photos or thoughts about the campground didn’t prevent me from enjoying my experience. For now it helped me lend a more critical eye to my environment.

Glacier Lake at Big Pine Campground in Inyo National Forest
Glacier Lake in Inyo National Forest.

Being a part of the this early data collection on The Dyrt not only might win me some gear but as someone who loves camping is helping to create a useable database for me to search when planning future trips. Which is a service that has long been lacking for people wanting to get outside more often. My reviews helped me feel a part of building something. As long as that experience and functionality remains I’m on-board. Any fear I have that it turns into a Yelp-like experience in which businesses have to “Pay to Play” for advertising or being pushed to the top of Yelp sorted lists is mitigated by the simple fact that most campgrounds don’t have any money. Until that day when the government coffers devoted to campsites is overflowing or so many private site owners are driving in custom Bentley trucks I’ll keep writing reviews, trying to win gear and using thedyrt.com to inspire and research for my next foray into the wild.

*Did you go camping this summer? Jump on your last chance to win on thedyrt.com. Prizes & giveaways end September 31st.*