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Camping Gear has sure come a long way!
The wide choice of high-tech camping gear and gadgets we have today definitely makes the camping experience more convenient and enjoyable. But it wasn’t always this way. So we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the way camping equipment used to be:
Sleeping Bags - One of the more unusual sleeping bags in history was a three-man model made of buffalo hides that was used during
Arctic exploration around 1880. (Let’s hope they weren’t restless sleepers!) At the turn of the 20th century, sleeping bags were still nothing more than a blanket folded in two and sewn together.
Flashlights – Ever wonder why it’s called a “flashlight?” When the “Electric Hand Torch” was introduced in 1889, the batteries were so weak that the electric torch would only create brief flashes of light, which is how it earned its name.
Air Mattresses – Here’s one piece of camping equipment that really hasn’t changed much. The air mattress was introduced in 1889 by the Pneumatic Mattress & Cushion Co. that offered a free 30-day trial and free delivery east of the Mississippi. The design of air mattresses has remained virtually unchanged to this day.
Camping Attire – In a 1902 issue of Sunset magazine, author Katherine Chandler recommended that women pack the following items for what she described as “a full month tramp”: two short skirts, a warm jacket of corduroy or denim, a cape or heavy shawl, bloomers and leggings (that match), a sun hat, a few dark-colored shirts, some good gloves, a nightgown, two pairs of underwear, comfortable shoes to wear around the campsite and a studier pair with a thick sole containing Hungarian nails for tramping. Whew! And then they had to load it all onto a horse or pack mule!
RVs – One of the very first RVs, Pierce-Arrow’s Touring Landau that dates back to 1910, came complete with a fold-down bed and chamber pot!
Tents - When pup tents were first used during the Civil War, the soldiers thought they looked more like dog kennels and would stick their heads out and bark to prove their point. In the 1920s, before the invention of nylon and fiberglass that make tents as lightweight and easy to set up as they are today, tents were very bulky and heavy since they were made of canvas, cotton or even wool.
Picnic Coolers - In the early 1950s, coolers (or picnic chests as they were then called) were made of steel, which meant they would sweat and rust (not to mention they were heavy). But when a Coleman engineer saw a child blowing bubbles, he was inspired to create a lighter, more efficient model made of molded plastic, a process that is still used
Leatherman Multitools – These handy gadgets have evolved into multiple versions over the years, but their origin is an interesting story. When mechanical engineer Tim Leatherman developed this versatile tool in 1975, the knife and tool companies he contacted simply weren’t interested. He found a mail order company that was, though, and he sold 30,000 units his first year. The rest, as they say, is history.
So the next time you go camping, take a moment to remember those who came before us. They paved the way for the way we camp today!