CAMPING IS UP IN THE U.S., TREND EXPECTED TO CONTINUE AS
SEEK THE POSITIVE HEALTH IMPACTS OF TIME SPENT OUTDOORS
Half of U.S. Campers Intend to Head to the Outdoors to Camp More
Future Outlook Positive with 90 Percent of Teen Campers Intending to Camp as
To access the complete 2017 Camping Report by KOA, click here.
BILLINGS, Mont. (March 15, 2017) – An estimated 13 million U.S.
households plan to camp more in 2017 than they did in 2016, and more than 1
million new households have started camping each year since 2014. Millennials are
driving this growth as they take to the outdoors in greater numbers, and they
have no intention of letting up. This is according to the results of the 2017
North American Camping Report, an annual independent study supported by
Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA).
Millennials now account for 38 percent of the 75 million active
camper households in the U.S., up from 34 percent in 2016, and 51 percent say
they plan to increase their camping this year. Results of the survey indicate
that these younger campers are using camping to add more balance to their
lives. Their key reasons for camping include spending more time with friends
and family, being physically active and improving their overall emotional
well-being and health.
Their attitudes about camping are reinforced by their behaviors
and, with the influx of younger campers, this is changing the camping landscape
overall. Camping is becoming a more social activity, and outdoor recreation
while camping is shifting to more physically active activities. In this year’s
results, hiking outranked fishing as the most popular type of camping
recreation for the first time since the first iteration of the North American
Camping Report. Kayaking and mountain biking also saw significant increases.
“Camping continues to grow in popularity, with more Americans
starting to camp and people taking more frequent trips each year,” said KOA COO
Toby O’Rourke. “Year-over-year people consistently say camping allows them to
relax, spend time with family and friends, be active and contributes to their
emotional well-being. The significant growth in camping underscores Americans’
enthusiasm and growing desire to get outside. Camping—whether it’s traditional
tent camping, RVing or staying in a full-service cabin—will continue to fulfill
In an even more promising outlook for the future of camping and
outdoor recreation in America, Generation Z teens (ages 13-17) are highly
enthusiastic about camping and place a great deal of importance on people their
age spending time outdoors. The findings for this group, which are new to the
North American Camping Report this year, indicate that teens share their adult
counterparts’ feelings about the benefits and emotional connections to camping.
This suggests that as more families experience the outdoors, the more likely
they are to continue those activities and consequently, this will result in
continued increased overall incidence of camping nationally, and particularly
“We’re seeing that once these younger campers experience the
outdoors and the benefits of camping, they become hooked on it and it becomes
part of their lifestyle. As parents bring their children along, we’re already
seeing their love of camping being passed on to the next generation,” added
Key findings and trends based on the results of the 2017 North
American Camping Report include:
Millennials are driving the growth of camping in America
• Currently, 61 percent, or 75 million, of U.S. households are active campers.
This is up from 58 percent in 2014. The number of highly avid campers is
growing even more rapidly, with the number of campers who take three or more
trips per year growing by 36 percent since 2014.
• Millennials now account for 38 percent of active camper households in the
U.S., up from 34 percent in 2015 (millennials comprise 31 percent of the
overall population). Gen Xers account for 34 percent of campers, up from 28
percent in 2015 (Gen Xers account for 27 percent of the population).
Millennials make up nearly half of all new campers who started camping in 2016
2017 season forecast: Americans will head outdoors to camp more
• Overall, 13 million U.S. households say they plan to camp more in 2017 (49
percent; number of households is based on net). In 2016, 37 million households
camped at least once, and of those, 14 million camped three or more times.
• For the second year in a row, millennials are the most likely to report that
they intend to camp more often in 2017, with 51 percent saying they plan to
take more camping trips and 57 percent saying they plan to spend more nights
Seeking greater balance: Millennials, and campers in general, are
discovering the emotional and physical health benefits of time spent outdoors
The positive impacts of camping are consistently up from past results,
suggesting that as campers discover the emotional and physical health benefits
of time spent outdoors, they are seeking it more and more.
• Americans who camp, and especially those in the millennial age group, say that
it has a great deal of impact on reducing stress (45 percent of U.S. campers,
as well as 45 percent of millennials), contributing to their emotional
well-being (41 percent of U.S. campers, 43 percent of millennials), overall
health improvement (39 percent of U.S. campers including 39 percent of
millennials) and leading a healthier lifestyle (36 percent of U.S. campers, and
37 percent of millennials).
• According to millennials, the key reasons they camp include spending more
time with friends and family (43 percent strongly agree), being physically
active (33 percent) and blowing off steam (33 percent).
• A majority of millennials (60 percent) and Gen X (51 percent) campers say
that they are more physically active than others in their age group.
• Self-described physical fitness is highest among millennials, with 7-in-10
stating that their physical fitness is either excellent or very good (72
• 81 percent of millennials say spending more time with friends and family is
the top reason they plan to camp more in 2017. This was also the number one
factor impacting their decisions to camp in 2016, with 80 percent saying it had
a great deal of impact. Socioeconomic factors also played a role in
millennials’ camping behaviors last year, with 70 percent reporting more free
time and 68 percent reporting a change in their personal financial situation
had a great deal of impact on their decision to camp.
• In the U.S. market, 3-in-10 campers indicate that camping allows them to
spend more time vacationing each year.
Younger campers are changing the camping landscape
The influx of younger campers is changing the camping landscape overall, from
who is camping to how people are experiencing the outdoors.
• In line with their strong enthusiasm for camping with family and friends,
millennials tend to camp in the largest groups. The average group size for
millennials is 10.7, compared to 8.5 for Gen Xers and 7.9 for baby boomers.
• Camping is becoming more of a family event, with 51 percent of campers
reporting they have children in the household, up from 41 percent in 2014.
Younger parents are the most likely to say children are enthusiastic about
camping (53 percent of millennial parents).
Not only are these younger campers highly social, but they also
are more physically active and more likely to gravitate towards recreation such
as mountain biking, hiking, running and adventure sports.
• As a result, more physically active types of recreation are increasing in
popularity overall, with mountain biking (+6 percentage points),
hiking/backpacking (+4 percentage points), canoeing/kayaking (+5 percentage
points) and biking (+5 percentage points) and all gaining popularity since
• While fishing remains a popular activity, for the first time in this survey’s
history, hiking (50 percent) outranks fishing (44 percent) as the most popular
form of recreation.
• 41 percent of both millennials and Gen Xers say that onsite recreation is
important to them. The driving factor for these younger campers is that they’re
likely to be camping with children.
• 70 percent of Gen Z teens say they want to stay at campgrounds with a lot of
onsite activities. While fishing appears to be in decline overall (-14
percentage points since 2014), it may experience a resurgence in the coming
years as it is extremely popular among teen campers, with 8-in-10 stating that
they go fishing while camping.
Younger campers are much more diverse, which is contributing to an
increasingly multicultural camping landscape overall.
• Of the 1 million U.S. households that started camping in 2016, 4-in-10 were
either Hispanic (13 percent of new campers, 16 percent of the population),
African American (12 percent of new campers, 12 percent of the population) or
Asian American (14 percent of new campers, 5 percent of the population).
• This is a continuing trend driven by younger campers, as a full 30 percent of
non-white millennial campers report that they’ve started camping in just the
past few years, compared to 15 percent of white millennials.
• There has been a large influx of Asian American campers over the past couple
of years, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing. According to this year’s survey
results, the proportion of new Asian American campers is nearly triple what
would be expected from overall population figures. This increase is most
prevalent among younger Asian American campers with 43 percent only having
started camping in the past couple of years.
Gen Z teens are highly enthusiastic about camping, and many see it
as an opportunity to unplug
• Teen campers assign a great deal of importance on getting outside and being
active, with 81 percent saying it’s very important for people their age to
spend time outdoors participating in activities such as camping, fishing,
hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, etc.
• 58 percent of teen campers surveyed said they are very enthusiastic about
camping, and virtually none reported low levels of enthusiasm. All the teens
surveyed said they enjoyed their camping trips and 62 percent said they want to
camp more in the coming year (33 percent said the same amount). Only 13 percent
said they would rather go to an amusement park than go camping.
• Teens’ favorite thing about camping is being able to spend time with their
family and spending time outdoors.
• Teens enjoy being active while camping, with 70 percent saying they like to
stay at campgrounds where there are a lot of activities. With childhood obesity
being an ongoing problem, it is also important to consider that about 6-in-10
teen campers (58 percent) say that they are more physically active than others
in their peer group.
• 90 percent of Gen Z teens say that they intend to camp as adults and 93
percent claim that if they have kids of their own, they will take them camping
Even though many adults have the view that teens are “glued” to
their phones, teens are no more likely to use technology than their adult
counterparts. While most teens bring smartphones with them while camping, not
surprisingly and like their adult counterparts, an overwhelming majority say they
would still want to go camping if they could not stay in touch with others
using their phones or computers.
• 71 percent of teen campers say they would still want to go camping even
without access to technology. Only 6 percent of teen campers say that they
would not want to camp without access to technology (about one-fourth are on
• Half of teens surveyed (52 percent) say that camping offers them an
opportunity to “unplug” from technology.
Campers are using technology to spend more time outdoors
Access to technology is freeing up time among young campers who, in all
likelihood, are able to check work emails and check in with work via phone when
• Technology is allowing a large bloc of campers (37 percent) — including at
least 43 percent of millennials — to spend more time camping. This group is
also the most likely to check and send email while camping (45 percent), which
likely includes work emails.
• This group takes an average of almost two additional vacation days to camp
• While nearly all U.S. campers bring some type of technology with them while
camping, they are evenly split in their opinions regarding whether technology
enhances or detracts from their camping experiences. This holds true even among
millennials, with 38 percent saying technology detracts from their camping
experience and 36 percent saying it enhances it.
• Among campers who say that access to technology allows them to camp more
often, 57 percent state that technology also enhances their trips, suggesting
that the ability to access technology improves the quality of the experience
simply by allowing them to camp more often.
America’s Public Parks
• The desire to visit state and national parks has increased over 2015, and
3-in-10 U.S. campers say the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016
got them to visit a park they would not have otherwise visited. Millennials
were the most likely to claim this (40 percent). This suggests that a growing
camper constituency will continue to place high demand on these lands.
• One-third of U.S. campers say that they now feel more welcome at national
parks than they did several years ago. Large blocs of Hispanic (45 percent) and
African American (42 percent) campers say they feel more welcome when compared
to the past.
U.S. and Canadian Household Results: This survey was conducted by Cairn
Consulting Group, an independent market research firm with extensive experience
in the hospitality and services industries. The survey was conducted in January
2017. The sampling methodology targeted a randomly selected sample of U.S. and
Canadian households. Sampling was designed to obtain n=2,426 completed survey
among representative U.S. households and n=508 completed surveys among
representative Canadian households. A sample of n=2,426 U.S. households is
associated with a margin of error of +/- 1.99 percent. Among Canadian
households, a sample of n=508 is associated with a margin of error of +/- 4.37
Teen Survey Results: The results are based on a total of 401
surveys completed among a random sample of U.S. households with children
between the ages of 13 and 17. Each survey was completed with a teen respondent
whose parents gave prior permission. A sample of n=401 teen campers is
associated with a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.
All surveys were completed online via an outbound solicitation
sent by Survey Sampling International to a randomly selected cross-section of
U.S. and Canadian households. The sample of households from which the surveys were
completed was statistically balanced to ensure that the results are in line
with overall population figures for age, gender and ethnicity.
ABOUT KAMPGROUNDS OF AMERICA
For more than 55 years, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), the world’s largest
system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds, has provided millions of
campers with fun, memorable adventures. KOA was born in 1962 when founder Dave
Drum constructed a campground on the banks of the Yellowstone River in
Billings, Mont. Since then, KOA has grown to more than 500 locations in the
U.S. and Canada. KOA’s family of properties offers diverse camping experiences,
while maintaining the excellent standards and family-friendly atmosphere the
company is known for. For more information, visit www.KOA.com
ABOUT CAIRN CONSULTING GROUP
Cairn Consulting Group is a market research firm with extensive experience in
the hospitality and services industries. For the past several years, Cairn
Consulting Group has worked with organizations in both indoor and outdoor
hospitality, including the gaming/casino areas, food services/restaurant space,
accommodations, travel/tourism and the products and services that are a part of
the hospitality industry. The organization also serves clients in
branding/brand positioning efforts, evaluating consumer behavior, public
opinion & policy and product development.