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!!


Zempire founder Richard Knauf spent seven years in the camping industry at New Zealand's Great Outdoors tent factory, during this time he worked his way from Graduate Salesman to Product Manager. When the announcement was made that the iconic Great Outdoors camping brand was to be no more, he was left wondering who would fill the hole in the New Zealand camping industry. Armed with a good dose of naivety and a passion for tent design he made a bold decision to design his own tent range. Richard packed up his life and shipped off to China.

Over the next two years, he based himself in some of the world’s best tent factories designing tents and supplying 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 tent factories, and together they launched the soon to be iconic New Zealand camping brand, Freedom Camping®.

On the back of growing word of mouth around the campsite, Freedom Camping® went from strength to strength and their 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 feedback for the next round of product design. This hands-on approach to product design is ingrained into the company’s culture and continues to shape all products. As industry recognition of the quality of the product being designed and produced grew, a distribution opportunity arose for Freedom Camping® 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 South Pacific 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 inflatable pole systems were initially developed in the 1930's, new technologies had made them more reliable and affordable than in the past. Seeing the benefits this style of frame offered, Zempire® set out researching, designing and manufacturing inflatable tents that could withstand the wide range of weather conditions in New Zealand. After much collaboration and hard work, New Zealand's first inflatable tent range was launched. The range would go on to win international design awards for innovation and quality and become Zempire’s flagship product category.

Australia was now calling with requests coming from over the Tasman. Armed with the flagship range of inflatable family tents and a commitment to quality product, Zempire® began to shake up the price driven Australian market quickly gaining 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 with new markets such as the Netherlands, Austria and Germany adding to the ever increasing number of countries where Zempire® products can be found, and if you are outside of our current distribution at the moment you never know we may pop up in your location some time soon!

Richard and Sophie together with a growing team continue to visit China for months at a time. This dedication to quality includes ensuring every manufacturing run is checked off and subjected to arduous wind and rain tests. Zempire® is continuing to evolve and is constantly testing innovative new ideas and designs. Hunt 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 and are so thankful we get to do what we love! Get outdoors; you owe it to yourself!

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

Meet Some of Our Team