This month we chatted with fellow OBA member SylvanSport. SylvanSport was founded in 2004 for one reason: to make outdoor adventure accessible. What started as an idea to create an innovative pop-up camper has evolved into a line of award-winning adventure trailers, outdoor gear, and camping accessories.

Sylvan Sport Loft

1. Can you provide an overview of SylvanSport’s history and the key milestones in the company’s growth over the past 20 years?

Established in 2004 by Tom Dempsey and headquartered in Brevard, North Carolina, SylvanSport is an innovative, design-first company focusing on gear and trailers that make the outdoors more accessible, comfortable, and convenient. As we celebrate our 20th year, every product we launch continues the tradition of design, quality, versatility, and ease of use.

In 2008, SylvanSport introduced the GO camper, an innovative, lightweight tent camper that National Geographic Adventure hailed as the “Coolest. Camper. Ever.”. It also received awards such as Gear of the Year by Men’s Journal, the Edison Award for innovation, and several industry awards for design and engineering. Four years later, the GO EASY gear-hauling trailer was launched to provide a way for paddlers, cyclists, and campers to haul their gear in a lightweight, low-profile package. Over the next few years, thousands of GOs and GO EASYs would leave the factory in Brevard destined for places all across the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia, South America, and Europe.

To provide a space where owners could share tips, stories, and ideas for their GO, GO EASY, or GEAR, the SylvanSport Owners Group was created on Facebook in 2016. With thousands of members, this group fosters a vibrant community of SylvanSport enthusiasts where they can find help, inspiration, and friendship.

Ten years after the GO was launched, SylvanSport announced an outdoor gear line in 2018. The offering not only complimented the GO camper but served as stand-alone pieces for car campers looking for gear that is spacious, comfortable, high quality, and thoughtfully designed. From sleep systems and shelters to camp kitchens and packs, SylvanSport created a line of outdoor gear rooted in the same ethos of our trailers: design, quality, versatility, and ease of use.

In 2019, the SylvanSport team traveled across the country to unveil the concept of the VAST travel trailer at the RVX show in Salt Lake City, Utah. With a patented indoor/outdoor kitchen, innovative bed system, enormous opening windows, and the ability to carry bikes, kayaks, and gear, the VAST was a show stopper, bringing home the Best RV for Outdoor Adventure award by Backpacker Magazine. VASTs are now rolling off the production line and hitting the open road all across the United States and Canada.

Expanding the line-up in 2022, the LOFT rooftop tent and TraiLOFT micro-camper (a combination of the LOFT and GO EASY) were introduced. The LOFT and TraiLOFT were the answers to those looking for the quality, design, and engineering of SylvanSport in a much lighter-weight, compact package.

To celebrate our 20th anniversary and respond to the burgeoning overlanding market, SylvanSport re-designed the GO from the ground up to create the GO All-Terrain (GOAT) in 2024. Sharing the same versatility and lightweight functionality of the GO camper, the GOAT features a rugged off-road chassis giving it the capability to handle far more technical terrain.

As we enter our third decade, we are not slowing down. New products and innovations are in development and we’re enhancing our existing products’ designs and features. As a design company that loves the outdoors, we can’t help but keep creating, tweaking, and improving our products so we can be part of our customer’s adventures for years to come.

2. What were the key benefits for SylvanSport in being a member of the Outdoor Business Alliance (OBA)? How has the OBA helped foster collaboration, innovation, and growth within the outdoor industry in Western North Carolina?

Western North Carolina is our home and an incubator for many growing outdoor brands, whether they manufacture goods or offer experiences and services. The key benefits of OBA are that it helps us interact and network with like-minded brands while lifting our home as a haven for outdoor business. We don’t believe in closed doors in our offices, nor do we believe it for our community. OBA gives SylvanSport access to energetic entrepreneurs and like-minded community members where we can brainstorm with the most creative minds in our community while also advocating for thoughtful innovation and less waste.

3. SylvanSport is known for its innovative, versatile, lightweight camping trailers and gear. Can you walk us through the design process and how you balance functionality with portability?

SylvanSport starts by looking at the things folks buy to help facilitate fun that live as unwanted lawn furniture. We look at the problems our customers face and craft common-sense solutions for multifunctionality. That’s how we developed the GO, which remains the philosophy driving the brand today. The design and materials of the typical pop-up camper were flimsy and the functionality was suboptimal. Those old campers also only had a single functional use. It would otherwise lay in waiting until the next camping trip. SylvanSport turned to redesigning the category to have an incredibly durable and lightweight travel trailer that could double as a toy hauler or cargo trailer. With these innovations, the multifunctionality skyrocketed, and we brought to the market something worthwhile in our customers’ daily lives that also facilitates a better, supreme camping experience.

4. Sustainability and environmental responsibility seem to be core values for SylvanSport. What specific initiatives or manufacturing processes do you have in place to reduce your environmental footprint?

SylvanSport prides itself on utilizing as many of its materials as possible and often allows us to get creative in the reuse of those materials. For example, we receive many components of the trailers on pallets. Instead of discarding them, we allow the community to pick them up (at no charge) for their use or we utilize them for drying camping trailer parts. We rarely discard anything to the landfill and ensure our team is on board with these practices. We also prioritize advocacy work in the way of stewardship and protection. SylvanSport staff was part of North Carolina becoming the fourth state in the country to create an Outdoor Industry Office to protect our wild places and continues to be active at the local, state, and regional levels in the protection of our forests.