If you are a burner, chances are you've seen these metallic structures all over the playa the last couple years - they are called Shiftpods, and they are making festival camping a whole lot easier and lot more lux. Born out of necessity to stave off dust storms and high desert temps, veteran burner Christian Weber designed the first Shiftpod for himself and a few of his playa compatriots to make life better at Burning Man. Word of his prototype spread quickly, and before you could say art bike, his business was booming.
We got a chance to catch up with the Shiftpod founder to find out more about this amazing little structure that is not only changing the lives of festival goers but disaster survivors and first responders as well.
The origin of the Shiftpod has it’s roots in dance music culture to some degree. Can you tell us how Burning Man gave birth to the Shiftpod product and brand?
CW: EDM has had a huge impact on me from the early days of Detroit through the LA rave explosion. I threw some of the first raves in Seattle after being sucked in by Double Hit Mickey and some of the early events in LA. I loved the early culture and vibe and loved sharing it with others. Eventually, this led me to Burning Man in 1992.
Over the years I went from tents to huts to moving trucks, and eventually large RVs thinking that was the way to go. In 2014 I found myself in JGunn’s Hexeyurt Palace. This thing had AC, a couch refrigerator and a separate bedroom. I am not sure Vinay Gupta, the inventor of the Hexeyurt had this kind of luxury in mind for refugee camps but it really worked on the playa. It was then I decided I had to have my feet back on the ground and I was going build one of these for next year. JGunn sat me down and described the process of construction, strike, storage and transportation and immediately crushed my dream of my own hexeyurt castle.
About 3-4 months after getting home I woke up in the middle of the night and could not get it out of my head. There had to be an easier way. I began to sketch, fold and search. I found a tent manufacturer and got on a plane. After producing a prototype, I sent it out to my camp list as a fundraiser for camp, and shortly after that, it leaked onto Facebook. Eight months later we delivered the first 300 proof of concept units to the worst weather on the playa in 20+ years that I can remember.
The wind and dust were howling, but we didn’t kill anyone and had no catastrophic failures. SHIFTPOD was born. Our camp was about creating a set and setting for people to have a SHIFT experience and the SHIFTPOD is a natural extension of that ethos. Get out, get away from the office, get set up quickly without stress and have a shift.
From the beginning, we decided we wanted to find a way to party and have fun and help those in need so for every 20 units we sell we are committed to giving away a unit to a family in need. To date we have given away many more than that and have supported disaster relief in the USA, Mexico, Haiti, Japan, Ecuador, Greece and we have units being tested in Darfur and Iraq.
What are some of the things that make Shiftpod the perfect shelter for festival camping?
CW: Festival season can be hot, and neither guests or crew want to struggle with setting up tents. My personal record set up of 22 seconds was beaten by the EDC set up crew in 2017 when they popped one up in 17.28876 seconds+/-. With this kind of speed, we can set up thousands of units for an event or disaster in only a few days. Several customers have posted videos of their first-time, and they are coming in under a minute! Strike is equally as fast.
When you are getting to the festival or worse… when you are leaving and are fried, the last thing you want to do is deal with a long set up or strike. The SHIFTPOD is also the first and best heat reflective shelter on the planet. This means it will help reduce the heat exposure and will actually stay cold if you have AC. The SHIFTPOD has power and AC ports so you can really dial it in and glamp it out. At 65 pounds it is defiantly set up for car camping. If you are flying in the SHIFTPOD Mini has you covered at only 37 pounds. The heat reflectivity, comfort, and speed of set up and strike make the SHIFTPODs the best way to fest-glamp.
You sell Shiftpod all over at the world, who are some of your biggest customers and what are some of the other uses aside from straight recreation?
CW: We have been very fortunate to gain a lot of attention around the world. We are supplying festivals, refugee camps, NGOs and disaster sites, and emergency response groups. The same qualities that make the SHIFTPODs great for glamping also translate to times of need when minutes count and strength and durability are critical.
If you had to have one DJ locked in your Shiftpod with you and some friends, who would you want on the decks?
CW: Well it would have to be a SHIFTPOD XL because I have a bit of a list… Donald Glaude, DJ Dan, from back in the day… and Neptune Merrick, Charles the First, and Andrailien (aka Heyoka)… throw in our beatbox crew from Philly and some marshmallows… The important thing is that the sets are like a ride.
I think a lot of DJs these days get on and play songs with no plan or thought of the overall experience. I believe the best DJs take you on a journey with mind-blowing peaks and dips that culminate into an almost religious, or SHIFT experience. That set that leaves you and your group of friends shaking your heads saying WOW! Those are the best times.
You have been working with the Ultra guys, EDC, and other big festivals - what’s next on the horizon for Shiftpod in the music festival scene?
CW: We are gearing up for an incredible 2019. We will be doing activations and expanding our reach into Europe and Australia. Asia is also coming online, and we will be working on a few large projects over there. We will be in Miami at WMC and are excited to be going back to EDC Las Vegas bigger and better than ever.
Can the average newbie really get this thing up in under 2 minutes?
CW: Yes for sure. One of the first to post their own unboxing video was a smaller young woman, and she rocked it out in about a minute 20 as I recall. That is really the best part of the SHIFTPOD experience. No more trying to sort out which pole goes where, no arguing over directions. Just get there, pop it up and get to having fun setting up and styling it out.
You have a new XL product in the works, when does that hit the market?
CW: Yes, we are really excited about this. They are 14 feet across and have a huge bay door opening. We actually had the first 25 of the SHIFTPOD XLs out at the burn this year, and they performed very well. We took what we learned from these and made even more improvements. Production will start in the next few weeks. They will be available for pre-order in late January 2019 for delivery in March. The SHIFTPOD XL is really the VIP experience version.
Aside from Burning Man what are some of your favorite festivals out there right now?
CW: Our whole crew loves Symbiosis. Many of us have been chasing solar eclipses together for years, and the eclipse festivals are a great way to meet people from all over the world. We did Las Fallas in Spain which has a lot of the art and fire aspects of Burning Man, and it has been going for 1000 years. We will be heading for Boom in Portugal in 2020. LIB and some of the small events offer a more intimate experience we like and then there is EDC Las Vegas! Wow. It is mind bending how far Pasqual and his crew have taken this event. While standing in the middle of it, I thought “Wow, THIS is the greatest show on earth!”.
Now with CAMP EDC being able to host 20,000+ guests on site, it not only takes the guest experience to another level, but it also reduces traffic, busing costs, improves safety and reduces community impact. Win/Win/Win all the way around. The coolest part is what we learn here can be directly applied to refugee and disaster response camps around the world, keeping in line with the ethos of the party, have fun and help others in need at the same time.