KOA Study Reveals Campers Rate Wi-Fi As Top Amenity

More campers today rate access to free Wi-Fi a higher priority than traditional camping amenities, such as access to cabins or recreational activities, according to the 2015 North American Camping Report, an independent study supported by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA).

KOA Study Reveals Campers Rate Wi-Fi As Top Amenity
KOA Study Reveals Campers Rate Wi-Fi As Top Amenity

The must-have camping gear, according to the results of the survey of 2,104 US households, is the cell phone, as 83 percent of all campers bring their mobile phone to the great outdoors, according to a KOA news release.

What’s more, the heart wins out over the wallet, as more people today see camping as a way to escape the stress of everyday life than as an affordable vacation option.

Highlights from the 2015 North American Camping Report include the following:

Must-Have Camping Equipment: Wi-Fi and Mobile Phones

Today’s campers are more “plugged in” when preparing for camping trips and while at campsites. Of those surveyed, half of all campers (51 percent) claim that they go online at least once a day while camping, and four out of 10 (41 percent) say that having free Wi-Fi influences their decision to stay at a campground.

When selecting which campgrounds to visit and stay, free Wi-Fi ranks as the third most important amenity, behind only clean bathrooms and a kid-friendly environment, and outpaces access to recreational activities such as a campground store, cabins, and even safety lighting.

Spartanburg/Gaffney KOA, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Spartanburg/Gaffney KOA, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The youngest campers, younger than 25, are more likely to bring a mobile phone (86 percent), compared to campers age 65-plus (77 percent). Conversely, campers 25-plus are somewhat more likely to bring along a laptop or notebook (29 percent) compared to the youngest campers (21 percent). Younger campers even say having a smartphone (28 percent) is almost as important as toilet paper (34 percent).

Camping as a Healthy Escape and Relationship Builder

Though the notion of camping as an inexpensive vacation option remains, survey results suggest that while the cash-saving aspect is still important, people are camping to build the emotional connection and relationships with family and friends in nature.

Survey highlights include:

  • According to campers, reconnecting with nature (55 percent), reducing stress (54 percent), and spending more time with family and friends (49 percent) are the key reasons they camp. Economic and practical values were only identified as reasons for camping by less than 35 percent of those surveyed.
  • Campers are likely to say that camping improves family relationships—in fact, 41 percent “completely agree” with this.

Additionally, fully 4-in-10 campers (39 percent) suggest that camping has “a great deal of impact” on allowing them to spend more time with family. Another third of campers say that camping has a positive impact on their relationships with family and friends (35 percent) and their emotional well-being (36 percent).

Outdoor Melting Pot

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly one in four campers in 2014 identified themselves as either African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, or Hispanic, a significant increase compared to past industry research efforts. Other key survey highlights include:

  • Camping rates among nonwhites have doubled from as recently as 2012, jumping from 12 percent up to 23 percent.
  • Among multicultural groups, camping rates among Asian/Pacific Islanders have increased the most over the last two years, representing only 1 percent of the total camping population in 2012, compared to 6 percent in 2014.
  • Hispanics jumped from 2 percent of campers in 2012 to 6 percent in 2014.

2015 Season Outlook

Looking ahead to the 2015 camping season, a majority of campers (53%) plan to spend more nights camping, and almost half (48 percent) plan to take more trips. Other key findings related to campers’ plans for the 2015 season include:

  • When asked what has the most impact on their decision to camp more, survey respondents cited spending more time with family and friends (68 percent), exploring new areas (67 percent), and decreased gas prices (60 percent) as the most impactful factors.
  • Among campers who say that decreased gas prices are impacting their travel plans for the upcoming year, 88 percent plan to visit new areas, 88 percent say it will allow them to camp more often and 86 percent plan to visit new campgrounds.
Wahweap RV Park & Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Wahweap RV Park & Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Life is short and the world is wide.
—Simon Raven

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43 Million Americans Camped in 2011

Almost 43 million Americans participated in camping last year, according to a new study released today by The Outdoor Foundation and sponsored by Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) and The Coleman Co. Inc.

According to a news release, that equates to 14.9 percent of Americans over age six. The findings are part of the 2012 American Camper Report, a leading report tracking participation in camping in the United States.

The Outdoor Foundation’s American Camper Report provides data and analysis on overall camping participation and explores preferences, buying behavior and the future of camping.

For the first time in the history of this report, people within the camping industry share trends that they are seeing in the field, and the report takes an in-depth look at Hispanic American campers to examine this growing minority’s unique motivations, preferences and barriers.

The findings are based on an online survey of more than 38,000 Americans ages six and older and a supplementary survey of camping participants 18 and older.

“The American Camper Report shows that camping gained popularity in 2011—adding nearly three million participants since 2010,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation.

“The information and analysis in this report will help the outdoor industry and all stakeholders engage even more Americans in camping and transform non-participants into active outdoor enthusiasts and committed environmental stewards.”

KOA’s CEO Jim Rogers stated, “2012 is KOA’s 50th anniversary and KOA hopes that its outdoor hospitality legacy will continue to expand along with the businesses of other outdoor enterprises as we learn more about the needs, trends, and outdoor behaviors of the American camper. The report’s special focus on Hispanic campers also aligns with KOA’s goals to find new ways to increase the engagement of ethnically diverse populations in camping and outdoor fun.”

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Throughout our 112-year history, Coleman has maintained a reputation for creating innovative, high-quality outdoor gear. Insights from studies like the American Camper Report are a foundational piece of Coleman’s ability to build and maintain that reputation,” said Robert Marcovitch, President and CEO of Coleman.

“Thanks to the knowledge we gain from the Camper Report, Coleman continues to develop exciting gear for both the new and experienced outdoor enthusiast alike.”

The insights detailed in the 2012 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

Almost 43 million Americans went camping in 2011 for a total of 534.9 million days. Participation is up from 39.9 million campers and 514.8 million days in 2010.

Almost all age brackets added participants, except the adolescent group.

Camping gained a net of 2.6 million participants from 2010 to 2011, but it has a fairly high churn rate at 16 percent.

Reports from public and private campsites and the Outdoor Industry Association illustrate a general uptick in camping participation.

The Mountain Region has the highest camping participation rate.

Seventy-seven percent of all campers are married or living with a domestic partner.

Eighty-four percent of campers participate in multiple outdoor activities.

Profile of a Camping Trip

Sixty-seven percent of participants camped the most in public campgrounds.

The average camper went on 4.97 camping trips.

Participants traveled a mean of 190.6 miles away from home to camp.

Almost half of all American campers plan their trips at least one month in advance.

Seventy percent of all trips are taken with friends.

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

Buying Behavior

Camping at Hunting Island Island State Park, South Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Hunting Island Island State Park, South Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than half of camping participants are employed, and 29 percent are students.

Battery lighting was the most popular purchase during the past year and was especially popular among older campers.

Most camping purchases are planned at home before taking a camping trip.

Hispanic Campers: A Focused Look

At 5.52 camping trips per year per participant, the average Hispanic participant goes camping more than the average Caucasian participant.

Hispanics bought more camping equipment in the last 12 months than non-Hispanics.

Twenty-three percent of Hispanic campers ages 18 and over tried camping for the first time in 2011.

Future of Camping

Campers are planning an average of 4.33 camping trips next year.

Fathers are the most likely person to take someone camping for the first time.

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

Worth Pondering…

Millions of Americans each year use our national forests to go hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, swimming, horseback riding, and canoeing.
—Ric Keller

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