Camping is Up in the U.S., Trend Expected to Continue as Millennials Seek the Positive Health Impacts of Time Spent Outdoors

Half of U.S. Campers Intend to Head to the Outdoors to Camp More in
2017; Future Outlook Positive with 90 Percent of Teen Campers Intending
to Camp as Adults

BILLINGS, Mont.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#KOACamping–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.

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 that need.”

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
among families.

“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 O’Rourke.

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 (48 percent).

2017 season forecast: Americans will head outdoors to camp more this

  • 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 camping.

Seeking greater balance: Millennials, and campers in general, are
discovering the emotional and physical health benefits of time spent

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
  • Self-described physical fitness is highest among millennials, with
    7-in-10 stating that their physical fitness is either excellent or
    very good (72 percent).
  • 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 2014.
  • 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
  • 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 as well.

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 the fence).
  • 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 needed.

  • 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 each year.
  • 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 percent.

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


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


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


Kampgrounds of America, Inc.
Mike Gast, 406-254-7409
President of Communications