Economy is one powerful motive for camping, since after the initial outlay upon equipment, or through hiring
it, the total expense can be far less than the cost of hotels. But, contrary to a popular assumption, it is far from
being the only one, or even the greatest. The man who manoeuvres carelessly into his five shillings worth of
space at one of Europe's myriad permanent sites may find himself bumping a Bentley. More likely, Ford
Consul will be hub to hub with Renault or Mercedes, but rarely with bicycles made for two.
That the equipment of modern camping becomes yearly more sophisticated is an entertaining paradox for the
cynic, a brighter promise for the hopeful traveler who has sworn to get away from it all. It also provides--and
some student sociologist might care to base his thesis upon the phenomenon--an escape of another kind. The
modern traveller is often a man who dislikes the Splendide and the Bellavista, not because he cannot afford, or
shuns, their meterial comforts, but because he is afraid of them. Affluent he may be, but he is by no means sure
what, to tip the doorman or the chambermaid. Master in his own house, he has little idea of when to say boo to
a maitre d'hotel.*
From all such fears camping releases him. Granted, a snobbery of camping itself, based upon equipment and
techniques, already exists, but it is of a kind that, if he meets it, he can readily understand and deal with. There
is no superior 'they' in the shape of managements and hotel hierarchies to darken his holiday days.
To such motives, yet another must be added. The contemporary phenomenon of motor-car worship is to be
explained not least by the sense of independence and freedom that ownership entails. To this pleasure camping
gives an exquisite refinement.
From one's own front door to home or foreign hills or sands and back again, everything is to hand. Not only
are the means of arriving at the holiday paradise entirely within one's own command and keeping, but the
means of escape from holiday hell (if the beach proves too crowded, the local weather too inclement) are there,
outside--or, as likely, part of--the tent.
Idealists have objected to the practice of camping, as to the packaged tour, that the traveller abroad thereby
denies himself the opportunity of getting to know the people of the country visited. Insularity and
self-containment, it is argued, go hand in hand. The opinion does not survive experience of a popular
Continental camping place. Holiday hotels tend to cater for one nationality of visitors especially, sometimes
exclusively. Camping sites, by contrast, are highly cosmopolitan. Granted, a preponderance of Germans is a
characteristic that. seems common to most Mediterranean sites; but as yet there is no overwhelmingly
specialized patronage. Notices forbidding the open-air drying of clothes, or the use of water points for car
washing, or those inviting 'our camping friends' to a dance or a boat trip are printed not only in French or
Italian or Spanish, but also in English, German and Dutch. At meal times the odour of sauerkraut vies with that
of garlic. The Frenchman's breakfast coffee competes with the Englishman's bacon and eggs.
Whether the remarkable growth of organized camping means the eventual death of the more independent kind
is hard to say. Municipalities naturally want to secure the campers' site fees and other custom. Police are wary
of itinerants who cannot be traced to a recognized camp boundary or to four walls. But most probably it will all
depend upon campers themselves: how many heath fires they cause, how much litter they leave, in short,whether or not they wholly alienate landowners and those who live in the countryside. Only good scouting is likely to preserve the freedoms so dear to the heart of the eternal Boy Scout.