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).
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.
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
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.
Life is short and the world is wide.