Camping has momentum now.
According to a study by campsite search and rating app The Dyrt, about 20% of Americans went camping last year, and more than eight million of them did so for the first time. Forty percent of these newbies said they have tried camping, either to be with family and friends or to get outdoors.
The demand from new campers made campsites much harder to come by. Campers said it’s three times harder than before to book a campsite in 2021. Campers found it harder in the western states than elsewhere, with campers in Rocky Mountain state experiencing the most frustrations. The hardest to find campsites were those for caravans and campers.
40% of new campers were identified as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), up 68% from last year. This is a huge change for an active outdoor sport.
Campers like their comfort while roughing it. Over 40% of campers came with their dog and the campers’ favorite drink last year was local craft beer.
It is clear that the pandemic has motivated the growth of camping. But the decision to camp was not impulsive, most campers planned and booked their expedition at least several weeks in advance, using a mobile app or website to find their campsite.
Last year, the five most searched camping destinations on The Dyrt were Denver, Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Seattle, Moab, Utah (the gateway to two major national parks), and San Diego.
Why is this happening
There are reasons other than “it’s the pandemic, dumbass” why camping has grown more than other types of outdoor recreation.
Camping is accessible, less expensive than other vacations. It can be done near the house. Working from the campsite has also made it easier for many people, with nearly a quarter of campers saying they did just that last year, up almost 50% from the previous year.
Will it continue?
Kevin Long, co-founder and CEO of The Dyrt, told me that camping gear makers have had an explosive year. With so many consumers investing in new gear, Long believes that even as the pandemic becomes less intrusive, they will continue to camp to get a return on their investment in their new stuff. This will also encourage innovation in camping gear, making it even easier for beginners to try out camping.
Long also believes telecommuting is a key factor in the long-term growth of camping. And camping is in line with consumer values that are trending, such as authenticity, experiencing nature and sustainability.
As camping grows, existing campsites will become even more difficult to book in the future. This has already led to the growth of ‘scattered camping’, where various types of public land are used for camping rather than designated campgrounds. This will no doubt make camping more visible to non-campers than it has been in the past.
As the pandemic becomes a less important motivator of consumer behavior, anything can happen in the camping industry. But since so many people have tried it and camping caters to so many consumer interests, it seems likely that future growth will be slower, but camping’s growth will continue for years to come. That makes camping, camping gear, and camping culture a focus that brands and retailers should keep an eye on for at least the next few years.