The Demographics of Recreational Camping: Who’s Camping and Why?

January 3, 2024

Recreational camping is a popular outdoor activity enjoyed by millions of Americans each year. But who exactly is participating in this pastime, and what are the trends shaping the camping experience? In this article, we will explore the recreational camping demographics in the United States and provide insights into the camping habits and preferences of individuals.

Whether camping in a tent or an RV, in a national park or private campground, solo or in a group, understanding the camping demographics of different groups is essential for businesses and organizations that cater to this audience. Market research shows that camping participation is on the rise, and different age groups, genders, and ethnicities approach the activity in their unique ways.

Key Takeaways

  • Recreational camping is a popular outdoor activity enjoyed by millions of Americans each year
  • Understanding the demographics of recreational camping is essential for businesses and organizations
  • Camping participation is on the rise and different groups approach the activity in unique ways
  • Recreational camping demographics vary by age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic factors
  • Camping habits and preferences include tent vs RV camping, national parks vs private campgrounds, and solo vs group camping

Camping Participation Rates in the United States

The popularity of recreational camping has been steadily increasing in recent years. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, camping participation rates grew by 6% from 2014 to 2019. In 2019, approximately 78 million households in the United States reported that at least one person went camping. This significant growth in outdoor recreation has led to a surge in camping gear sales, with the Statista Research Department projecting that the U.S. camping equipment market will reach $9.2 billion by 2025.

To gain a better understanding of camping participation rates and outdoor recreation statistics, a survey conducted by the Outdoor Foundation provides valuable insights. The survey revealed that:

% of Participants
Adults who went camping in 2019 43.4%
Youth who went camping in 2019 25.7%
Households that own a tent 35.8%

The data indicates that camping participation rates are relatively evenly spread across gender and ethnic backgrounds. However, the survey highlighted that camping participation rates decrease with age, with only 22% of individuals aged 65 and older participating in camping activities. Additionally, overall camping participation rates are higher among households with higher incomes, as camping equipment and fees can be costly and serve as barriers to entry for lower-income families.

The rise of camping participation rates in the United States is a reflection of the growing interest in outdoor recreational activities. Understanding the statistics around camping is essential for businesses in the outdoor industry to cater to their target audience. As camping continues to remain a popular activity, businesses must adapt to consumers’ changing needs and preferences to remain relevant in an evolving market.

Camping Preferences: Tent Camping vs RV Camping

Camping Preferences

When it comes to camping, individuals have different preferences. Some enjoy the minimalist approach of tent camping, while others prefer the luxury and convenience of RV camping. According to camping market research conducted by the KOA (Kampgrounds of America) in 2020, 34% of campers prefer tent camping, while 14% prefer RV camping.

While tent camping and RV camping share some similarities, they offer distinct experiences. Tent camping provides a more rugged and authentic camping experience, allowing individuals to connect with nature in a more fundamental way. With no walls or doors separating campers from the outdoors, tent camping exposes individuals to the elements, forcing them to adapt to changing weather conditions. Tent camping is also more affordable, making it accessible to a wider range of individuals.

On the other hand, RV camping allows individuals to enjoy nature while maintaining the comfort and convenience of home. RVs offer amenities such as beds, kitchens, and bathrooms, providing recreational vehicles with a homely feel. RV camping is also more comfortable, reducing the need for campers to rough it out in harsh conditions. RV camping is also ideal for individuals who prefer to camp for extended periods, as it allows for storage of supplies and equipment.

Camping preferences are often influenced by camping habits and personality traits. Individuals who enjoy outdoor activities or value solitude may prefer tent camping, while those who prefer to enjoy the comforts of home may opt for RV camping. Ultimately, the choice between tent camping and RV camping depends on personal preferences and individual needs.

Camping Experiences: National Parks vs Private Campgrounds

When it comes to camping experiences, two main options are available to outdoor enthusiasts: national parks and private campgrounds. While both offer unique experiences, understanding the differences and preferences among campers can help individuals decide which option is most suitable for them. According to recent camping market research, the choice between national parks and private campgrounds depends on various factors, including amenities, location, and cost.

Those who prefer National Park camping over private campgrounds tend to value the natural environment, the sense of adventure, and the opportunity to explore unique landscapes. This type of camper may be more experienced and prefer a rustic experience, such as backcountry camping and primitive camping facilities. National Parks offer an excellent way to experience the breathtaking beauty of America’s natural wonders, including hiking, climbing and nature viewing. While less comfortable, the off-the-grid camping experience can be priceless for this kind of camper.

On the other hand, private campgrounds are becoming increasingly popular. They often offer more amenities and features such as water and electricity hookups, modern bathrooms, laundry facilities and various competitive activities. They are a good option for more casual campers who still want access to comfortable and convenient facilities as well as a family-friendly environment. Private campsites can also provide extra security and safety for novice campers. Some campgrounds can be part of a chain, which allows customers to earn points and enjoy discounts on future stays; others can have clubhouses and heated swimming pools.

Camping market research data shows that while private campgrounds are more expensive on average than national parks for overnight stays, the extras and comfort come with a cost. In general, campers tend to be satisfied with private campgrounds, as the overall experience and amenities are clear. National parks, however, are treasured by individuals who value a close connection with nature, hiking, and wildlife.

Camping Habits: Solo Camping vs Group Camping

camping habits

When it comes to camping habits, there is a noticeable difference between those who prefer solo camping and those who opt for group camping. According to camping market research, around 20% of campers prefer to camp alone, while the majority of campers prefer to camp with family or friends.

The motivations and preferences behind each camping habit are unique. Solo campers tend to be more self-reliant and seek solitude, using camping as a way to recharge and reflect. Group campers, on the other hand, tend to prioritize social interaction and shared experiences, using camping as an opportunity to bond with others. Furthermore, research has shown that group camping tends to attract a wider age demographic, including families with young children, while solo camping tends to attract a more mature, middle-aged demographic.

Camping consumer behavior also plays a role in the choice of camping habit. Solo campers tend to be more experienced, confident, and independent, while group campers tend to be less experienced and rely on the expertise of others. Additionally, those who prefer solo camping tend to have a stronger connection to nature and seek out more remote and secluded campsites, while those who prefer group camping tend to prioritize amenities and facilities, such as showers, playgrounds, and campfire pits.

“Camping alone allows for me to recharge and connect with nature. It’s the ultimate form of self-care for me.” – Jane, 38, solo camper

“I love group camping because I get to make memories with friends and family. It’s a chance to disconnect from our devices and reconnect with each other.” – Mike, 31, group camper

Generation Gap in Recreational Camping

The generation gap in recreational camping is relatively significant, with different age groups approaching and engaging in camping activities differently.

To understand the generational differences in recreational camping, one must look at several aspects that shape camping behaviors among different age groups. Factors like income, education, lifestyle, and technology contribute to a generation’s camping style.

One of the most significant trends among younger generations is the increasing popularity of “glamping,” which is a more luxurious form of camping than traditional camping. Glamping offers many modern amenities like comfortable beds, chic accommodations, and gourmet meals.

In contrast, older generations tend to prefer more traditional forms of camping, such as tent camping and RV camping. They value simplicity and a closer connection to nature, with less emphasis on modern comforts and conveniences.

However, this does not mean that older generations dislike technological advancements as they enjoy technology that improves their camping experience, such as innovative camping gear.

Despite these differences, it is important to note that recreational camping remains a popular outdoor activity for all generations. According to a recent study, a quarter of all North American campers are between the ages of 18 and 34, highlighting how younger generations are still actively participating in camping activities.

Ultimately, understanding the generational gaps in recreational camping is crucial for camping businesses and organizations to cater to the diverse market effectively.

Camping Consumer Behavior: Examining Gender Differences

Recreational camping demographics by gender

Recreational camping is a popular outdoor activity in the United States, but camping demographics can vary greatly depending on several factors such as age, socioeconomic status, and gender. When it comes to camping consumer behavior, studies show that men and women have different motivations, preferences, and behaviors when it comes to camping.

According to the 2018 North American Camping Report, 57% of women surveyed said that spending time with friends and family was the primary reason for their camping trips, compared to 43% of men. On the other hand, men were more likely to camp for the thrill of outdoor adventures, with 38% citing this as a top reason compared to only 22% of women.

Furthermore, when it comes to camping preferences, men are more likely than women to choose rugged camping excursions, while women tend to prefer more comfortable and convenient camping experiences. The same report found that men were twice as likely as women to enjoy backcountry camping, while women were more likely to favor staying in cabins or glamping tents.

These gender differences in camping consumer behavior extend to purchasing decisions as well. Studies show that men are more likely than women to purchase high-end camping gear and equipment, while women are more likely to prioritize convenience and comfort over cost.

Men Women
Primary reason for camping trips Thrill of outdoor adventures (38%) Spending time with friends and family (57%)
Preferred camping style Backcountry camping (54%) Cabins or glamping tents (34%)
Equipment purchasing behavior High-end gear and equipment (51%) Convenience and comfort (63%)

Understanding gender differences in camping consumer behavior is crucial for camping brands and retailers, as it allows for targeted marketing efforts and the development of camping experiences and equipment that cater to both men and women’s preferences.

Socioeconomic Factors and Camping Demographics

Socioeconomic factors, including income, education, and employment, influence recreational camping participation in the United States. According to camping market research, higher-income households are more likely to participate in camping activities, with 60% of campers belonging to households with an annual income of $75,000 or more. In contrast, only 39% of campers belong to households with an income of less than $50,000 per year.

Education is another significant socioeconomic factor that correlates with camping participation rates. Data from camping market research shows that 77% of campers have completed some college or higher education. This is compared to the 23% of campers who have a high school diploma or less.

Employment status also plays a role in camping participation. Employed individuals make up 82% of campers, while retirees comprise 16% of the camping population. Self-employed individuals and business owners represent a small percentage of campers, accounting for only 2% of the total camping population.

The influence of socioeconomic factors on camping demographics should not be overlooked, as it can have implications for businesses and organizations involved in the camping industry. Companies may need to cater their marketing strategies to reach out to specific socioeconomic groups. For example, those in higher income brackets may prefer more luxurious camping experiences, while those with lower incomes may be more budget-conscious. Understanding the diverse demographics of recreational camping can be crucial for the longevity and prosperity of the camping industry as a whole.

Ethnic Diversity in Recreational Camping

recreational camping demographics

Recreational camping is a popular outdoor activity in the United States, attracting a diverse range of participants. While the majority of recreational campers are white, the participation rates among individuals from ethnic minority groups have been on the rise in recent years. According to a report by the Outdoor Industry Association, the number of Hispanic Americans who camp increased by 7% from 2018 to 2019.

The reasons behind the growing ethnic diversity in recreational camping are complex and multifaceted. One factor is the increased representation of diverse communities in popular culture, with camping becoming more accessible and relatable to a broader range of individuals. Additionally, many outdoor organizations and advocacy groups have made efforts to promote camping among communities of color, highlighting the benefits of outdoor recreation and providing resources and support to make camping more inclusive.

Ethnic Group Camping Participation Rates
White 77%
African American 6%
Hispanic 10%
Asian 4%

Despite the increasing participation rates among ethnic minority groups, there are still significant disparities in camping participation along racial lines. One study found that African Americans and Hispanics are significantly less likely to participate in camping activities than white Americans, with factors like socio-economic status and cultural attitudes playing a role in these differences.

The rise of ethnic diversity in recreational camping is an important trend to monitor and analyze. As camping continues to grow in popularity across all demographics, outdoor organizations and businesses should strive to make camping accessible and inclusive for individuals from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Camping Behavior Across Different Regions of the US

Camping behavior across the United States is geographically influenced, with campers preferring different experiences based on their region. Understanding the regional variations can help camping providers improve their offerings and tailor it to their audience.

According to Recamping: Understanding Trends in American Campers, campers in the West and Northeast regions prefer national and state parks for their camping experiences. In contrast, campers in the South and Midwest opt for private campgrounds.

Region Preferred Camping Experience
West National and State Parks
Northeast National and State Parks
South Private Campgrounds
Midwest Private Campgrounds

The West is also where the highest camping participation rates are documented, with a rate of 41%. The South follows with 36% participation, followed by the Midwest with 35% and the Northeast with 30%.

These statistics indicate that camping is a beloved outdoor activity for many Americans. However, providers must adapt their offerings based on the preferences of their audiences to ensure a successful camping experience.


Recreational camping has become an increasingly popular outdoor activity in the United States, attracting a diverse range of participants. Through a comprehensive analysis of camping trends, outdoor recreation statistics, camping preferences, camping experiences, camping habits, camping market research, camping consumer behavior, and recreational camping demographics, we can see that camping behavior varies significantly based on factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographical location.

It is essential to understand the diverse demographics of recreational camping to cater to the needs and preferences of different groups of campers. Campground operators, outdoor gear manufacturers, and state and national park authorities can benefit from conducting market research to gain insights into the camping market and identify opportunities for growth and improvement. Additionally, policymakers and community leaders can use this information to promote camping as a healthy and affordable outdoor recreational activity and develop policies that encourage inclusivity and accessibility.

In conclusion, recreational camping continues to be a vital outdoor recreational activity in the United States, and understanding the trends, preferences, and habits of campers is crucial to ensure the continued growth and success of this industry.


What are recreational camping demographics?

Recreational camping demographics refer to the characteristics and traits of individuals who participate in camping activities. This includes factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and region.

What are the camping participation rates in the United States?

The camping participation rates in the United States vary depending on the year and specific study, but roughly around 40 million Americans go camping each year. Outdoor recreation statistics also show that camping continues to be a popular activity among both individuals and families.

What are the camping preferences: tent camping vs RV camping?

Camping preferences vary among individuals, with some preferring traditional tent camping and others opting for the convenience of RV camping. Tent camping allows for a more immersive outdoor experience, while RV camping provides added comfort and amenities.

What are the camping experiences: national parks vs private campgrounds?

Camping experiences can differ between national parks and private campgrounds. National parks offer stunning natural landscapes and unique wildlife encounters, while private campgrounds often provide more amenities and recreational activities.

What are the camping habits: solo camping vs group camping?

Camping habits can vary between solo camping and group camping. Some individuals enjoy the solitude and self-reliance of solo camping, while others prefer the companionship and shared experiences of camping with a group.

Are there generational differences in recreational camping?

Yes, there are generational differences in recreational camping. Younger generations tend to seek more adventurous and experiential camping experiences, while older generations may prefer more traditional and familiar camping styles.

How does gender affect camping participation?

Gender can influence camping participation, with research showing that both men and women engage in camping activities. However, their camping motivations, preferences, and behaviors may differ. Women may prioritize safety and comfort, while men may focus on outdoor activities and exploration.

Do socioeconomic factors impact camping demographics?

Socioeconomic factors can have an impact on camping demographics. Income, education level, and other socioeconomic indicators may influence the camping participation rates and preferences of individuals and families.

How does ethnic diversity play a role in recreational camping?

Ethnic diversity plays a role in recreational camping, with different ethnic groups engaging in camping activities based on their cultural backgrounds and preferences. Understanding the specific needs and interests of diverse populations is crucial for inclusive camping experiences.

How does camping behavior differ across different regions of the US?

Camping behavior can vary across different regions of the United States due to geographical location and cultural factors. Some regions may have a higher concentration of national parks or private campgrounds, influencing the availability and preferences of campers in those areas.

What are the key takeaways about recreational camping demographics?

The key takeaways about recreational camping demographics include the diverse nature of camping participants, the varying camping preferences and habits, and the importance of understanding different factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and region in order to cater to the needs and interests of campers.