Summer Lazenby knew she wanted to start a camping gear rental business after multiple tourists visiting the Kenai Peninsula said they wished there was a way to camp without having to buy or bring gear.
“Several people commented, ‘Oh my gosh, I would love to go camping in Alaska, it’s just so hard with no gear,’” Lazenby recalls from a wedding she attended earlier this year at Primrose Campground near Kenai Lake. “I kind of said, in passing, ‘We should open a camping rental business.’”
It wasn’t long after that Happy Campers on the Kenai became a reality. Lazenby currently runs the business out of her home in Soldotna with her son, Koebryn, whom she said she relies on for youth outreach and his saviness with technology.
Koebryn, 11, said his job is pretty simple.
“I just touch keys on the keyboard,” he said.
Among other things, Koebryn runs the business TikTok account and helped draft an initial inventory of the gear he knew they wanted to offer.
Summer said she and Koebryn are like “two peas in a pod” and that their partnership is an effective one.
“We have a good time — he’s a very responsible young man,” Lazenby said. “I wasn’t hesitant to be like, ‘Sure, you want to run a business with me? We can run a business.’”
Lazenby said that she brings knowledge of the Kenai Peninsula’s tourism industry and a network of connections to their “dynamic duo.” She formerly served as the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council and has been using some of her contacts to help get the word out.
The business has already landed a deal with Alaska Airlines, through which one of Happy Campers on the Kenai’s deluxe rental packages will be offered in conjunction with tickets to Salmonfest and airfare to Alaska from northern California through an online contest. More details about that program can be found on Salmonfest’s Facebook page.
Through Happy Campers on the Kenai, people have the option of renting packages of camping gear or renting items “a la carte.” The company offers a regular and a deluxe package, which can accommodate either two or four people with an “extra kid option” available.
In deciding what equipment to offer, Summer said she and Koebryn tried to identify their camping essentials.
“We kind of approached it [as] ‘Well, what do you need to have a successful camping trip?’” Summer said.
Through their website, people can reserve gear ranging from tents, to sleeping bags, to bear spray, to camping stoves. Gear must be rented for a minimum of two days, but can be used anywhere in the state as long as it is returned by the due date.
Lazenby said ultimately the company is a way she and Koebryn can share their love of camping with others by offering people the opportunity to “see Alaska like an Alaskan.”
“It’s just something we enjoy,” Lazenby said. “You know, a family that plays together stays together.”
She said that as the business grows, she and Koebryn hope to incorporate campsite recommendations and booking accommodations to the services they provide. Their personal favorite camping spots are in Ninilchik and by Hidden Lake.
“What a great way to experience the Last Frontier, one of the most beautiful places on earth, up close and personal,” Lazenby said. “If I can help make it feasible for a family to do … why not?”
More information about Happy Campers on the Kenai can be found on the business website at happycampersonthekenai.com.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.