A Brief History of Camping: How America Found Its Favorite Pastime

The history of camping in America. How did it start?

How Did Camping Start? A Short History of Camping

People have been camping since the early days of colonization in the Americas. From army camps to the shelters built by settlers when they reached the shores of the New World, camping has been a way of life for our ancestors.

However, we’re here to learn about modern camping: the history of camping as a pastime and leisure activity.

Over 40 million Americans go camping every year! That’s a lot of people who truly love camping!

That leads us to some questions. Why do people camp for fun? Who decided it was a good idea to go out in the wilderness with just a canvas flap to protect us?

We’ve got the answers to all of those questions and more in this brief history of camping in America!

Find out where it all started here.

Boy scouts and girl scout around a fire. The history of camping begins with boy scouts.

How Did Camping Start?

Some say that T.H. Holding, a British camping enthusiast, sparked international interest in recreational camping in 1906 when he published a book called The Camper’s Handbook. In fact, you may consider him the Godfather of Camping.

Camping culture was also motivated by the founding of the Boy Scouts. The organization was invented in 1908 in England, and by 1910 the Boy Scouts of America was in full swing. The Girl Scouts of America was founded just 2 years later.

The Boy and Girl Scout organizations were a big influence on Americans, and coincided with National Parks being established. After that, people began to show more interest in going to these places and spending time outside with nature.

Another big influence was the Boy Scout Handbook that was published in 1911. This sparked interest in a lot of people and helped show them what to do in the outdoors.

After World War II ended, there was more money to spend and more time to relax. Starting in 1945, an economic boom led tons of Americans to start buying tents and head to the great outdoors.

And people loved it so much, it stuck!

Tent in the sunset. The history of tents begins with the Civil War.

The History of Tents

So we know why people started camping, but who thought of using a tent to do it? In early civilizations, people used tent-like structures for shelter. But those weren’t the canvas contraptions we use now.

The history of tents for recreational camping actually goes back to the days of the Civil War.

In 1855, Henry Hopkins Sibley invented the first modern tent. He was a Confederate Army officer, looking for something to use for his soldiers in the war.

He created the design for a bell tent, based on the Native American teepee, with a stick in the middle of the tent holding up a piece of canvas. This design was used throughout the war by the Confederate Army.

In 1959, after the boom of people who wanted to start camping, Eureka developed a free-standing, easy to use tent. Over the next 20 years, the company developed new, more convenient camping tents that sold by the millions.

Since then, other companies have created canvas masterpieces, like the truck tent and the first dome tent.

Now, you can get all kinds of awesome and unique camping tents for whatever your needs may be!

RV camper van. The history of RVs and trailers.

The History of RVs

RVs entered the scene in 1910. These early versions were non-tent travel campers, and were built so people could get a little more shelter outdoors.

Airstream, the classic trailer brand known for its silver sausage shape, was born in 1929. It was built as a travelling shelter on wheels, and it became so popular they released different versions over the years.

There was another rise in popularity of the hard-top campers after World War II because people could now afford cars to camp in.

Remember the classic Volkswagen camper vans? They were super popular in the 1950s and 1960s, and you can still see some of them on the roads today!

The Good Sam Club, which provides discounts to many of our Book Your Site users, was founded in 1966. During this time, RVing was becoming such a popular pastime that people were beginning to offer discounts and deals!

Now, you can get luxury RVs and motorhomes that offer everything from air conditioning to WiFi. Talk about road tripping in style!

Approximately households now own campers, trailers, or RVs. You might even have your own, or are looking to purchase one soon!

Modern camping gadgets. The history of camping has changed in modern times.

Cool Gear and Technology: Recent Camping History

Camping history has changed even more, just in the last few decades!

With the amazing modern technology we have, cool camping gear is invented all the time. And sometimes, we get camping gear that changes the way people camp.

Glamping, one of the newest trends in camping, has surfaced within the last few years. This trend refers to people who camp with the services you’d normally expect at a hotel.

It’s essentially luxurious tent living that combines the best of both worlds for those who are a little skeptical about being too cut off from the comforts of home, but who still want to be outdoors.

Thanks to modern technology, people can now experience luxury while they’re camping!

From portable camping kitchens to comfortable beds, people have so many options now. Whatever your camping style is, you can rest assured that there’s something available for every budget.

Tent on a hillside. Being in the outdoors is a main reason why people camp.

Experience America’s Favorite Pastime at Your Perfect Campsite

Choose from thousands of campgrounds in North America and find the perfect spot for your next adventure.

We’ve done all the research for you. All you have to do is click, or tap, to book your site.

Whether you’re using an RV, a tent, or renting a cabin, the options are endless. Don’t waste time on the planning when you can be setting off for your next destination!

Don’t forget to check out our featured parks to score some discounts and coupons on your favorite destinations. Now, it’s time to pick where you’d like to go.

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