Ballarat_1853-54_von_guerardThe British traveling tailor Thomas Hiram Holding first set up camp, this may have been the start of recreational camping. Yet in the 1880s on the River Thames, visitor set up camp. Some people may like to argue that during the Civil War troops were setting up camp, those would be considered military posts. Then there was the “Gold Rush” in the early 1850s when camps where being set up in California.

So what’s the Answer?

Which came first?

All notes taken with a few different answers. Recreational Camping started on the River Thames in the 1880s. Visitors would travel the river Thames in pleasure boats. They traveled by boat since it was much easier to handle the heavy gear.

Now some people like to use the terms of camping and recreational vehicles interchangeable. Others will argue that they are not the same. Since camping can be done be hiking long distances in the forest, while RVing will consist of having a vehicle or travel trailer.

No matter what your opinion is, the fact of living within your means and free combine both terms. This post will cover both styles of recreational living which is enjoyed by millions of people around the world.

Thomas Hiram Holding

The early days of camping as we mentioned began in the 1880s. The gear they carried was heavy. Tents were made of cloth that did not shelter out much rain. The cooking appliances were the same as what you used within the home during that time period.

The Early days of the Recreational Vehicle can be defined in 1745 with the wagon trains traveling across the United States. These people were heading to either the mid-west or to California for a way to escape the Civil War. By the turn of the century, the RV was becoming the means of travel across the interior of the United States.

In Hiram’s book of his Irland travel experience, Cycle and Camp in Connemara, he identified the first camping group in 1902. While the first camping group in the United State was established around the 1920s. The first campground was opened a short distance from the promenade in Douglas, Isle of Man in 1894.

To answer the question “Which came first?” I would have to say based on the history of the Recreational Vehicle as a horse-drawn wagon was established before the Camper. Although both are used for camping, getting the supplies to a location required a means of transportation, the RV.

Camping Changes

Over the years camping has evolved to become a great way to get outdoors and become active. Camping has gone from heavy supplies to some of the lightest equipment available. It has focused more on the outdoorsman looking to hike and backpacking into the wild.

The best way to separate camping from RVing is the equipment and location. Camping is the use of a shelter such as a tent or a lean-to. RVing is having a few of those home luxuries like electricity, heat, and the patio chair.

The RV

As we mentioned earlier we could arguably say that the wagon train could be considered the first RVers. They traveled across the country and across the plain with horse-drawn vehicles. Then by the 1920s RV camping clubs where being formed across the United States.

The modern day RV was also getting off the ground in the 1920s when Airstream manufactured its first RV. During that time RVs and mobile home where being manufactured almost together. It wasn’t until the early 1950s when the two separated.

Although most RVs were designed to be a temporary living space. Some RVer turned into making the RV lifestyle a way of life. They now call themselves RV Nomads. Recently a documentary was produced about these RV nomads. That documentary is on Youtube and can be found by researching “RV Nomad The Movie.”

This is where we now can define Camping, RVing, and RVing as a lifestyle. Three totally different was to travel, yet three terms that are commonly used interchangeably.

The RV Lifestyle

The Rv Lifestyle is a freestyle of living. These RV Nomads travel from place to place with no really intent. They enjoy their lifestyle while exploring the country along the way. This is a lifestyle for married people, single people, and families. No matter whether you are young or retired. This lifestyle is not only enjoyable but doable for anyone.

If you search around the internet you will find there are over 1 million people living this lifestyle. Then the question comes up. How do they survive? Ask anyone of the Nomads. The manage by looking after each other, being aware of their surroundings, and being resourceful.

If you watch RV Nomads the Movie you will soon learn they have all the same changes in life as the common household. Only they live in a smaller area which in actuality helps them learn to grow. They learn how each other reacts and how to cope with the changes. One nice thing they do have. If they don’t like their current location. They can just pack up and move to another location to explore.


Over the years the history Camping and RVing has made a number of drastic changes. No more drastic than in recent years when the RV Lifestyle has become a way of life for millions of people. The use of the terms Camping and RVing, although have been used interchangeably for years. The roots started in similar ways, yet have evolved to become their own separate lifestyle.

Camping has developed into a hike or backpacking adventure with no electricity. Just the basic needs of food, water, and shelter. The equipment has become lighter to make it easier to carry. While it has also been designed for warmth and comfort when needed.

RVing has changed over the years making bigger more luxurious vehicles on wheels. From the days of the horse-drawn wagon to the 45-foot diesel pusher now on the roads. People use their RVs for weekends to living in their RVs full-time. Getting into the RV lifestyle can cost you. But if the free, adventure lifestyle is what you are looking for. The RV Nomads may just have a few answers for you.

If you enjoyed this. Please comment below and share.

I would love to hear from you.

Ken Sagendorph


RV Nomads The Movie


  1. Reply

    I have done both, Camping and RVing. They are totally different today. Camping will be in a portable tent that can be backpacked in most cases. Sleeping in a bag with a campfire outside the tent. I am a scout leader so I still do camping around a fire in the evening to cook and tell stories. I like teaching the kids what tent camping is and cooking over a fire with cast iron cookware is like.
    Living in a RV today can be very close to living in a portable house. Laundry, beds, heating or air conditioning, full cooking and refrigeration of food are included in almost every big RV today.
    I have done pop up campers, pull behinds and drive campers. I prefer to have a vehicle when my RV is parked for the ability to go places without a big drag.
    I do have property at a lake with a pull behind camper, I do not take it over the road any more. It does have full electric, water and sewer hookups, so it is just like another home.
    I like your information on how it got started, most people today take comfort over being out in nature. I think of my first pull behind camper as being like a covered wagon compared to today’s models. My first tents did not repel water very good either.
    Do you think people will give up tent camping for the newer RV’s when they get a family and want to travel.

    • Reply

      Thank you for the visit and the input John.

      It was great to hear from an experienced camper like yourself. I was a scout as a kid and learned a lot from my scoutmaster. The time people such as yourself put in to teach upcoming generations goes without credit. To take the responsibility of teaching these kid how to cook, hike, read a compass, and learn how awesome the outdoors is. I commend you.

      RVing and camping have come a long way over its history. While people that start in a tent usually learn as they get closer to retirement the comforts of home are nice to have on the road.

      Do I think people will give up tent camping for the newer RVs?

      I guess that depends on the family. I think it is great to see a family all sleeping in the same tent. There are those two and three room tents to give everyone there own space. I truly believe some families will stick with the lighter weight and economic tent camping for weekends and short stays. I believe it is great for a family to bond while setting up camp. These I think are the families of people who have grown up camping and what to keep it a family tradition.

      On the flip side, I think the families in RVs are either (A) New to Camping and RVs or (B) have graduated from the tent because the kids are getting older and what to bring their video games etc. A do believe most families are on the (B) side.

      One other thing I have noticed is that there is a sort of trend or cycle to this. Folks start in a tent, move to a small travel trailer or popup, then to something bigger RV as the family grows. Eventual they are in a 40-foot fifth wheel or Class A. As the family starts to move their separate ways, mom and dad start moving the big Class A for their retirement or start to downsize to a one bedroom RV in a Class A or fifth wheel.

      Again John, Thank you for the visit. Please feel free to share.

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