Thirty-eight million Americans participated in camping last year, according to a new study released by The Outdoor Foundation and sponsored by The Coleman Co. Inc. According to a press release, that equates to 13% of Americans over age six.
Participation declined from 2011 when 42.5 million Americans, or 15% of the U.S. population, participated in camping. The findings are part of the 2013 American Camper Report presented by The Coleman Co. and The Outdoor Foundation, the leading report tracking camping participation in the United States.
The 2013 American Camper Report details camping participation and provides data and analysis on camping trends throughout the United States. For the first time, the report also takes an in-depth look at the buying behaviors of camping participants to provide insights about practices and preferences. The data is based on an online survey of more than 42,000 Americans ages six and older and a supplementary survey of camping participants ages 18 and older.
“The American Camper Report shows that camping lost 4.5 million participants, but those that still camp are an avid bunch – camping more frequently and travelling farther to their destinations,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “By understanding the research in this report, the outdoor industry and other stakeholders will be better equipped to engage both campers and non-campers to initiate a massive increase in camping participation.”
“The market insights we gain from the American Camper Report are vital to Coleman’s ability to stay in front of emerging market trends and new outdoor activities,” said Robert Marcovitch, president and chief executive officer of Coleman. “Our continuing partnership with The Outdoor Foundation on this annual project provides Coleman with the knowledge we need to create innovative and exciting gear for all outdoor enthusiasts.”
The insights detailed in the 2013 American Camper Report are critical to understanding both campers and non-campers and building participation in the activity. Some additional findings include:
Overview of Camping Participation
* Young adults lost the largest percentage of participants, down from 17% in 2011 to 13% in 2012.
* Camping lost a net of 4.5 million participants from 2011 to 2012 due to a high churn rate of 32%.
* Among adult campers, more females than males participated in RV and cabin camping. More males enjoyed tent and bivy/no shelter camping.
* The Mountain Region has the highest camping participation rate.
* Sixty-two percent campers ages 16 and over are married or living with a domestic partner.
* Eighty-seven percent of campers participate in multiple outdoor activities.
Profile of a Camping Trip
* Seventy-four percent of participants camped in a public campground.
* The average camper went on 5.8 camping trips, up from 5.0 trips in 2011.
* Participants traveled a mean of 200.7 miles away from home to camp, up from 190.6 miles
* Forty-four percent of campers plan their trips at least one month in advance.
* Seventy-eight percent of adult participants camp with friends.
* Hiking is the most popular activity to participate in while camping.
* More than two-thirds of participants are employed or are students and are not yet employed.
* Propane or liquid fuel was the most popular purchase during the past year.
* More than half of all campers rarely or never buy camping items for someone other than themselves.
* If campers are not buying for themselves, camping items are most often purchased for a spouse or significant other.
* Most participants decide to purchase their camping item at home, prior to their outing.
Future of Camping
* Sixty percent of current adult campers participated in regular outdoor activities between the ages of six and 12, compared to just 25 percent of non-campers.
* The most cited reason for reducing the number of camping trips is a lack of time due to work and family commitments.
* Campers are planning an average of 5.5 trips next year, an increase from last year’s 4.3 planned trips.
* Eighty-one percent of participants plan to go on three or more camping trips in the next year.
To download a complete copy of the 2013 American Camper Report, visit The Outdoor Foundation website at http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/research.
In 2008, American participation in outdoor recreation was marked by encouraging growth in important segments of core outdoor activities as well as continuing, though less dramatic, declines in youth participation, according to a new report, the 2009 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, released today (Sept. 15) by The Outdoor Foundation.
These trends show the beginning of adjustments in American lifestyles brought about by a challenging economy, shifting demographics and changing times, according to a news release.
“In today’s economy, people are returning to simpler lifestyles,” said Christine Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “Historically economic downturns have resulted in increased participation in outdoor recreation. Nature-based activities provide fun, affordable recreation and vacation opportunities for individuals and families.”
The Outdoor Foundation’s 2009 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report is the only detailed study of its kind tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation. The study is based on an on-line survey capturing responses from over 40,000 Americans ages 6-plus and covers 114 different activities.
- Popular Pastimes: In 2008, 48.6% of Americans ages 6-plus participated in outdoor recreation and made an estimated 11.16 billion outdoor excursions.
- A Return to Nature: Activities like backpacking, mountain biking and trail running showed double-digit increases in participation in 2008, and hiking and camping showed 9% and 7% increases, respectively.
- More Indoor Youth: Participation in outdoor recreation among youth ages 6-17 dropped 6% — resulting in a combined 16.7% drop over the last three years.
- Busy Lifestyles: Today’s kids are struggling to find time to get active outdoors and are foregoing outdoor pursuits in favor of other competing priorities. Among outdoor participants ages 6-17, lack of time is the primary reason they don’t get outdoors more often.
- Outdoor Participation Varies by Ethnicity: Participation in outdoor activities is higher among Caucasians than any other ethnicity and lowest among African Americans in nearly all age groups.
The 2009 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report is available at www.outdoorfoundation.org/research
About The Outdoor Foundation
The Outdoor Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor enthusiasts. Through ground-breaking research, action-oriented convening and outreach and education programs, The foundation is working with partners to mobilize a major cultural shift that leads all Americans to the great outdoors.
At the Battlefield KOA Kampground in Gettysburg, Pa., you can catch up on e-mail at your campsite, take in an evening movie on a 9-foot inflatable outdoor screen, lounge by the pool, play a round of mini golf or try your hand at Extreme Hunting, one of the arcade games in the game room. There’s live music on Saturday nights and pancake breakfasts on weekend mornings, and if you don’t feel like cooking, you can have dinner delivered to your RV door, tent flap or what-have-you.
Heck, you don’t even have to really camp at this wooded 25-acre site, thanks to its growing inventory of air-conditioned cabins, cottages and lodges – essentially, tricked-out trailers done up to look like hand-hewn log dwellings, according to USA Today.
“So much for getting away from it all,” owner John Bergeron says with a laugh.
But getting away they are. By many accounts, business is brisk this summer at campgrounds nationwide. The sinking economy may have put the brakes on taking the Grand Tour, but many Americans still want to get away. And with relatively low gas prices, more people are pulling into campgrounds.
All Metrics Point Up
Campground reservations through ReserveAmerica.com, which books campsites in most national parks, are up 8% over last year in the first six months of 2009.
Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), a network of 460 commercial campgrounds, reports a 5% increase in June occupancy. REI, an outdoor-gear chain, says sales of family tents were up 17% in June over last year. The retailer also saw double-digit increases in sales of related products, such as air mattresses and campground stoves.
A recent survey by the Outdoor Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes outdoor activities, indicates camping’s popularity rose 7.4% in 2008 after a decline the year before. Overnight backpacking grew by 18.5%, the group reports.
“People are returning to simpler lifestyles – the ‘less is more’ ethic,” says the foundation’s Christine Fanning. “And everyone is searching for vacations that fit with today’s economy.”
Indeed, ForestCamping.com, a comprehensive guide to U.S. National Forest campgrounds, where campsites go for $10 to $15 a night, has seen a spike in hits. Bookings for reservable Forest Service campsites were up 11% through May.
“When the economy goes down, camping goes up,” says Suzi Dow, who with her husband, Fred, runs the site.
David Berg, owner of the Red Apple Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, echoes the sentiment. “I believe camping is a recession-proof business,” he says. “When people can’t afford $200 or $300 a night for a waterfront cottage, they dust off the pop-up (camper) or get out the tent and spend $50 a night on a campsite and maybe still go out to good restaurants.”
At Yellowstone National Park, lodging bookings are down this year, but campground stays are up, says Rick Hoeninghausen, marketing director for Xanterra, which runs the park’s concessions.
“This is an interesting summer because, even in April, reservations were trailing last year. Then it kicked in in May. There’s more last-minute decision-making this year than I can ever remember.”
As in other segments of the travel industry, campers are staying closer to home, but they’re also staying away longer. At KOA campgrounds, for instance, average stays are 2.5 nights, up from 1.7 nights three years ago.
RVTravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury has been traveling through Western parks this summer, and says he’s struck by the number of rental RVs on the road. “It’s families, it’s couples, it’s everyone,” he says. “RV’ing has become much more accepted. It’s not just Grandma and Grandpa’s playhouse anymore.”
Campgrounds Expanding Services
Nor are today’s campgrounds necessarily like the ones you might remember as a kid. Food delivery, concierge services and skate parks are among innovative additions at some private facilities. In Columbia, Calif., the Marble Quarry RV Park features on-site gold panning. At Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Hill Country in Canyon Lake, Texas, laser tag is all the rage. At Kamp Klamath RV Park and Campground in Klamath, Calif., the alder-smoked salmon served at the park’s restaurant has won prizes in several competitions.
At Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp-Resort & Water Playground in Wisconsin Dells, owner Brent Gasser has gradually expanded what began as a campground with basic tent sites to a “camp resort” with a four-level water playground, boat and golf cart rentals, themed weekends (think Christmas in July), and 51 rental units that go from $39 to $299 a night.
“The traditional camper has been requesting more and more accommodations that they’d find in a hotel,” Gasser says. “And since we’re in an area with many hotels, we have to compete.”
And at the Red Apple Campground, the annual $25 Maine lobster fest sells out two years in advance. This summer, bookings are up 9%, and the average stay has stretched from 2.5 to 4.5 days.
“You have to be more creative to get people in your park and get them to come back again,” Berg says. “Today’s customer wants it all. In the majority of campgrounds today, we have Wi-Fi and concierge services. There are (waterfront) campsites in Maine that go for over $100 a night. And they sell first.”
But the constant buzz of organized activity can be a bit much, even for avid campers such as Brian and Michelle Gillespey of Brownstone, Mich.
“They’re on the PA making announcements about putt-putt golf and the ice cream social at 3 p.m.,” she says.
“There are too many activities at some of these places,” he says. “To me, it’s not relaxing.”
America’s ‘Last Small Town’
What many campground denizens say they do like is the camaraderie of the camp. KOA president Jim Rogers calls campgrounds “the last small town in America. They’re a live community, a social beehive. You’re interacting with strangers and allowing your kids to.”
“A woman stepped onto our site to avoid a passing car last night and ended up staying until midnight,” says Lynn Boozel, a camper at the KOA in Gettysburg. Boozel and his wife, Rhonda, of McVeytown, Pa., are wrapping up their seventh annual week-long visit here. “We came for a weekend and got hooked,” Boozel says.
The couple, with their two young daughters and a granddaughter, are sleeping in a six-person tent, which puts them in the minority among the Hitchhikers, Wolf Packs and other RV models that occupy most of the sites.
Across the way, Valerie and Bill Stack of Donora, Pa., have just arrived in their Ford pickup pulling a 12,000 pound, 38-foot trailer. This is one of five trips they’ll make here this summer.
“Once you’re addicted to this, you can’t stay home,” Bill Stack says. “You come back and say, ‘Boy, did I have a great time,’ and they ask, ‘What did you do?’ and you say, ‘Nothing.’ ”
The trailer has a gas fireplace, queen-size bed and flat-screen TV, among other amenities. They’ll spend the weekend swimming in the pool and maybe play some putt-putt golf.
“But we’re here for nature,” Valerie Stack says. “If I lost everything tomorrow, I’d go out and buy a tent.”