Friday, July 25, 2014

Outdoor Recreation Participation Report: Camping and Backpacking Continues to Decline

The Outdoor Foundation is reporting that a record number of Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2013, with nearly 50% of all Americans ages six and older taking part in at least one of the 43 outdoor activities, according to the latest Outdoor Recreation Participation Report. That percentage equates to 142.6 million American outdoor participants. Although the number of participants rose, the percentage of participants fell slightly from 49.4% in 2012 to 49.2% in 2013, due to population increase.

Compared to 2012, participation in outdoor activities increased or remained flat among youth and young adults - signaling a positive trend in America's inactivity crisis. The participation rate among children ages six to 12 rose one percentage point to 64%. Participation among young adults ages 18 to 24 also rose one point to 58%, while hard-to-reach adolescents, ages 13 to 17, remained flat at 60%.

Below are a few stats of interest:

* Participation in day hiking remained relatively flat again for the second year in a row. However, the latest figures don't reflect the strong growth in the outdoor pursuit in recent years. Compared to 2006 (the first year of the study), hiking is up 15.1%. Compared to 2010, participation in hiking has increased by 5.8%.

* Though backpacking has seen an increase in the number of participants over each of the last 2 years, the average number of outings per backpacker has dropped off sharply. As a result, backpacking has dropped out of the top 5 favorite outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on the frequency of activity.

* Camping (within a 1/4 mile of a vehicle or home) continues to decline: down 11% when compared to 2011, and down almost 18% since 2006.

* Participation in adventure racing and triathlons saw the largest increases over the past three years. Adventure racing increased by 28%, while off-road triathlons increased by 25% and road triathlons increased by 10%.

In 2013, the top 5 most popular outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on participation rates were:

1. Running, Jogging and Trail Running - 16.2% of adults
2. Fishing - 14.8% of adults
3. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX) - 13.1% of adults
4. Hiking - 11.4% of adults
5. Camping (Car, Backyard and RV) - 10.6% of adults

The top 5 favorite outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on frequency of activity were:

1. Running, Jogging and Trail Running - 81.4 average outings per runner
2. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX) - 51.7 average outings per cyclist
3. Birdwatching - 37.7 average outings per birdwatcher
4. Wildlife Viewing - 25.2 average outings per viewer
5. Hunting - 24.2 average outings per hunter

The report is based on online and household surveys of more than 19,000 Americans ages six and older, and covers 43 different outdoor activities, making it the largest survey of its kind. To download a complete copy of the 2014 Outdoor Recreation Topline Participation Report, visit The Outdoor Foundation website.



John Quillen said...

Of course I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that the NPS is charging exorbitant fees to use public lands and sleep on unimproved ground. I stayed at Sycamore State Park (in the National Forest lands)in California last week and paid $45 per night for a tent site. I'd say that may a little bit to do with a decline in use when tenting nears hotel rates.

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Good grief! Did you get room service with that? Granted, that is probably an extreme example, due to its proximity to one of the most expensive places to live, but you may have a point.

Keep in mind though that hotel rates have also risen in recent years. The analysis that needs to be done is to see if overall hotel rates have risen as much as camping fees across the country, and then see how the occupancy rates have been impacted. Also, are those rate increases in line with inflation?

I believe that the real reason is that people would rather have a comfortable bed, and their Iphones....

John Quillen said...

You may be right. Folks do like their plugged in abilities. One recent report showed that Millenial generationers eschew the outdoors because of a lack of immediate connectivity and an ability to instantly upload photos to social media.
However, I find it a little more than coincidental that since the NPS instituted the backcountry fee in the Smokies, backcountry camping declined almost %30 in the very first year.

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

For the record, it was actually down 25.4% versus 2012. When compared to 2011 it was down 30.4%. I mentioned several caveats in a posting back in January as to why those numbers may have been down LY:

However, to support your position, backcountry camping figures are again suppressed when compared to 2011 and 2012 (or even since 2000). I just checked the NPS website, and so far, thru June, backcountry camping is up only 4% when compared to the same time period LY. If there isn't a rebound over the last 6 months of this year, 2014 will still be well below the medium-term average.