Camping was steadily growing in popularity prior to 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated its growth as Americans sought safe, outdoor vacations away from crowds. In fact, according to a research report by the Kampgrounds of America (KOA), over 10 million households camped for the first time in 2020, accounting for one-fifth of all camping households. Data from Recreation.gov—a trip planning and reservation portal for U.S. public lands—showed that camping reservations numbered nearly 3.3 million in 2020, up by about one-third from 2019 and by more than two-thirds from five years prior.
The increased popularity of camping has been fueled by a combination of long-term trends and more immediate factors related to the pandemic. Over the past several years, camping trends such as “vanlife” and ”glamping,” as well as the increased availability of wifi and better cell phone service at campgrounds, have helped attract new campers and offered seasoned campers new ways to enjoy the outdoors without completely foregoing modern-day comforts. In particular, Gen Zers and Millennials are camping in greater numbers and account for an increasing share of all campers. In 2015, members of these generations accounted for 34% of all campers according to KOA. By 2020, this number climbed to 48%.