Americans went tent camping in greater numbers last year than ever before, and LGBTQ+ folks were leading the way to the great outdoors.
That’s according to the annual North American Camping Report from Kampgrounds of America. KOA is a leading provider of developed campgrounds, with over 500 locations across North America. The report found a greater diversity of campers last year than ever before, including gender and ethnicity, and found that the global pandemic was a driving force among first-time campers, especially those with children.
More LGBTQ+ households, especially those with children, reported going camping last year than any year prior. According to KOA, 12 percent of responding same-sex households took a camping trip last year, up from 10 percent in 2019. Of those households, a whopping 61 percent went camping with children, compared to only 54 percent of other households. Most of these LGBTQ+ campers cited their love of the great outdoors as their reason for camping.
Many LGBTQ+ campers in 2020 either weren't up for traditional camping and were looking for camping-lite, or were hoping for a new experience: 33 percent of LGBTQ+ campers said they had tried glamping. The luxury form of camping allows folks to experience tent camping but with all the creature comforts and amenities of a luxury hotel.
“I truly believe that there is no better activity for bringing people together than being outside and camping, that’s the whole mission,” KOA CEO Toby O’Rourke told LGBTQ Nation, adding “We want to actively work to make sure everyone is welcome in the outdoors.”
The pandemic actually opened the door for many first time campers. One key factor for all campers was the newfound ability to work or attend school remotely, with over a third saying citing those factors as playing a role in their decision to camp more in 2020. Unsurprisingly, then, access to WiFi was either somewhat or very important to 58 percent of all couples camping with children. (Plus, you need something to distract the kids when they are bored in a tent.) But the KOA report also found that not everyone wanted to stay connected while camping. In fact, 57 percent of queer and straight campers responded that they sometimes or always used camping to “digitally detox.”
There was also greater diversity among first-time campers last year, too, with only 4 out of 10 campers identifying as white. Nearly a quarter of first-time campers were Black (24 percent), 15 percent were Latinx, and 14 percent were Asian or Pacific Islanders.
Overall, the report found that 48.1 million went camping last year. That’s up from just under 42 million in 2019. Of those campers last year, 10.1 million went camping for the first time. And of those who did go camping last year, nearly half did so at least three or more times. Hiking and fishing were the most popular activities for campers last year.
KOA expects the popularity of camping to increase next year as well, good news for LGBTQ+ folks looking to connect with family and friends in the great outdoors.