Under the Stars

An irreverent history of American camping

From the Sierras to the Adirondacks and the Everglades, Dan White travels the nation to experience firsthand—and sometimes face first—how the American wilderness transformed from the devil’s playground into a source of adventure, relaxation, and renewal.

Whether he’s camping nude in cougar country, being attacked by wildlife while “glamping,” or crashing a girls-only adventure for urban teens, Dan White seeks to animate the evolution of outdoor recreation. In the process, he demonstrates how the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, Roosevelt, and Muir—along with visionaries such as Adirondack Murray, Horace Kephart, and Juliette Gordon Low—helped blaze a trail from Transcendentalism to Leave No Trace.

Wide-ranging in research, enthusiasm, and geography, Under the Stars reveals a vast population of nature seekers, a country still in love with its wild places.

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Praise for Under the Stars

“Dan White has written the definitive book on camping in America. Under the Stars is a passionate, witty, and deeply engaging examination of why humans venture into the wild.”

—Cheryl Strayed

“‘I never before had so interesting, hearty and manly a companion. I fairly fell in love with him.’ Yes, this is what John Muir said about Theodore Roosevelt, but I’m saying it now about Dan White after reading Under the Stars—an informative and lyrically written travel memoir about the American wilderness experience that’s also very funny and full of surprises.”

—Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen

“Dan White’s history of Americans at play in the woods is far more than just good old raisins and peanuts. It’s a delicious grab bag of oddball characters, scenic vistas, leaky pup tents, and scofflaw marmots, all recounted with a self-deprecating storyteller’s style that makes it roll along like a good old campfire yarn.”

—Paul Schneider, author of The Adirondacks

“At least from the moment that W.H.H. Murray unleashed his army of ‘fools’ on the Adirondack backcountry, Americans have been trying to learn how to subsist happily in the woods. Dan White provides not only the history of camping, but also the present?marked always by a love for the wild places that remain.”

—Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home

“Pack your flashlight, pack your dog-eared Thoreau, pack your loincloth and your own biohazardous waste, and join Dan White on a rollicking through-hike of the wild, stirring, and weird past and present of the American campout.”

—Hannah Nordhaus, author of American Ghost

“Whether you are a seasoned backcountry cragsman or prefer a crackling campfire in your own backyard, you will love this fascinating examination on how and why we search for ourselves in the wild. From the time of the great trailblazers to the modern reality of changing demographics in outdoor recreation, White takes us on a thoughtful, moving, funny, and even spiritual adventure through America’s relationship to nature.”

—Paul Rosolie, author of Mother of God