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Number of Black campers growing, and outdoor industry is taking note

Is camping really everyone’s favorite outdoor activity? Maybe not quite yet when you consider minority groups, specifically Black campers. But it appears we’re making some progress.

KOA (Kampgrounds of America Inc.) celebrated Black History Month in February by releasing research dealing with the prevalence of camping among Black Americans. The data shows continued growth in the number of Black Americans either packing up a tent, renting a cabin, or purchasing an RV. KOA’s 2022 Black Community Camping Snapshot found 8 million Black camping households in the U.S. That’s a marked increase from the 3.1 million Black camping households KOA found the last time they looked in 2017.

In fact, it looks like Black camping has increased 158 percent over the past five years. About 27 percent of those 8 million Black campers gave it their first try in 2021. Despite those numbers, there’s still plenty of room for growth.

By KOA’s own count, Black campers make up only a small percentage of the total 86.1 million camping households in the U.S.

Black campers “weren’t invited” into the outdoors

Earl B. Hunter, Jr.—founder and president of Black Folks Camp Too—says his organization isn’t trying to further segregate the outdoors. There’s already plenty of that, he said.

“There’s probably more (segregation in the outdoors) than in barbershops and churches,” Hunter said about the enjoyment of the outdoors. “What we want is for more Black folks to enjoy the 640 million acres of public land that we pay for. Our job is to educate. We’re not here to twist arms, we’re here to twist hearts.”

Hunter said his job has three parts. He is not only charged with making the outdoors more accessible to Black people by educating them about how to use recreational resources, but his company also works to educate what he calls “the current lifestylers” who are predominately white and use the outdoors regularly. He said current non-Black campers need to understand why Black people haven’t been using parks, trails and public lands.

“We have generational fear,” Hunter said. “My great-grandmother told my grandmother told my mother told me, ‘You don’t belong in those woods.’ The woods were places where lynchings, cross burnings and intimidation took place.” But in addition to that generational trauma, Hunter says there is another reason the outdoor recreation space is so white-dominated: “The industry never invited us.”

That could be changing, too. Hunter and his company recently partnered with Go RVing—the RV Industry Association’s marketing machine—to help RV dealers better market to and reach new Black consumers. KOA, for its part, is telling the stories of Black campers by highlighting two Black recipients in its “Get Out There” Grant Program. You can view the videos about their experiences on KOA’s YouTube channel. KOA has also created ongoing partnerships with more Black influencers and content producers to help put out the welcome mat for Black campers.

Black community camping snapshot

KOA’s research had a few more interesting findings regarding Black campers:

  • 61 percent of Black campers prefer tent camping over other lodging options.
  • 46 percent take more than three camping trips a year.
  • One-third of Black campers plan to purchase an RV in 2022.
  • 60 percent camp with multi-generational groups.

When it comes to Black campers and RVs, KOA’s research found that 48 percent of Black RVers own their own rig. About 35 percent rented their RV from a peer-to-peer service like Outdoorsy, 13 percent rented from a dealership and about 4 percent borrowed an RV from a friend or family member.

Most of these new Black campers are also younger. Only 5 percent of Black campers are Baby Boomers and 4 percent were in the “mature” category. That means 91 percent of these Black campers are 55 years old or less.

Seeing the big picture for Black campers

Hunter says he’s encouraged by recent progress within the camping and RVing industries. KOA’s 2021 North American Camping Report says about 60 percent of new campers are from non-white groups. Hunter says there is still a very long way to go.

He says his for-profit business ­has a big, audacious mission: to change the world.

“We have an opportunity to change the world and we’re going to do that through the outdoors,” he said. “This is not a regional vision or even a state vision—this is a world vision.”

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captain gort
7 months ago

I couldn’t care less about the ethnicity of my fellow campers….as long as we ALL obey the “culture” and courtesies that we have traditionally enjoyed. When that changes, well, first I’ll go camp where such negative impacts are not yet apparent. And when/if THAT is no longer an alternative….my rig will have a “For Sale” sign on it!

David F.
7 months ago

Interesting article. We have fostered Native American kids, and adopted 1 Black kid. We camp, (RV) usually in State Parks in the PNW, and quite often are the only multi whatever family in the park. I think it is great that folks are being encouraged to get out there, and even more so in the minority community.

Cere
7 months ago

We owned an RV park for almost 12 years and every year hosted SEVERAL camping clubs who happened to mostly have black or brown skin. They had been RVing for decades! The owners before us hosted them as well. They knew what they were doing and had a whole lot of fun together. In fact, they often invited our staff to their cookouts! One group we hosted last year was a large motorcycle club. We admit, we were a little wary of having about 80 motorcycles in the park (didn’t care about their skin), but turned out, we enjoyed having them in our park immensely. They had a great time too! My point is – I don’t know why KOA is the official reporter of the skin color of campers, but at least in our park, we hosted hundreds of guests with black or brown skin. It’s not a new thing for them – they aren’t wandering around in awe of the great outdoors as if they’ve never seen it before, as this ‘report’ seems to infer. (ps, we were never ‘polled’ about the color of our guests skin by anyone, ever.)

Aaron
7 months ago

Thank you sharing this informative article.

Verle Emanuelson
7 months ago

So 8 million black households are camping households–that translates into more than 8 million people, say 16 million black campers including spouses and children. There are just over 40 million black people in the United States–a bit over 12% of the population. That means that 40% of the black population are campers.

In 2018, just over 20% of the US population had gone camping in the previous 12 months–that amounts to about 66 million people. The math suggests that blacks as a demographic are camping more than the population as a whole.

The important points are, as others have stated here:

  • We are paying way too much attention to skin color.
  • We shouldn’t care who our neighboring campers are, as long as they are polite.
  • This kind of research and reporting just emphasizes our differences.
  • ALL humans are a lot more alike than they are different.
Bob Weinfurt
7 months ago

People are people. We are all human beings. The only thing that determines whether I like your company or not is your personality. Maybe you don’t like mine. We’re all different but basically the same. Let’s all enjoy what life has to offer. Describing people by gender, nationality, or skin color have no place in RVing.

Last edited 7 months ago by Bob Weinfurt
Dee
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinfurt

Agree 100%. I was shocked to see this article. We are all RVers and skin color does not matter.

VO Reason
7 months ago

I don’t recall getting an invite from the “industry”, I just went out and started enjoying nature. Should the industry’s marketing included black actors; absolutely! I don’t think anyone was told not to RV?
I am glad more people of color are out camping, it is a great country to explore.

Jim
7 months ago

Is this CNN or MSNBC? I thought I was reading RV Travel. Hmmmm…..

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago

Typical article spewing BS. I could care less who camps where. This whole division was on the way out until a certain select group of politician’s ( several years ago) saw the use to rekindle a divide. Well this time they went to far, and the old saying, history repeats itself, is going to bite em in the kister!

We are a diverse nation, and that is out strenth. We are beginning to see what you guys are up to, and we’re not buying it.

Michael Crespo
7 months ago

I believe more minorities camping is a logical indicator of today’s society. This is 2022, not 1960. In my experience, TODAY, the overwhelming majority of white campers are welcoming of anyone who enjoys camping, full stop. If everyone would stop watching cable news they would realize that Americans no longer care about the color of your skin. Disclaimer: Of course racism still exists, but it is not of the proportion of our prior generations like we are led to believe. There are good people and bad people, color doesn’t matter. I believe the majority of Americans are good people.

Vincee
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael Crespo

Mike it’s not just cable news, but mainline outlets such as ABC, NBC, and CBS. And, you are right that the vast majority of us could care less who has the campsite next to us and WE are not the ones counting.
Yes, it is sad that there is a degree of racism in our country (or the world for that matter). But, nothing is ever going to be 100%. Back a couple of decades ago employment used to be considered full employment if the unemployment rate was 5%. To me, that is my view of racism, if 95% or more of us (since pre-pandemic unemployment was down close to 3%) are not racist and we don’t walk around counting color, ethnicity, religion and so forth that’s about as good as one can expect. Except the media of course.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael Crespo

Racism will always exist, CNN not sure about!!!

Vincee
7 months ago

My question is why is KOA even counting black, brown, transgender, or whatever the H… else they are targeting. Why? Can’t we “ALL” just be called CAMPERS, OR RV’ERS? Look I get it when you are marketing your product or service you are looking for segments that are not using your product, service, widget, or whatever. But why the “Hey Look” conversation, which is often the favorite pastime of the national mainstream media.

My goodness, has the national pastime of Identity Politics morphed into our beloved pastime too? If KOA, Encore, Sun Resorts, or any other national chain looking to expand their footprint great for them. Just don’t “Q” us in like it is earth-shaking news.

Robert Kassl
7 months ago
Reply to  Vincee

Vincee you are spot on! When I am out, the only color I look at is the color of their camper!

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Vincee

There’s money in it, otherwise why would they do it. Get over it liberals, that boat is getting ready to depart in 2022/24, and their is NOTHING you can do to stop it. RVers I believe, are a welcoming bunch.

Leslie P
7 months ago

I love this! Our outdoors should always feel inclusive of everyone. We love meeting people from everywhere, and I certainly don’t care what color they are. I’m happy to see someone that understands the black community generational knowledge and are helping to see the differences.

Peter Dube
7 months ago
Reply to  Leslie P

I agree! The point of the article was to inform and enlighten us, not to attack us and I love to see Americans of all ages, genders, race, etc., enjoying our beautiful country.

Bill T
7 months ago

Thanks for posting this article Mike. We have been camping and RV’ing for decades and have seen and met campers from all races and nationalities. I wonder if camping for folks regardless of social demographic has more to do with economics than race. It is not my intention to undermine or make light of this topic but what about reports of RV’ers from other demographics within our society. Earl B. Hunter, Jr and others keep up the good work that you do. The outdoors belongs to all of us, especially those whose taxes help pay for it.

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