The story of our little Camping Empire.Zempire.Empire.

Zempire has been around for longer than you may think, and we have quite the history and background behind our humble beginnings. It's a great story though so let's tell it!!


Our Zempire founder, Richard Knauf, spent seven years in the camping industry at the Great Outdoors tent company. During this time he worked his way from Graduate Salesman to Product Manager. It was a sad day when the announcement came that the iconic Great Outdoors camping brand was to be no more. Richard was left wondering; who would fill the hole in the New Zealand camping market? So armed with a good dose of naivety and a passion for tent design, he made a bold decision to design his very own tent range!

Richard packed up his life and shipped off to China, and over the next two years, based himself in some of the worlds best tent factories. He designed tents and supplied a select group of retailers back in New Zealand with his newly developed camping products. During this time, Richard joined forces with Sophie, a Product Manager at one of these world-class factories. Together they launched the soon to be iconic New Zealand camping brand, Freedom Camping®.

On the back of growing campsite word of mouth, Freedom Camping® went from strength to strength and our New Zealand based team grew in size. Winters were spent pitching and inspecting tents, ensuring no compromises in quality were made. Summers were spent gathering and integrating campsite and customer feedback for the next round of product design. This hands-on approach is ingrained into our company culture and continues to shape all our products even today.

As industry recognition of the quality of our products designed and produced grew, a distribution opportunity arose for us in the UK market. To reflect the broadening horizons Freedom Camping® rebranded and Zempire® The New Zealand Camping Empire was born. The innovative product with a New Zealand spin resonated with UK customers, and a loyal tribe of passionate Zempire® followers developed.

As Zempire® continued to grow, our development team turned towards the product category that would go on to define the company. Although Air Tents were initially developed in the 1930s, new technologies had made them more reliable and affordable than in the past. Seeing the benefits this style of inflatable frame offered, we set out on our mission! We researched, designed and manufactured inflatable tents that could withstand the full range of weather conditions in New Zealand. After much collaboration and hard work, New Zealand's first inflatable air tent range was launched in 2014. This range would go on to win international design awards for innovation and quality and become our flagship product category.

Australia was now calling with requests coming from over the Tasman. Armed with the flagship range of inflatable family air tents and a commitment to a quality product, we began to shake up the price-driven Australian market. We quickly gained attention from campers looking for a well-designed camping product that was built to last. Zempire® continues to grow strongly in Australia and is now distributed across the country through many top outdoor retailers.

Zempire® is now one of the fastest-growing camping brands in the world. New markets such as the Netherlands, Austria and Germany added to the ever-increasing number of countries where Zempire® products can be found.

Richard and Sophie, together with a growing team, continue to visit China for months at a time. This dedication to quality means every manufacturing run is checked off and subjected to arduous tests, including wind and rain. Zempire® is continuing to evolve and is continually testing innovative and new ideas and designs. Explore the website and check out our products, look for that little bit extra because with every product….. it's there!

The success of the brand and the story certainly takes the effort of a team though and there are so many people that make this happen.  Some of the team you will recognise from photos and videos on our site. But the factories, the freight companies, our retailers, our partners and our loyal customers need to be thanked here also!

We are a family business and a family overall. We are so thankful we get to do what we love! Get outdoors; you owe it to yourself!

And that is the story of the 'Little New Zealand Camping Empire'.

Meet Some of Our Team