My Three Years of Motor Camping: Experiences of a Pioneer in the Game, Who Reveals the Most Useful Equipment for a Successful Motor Vacation

By F. E. Brimmer, Author of “Autocamping” – Popular Science Monthly, June 1922

THREE summers ago my wife and I made our first auto-camping trip. It seemed to us a radical and hazardous enterprise; but we soon discovered, as have hundreds of others in the past year or two, that this delightful method of vacationing can be made to combine the adventure and healthfulness of Western frontier days with the comfort of a 1922 apartment hotel. We started, that first year, by packing half the contents of our kitchen into the tonneau. Since then experience has taught us what should be taken. This experience may guide the beginner in selecting everything that is essential, without burdening himself with articles that take valuable room in the car and prove unnecessary to enjoyment.

To unclamp the runningboard box from the car and convert it into a table with two shelves for cooking utensils, as shown above, takes only a minute

To unclamp the runningboard box from the car and convert it into a table with two shelves for cooking utensils, as shown above, takes only a minute

Home Comforts on the Road

Nowadays when you climb into your car and take to the open road for a summer of motor gipsying, you need not leave home behind. You may take its comforts with you. With the increasing popularity of motor camping as the great vacation sport of a nation, there has appeared on the market within the past few months a host of mechanical devices to make roadside living easy for the amateur. If you make or purchase your outfit with care, you can tour the country for four months or more without once stopping at a hotel, or realizing that you are “roughing it.”

My Three Years of Motor Camping Experiences of a Pioneer in the Game, Who Reveals the Most Useful Equipment for a Successful Motor Vacation -- During five years of gipsying all over the United States, this flivver tourist has accumulated a moving natural history museum

During five years of gipsying all over the United States, this flivver tourist has accumulated a moving natural history museum

The Auto Tent—One of the most important of the new devices is the auto tent, which is made especially for comfortable shelter in motor camps. Some styles you attach to the car, while others are pitched independently.  Some are so adaptable that you may or may not attach them, whichever you desire; but all types are superior to the old style tent that was designed for other purposes. A good auto tent may be made as cozy as (and far cooler than) a summer cottage.

In selecting the auto tent, I have found that the best way is to choose a model that will roll into a compact bundle, weigh as little as possible, and still be commodious and waterproof. It should he possible to put it up and take it down in five minutes at most—and this, if necessary, by one person. Get as much head room as possible. If an adult can stand erect, anywhere in the tent, living will be far more comfortable. There should he one or two screened windows with curtains.

I have discovered that all the usual tent materials have their advantages. Balloon silk is costlier than canvas, but much lighter in weight and fully as efficient. Of course, both silk and canvas give better service when pitched in the shade, and a fly can be used to excellent advantage if a long stay is made in one place. Army duck, double filled, in 29-inch width and 10-ounce weight, which has been waterproofed, has proved to be very satisfactory under all conditions, even in snow country. Airplane cloth and silkette are other varieties of excellent tenting material offered the tourist.

My Three Years of Motor Camping Experiences of a Pioneer in the Game, Who Reveals the Most Useful Equipment for a Successful Motor Vacation -- These gipsies pack all their luggage in an odd single-wheeled trailer consisting of a case supported by bars that are attached to the rear of the chassis

These gipsies pack all their luggage in an odd single-wheeled trailer consisting of a case supported by bars that are attached to the rear of the chassis

I have found that the color of a tent should be carefully considered. White is conspicuous and hard on the eyes of the occupants in sunlight, and at night every move of the persons in a lighted camp makes a shadow that reveals plainly what is going on inside. Either brown, khaki, or green canvas blends better with the landscape. The light transmitted is easier on the eyes and the walls are more opaque when the camp is illuminated at night.

How to Start the Trip Right

AUTOMOBILE camping. within the past year or two, has become one of the most popular American vacation pastimes. In the accompanying article a pioneer among motor campers describes some of the essentials for a successful gipsy tour, which he learned in three years of actual experience.

Those of you who are planning a summertime auto camping trip will find these suggestions helpful. In addition, our Home Workshop Department tells you this month just how you can make your own equipment. Instructions for converting a car into a “house on wheels” appear on page 77. You can learn how to make a tent, page 80; a camping table, page 101; a folding camping stove, page 102: or even a trailer for your car, page 103.

And it you are interested in how motor gipsies live on the road, read the prize-winning letters on page 70 and pictures of modern motor caravans on page 71.

The very latest tent for auto camping is a combination tent and bed. In this style of camp the bed forms the foundation for the tent, supporting its poles or frame. We have used several styles of tent-bed combinations and find that from the standpoint of comfort there is little difference be tween the combination and the tent itself. You can take your choice.

The Auto-Camp Bed—Comfortable bedsmean comfortable camps, and our experience is that the double or single folding cot is excellent. We have used a double cot 52 inches wide, 78 inches long, and 18 inches high. When folded, this bed is 39 inches long, 10 inches wide, by 5 inches thick. We carry this in our car in place of the foot rail.

The single cot of “automatic“ style is excellent. This automatically makes a level surface to sleep on, no matter how uneven the ground upon which the cot is placed.

The tonneau, or car bed, which is generally suspended from the windshield to the rear of the car body, hanging over the seats, has its advantages. We have carried such a bed, weighing less than 8 pounds, and making a bundle about 4 inches in diameter, strapped to the top frame of our car. The tonneau bed is excellent for children, for an extra or emergency bed; but I cannot recommend it for permanent sleeping quarters. It has little head room and is none too easy to get into.

A Wide Choice of Beds

The pneumatic, or air bed—sometimes called a “comfort sleeping pocket,” because the air mattresses are covered with a waterproof blanket that snaps in place to form a pocket in which one sleeps—is an ideal auto-camper’s bed. When deflated and rolled, our double 42-inch air bed is about 12 inches in diameter, 42 inches long, and the weight is about 25 pounds, depending on the material of the waterproof covering and the weight of the wool lining in this air sleeping pocket. On our double air bed my wife and our younger daughter, who was but six months old on her first trip, have slept in the comfort of home. The air mattresses taper thinner at the foot and an “inner wall” construction has done away with the sliding sensation of the first pneumatic beds. A pump, larger of cylinder than a foot pump, but not nearly so effective and much lighter, comes with the air pocket. Personally I have always inflated our double bed with my lungs, which at most takes but five minutes.

When Nights Are Chilly

Some kind of bedding is needed with practically every style of bed. With our air bed we have used an eiderdown robe in cold weather. We also prefer a good woolen sleeping bag, or nest of two or three bags, to any ordinary wool blanket. Two 4½-pound woolen bags, nested together and covered with a waterproof canvas, make ideal bedding.

Auto-Camping Stoves—When the nights are chilly in high altitudes or during the cooler seasons, a collapsible, folding stove that burns wood has been indispensable to us. Baby has been undressed and dressed many times in the radius of its cheering warmth. The stove folds to 28 by 10 by 4½ inches, including its eight feet of pipe, two elbows, damper, four legs, bottom, lid lift, and top lid. Carried in a canvas case this wood stove is smaller than a suitcase. For cooking, a very popular automobile camping stove is the two-burner gasoline firemaker. You have the fuel with you, heat is obtained quickly, there is no odor, and our experience is that the stove is safe to use anywhere in camp. You may have the gasoline stove with oven, frypan, spider, breadpan, etc., making a complete kitchenette. One of the very latest auto-camp stoves, and a model that we found most efficient last summer, is the compressed acetylene-gas burner. It should be mentioned that this same gas may be used for lighting your camp, and indeed you may cook and illuminate simultaneously. When empty, the tank may be exchanged for a filled one. The tank is a cylinder 6 by 20 inches. The light has a maximum intensity of 500 candlepower, which is plenty strong enough to sew or read by in comfort.

My Three Years of Motor Camping Experiences of a Pioneer in the Game, Who Reveals the Most Useful Equipment for a Successful Motor Vacation -- Just a few items of the author's 1922 camping equipment—a shot gun that folds like a jack-knife, an axe and two steel knives with sheaths, and a compressed acetylene-gas burner for cooking or lighting in the camp

Just a few items of the author’s 1922 camping equipment—a shot gun that folds like a jack-knife, an axe and two steel knives with sheaths, and a compressed acetylene-gas burner for cooking or lighting in the camp

Refrigerator Basket—If you intend to set out motor gipsying with a baby, as we do, carry a refrigerator basket. With this basket icebox we carry our butter, fresh milk, fresh fruit, baby’s modified milk, fresh meat, and indeed all perishable food. In camp we have the same food that we would eat at home! What is more, this basket is built to be dustproof and most sanitary. It is an excellent place in which to keep the drinking water, iced tea, or fruit beverages.

Kitchen Utensils that Pack Tightly

The refrigerator basket has a varnished exterior of woven reed, and a metal lining (the ice compartment is detachable), while between the two is an insulation that is a non-conductor of heat.

Cooking Utensils—By all means, do not take along your kitchen utensils. We found by sad experience that utensils collected from the kitchen cabinet never would become friendly on a camping trip, nor would they pack neatly together. We use a four-party aluminum set that comprises everything we could need—frypans, plates, coffee-pot, several pots with covers and bails, knives, forks, table and tea
spoons, salt and pepper shakers, cups and bowls. And the whole thing nests together, having detachable and folding handles, so that it packs in a canvas case 10 inches in diameter and about the same in height, while the weight is less than 10 pounds.

We have recently used a runningboard box that is about 9 inches square by 33 inches long, and which, when unclamped from the car, can be changed in 60 seconds into a table 27 by 33 inches, with complete set of oval heavy tin dishes and utensils, including a gasoline stove,
oven, and frypans.

Pick Your Camp Sites in Advance

“WHERE shall l find a good place to camp?” is the ever lasting question that the gipsy motorist must answer
at sundown, wherever the end of the day’s joumey brings him—in city. town. or country.

The motor camper is always on the lookout for a spot where he and his family may rest comfortably without disturbance and where simple necessities or conveniences for life out of doors are obtainable. Formerly he often wasted his time in vain search.

But now hundreds of convenient campsites are being set aside by cities and communities in all parts of the country, especially by those located along America’s great transcontinental highways.

Just how can you find these sites during your trip?

lt’s easy this season; for an official camping and campsite manual has just been compiled by the American Automobile Association. This manual contains a list of more than 800 automobile campsites in all sections of the country, with exact location, description of equipment, and other detailed information for the motor camper, such as the number of autos the site will accommodate, water and wood supply, lighting facilities, playgrounds and amusements.

By special arrangement with the American Automobile Association, POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY is able to supply readers with copies of this invaluable manual. Send your request for a copy to the Automobile Camping Editor, Popular Science Monthly, 225 West 39th St.., New York City, enclosing 50 cents and a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Auto-Camp Furniture—As for furniture, we used to camp without a table, but this is not advisable. Folding chairs are compact and light in weight. A folding cupboard is homelike and handy. We should not know how to live without our folding washbasin. You may buy infants’ dressing-tables and bathtubs if you like. They all fold to almost nothing. We find it highly advisable to carry a regular motor first-aid kit in a steel box, and the feeling of security that such a kit gives is worth much.

My Three Years of Motor Camping Experiences of a Pioneer in the Game, Who Reveals the Most Useful Equipment for a Successful Motor Vacation -- It's just like home when the author sets up camp. He is seen at the extreme left, taking butter from his refrigerator basket, while his wife cooks lunch over a small gas burner. Their tent is of light balloon silk


It’s just like home when the author sets up camp. He is seen at the extreme left, taking butter from his refrigerator basket, while his wife cooks lunch over a small gas burner. Their tent is of light balloon silk

Other useful articles for camp are an axe with sheath, two good steel knives with sheaths, a matchbox of the waterproofed variety, and various personal toilet articles, hardware, mending outfits, and working tools. I always carry a folding firearm—either a rifle or shotgun that folds like a jack-knife. Then we have game in season and are protected at all times.

A Candle Is the Simplest

Camp Illumination—The simplest illumination is a candle, but be sure to take a plumber’s candle. This is large in diameter, short of height, and burns a long time with a good light. We set the candle in a frypan, where there is no danger if it over turns. Or, better yet, carry it in a candle lantern. Many campers use a trouble light for camp, using electricity from the car battery. We can recommend the batteryless flashlamp for auto camping, for you are never fearful of exhausting a battery. We have found the ideal light is produced by the acetylene-gas lamp. This can be turned high for letter-writing or sewing, having a maximum of 500 candlepower.

My Three Years of Motor Camping Experiences of a Pioneer in the Game, Who Reveals the Most Useful Equipment for a Successful Motor Vacation -- Pullman car conveniences are included in this motorized home

Pullman car conveniences are included in this motorized home


Camping Trailer
—The complete outfit for a protracted tour may seem bulky, but we have found that the trailer is excellent behind a heavy car and does not look too ungainly. It increases our gasbill about five per cent. The draw-pull of the average trailer-which weighs about 750 pounds—is between 20 and 25 pounds on the level road. Most trailers fold flat and if they are to be protected from the dust they must be covered by a very tight canvas.

Eat, Sleep, and Feel Better

With the hundreds of modern camping conveniences to choose from, we take our home with us. The world of automobile roads is our front yard! We have the independence of the feudal lord with all modern reservations. We live along the road and in municipal camping parks just the same as at home; we sleep better, eat better, and feel better.

It is our opinion that auto camping is becoming the most popular form of American vacation.

My Three Years of Motor Camping Experiences of a Pioneer in the Game, Who Reveals the Most Useful Equipment for a Successful Motor Vacation -- The interior view of a motorized home, showing how upholstered seats are made into a curtained berth.

The interior view of a motorized home, showing how upholstered seats are made into a curtained berth.

camping, camping gear, history, RV, travel, vintage articles, Vintage Travel and Camping Images
2 comments… add one
  • I love this vintage post! It’s crazy to see what advice still holds true and what we’ve figured out over the last 90 years of camping. I’ll take my powered refrigerator over a refrigerator basket any day of the week!
    Graham recently posted…Under Bed Gun Safe – Here Are The Best OnesMy Profile

    • I thought that, too, as I was adapting the article into a blog post!

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