The clash of tribes: RVers vs. hardcore outdoors people


RVs have always come in all shapes and sizes, in styles from bare-bones to luxuriant, and more and more “hardcore” outdoors people are using them as mobile basecamps from which to launch their adventures.

As vanlife and overlanding surge, serving an overlapping consumer has brought the paper-thin line between outdoor and RV industries into increasingly similar territory, reports

According to Frank Hugelmeyer, the outdoor industry has an elitism problem. The president of the RV Industry Association – and former CEO of Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) – believes that both groups need to relax how they define themselves because the outdoor and RV worlds are much closer than brands and retailers are willing to believe.

These fissures are divisive, however, and many of these disciplines have grown closer together in recent years as we all realize that we’re fighting for and supporting the same things. But one category of outdoor adventure remains isolated: RVing.

“RVing was always viewed as something that’s not hardcore enough,” said Hugelmeyer. In reality, the outdoor industry is a pretty exclusive club. To join, you’ll have to adhere to a certain human-powered ethic, which makes it easy for the backpacker to scoff at the RV camper, or at least to see the differences between the two worlds as more than they might actually be. According to Hugelmeyer, in a world like the outdoors, where what you do is so critical to your self-identity, it’s easy to disassociate from the other.

But there is definitely more than one type of outdoor consumer – those types, whether as close as whitewater and sea kayaking or as disparate as the ultralight backpacker and the RV camper, have the same heartbeat. For most, getting outside is the singular goal, with activities changing based on age, season, or weekend. And while some people in the traditional outdoor industry might have a hard time trading in their hiking boots for rugged, off-roading tires, for most consumers, it’s all part of the same thing.

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Tony King
2 years ago

I built Freeway Bridges working outdoors in all kinds of weather year round for 37 years. When people tried to tell that having a Motorhome wasn’t Camping, I told them I work in the dirt all year so I don’t Camp in the Dirt. If you work in a office cubicle all year and feel you need to Camp in the Dirt then by all means do it. We Camp without any hook ups almost 100% of the time in So Cal. Parking side by side by side in full hook up parks is just that…you are just Parking. Using your RV anywhere without any hook ups is Camping in my book.
But hey bottom line is do what you like !

Nancy Hamrick
2 years ago

This article is right on the mark!
I have always considered camping as “in tents.”
However, as I get older and wiser, comfort is becoming more and more of a priority, even as the pull of nature becomes stronger and stronger. Considering a compromise of one in order to maintain the other may be the best option.

Kevin Coughlin
2 years ago

Sounds like the “front country” and “backcountry” groups have a failure to communicate. We use our rig to get closer to the backcountry then strap on the boots and pack to enjoy the backcountry. These are truly complimentary industries. We all want the same thing to preserve the opportunity to enjoy this great country one campsite and trail at a time.

2 years ago

Huh … ?? I’ve read this three times and all I see is a bunch of gobbledegook … it’s the same but it’s not, it’s close but it’s not, each side knows the other, but doesn’t, the industries are the same, but they aren’t …

Whatever you’re smokin’ there … it must be good stuff …