Early Camping Bough Beds.

   Yes, before air mattresses (and even during the era of early air mattresses) 1900s camping expeditions relied on the stuff available in forests everywhere—boughs for bough beds. While we may romanticize the term, the difference between reality and romance makes one grateful.

   As the era’s best-selling travel author Mary Roberts Rinehart relates, “there is nothing so slippery as pine needles so that by morning you are quite likely to be not only off the bed but out of the tent.” As one of the first adventure authors to make regular (and multi-day) excursions into Glacier Park, Rinehart knows. She goes on to classify the bough bed into three kinds—the hurry up bough bed, the one made by a guide (“one of the joys of bough bed is seeing somebody else build it,” she relayed in something which some campers might interpret as a kind of snobbery) and a third kind—one which she wrote an ode to, as follows.

   “This is the way you go about it: First, you take a large and healthy woodsman with an axe, who cuts down a tree—a substantial tree. Because this is the frame of your bed.”

   “The tree is an essential. It is cut into six foot lengths—unless one is more than six feet long. If the bed is intended for one, two side pieces with one at the head and one at the foot are enough, laid flat on a level place, making a sort of boxed-in rectangle. If the bed is intended for two, another log down the center divides it into two bunks and prevents quarrelling.”

 “Now begins the real work of constructing the bough bed. If one is a good manager, while frame is being made, the younger members of the family have been performing the loving task of getting the branches together. When a sufficient number of small branches has been accumulated, this number varying from one ton to three, judging by size and labor, the bough bed is built by the simple expedient of sticking branches into the enclosed space like flowers into a vase. They must be packed very closely, stem down. This is a slow and not particularly agreeable task for one’s loving family and friends, owing to a tendency of pine and balsam needles to jag.

   Over these soft and feathery plumes of balsam—soft and feathery only through six blankets—is laid the bedding, and on this couch the wearied and saddle-sore tourist may sleep as comfortably as in his grandaunt’s feather bed.

   But, dear traveler, it is much simpler to take an air-mattress and a foot-pump. True., even this has its disadvantages. It is not safe to stick pins into it while disrobing at night.”

    Makes you appreciate the simple things in life…like hairdos that don’t require ‘stick pins’ and modern day camping equipment.