A Brief History of Your Favorite Camping Equipment (Including LED Flashlights!)


G50 LED Flashlight

Recreational camping began in the United Kingdom in the late 1800s. Thomas Hiram Holding is the notable camper who made the activity popular after camping across the American prairies and in the U.K. with his parents and friends. Holding’s book, Cycle and Camp in Connemara, led to the formation of the first known camping club, the Camping and Caravanning Club.

Since Holding’s days, camping has become a beloved activity that people all over the world enjoy. As camping methods evolved, so has the trademark gear, like multi-tools and the LED flashlight. Camping is what it is today thanks to the humble beginnings of the following essential equipment.

LED Flashlight

The LED light was an accidental invention when British scientist Henry J. Round unintentionally discovered electroluminescence at Marcoi Labs. When he ran a current through silicon carbide, he noticed that it glowed and the energy shifted as the current passed through the semiconductor.

Round’s discovery led to the production of infrared LEDs and the creation of visible LED light in 1962, when General Electric’s Nick Holonyak, Jr. created the red lights soon used in digital clocks and other electrical devices. By the 1990s, LED lights were available in a wide range of colors. Today, the lights are widely available to the public in objects like remote controls, holiday lights, indoor lighting fixtures, calculators and monitors. Campers love portable light sources, like the LED flashlight, because of their durability, efficiency and longevity.


Multi-tools eliminated the need to carry a toolbox for a camping trip. Tim Leatherman came up with the idea for the iconic multi-tool when his rental car kept breaking down during a trip to Europe and he found that his scouting knife was insufficient.

After creating prototypes of multi-tools in his garage, no one seemed impressed at first. The gadget didn’t become popular until 1983, when he sold them in a mail-order catalog. Today, it’s hard to find a camper who doesn’t have a multi-tool.

Duffel Bags

Duffel is the name of the Belgian town that originally produced the fabric used to make duffel bags in the mid-17th century. The drawstring bag didn’t become internationally popular until World War II, when armies found it to be the perfect carryall for its soldiers.

Now made from heavy canvas, you can find duffel bags in Army surplus stores and sporting goods retailers. The bag is perfect for all your camping gear on trips that don’t require a hiking backpack.

Sleeping Bags

Originally called Euklisia rugs, Welshman Pryce Jones invented the first sleeping bags in 1876. The rugs were wool blankets whose sides fastened together. He sold 60,000 rugs to the Russian army and the remaining inventory to the public. In his marketing announcement, Pryce Jones said that he would sew up the side of the rugs so consumers could fill them with pillows and make inexpensive mattress. Soon after, the British and Australian armies started using the rugs for their troops.

Today’s sleeping bags include fitted mummy bags and sleep sacks for children. They’re warmer than wool blankets because of filling made of synthetic and natural materials. Today’s sleeping bags are available in a variety of colors, material types, temperature limits and comfort ratings.


Shelter is essential for camping. Ancient cultures used tents as homes using fabric, natural materials and animal hides. Archaeologists found tents in Russian ruins that date back to 40,000 B.C., making them the oldest ever discovered. Historical texts like the Bible mention the use of tents. As civilizations evolved and became less nomadic, their armies designed tents that were simple to set up and disassemble. Roman soldiers often used them as they traveled. Later, U.S. colonists used tents during the Revolutionary War to hide and sneak up on British soldiers.

In addition to tents that serve as canopies, campers flock to modern recreational tents, which became popular in the early to mid-1900s. The timing coincided with camping becoming a favorite national pastime. Instead of using wood, today’s tents use strong, flexible poles and the outer materials are more weather-resistant. Besides traditional pole tents, you can purchase inflatable, tunnel, pop-up and geodesic tents.


The Sternau Company in New York made the original “canned heat” in 1918 and later marketed it to soldiers going overseas to fight during World War I. The flammable gel burned for up to two hours and served to heat water and food, sterilize medical equipment, and provide warmth and light.

Today, Sterno comes in a few colors and campers continue to use the gel to heat food and water, or to get a reluctant fire started. Glampers bring it along to illuminate their trendy firepots.

In addition to getting the chance to connect with nature, people love to camp because it gives them the chance to get their hands on some of the best gadgets on the market. The next time you plan a camping trip, check out the gear that COAST offers. From LED flashlights and lanterns to multi-tools and hunting knives, COAST has you covered.

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