By now, you’ve likely read a lot of stories regarding the sudden influx of “new campers” into the RVing lifestyle. You also know the usual list of reasons newbies give … pandemic-driven RV purchases, the need to reconnect with family and friends, more available savings … but just who is this “new camper?”
Last week, we reviewed the top-line results from Kampgrounds of America’s annual North American Camping Report. The annual research paper gives one of the best views of what’s going on in camping and RVing, and it’s worth a deeper dive.
Here’s what the report had to say specifically about the new influx of more than 9.1 million families into camping and RVing in 2021:
New campers are …
- More likely to include a majority of non-whites (54%), including 22% Black campers.
- Comprised of a majority of millennial campers (54%).
- Nearly 4-in-10 have a household income of $100,000+.
- Camped more often in 2021 than experienced campers (32% took 3+ trips compared to 23% of experienced campers), spending an average of almost nine nights camping (compared to seven nights among experienced campers).
- More than half (56%) prefer to camp in tents.
- More likely than experienced campers to have listed their RV on a peer-to-peer rental site.
- Nearly half went glamping in 2021 (47%), and the remainder (51%) plan to glamp in 2022, though 57% also want to try RVing.
- More than a third (36%) said that COVID was the impetus for starting to camp.
Keep in mind that not all these new campers referred to in the 2022 North American Camping Report are RVers—yet. But about 57% of new campers said they wanted to try RVing. With nearly 40% of new campers having an income of $100,000 plus, it’s likely they will soon be getting in line to buy that first RV, if they aren’t there already.
The good news (depending on your perspective) is that the number of new campers in 2021 was actually DOWN from the record amount of more than 10.1 million new families in 2020.
Still, you don’t have to search long to find a growing list of longtime RVers who are very frustrated with the competition for sites brought on by the influx of new campers. The 2022 North American Camping Report found that 4-in-10 campers reported having problems with overcrowding in 2021, forcing them to change the way they camped or significantly impacting the pleasure they got from RVing.
A full 48% of those surveyed said a large number of new campers has decreased the quality of their camping experiences, mostly taking away the very reason they RV to begin with. With a total of nearly 94 million households now identifying themselves as campers, and a record 57 million families camping at least once in 2021, I guess dissatisfaction is inevitable.
Well, experienced RVers aren’t alone in their frustration. Ironically, many of the newbies aren’t happy, either.
The report found that about one-fourth of the new camping households (24%) are at risk of not camping again this year. They found at first blush that camping and RVing didn’t live up to their expectations.
This “at-risk” group may not be too surprising when you look at their shared characteristics:
- Half (49%) are under the age of 35.
- First camping experience was not enjoyable and was probably at a campground or other location that did not have a lot of services and amenities and causing the camping experience to fall below their expectations.
- 7-in-10 are single, and much more likely to camp with friends or siblings; they are also more likely to report having issues/problems with their camping group.
- More than half (52%) include non-white campers; 28% among Black campers, 17% among Hispanic campers, 10% among Asian campers, and 11% among other ethnicities.
- More likely to have camped in a small tent (22%) or RV (24%, including 7% who camped in a camping van).
- 7-in-10 RVers who are “at risk” (69%) rented their RV in 2021.
- Only 28% started camping due to a love of the outdoors.
- Being uncomfortable was what they liked least about camping (including 1-in-5 who said they did not have the right gear).
Also interesting was the fact that a large percentage of these new camping families were in the “urban camper” category. That means they live in urban environments and originally sought out camping as a means to escape crowds.
I guess the cruel joke is on them.
You can take a closer look at KOA’s 2022 North American Camping Report by clicking here.