At one time, the only camping options were tent or open air. A hundred years ago, you would have been fortunate to have a canvas tent. Camping, as a vacation option, really took off about 50 years ago after the post-WWII economy boomed and the highway system developed. Thousands of trucks were fitted with a camper shell, but sleeping accommodations were still cramped.
Today, there are a half-dozen options for building a home away from home.
Tents are still enormously popular and they have evolved to a high art. Internal frame tents are easy to assemble (you have to do little more than just pop them open). They’re made from tough nylon and many are in the form of domes, making them ultra strong. External frame tents are still popular and they have the advantages of being larger, rectangular (so space is optimized) and super sturdy against wind.
But tents are no longer the only viable option.
Some SUV models are so large now that sleeping two adults in the rear with the seats laid flat is a definite possibility. They provide excellent protection against infiltration from wildlife and with an air mattress, are as comfortable as a tent. Some styles are even as easy to wash out with a hose as a tent. Fold down or easy-remove seats with plastic flooring make for easy clean up.
RVs have been around for 20 years, growing out of the ‘truck with camper shell’ idea. RVs now have running water, propane, electricity, movable awnings, air conditioning and space, space, space. Some are so large they may well be used as a semi-permanent home.
They can cost as much, too, with the largest models selling for $200,000 or more. But they have every luxury you could wish for and they are powerful enough to easily tow an SUV for trips away from the campsite.
Motels have been around forever, but these days you’re much more likely to enjoy a low-cost, clean and pleasant room from a major chain. In the past, many motels were… shall we say, an adventure all their own. But big business has made a cheap motel room cheap only in the dollars and cents sense.
Of course, in many areas – and at many times of the year – it’s still possible to truly duplicate the outdoor experience of a hundred years ago. You can lay your blanket or sleeping bag out on the ground under the stars and imagine what it must have been like.
Fortunately, the sleeping bag you are likely to employ is considerably better than one from that era. Modern materials provide both the exterior and the interior with top flight endurance and comfort. Primaloft insulation, 900 fill down and tough nylon shells make sleeping bags warm, cozy and waterproof.
The geometry has been much improved, too. Mummy bags with room for a pillow or protection for your head, as well as widened waist and foot areas are much more ergonomic. They are shaped as the human body is, making them retain heat better, while allowing easy turning but preventing shifting.
If you really want to get the feeling of what life was like a hundred years ago, you can always go with just a blanket. But you’ll find that the experience that looks so romantic in the movies has a lot more realism than most people would want.