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Camping in 1962 - What it Was Really Like

by David Gray

Guest Post

Today, I welcome another guest post to Roadtrip-'62 ™. David Gray of the “Best Tent for You” blog compares old style camping to today’s. If you have something to say about 1962, drop me a line and maybe you can appear here next.

 
The Golden Book of Camping and Camp Crafts
The Golden Book of Camping and Camp Crafts, 1959 (photo from an online auction)

The way that we used to camp years ago was a completely different experience than it is in today’s day and age. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of technology causing distractions and it was all about being completely in the moment and surrounded by nature. You had no choice but to bond with those you camped with, be it family or friends. The more technology we seem to have, the more it seems like we want to escape and get away from all the buzz. It's nostalgic for some, which is understandable when camping was, and still is, used as a way to destress and disconnect with the world while reconnecting with others we care about.

Gathering wood for a fire was a must for everyone, as well as getting water from a pump and sleeping in extremely small tents. There were no high tech portable gadgets like water filters and purifier which can be used to clean water now: back then they had to filter water through clean clothing or do things like boiling water to help remove the impurities and bacteria. Tents had to be small and light to walk into a campsite. That means that it was impossible to stand up, or even sit up, inside them. Since tent pegs were often wooden, and not plastic like nowadays, a hammer was a must to bring along on camping trips. There was no way of getting those stakes into the ground otherwise. When it came to finding a place to camp, word of mouth was the best method. Eventually, you’d hear about a particular field, probably on the outskirts of town, that people were using to camp. Some small communities still operate their own tourist camps.

 
Boy Scouts camping at 11th World Jamboree, 1962
Boy Scouts camping at 11th World Jamboree, 1962 (from my copy of October 1962 Boys’ Life magazine)

Since their establishment in 1910, Boy Scouts went on camping trips every year. The Girl Scouts were established in 1912, and they too would learn wilderness survival, such as learning to cook meals on an open fire. Fun fact; the first official mention of s’mores appeared in a Girl Scouts manual in 1927. Following the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movement, patrol tents became a thing which were usually 8 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 3 feet high, providing plenty of room for campers to move around in – an absolute luxury. It was also made of heavy-duty waterproof canvas, so it was pretty durable and reliable: surprisingly not too much different from the best canvas tents today. Campers would bring along things from home to make things more comfortable such as books and even furniture. Some even brought along porcelain plates and teacups; I guess that’s what glamping was like.

Later on, in the 1960s, campers started taking their RVs with them, or the famous Volkswagen Westfalia Camper instead. Camper vans meant being able to bring even more things along with you, and thus making camping easier and more comfortable. Camping in the winter wasn’t really an option. Though there wasn’t much snow on the east coast, there were long periods of sub-zero temperatures.

 
1962 Volkswagen Westfalia Camper
1962 Volkswagen Westfalia Camper (photo from an online auction)
 

It was more work and hassle to camp back then, much more manual labor was involved, but surely it made it even more enjoyable, satisfying, and worth it. Camping started long ago, and it is still very popular today. With the pandemic still going on, and everybody’s holiday plans hitting the fan, there is no better time than now to get into camping. It is a type of vacation after all and is guaranteed to have positive effects on you. A couple of campgrounds Roadtrip-'62 ™ journeys have passed include Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, just off US-2 at Nashua, Montana, and Jenny Riley State Resort Park, on US-23 at Prestonsburg, Kentucky.

 

All photos by the author and Copyright © 2020 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2020 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.

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