Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

November 2016

Report: Camping More Popular Than Ever

By Dave Ramont

The 2016 North American Camping Report is out, and it shows us that camping is more popular than ever. Even more encouraging is the fact that everyone wants to spend more time outdoors—all ethnic groups and age categories, from millennials to seniors. The diversity of campers continued to rise in 2015, with the distribution of new campers being much more aligned with overall population figures for ethnicity than in previous years.

About 28,600,000 people camped in 2015, about 28 percent of the U.S. population, with an additional 1 million households camping as compared to 2014. And of those who were new to camping, 60 percent were Caucasian, 18 percent were African-American, 11 percent were Hispanic/Latino, and 10 percent were of Asian descent. And 85 percent of all campers say they plan to continue to camp at least as much or more than they have in the past. Plus, those who are camping with children have increased to about 50 percent of total campers, according to the report which was commissioned by Kampgrounds of America.

Half of all campers travelled less than 100 miles, and about three-quarters stayed within 200 miles. New campers in 2015 were much less likely to have started their camping experience in a tent when compared to longer-term campers, with three in ten stating they camped in a full-service cabin (twenty-eight percent) or rustic cabin (three percent). But overall there was an uptick in tent usage, with 59 percent of all campers using tents in 2015, 22 percent using RVs, and 18 percent utilizing cabins.

Essentially all those surveyed say they participate in one or more activities while camping, with about four in 10 saying they take trips specifically to participate in outdoor recreation. Half of millennials say camping is the primary activity, and recreation is the result, while older campers are likely to view camping and recreation as cohorts. Here's a breakdown of some activities enjoyed by campers in 2015: fishing (46 percent); hiking/backpacking (44 percent); scenic drives/sight-seeing (34 percent); visiting historical sites (24 percent); canoeing/kayaking (22 percent); biking (21 percent); birdwatching (20 percent); hunting (8 percent); geo-caching/orienteering (4 percent).

Having cell phone service was important to about two-thirds of campers, with four in 10 saying it was "very important." About one-third cited the importance of Wi-Fi, with 20 percent saying it was "very important." Checking and sending e-mails has dropped significantly, while Internet usage for researching destinations, gathering information about local attractions, looking up trails and streaming videos has increased. Campers who do go online to check/send e-mails spend on average three additional days camping compared to those who don't.

Perhaps there's one statistic that will inspire us all to bust out the tent and sleeping bag: Campers are more likely to use their vacation time—whether for camping or other activities—compared to the overall population. A recent study indicated that as many as 41 percent of Americans took no time off in 2015, compared with 14 percent of campers.

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