The Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), released early topline data from its forthcoming Outdoor Participation Report that showed strong gains in hiking, camping and fishing.

A few of the notable highlights include:

  • Camping participation grew 28 percent with 7.9 million additional participants in 2020;
  • 8.1 million more Americans hiked in 2020 versus 2019, as the participation rate grew 16.3 percent; and
  • Freshwater fishing added 3.4 million participants in 2020, a gain of 8.6 percent

Encouragingly, the data also indicates an overall decline in reported inactivity for most age groups and income levels and a continued significant uptick in total outdoor participation to 52.9 percent, up from 50.5 percent in 2018 and 50.7 percent in 2019.

These topline findings, and the full report, which will be available in early summer this year, includes insights about how and how much Americans engaged in outdoor activities throughout 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Early numbers support what the outdoor industry was experiencing and reporting anecdotally that Americans found respite and solace from pandemic restrictions by increasing their time outdoors, participating in activities such as trail running, hiking, camping, fishing, and biking.

“These topline figures and the forthcoming full report build on more than 10 years of tracking outdoor participation trends and help the Foundation understand both motivations for and barriers to outdoor participation,” said Outdoor Foundation Managing Director Stephanie Maez. “In particular, we use the data from this annual study to identify barriers that keep Americans from going outside and to break down those barriers through supporting strategic community-based Thrive Outside programs.

“The 2.2 percent jump in total participation over the past year is the largest annual increase we’ve seen since we began tracking the numbers, and it translates to many millions of additional participants who discovered the outdoors in 2020. Given the unique and unprecedented events of 2020, members of OIA are already asking what they can do to ensure the above numbers aren’t merely a short-term blip and to sustain the increase over time.”

“OIA and its member companies track trends and gaps in outdoor recreation and use this data to drive positive growth in the outdoor recreation economy and help get all Americans thriving outside. We do that through a two-pronged approach that includes the Foundation’s community-based initiatives and our recreation and conservation policy work, ” said OIA Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug. “Our member companies want to know how they can shift their own business operations to provide more outdoor opportunities to more people and create more outdoor stewards.”