An estimated 44 million people participated in camping in 2009, nearly one million more participants than in the previous high of 1996, according the 2010 Special Report on Camping released last week by The Coleman Company, Inc. and The Outdoor Foundation.
The report used the responses of over 40,000 Americans ages six and older to an on-line survey conducted as part of the Outdoor Foundation’s annual Outdoor Recreation Participation Report. The camping report released last week focuses on RV, car and backyard camping with the latter two described as being within a quarter mile of a home or vehicle.
The reported increase in participation correlates with visitation data showing that 285.6 million people visited the National Park Service in 2009, up 3.7% from 2008. One significant new revelation from the study was that nearly 54% of backyard/car campers and 42% of RV campers identified hiking as the number one activity they enjoyed while camping.
The study also shows that more first-time campers are taking to the outdoors with their friends more than their parents and that their median age was 25, suggesting that more people are discovering the benefits of getting outdoors under their own steam. Participation rates for backyard, car and RV camping among 6- to 12-year-olds rose to 25.2% in 2009 from 23.2% in 2008. This increase was the highest growth in participation rates shown for any age group and helped hold the median age for all participants at 33 after three consecutive years of back-to-back increases.
The most encouraging statistic may have been that 25.8% of new campers were “ethnically diverse” compared to just 14.1% for all campers. “More people are realizing the benefits that come from spending time outdoors,” said Coleman CEO Sam Solomon. “I am encouraged to see an increasingly more diverse group of Americans taking advantage of outdoor recreation.”
The survey results correlate with National Park Service data and their relation to retail point-of-sale data collected by OIA VantagePoint is also validated. While combined unit sales of technical packs, campfire stoves, coolers, lanterns, sleeping bags and tents were essentially flat in 2009 at Chain Specialty, Sporting Goods, Internet, and Discount/Mass Retailers, combined dollar sales of those categories increased in the mid-single-digits.