Participation in camping declined significantly in 2012 from 2011, according to a new study released Wednesday by The Outdoor Foundation and sponsored by The Coleman Company, Inc. The report found that 38 million Americans, or 13 percent of Americans over age six, participated in camping last year compared with  42.5 million Americans, or 15 percent of the US population, in 2011. 

The findings are part of the 2013 American Camper Report presented by The Coleman Company, Inc. and The Outdoor Foundation, the leading report tracking camping participation in the United States.

The 2013 American Camper Report details camping participation and provides data and analysis on camping trends throughout the United States. For the first time, the report also takes an in-depth look at the buying behaviors of camping participants to provide insights about practices and preferences. The data is based on an online survey of more than 42,000 Americans ages six and older and a supplementary survey of camping participants ages 18 and older.

“The American Camper Report shows that camping lost 4.5 million participants, but those that still camp are an avid bunch – camping more frequently and travelling farther to their destinations,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “By understanding the research in this report, the outdoor industry and other stakeholders will be better equipped to engage both campers and non-campers to initiate a massive increase in camping participation.”

“The market insights we gain from the American Camper Report are vital to Coleman’s ability to stay in front of emerging market trends and new outdoor activities,” said Robert Marcovitch, president and chief executive officer of Coleman. “Our continuing partnership with The Outdoor Foundation on this annual project provides Coleman with the knowledge we need to create innovative and exciting gear for all outdoor enthusiasts.”

The insights detailed in the 2013 American Camper Report are critical to understanding both campers and non-campers and building participation in the activity. Some additional findings include:

Overview of Camping Participation

  • Young adults lost the largest percentage of participants, down from 17 percent in 2011 to 13 percent in 2012.

  • Camping lost a net of 4.5 million participants from 2011 to 2012 due to a high churn rate of 32 percent.

  • Among adult campers, more females than males participated in RV and cabin camping. More males enjoyed tent and bivy/no shelter camping.

  • The Mountain Region has the highest camping participation rate.

  • Sixty-two percent campers ages 16 and over are married or living with a domestic partner.

  • Eighty-seven percent of campers participate in multiple outdoor activities.


Profile of a Camping Trip

  • Seventy-four percent of participants camped in a public campground.

  • The average camper went on 5.8 camping trips, up from 5.0 trips in 2011.

  • Participants traveled a mean of 200.7 miles away from home to camp, up from 190.6 miles in 2011.

  • Forty-four percent of campers plan their trips at least one month in advance.

  • Seventy-eight percent of adult participants camp with friends.

  • Hiking is the most popular activity to participate in while camping.


Buying Behavior

  • More than two-thirds of participants are employed or are students and are not yet employed.

  • Propane or liquid fuel was the most popular purchase during the past year.

  • More than half of all campers rarely or never buy camping items for someone other than themselves.

  • If campers are not buying for themselves, camping items are most often purchased for a spouse or significant other.

  • Most participants decide to purchase their camping item at home, prior to their outing.


Future of Camping

  • Sixty percent of current adult campers participated in regular outdoor activities between the ages of six and 12, compared to just 25 percent of non-campers.

  • The most cited reason for reducing the number of camping trips is a lack of time due to work and family commitments.

  • Campers are planning an average of 5.5 trips next year, an increase from last year’s 4.3 planned trips.

  • Eighty-one percent of participants plan to go on three or more camping trips in the next year.

 A complete copy of the 2013 American Camper Report is available for free at The Outdoor Foundation website.