According to a study by campground search and review app The Dyrt, about 20% of Americans went camping last year with more than eight million of them doing it for the first time. Forty percent of those newbies said they tried camping either to be with family and friends or to get outdoors.
The demand from new campers made campsites much harder to get. Campers said it was theee times harder to book a campsite in 2021 than before. Campers found it harder in the Western states than elsewhere, with Rocky Mountain state campers experiencinging the most frustrations. The hardest campsites to find were the ones for trailers and RVs.
Forty percent of new campers identified as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), up by 68% from the previous year. That’s a huge change for an active outdoor sport.
Campers like their comforts while they’re roughing it. Over 40% of campers came with their dog and the #1 one favorite drink of campers last year was local craft beer.
It’s clear that the pandemic motivated growth in camping. But the decision to camp was not impulsive, most campers planned and booked their expedition at least several weeks in advance and used a mobile app or website to find their campsite.
Last year, the five most searched for camping destinations on The Dyrt were Denver, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Seattle, Moab, Utah (the entry point to two major national parks) and San Diego.
Why This Is Happening
There are other reasons besides, “It’s the pandemic, stupid,” for why camping surged more than other types of outdoor recreation.
Camping is accessible, less expensive than other vacations. It can be done close to home. Work-from-campsite also made it more possible for a lot of people with with almost one-quarter of campers saying they did just that last year, up by almost 50% from the year before.
Will It Continue?
Kevin Long, Co-Founder and CEO of The Dyrt, told me that camping gear companies had an explosive year. With as many consumers having invested in new equipment, Long believes they will keep on camping even as the pandemic becomes less intrusive in order to get a return on their investment in their new stuff. That will also encourage innovation in camping equipment which will make it yet easier for novices to try camping.
Long also believes that remote working is a key driver for the long-term growth of camping. And camping is consistent with consumer values that are trending like authenticity, experiencing the natural environment and sustainability.
As camping grows, existing campgrounds will get even harder to book in the future. That has already led to the growth of “dispersed camping” where various types of public land are used for camping rather than designated campsites. That will undoubtedly lead to camping being more visible to non-campers than in the past.
As the pandemic becomes a less important motivator of consumer behavior, anything can happen in the camping industry. But with so many people having tried it and with camping being consistent with so many consumer interests, it seems likely that growth may be slower in the future but camping’s growth will continue for years. That makes camping, camping equipment and camping culture a focus for brands and retailers to be mindful of for at least the next several years.