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Thomas Hiram Holding: The Founder of Modern Camping

Did you know that the modern camping experience that we enjoy today can be largely attributed to one person and one important book that was written over 100 years ago?
6-2 Thomas Hiram Holding
Hans Benn from Pixabay

In 1908, Thomas Hiram Holding wrote The Camper’s Handbook, which was the first basic guide to camping. It opened up recreational camping to the general public and eventually led to millions of Canadians enjoying this incredibly satisfying hobby today.

It Started with a Childhood Adventure

Holding was born in 1844 in Shropshire, England. At the age of nine, his family travelled across the ocean to the United States with the intention of settling in Salt Lake City. When they landed in the U.S., they camped near the Mississippi River for over a month until they set off in a wagon train travelling west. After their long journey across the American prairies, the Holding family ended up returning to Britain. This extended outdoor adventure sparked Holding’s lifelong interest in the outdoors.

As an adult, Holding worked as a tailor, but he never lost his love for the outdoors. He had a passion for camping, cycling, and sailing. In 1887, he canoe-camped around the highlands of Scotland, which was considered a very eccentric activity at the time. He also designed a tent that he could carry on his bike. Holding, his son, and some friends tested out his new invention on a cycle-camping trip to Ireland in 1897. He wrote Cycle and Camp in Connemara the following year.

One of the Most Influential Camping Enthusiasts in History

As the years progressed, Holding gathered with some like-minded outdoor enthusiasts and founded the Association of Cycle Campers in 1901. Eventually, this group evolved into the Camping and Caravanning Club, which currently boasts over half a million members.

In 1908, Holding wrote his most popular book, The Camper’s Handbook. This publication gave readers basic instructions on the essentials of camping, including how to set up a tent, how to pack, and how to cook while camping. It outlined ways to carry gear by canoe, bicycle, horse, and on foot. For decades, The Camper’s Handbook was considered the most reliable source of practical camping advice.

The Popularity of Camping Grows

Here in modern day Canada, there are countless camping, RV, and outdoor enthusiast clubs and millions of avid camping enthusiasts. Whether you love to RV, tent, or sleep under the stars, some of the techniques and innovations we all enjoy have been influenced in some way by Holding’s passion for camping.

The next time you are sitting around your campfire, consider raising a glass to Thomas Hiram Holding for sharing his love of camping with the world.

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