Camping Is Hot Among Millennials, Presenting an Opportunity for Hunting Retailers

More than 1.4 million households started camping for the first time in 2018. Of these people, 56 percent are millennials and 51 percent identify as nonwhite.

Camping Is Hot Among Millennials, Presenting an Opportunity for Hunting Retailers

Photo: Sierra Designs 

In a recent story published by Curbed, an online publication owned by VOX Media, millennials are reportedly embracing the camping culture and quickly becoming a sought-after demographic for manufacturers and retailers. 

An independent 2019 study supported by Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA), shows that, “camping is more popular than ever, fueled by a more diverse, younger (read: millennial) population that wants to get outside and explore in new ways.”

And in case you've forgotten why marketers care so much about millennials, and continue to track their spending habits with such obsessive detail, it's because of the sheer size of this generation. According to Pew Research, millennials are expected to overtake Baby Boomers in population this year as their numbers swell to 73 million and Boomers decline to 72 million. Generation X (ages 36 to 51 in 2016) is projected to pass the Boomers in population by 2028.

Even more, this isn’t the first time millennials have infused new life into traditional pursuits and interests. As Grand View Outdoors reported in a trend piece on young, urban hunters, millennials are responsible in part for pumping revenue into other industries, including their embrace of unlikely products like vinyl records. According to Recording Industry Association of America, shipments of vinyl records increased 52 percent to $222 million in 2015. More recently, vinyl records continue to be a bright spot among physical formats, with revenues up 10 percent to $395 million in 2017. There are other “dead” products of yesteryear, like the tobacco pipe, that have surged back to relevance, thanks to young, mostly urban millennials. In 2014, for the first time in decades, the sales of pipes and pipe tobacco wasn’t down. 

While camping is far from dead, vinyl records and tobacco pipes demonstrate the power of this generation’s spending habits. Curbed suggest social media may have an impact on such surging interests.

“Maybe it’s the allure of Instagram or perhaps it’s just the popularity of the outdoors, but more than 1.4 million households started camping for the first time in 2018,” Curbed reported. “Of these people, 56 percent are millennials and 51 percent identify as nonwhite.”

The 2019 study showed that Hispanic campers represent 11 percent of all camping households, while African American campers now represent 9 percent of camping households. African American campers are also the youngest demographic of campers with 64 percent millennial representation.

So with RV sales surging, what’s the most popular way to camp? According to Curbed’s reporting, tent camping remains king. “Tent camping is still the most popular way that Americans stay overnight in the wild, but the big news has to do with glamping,” says Curbed. “Instead of the hard ground and too-cold sleeping bags, glamping usually includes feather beds, comfy blankets, and yes, sometimes a flushing toilet.”

According to the KOA study, half of all campers surveyed said that they would also like to experience glamping in the coming year, a rate that has more than doubled since 2017. The data also reveals that those new to camping are less likely to stay in tents. Nearly 60 percent of new campers in 2018 preferred cabins, RVs or glamping-type accommodations.

Curbed's reporting and the bump in camping participation could equate to an opportunity for the hunting, fishing and shooting retailers as well, who all have some crossover with the camping-related market share. Dipping into the camping category doesn’t mean going all in and putting campers and RVs on your store lot. But items like these 2-burner cookstoves, backpacks, cast iron cookware, tents (Hunting Retailer recently reviewed four Nemo Equipment Tents reviewed four Nemo Equipment Tents for backcountry hunting), sleeping bags and other camping accessories represent crossover products that allow retailers to test the waters of the camping market. 

And, in light of KOA's 2019 report, stocking such products may give hunting retailers much-needed access to a new, younger customer base. Something that has become exceedingly important as many hunters are aging out of the sport and participation wains. 


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