Camping is strong

According to the fifth annual North American Camping Report, more people in the U.S. are spending nights outdoors, whether that’s in tents, RVs, vans or deluxe “glamping” accommodations.

Americans do love their camping.

Whether in tents, RVs or deluxe “glamping” accommodations, more people in the U.S. are spending nights outdoors to get away from it all. And that includes greater numbers of minorities and same-sex-parent households, according to the 2019 North American Camping Report.

The statistics for the fifth annual report were compiled from surveys completed by 2,400 residents of the U.S., 500 residents of Canada and 400 U.S. teens. Cairn Consulting Group conducted the survey, which was sponsored by Kampgrounds of America. Here are some highlights:

Interest is growing: The number of new camping households in the U.S. — those that camp at least once a year — grew by 1.4 million in 2018, reaching a new high of 78.8 million households. Since 2014 the number of households that camp three or more times a year has risen 72%.

Getting younger: Millennials (people born from 1981 to 1997) accounted for 56% of new campers in 2018. Gen X’ers (the group preceding millennials, born 1965 and on) made up 25% of new campers.

Rising diversity: Of 2018’s new campers, 51% were Hispanic, Asian or African American, versus 49% white. It was the first time in the report’s history that new campers from “multicultural groups” outpaced new Caucasian campers. Since 2012 the percentage of nonwhite camping households has expanded from 12% to 29%.

More Hispanics: Hispanic households make up the largest nonwhite group of campers. Among all campers they are the most likely to go with several generations of family members, the most likely to camp with larger groups and the most likely to leave the campground to shop or enjoy the nightlife.

Taking the kids: Families with children accounted for 52% of camping households in 2018, up from 35% in 2012. “As the overall demographic of camping families continues to trend younger it can be expected that the number of households with minor children will remain high,” the report said.

More same-sex households: The percentage of same-sex households held steady at 8% but was still well above 2015’s 5% and general population figures. Among same-sex camper households, 46% camped with children in 2018.

Teens outside and online: Young campers list fishing and hiking as their favorite activities while camping, followed by biking, sightseeing and canoeing. Eighty percent go online three or more times a day while camping, and nearly half go online more than four times day.

Busy outside: People are doing more hiking, backpacking, canoeing and biking while on camping trips, compared with five years ago. “Younger campers appear to be driving the increase in popularity of hiking and backpacking.” Nearly 9 out of 10 leave campgrounds to participate in other activities, including sightseeing and going to concerts.

Tenters: Overall (59%) campers want to stay in tents, versus RVs (24%), cabins (16%) or something else. New campers are different: Nearly 60% of 2018’s crop stayed in cabins, recreational vehicles or something besides a tent.

Who they’re with: Millennials like to camp in larger social groups that may include friends, siblings and parents. Gen X campers also tend to go with bigger groups than baby boomers or “mature” campers (those born before 1946).

Glamping is hot: Half of millennials and nearly 50% of Gen X campers are interested in glamping, defined as “staying in a unique, non-RV accommodation that includes an enhanced level of services and amenities.” Interest in glamping has spiked among Asian camping households, rising from 22% in 2017 to 58% in 2018.

Voting for vans: An emerging style of camping, “van life” involves using smaller, motorized Class B recreational vehicles. Interest is similar across all groups but highest among African Americans.

Peer-to-peer RV rentals: It’s a small but growing part of the outdoor industry. Recreational vehicle owners are making their vehicles available for rental so they can generate income. The peer-to-peer rental option particularly appeals to younger non-RV owners who want to camp in a recreational vehicle.

Source: Cain Consulting Group for Kampgrounds of America

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor and Business section coordinator. She worked in Washington, D.C., and Chicago before moving to the Tetons.

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(1) comment

John Reed

Every time I see picture of someone living the #vanlife, I hear Chris Farley's voice screaming at me about living in a van down by the river: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv2VIEY9-A8#t=2m56s

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