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Camping has always been a way for people to get back into touch with nature, to find their roots and really experience the world. It's a craft of sorts that involves a number of skills and knowledge to get you through the night.
Out of the camping industry, there has risen the idea of glamping, or glamorous camping. This might involve luxurious RVs, nicely cooked meals, and for the most part, the only similarity with tent camping is the location.
All that said, while many seasoned campers might scoff at the idea of glamping, truth be told, modern-day camping has gotten pretty cushy.
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A Changing Industry
Camping used to be a getaway where you had to cook your own food, start your own fire, and at pure simplicity: survive.
Nowadays that's still the case, but boy, do we have loads more equipment to make life easier!
Technology and new products have made the life of the modern camper a lot cushier than just a few decades ago. We have internal frame backpacks, water bottles, fire starters, food packets, camelbacks, and pop up tents with rooms and even rafts that can double as a bed.
Why camp by a river when you can camp on one? pic.twitter.com/XU6IwsTBAK— Mashable (@mashable) August 17, 2019
One other interesting thing that's gotten easier about camping that you might not realize is the actual locations where you camp.
Camping has become such a pop-cultural icon that there are campsites across the globe with pads for tents, trails to notable sights — now you don't have to worry about anything at all.
Technology has driven the growth of modern, useful camping products, and it's also accelerated the production of camping clothes. Thanks to synthetic and textile engineering, we now have ultra-breathable shirts and shoes with soles that perfectly meet our feets' needs while camping.
All of this is a natural progression, though. It's human nature to strive towards innovation and make lives easier, but that begs us to ask the question: what is the point of camping?
If it's to show off how much money you've spent on the finest camping gear, well, then modern camping is right up your alley.
If it's to grow one with nature, then you might have to go back to basics.
New camping technology isn't all bad, though. It does teach us a thing or two about the importance of engineering.
If you take a step back from starting a fire with a perfectly engineered lighter and realize if you didn't have that, you'd be spinning some sticks together to try to get some kindling lit.
In many ways, as long as we're mindful of what technology does for us, it can be a tool in taking delight in doing simple "engineering tasks" as our ancestors did, like chopping wood, getting freshwater, or building fire.
So, understanding the effect that technology has on modern camping and how cushy our modern camping experience really is, what's the next ultra-cool cushy tech coming to the industry?
In the last five or so years, the camping industry has seen a massive shift in sales from traditional equipment like pole tents and rope to modern equipment like backpacking tents, accessories, stoves, and coolers. In fact, all this new tech is causing a sales spike of about 4% annually, projected over the next five years.
There are three big trends in the camping technology industry right now:
- Camping Equipment Design
- Eco-Friendly Equipment
- Camping Programs
The most notable change to modern camping equipment is just how much it can do. Thanks to the growth of the market, high-competition has arisen, causing manufacturers to innovate.
You can now find things like water-repellent sleeping bags, stoves that can charge your phone through USB, bear-proof coolers, ultra-compactible equipment, and more. All of this high technology means that if you want to camp and be able to stay connected, there's a cool new engineered gadget that can make that happen.
The biggest tech trend now is hydrophobic materials. These repel water and can be applied to pretty much everything. Big camping brands like Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean all have sleeping bags and other textile gear that have water repellent internals and externals.
That's the beauty of chemical engineering!
As environmental awareness has grown in the age of global warming, campers are becoming increasingly concerned with the impact their gear has on the environment they're stepping into.
Tent manufacturers are starting to introduce "green" tents that are made completely from recycled materials, treated with waterproof coatings that are free from polyurethanes and other harmful chemicals.
Some sleeping bags like the marmot EcoPro are even made from recycled water bottles with the insulation coming from consumer waste.
For many brands, not only does going green with their products offer up a new level of desirability to the consumer, but it also offers them higher profit.
"Green" materials generally cost more to manufacture, so green products are sold at a premium. By simply going green on a product, you may be able to charge 50% more for the end result.
Ultimately though, this isn't wholly a bad thing. The financial incentive in green products for manufacturers will likely lead to greater adoption of these materials industry-wide. As more green material is produced, costs will lower, and the market will adjust.
Hand it to the millennial generation to need structured camping activities with events to have a good time. In recent years, a new wave of camping service providers has sprung up, offering not only campsites but entire camping experiences.
These companies are arranging excursions and adventures all under the close guidance of professionals. Joking about Millenials aside, these structured excursions are a great way to experience some adventure while also not getting stranded in the middle of the wilderness all alone.
Camping has become an industry filled with modern technology, and it's changing the way we interact with the world.
At the end of the day, if new technology gets a new wave of people experiencing the joys of nature around us, then we can be thankful for the constant innovation.