As summer rolls into autumn, many feel the itch to break free from the four walls of everyday life and spend some time in the great outdoors. And as anyone who has waited in line to enter one of our National Parks can attest, the number of people eager to take a camping trip is showing no signs of abating.
“There has been a surge in camping,” said Seth Burgett, founder and CEO of Gateway Bronco. “It’s common knowledge there’s been a resurgence in camping since 2020, before the pandemic, an interesting trend is the vintage camping scene in California and the upper Northwest.”
As a veteran camper, Burgett has experienced these trends first-hand. The number of people restoring vintage campers and digging up vintage gear is hard to miss. “Our family has been into this hobby for decades, starting when my father and I spent a summer restoring a 1966 camper in the early ’80s,” he said. “Today my own family purchased an all-aluminum 1965 tent camper built by Apache. It’s a brilliant design that originated after World War II and carries that vintage vibe. We were lucky to find an American classic in 100% original condition. Many of the old Airstreams or Shastas are being restored to pull behind smaller SUVs or cars. Teardrop campers are seeing a comeback, and do well pulled by a classic Bronco.”
Vintage camping gear appeals for several reasons, but a major attraction is that it returns simplicity to camping. In an age when electronics seemingly rule our lives and complexity is the order of the day, the simple, sturdy outdoor gear from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations puts the focus back on the fundamentals. But it’s also an outlook, a mindset. “The vintage camping scene is becoming a community. It’s a way of life to unplug and enjoy simple times by a campfire with like-minded people,” Burgett said.
As someone who cherishes every opportunity to escape to the backcountry, Seth has plenty of experience in planning and executing memorable camping trips. He shares his tips for campers of every type, whether you’re a fan of the latest high-tech gear or prefer pulling a vintage teardrop camper behind your classic Bronco.
Plan for Simple Comforts
“For a camping trip there are a couple fundamentals. One is, always take a hammock,” Burgett said. For maximum flexibility, seek out lightweight hammocks that are easy to pack in and out of the backcountry. “Sometimes we’d be so tired that we would hitch up the hammock to a tree and off the luggage rack on the top of the Bronco,” he said. “Our most enjoyable nights along the Pacific Coast Highway involved sleeping under the stars in a hammock.”
Respect the Weather
The savvy camper knows that the weather is often unpredictable and plans accordingly. “During our first trip to Glacier National Park, we woke to 30-degree weather and snow in June while camping in Manly Glaciers campground on the east side of the park,” Burgett recalled. “That was a shocker for us. We learned to always carry at least one round of base layer and hats we were forced to buy in the gift shop the summer of 2016.”
One area where modern gear is hard to beat is in the weight department. Advances in materials technology in recent years have resulted in amazingly light camping gear, which makes back-country hiking easier than ever.
Wet a Line
Pack a compact fishing rod and reel so you can enjoy some of the remote mountain lakes. “There’s something unique about fishing in a mountain lake or stream. The water is so clear you can see the fish,” Burgett said. “One of our favorite things to do is trek to a pure mountain lake for fishing and bonding.”
Quite often while on the trail, wildlife encounters happen at moments when you’re not prepared for them. “Carry a GoPro and run it while you’re hiking, so you can watch all the action later,” Burgett said. “Place the GoPro on a helmet cam or a handheld stick
to capture the beauty as you see it. It’s fun to relive it later from the viewpoint of the hiker, especially to see wildlife that you find along the way. Bear encounters happen so fast, this is the best way to capture the moment and hopefully watch the bear wander back into the woods.”
Building respect and a passion for the wilderness among children is one of the most important things a parent can do. “One-on-one camping with your kids is impactful. You will make it special for them, especially if it becomes an annual event with your child every year,” Burgett said. “It changed our lives. Our adult daughter and I now go to Glacier National Park every year as our special time, separate from the rest of the family. She is in her 20s now and has committed to an annual 1:1 trip with a goal to travel from Italy to the northern lights, camping across Europe before her 30th birthday.”
What is the most important tip that Seth gives anyone thinking about camping?
“Just drive and enjoy some windshield time headed to our National Parks,” notes Burgett. “Every mile is a memory.”
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