Here at Fabsil, we love camping. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures; pitching your tent and being immersed in nature. It’s important to feel connected to our surroundings and camping helps us understand the natural world, allowing us to take better care of our environment. Camping enables us to escape the restlessness of modern life, throwing us into wild and lush landscapes whilst teaching us important lessons about nature and biodiversity. But where does camping come from? Join Fabsil as we delve into the details…
As we know it today, camping was made popular by Englishman Thomas Hiram Holding, whose 1908 book, The Camper’s Handbook, instructed people on how to camp recreationally, explaining the tools and equipment needed for a safe sleep under the stars. His love for camping stemmed from his childhood experience travelling with his family across America in a wagon train. In the US, camping’s popularity can be traced back to William Henry Harrison Murray. His book, Camp-Life in the Adirondacks, was published in 1869 and acted as a handbook for recreational camping, inspiring Americans to get outside and explore.
Holding formed the Association of Cycle Campers in 1901 (known today as The Camping and Caravanning Club) and involved influential outdoor pioneers, including Captain Scott, leader of the ill-fated Antarctic expedition, and Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouts.
The Boy Scouts was established in 1907 and, in the same year, Baden-Powell took 20 scouts to Brownsea Island off the coast of Dorset for an experimental campout. It was a major success and from then on, Scouts became synonymous with camping. Today, Scouts is a major global organisation, with international Jamborees held every four years and hosted in different countries.
Despite popularising it, Holding certainly didn’t invent camping. It had been around for centuries. Ancient armies, such as the Greeks and the Romans, would camp when leaving home for battle, setting up sites to rest, treat their wounded and plan strategies to defeat their opponents. They would sleep in canvas shelters, very similar to today’s tents. Invading Vikings would also use tents for their encampments when landing on foreign shores. The first documented use of the bell tent can be dated back to the Byzantium era (600 AD). Furthermore, nomadic cultures from all over the globe have been practising camping for millennia. Native American tipis, Central Asian yurts and Inuit tupiqs are all examples of how portable tents have been utilised to house people on the move for generations.
In the 21st century, camping is an ever-growing recreational activity that is only increasing in popularity. Campervans and caravans make camping a more accommodative experience, offering home comforts such as running water, toilets and electricity. Glamping has also risen in fame for people who want to get out into nature but prefer access to the luxuries of a hotel. Modern tents are made from insulating and waterproof materials, keeping you warm and dry, meaning a poor weather forecast can’t ruin your fun. Advancements in outdoor equipment also have made the practice more accessible, so you don’t have to be Bear Grylls to survive in the wilderness. Since 2020, camping has seen a significant increase in demand due to the Covid pandemic, which prevented people from holidaying abroad. Staycations and trips into the countryside allowed us to escape our homes, safely leaving lockdown behind to have an adventure in nature.
So, there you have it: Fabsil’s rundown on the history of camping. Next time you get outside and pitch up your tent, remember that you are taking part in a centuries-old practice that our ancestors enjoyed. Feeling inspired to get out and camp? I know we are!