It might be in RVs, campers or back yards, but kids are camping. That’s the findings be the new 2010 Special Report on Camping released by The Outdoor Foundation and The Coleman Company, which included some encouraging news on the youth participation front.
The study is based on 40,141 online interviews in a nationwide sampling of individuals and households. A total of 15,067 individual and 25,074 household surveys were completed. The surveys focused on participation in backyard and car camping, which is defined as camping within a quarter mile of a vehicle or home. It also focused on participation in RV camping.
The report shows participation rates for backyard, car and RV camping among 6- to 12-year-olds rose to 25.2 percent in 2009 from 23.2 percent in 2008. That was the highest growth in participation rates shown for any age group. Participation for 13 to 17 year olds, by contrast, dipped to 20.1 percent from 20.4 percent. The rise in participation of younger children helped hold the median age for all participants at 33 after three consecutive years of back-to-back increases. Median age had crept from 29 in 2006 to 30 in 2007 and 33 in 2008.
The report said that 8.2 percent of respondents who participated in camping last year did so for the first time. The median age of this group was 25. The most encouraging statistic may be that 25.8 percent of new campers were “ethnically diverse” compared to just 14.1 percent for all campers. The higher level of participation of minorities is encouraging given the industry’s concerns over the lack of people of color in outdoor participation.
Among minority participants, Hispanics remained the largest segment at 5.7 percent, while Asian/Pacific Islanders accounted for 3.1 percent, African American/Blacks 2.9 percent and other 2.5 percent.
The study showed youth’s perception of the outdoors waivers significantly as they age. Among kids ages 6 to 12, 16.7 percent agreed that “outdoor activities are difficult and/or scary.” That percentage dropped to 9.1 percent for kids in the 13- to 17-year-old range before jumping back up to 17.3 percent for young adults aged 18 to 24.
While the study does not provide an ethnic breakdown of those attitudes, separate research released in May by the Children and Nature Network (C&NN) indicates that minorities rate nature experiences for their children at a lower level than Caucasian/White Americans. “African Americans were notably lower in their agreement about the value of nature experiences for supporting cognitive/emotional development and were also distinctly concerned with their children’s safety,” reads the report.
American Indian/First Nations peoples, by contrast, tend to support these concepts more strongly than all of the other ethnic groups. It appears, however, that fear of allowing children to play in the outdoors cuts across ethnic boundaries and even outdoor experience. Even among adults who played as children in wooded areas, near creeks and streams, or mountains and wild places, only 62 percent said they would allow their children the same opportunities today. Those living in urban areas were clearly more inclined to perceive dangers than those living in smaller towns and rural areas, perhaps reflecting a general concern over public safety in more urban environments.
Still, adults with children in their households were still significantly more likely to camp in 2009, according to The Outdoor Foundation report. The report found 18.4 percent of adults with children ages 1 to 17 in their households participated in camping compared to 11.7 percent of adults with no children in the household. Predictably, participation rates were highest among families with kids aged 6 to 12.
Regardless, it’s clear that outdoor brands, their reps and dealers still have lots of work to do educating the public about the real risks and dangers posed by outdoor recreation.