Somewhere between Venice, California, and Charleston, South Carolina – in the middle of seemingly nowhere – on one of many road trips, professional skateboarder Evan Smith is out searching.
He's looking for publicly-owned land run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). And when he finds it, he's going to pitch a tent, start a campfire and enjoy life on the outskirts – a place where Smith believes he will find substance and something deeper than the typical city-dwelling life. "I know gypsies are pretty far outside," Smith tells Transworld Business. "But as skateboarders, we keep it right on the edge of society – like, we're in it, but we're not in it."
Forged in part by Smith's cosmic spirit is his new outdoor camping brand, No Hotels. "Every single time I've decided not to stay in a hotel," explains Smith, "and I just grabbed my tent and backpack, and spent the night on top of a roof or out in the wilderness – it's been a real piece of life with a story to tell."
With No Hotels, Smith and team offers a line of apparel and outdoor accessories for those looking to, as Smith puts it, enjoy the fruits of life, family and camaraderie that he and his crew experience on the open road. No Hotels officially launched in early 2018 by Smith and his colleagues Rob Wootton, Alex Elder, Keith Gibbs and Chris Blake, and is available direct-to-consumer through their website – or, if you’re in Orlando, you can find No Hotels in Plus Skateshop. Smith is currently working on the brand’s distribution strategy, and aims to get No Hotels into retailers nationwide very soon.
For now, the brand offers hammocks, canteens, reusable silverware kits and rucksacks. "The majority of the money we're making is going right back to more product," explains Smith. "But the long-term plan is to sell stuff so we can make enough money to take rad trips together. That's really the model, to keep it real low key and stay out there."
Then in January 2018, the crew released "Paper Trails: A Cross Country Journey," documenting a 30-day road trip where Smith and company navigated cities and wilderness across the United States. The videos inspired them to create outdoor product for like-minded travelers. "We actually use everything that we make, so we personally get the vibe of it," says Smith.
Transworld Business recently got together with Smith to discuss his inspiration for No Hotels, his role in the collective business, and what people can expect to see from the brand in the near future.
Where did the idea from No Hotels originate?
My crew in Orlando created it. We all grew up together and relied on each other like the kids in “The Sandlot.” That was my close brotherhood, you know? I only have a sister, and so those dudes are my brothers. We wanted to find a way to make a little loot so we could continue to travel – something we could do as a collective. We had been going camping and going on these skate missions; and so we merged the two vehicles and founded No Hotels.
Do you have a favorite product from No Hotels?
I actually have two favorites. The first is our Chow Kit – a fork, knife and spoon that fold and go into a small pouch. That has been the most helpful thing. Every time we make food on the campfire, I'm always like, "We forgot silverware!." And sometimes we make really dope vegetarian meals where you need a spoon. So the Chow Kit has been a savior.
My second favorite is our canteen. It literally holds like ¾ of a gallon of water. It's a classic canteen with the Mexican blanket on the sides of it. They're the best. I just did a solo cross-country trip and camped the whole time. I was in Zion National Park one night, on top of Angel's Landing, and I had a feeling I was going to run into some skaters. Sure enough, these dudes from Australia showed up and we had barbecue and went out to BLM land and chilled out with a big fire. I gave them my canteen.
What products can we expect to see from No Hotels in the future?
We are doing some research and development right now to make tents affordable for skaters. That's our biggest goal at the moment. There are a lot of tent companies out there, but very few, like Anti Hero – the original, Tent City – who are doing things right. And we support it so much, it's our life. So yeah, we're trying to make them super cheap, but still quality.
Are you the CEO?
No, we're not really on that program. Chris Blake and I handle a lot of the artwork and visual conceptualizing. Keith works on the website and handles the shipping. Rob handles the finances and Alex films and makes most of the videos. He's a sick, underground style editor. He grew up listening to RZA and Wu-Tang Clan, and has this flavor unlike anything else. It's a cool vibe all the way around. We keep it tight.
How do you see No Hotels in today's market?
Look at the market now – people are talking about a global government. That's going to affect people like us very negatively, because we're going to have to be scanned into the system. And we'll have to make and sell "X" amount of product or else we'll get axed. But there is way better stuff going on out there in the universe and I believe there is a place for No Hotels. So I'm down to promote this kind of lifestyle that allows every race, size and shape to come together, because we are humanity. That's the fact. It is our choice to take care of our planet, to grow forests and make oxygen. The planet is rebelling on us and we gotta check ourselves quick. I don't mean to go so deep, but I'm super passionate about it.
What do you hope people will gain from your brand?
We're interested in motivating kids to get out with friends, under the stars, and learn to make a fire. The next step will be meet-ups, where we’ll disclose a location and meet up with everyone out under the stars and spend that time together. This planet needs that motivation. People are just living their lives on autopilot and we need to take time to share knowledge with each other and fully experience love and the fruits of life in a caring way. Ultimately, when we allow everyone a place to grow physically and mentally — it's like mixing physics with consciousness expansion.
More Content from TransWorld Business