From Canvas Tents to Class A Motorhomes

Aug 16, 2016

From canvas tents to Class C motorhomes, how we camp is changing as technology improves and the outdoor industry adapts military technology for use by the average consumer. 

Recreational camping became a hobby in the United States after the Civil War when wealthy business owners would hire guides to take them up into the Adirondack Mountains. That’s according to Martin Hogue, who teaches landscape architecture in the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York in Syracuse and is author of the forthcoming book Thirtyfour Campgrounds.

“All these people wouldn’t have survived without the help of these guides,” he says. “So, there’s this illusion that you’re in the wilderness, and some of the images that have come back to us show these men wearing these really expensive frock coats with a glass of wine. They were trying to reenact some of the experiences they had in the city in the wilderness."

There are more than 113,000 federally managed campsites in the U.S., more than 166,000 campsites dispersed across state parks, and even more places to camp on private land. Around five thousand of those state park campsites are here in Iowa.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a conversation on the evolution of the modern campsite and the evolution of modern camping gear as we know it. Hogue joins the show, along with Brian Midelstein, co-owner of Fin and Feather in Iowa City, and Todd Coffelt, Chief of the Iowa State Parks Bureau. 

Coffelt says that as Iowans have started to invest in motorhomes and campers, the number of campsites in the state has gone down. 

"As we’ve responded to the evolution of camping such as campers, trailers and larger RVs, our campsites have needed to be expanded. We’re down almost 10 percent in our number of campsites in being able to provide services to users," he explains.