Millions of people regularly take to the outdoors to sleep under the stars and cook over an open fire. But have you ever wondered how it was that we developed this love of camping?
Almost for as long as humanity has been around, there has been camping. Sleeping in tents was once simply a way of life, but camping has turned into both a beloved pastime and a booming industry. Many of us grew up camping with our families, be it on a regular basis or for vacation from time to time. And for some camping becomes a lifelong activity, the call of nature never quieting. Camping helps people to slow down and enjoy nature, as well as make life simpler for a short time. So how did sleeping outdoors go from necessity to hobby? Why do we love camping?
A British traveling tailor named Thomas Hiram Holding is generally regarded as the “father of camping” in the U.K. He learned about, and developed a love for, camping as a young child when he traveled across the United States with his parents on a wagon train to the Oregon territory. He wrote The Campers Handbook in 1908 and founded the Association of Cycle Campers, which is now called the Camping and Caravanning Club.
In the United States in 1874 the YWCA set up its first camp in Pennsylvania, called Sea Rest. It was for women only. Eleven years later in 1885, the YMCA set up its first camp in New York, which is still open today. The first Boys’ Club camp was built in 1900 in Massachusetts. The Boy Scouts opened their first camp in New York in 1910, and the Girl Scouts two years later in Georgia.
During the 1920’s and 30’s a healthy lifestyle was highly sought after. The outdoor nature of camping made it very popular. During WWII recreational camping growth slowed a bit, but picked up again soon after. This growth was further spurred by the number of cars that were on the road in post-war America. The economic boom sent people flocking to retail stores and war surplus stores to buy tents and gear.
By the 1960’s camping was the standard family vacation. Campsites were opening all over the country and camping gear was being improved and lightweight metal poles took the place of wooden frames. The Good Sam Club was founded in 1966, and is currently 1.5 million members strong. With so much of the country becoming accessible by highway, in the 1960’s companies like Winnebago start manufacturing motorhomes in mass, making them more affordable.
Over the decades the love for camping grew and is continually renewed through its importance in youth organizations as a way to teach teamwork and resourcefulness. Today it is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities country. In 2014 American consumers spent more than 1.5 billion dollars on camping equipment.