Newbie Campers On the Rise

In our current economic crisis, more families are ditching the hotel room and learning how to pitch a tent—so make your outdoor reservations now

Being a standard-bearer for any activity is tough. BACKPACKER readers, fans, and staffers love their pastime and are eager, by and large, to spread it. But that means more and more people will use the wild places we love—an inherent paradox, because we go there to get away from people in the first place.

We're all going to need a bit more patience and understanding this summer, because all signs are pointing to a massive influx of camping newbies in our national and state parks, thanks to a crippled economy and painful recession. Surveys say families are increasingly eschewing hotel rooms and beach vacations in favor of family camping trips. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, camping popularity is up 7.4 percent, and "overnight backpacking" (ha) is up a huge 18.5 percent.

Family tent sales are up at REI, and state parks are instituting programs to help show new campers everything from pitching a tent to proper disposal of trash and waste (blue bags for all newbs, I say). Reservations for camping spots in California state parks are up 13 percent over last year, which reflects trends all across the country. If you're heading to an already popular spot, you should consider making reservations now.

And if you run across newbie campers, remember to be a good hiking ambassador—we want our sport to grow, after all, and the more hikers and backpackers there are, the more stewards our wild places will get to ensure their protection. Besides, they're just like us, anyway:

With the economy in a slump, camping seems to be grabbing a new foothold in the travel industry. Once considered by many to be an activity for nerdyfamilies, nature geeks and Boy Scouts, sleeping outside in a tent has become chic -- likely because it is so much cheaper than paying for a hotel room.

Whoah, whoah, whoah—nerdyfamilies? Nature geeks? Boy Scouts? We all know backpackers are so much more than that, and there's nothing wrong with those in the first place.

The next time you hear a jeans-wearing, ice-cooler carrying, Prada-sporting newbie camper calling you a nerd while forgetting to hang their bear bag, you have our full permission to let nature take its course.

—Ted Alvarez

In a slump, camping comes into vogue (CNN)

Image Credit: jr_hull