Caravanning and Camping
by A.H.M. Ward (1933)
During the Industrial Revolution, people flocked from the countryside to the cities to seek work and wealth. As urban areas expanded, city folk began to hanker for the countryside their fathers and grandfathers had left behind, and camping as a form of leisure was born.
But it wasn’t as simple as that. At the end of the 19th century, public transport was limited, camping equipment was rudimentary and not everyone was convinced that camping was actually fun.
The leisure aspect was to really evolve much later. Several key figures and some social movements believed camping was more than sitting around a fire and roasting marshmallows. It was encouraged as a healthy pastime that would build character and well-being. Socialists, naturists, militarists, pagans and the Nazis have all valued camping, hiking, woodcraft and the outdoor lifestyle at one time or another.
Camping books poured out from publishers – how to camp, where to camp, what to take, what to cook. Cycling and car camping evolved followed by caravanning. In the 1950s, the Americans began sending their kids to summer camps while the British created holiday camps. By the 1970s, campers were looking to push themselves to the limit by hiking to the world’s most remote places.
Fiction writers embraced the subject too. Camping plays an important role in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five were often pitching a tent before discovering smugglers, and many juvenile books were published in the first three decades of the 20th century where camping was the key theme.
Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the Scouting movement, saw camping as a method of toughening up young men for when their country needed them in military uniform. Henry Ford saw cars and camping going hand-in-hand, and staged high-profile camping trips to show how automobiles could ferry Americans in and out of the wilderness.
There are many books dedicated to camping from the past 120 years. Significant writers include Baden Powell, Ernest Seton Thompson, who founded the League of Woodcraft Indians, George W. Sears (known as Nessmuk and the author of Woodcraft), and Thomas Hiram Holding who wrote The Camper's Handbook and founded the Camping and Caravanning Club.