Poll: Is the interest in backpacking and camping really fading?

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  1. #1

    Default Is Backpacking Dying Off ?

    Since many people here are outdoors as often as they can be, this seems like a great place to ask. Have any of you encountered or noticed less and less people out hiking multiple-day trips?

    I was reading an article that said contemporary trends in the outdoors seem to be geared more toward day hikes than week-long excursions. Being in Ohio (though we have some awesome trails and plenty of great parks) I don't believe I could get as accurate of a measure as someone from, oh say, Georgia, California, Arizona, Colorado, or even the whole New England area. There's just too many states or places to name them all. But I doubt many people makes plans to travel here just for the hiking.

    Anecdotal evidence, I know, but it's reinforced by the experts who compile outdoor recreation statistics. Chris Doyle, executive director of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, describes "a well-known trend" in outdoor gear sales, wherein day packs take an increasing share of the pack market while technical overnight packs are a declining percentage of total sales. "The same is true for heavy, extended-trip boots versus light boots," says Doyle. "This is all part of a trend towards 'Done in a day' that reflects consumers' continued interest in outdoor adventures, but they prefer to be in their own bed or another comfortable spot (hotel or lodge) at night."
    Source: https://www.hcn.org/issues/46.12/the...of-backpacking

    I love being outdoors, hiking, exploring, practicing bushcraft skills (that I'm thankful I rarely need), and just getting away from the great neon distraction. I realize that puts me in a minority population for hobbyist, but I have trouble believing that everyone is so caught up in smartphones and creature comforts that less and less people are getting out for anything more than day trips.

    After so many years of humanity trying so hard to avoid the perils of the wild and striving for comfort and security, it's no wonder that vagabonds, tramps, and even basic outdoor enthusiasts have always been at the fringes of society. But could it really be that long-term experiences of the true wonders, challenges, and serenity of the outdoors is actually becoming a fading pastime?

    I really hope not, because as interest wanes, so too does care and concern.

  2. #2

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    No
    Exactly the opposite
    It is rapidly increasing on many desireable long trails
    Here is jmt permit trend
    jmtgraph.png
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 08-13-2015 at 20:10.

  3. #3
    Registered User DavidNH's Avatar
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    short answer, I don't think so. Day hiking certainly involves far more people that does backpacking and it has been ever thus. But more than ever are attempting AT thru hikes and many are doing section hikes. A backpacking vacation is generally far cheaper than the standard stay in hotel or resort vacation. Ill be interested to see what others say on this.

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    Registered User kayak karl's Avatar
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    NO............

    Sent from my SCH-I605 using Tapatalk 2
    I'm so confused, I'm not sure if I lost my horse or found a rope.

  5. #5
    Registered User Walkintom's Avatar
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    It's increasing. I did market research last year and it's a growing market segment.

  6. #6
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    It is decreasing because the pack weights are becoming lighter.

    Ya, interest and participation are increasing.
    In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. - Abraham Lincoln

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    I suggest social media and the interweb is playing a big part.

    Its easier to hear about, learn about, and get the confidence to go and do. Back in the day, if you didnt live near an outdoor oriented area, you wouldnt have a clue as to how to get involved in this kind of thing.

  8. #8
    Registered User mtnkngxt's Avatar
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    I think you're approaching a climax of culture. Some people will continue on with being attached to technology and simple easy life, while others are fighting tooth and nail to revive homesteading, being outdoors, learning trades, and honing their skills and themselves.

    There is such thing as being too connected, and those millennials who really enjoy and pursue a relationship with the outdoors will slowly grow in numbers.

  9. #9
    Wanna-be hiker trash
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    I remember a segment on The Trail Show podcast where they discussed these trends, I believe they said that backpacking in general was seeing a decrease in popularity, however thru hiking and long distance hiking were seeing a surge in participation.

    Quote Originally Posted by g00gle View Post
    and just getting away from the great neon distraction.
    I sure could use a vacation from this three ring circus sideshow.
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    I suggest social media and the interweb is playing a big part.

    Its easier to hear about, learn about, and get the confidence to go and do. Back in the day, if you didnt live near an outdoor oriented area, you wouldnt have a clue as to how to get involved in this kind of thing.
    I think this is a big difference now. I grew up bushcrafting before that was a word. But didn't know anyone who ever backpacked. I always wanted to but rural Mississippi in the 80's was not a backpacking center.

    Thru hiking has some appeal because you complete something big. But trudging through the woods for a few days isn't as romantic.

  11. #11

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    It's more complex.
    National Parks are showing a decrease in visitation (except for foreigners, who sometimes seem to be the main users). And the demographics of nature users is skewed towards older people. So there is something going on here.

    Certain générations don't see much to gain getting too far from their computer, their device, and their couch.

  12. #12
    Garlic
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    I just got back from two weeks on the CT and it's pretty crowded (in a good way) out there, with people of all ages. I saw several younger groups on the new Collegiate Loop, which, by the way, I'd recommend for anyone.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  13. #13

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    I have done many backpacking trips and saw no one. In Feb 2006 I pulled a 15 day trip and saw no one. Last year I pulled a 24 day trip and saw no one for 23 of the 24 days. The reason? It's because I mostly backpack in the mountains of East TN. A huge percentage of the population here hates cold weather so they don't come out in winter. They hate a heatwave so they won't be out in summer. They hate rainy weather so won't start a trip in the rain. They certainly seem to hate climbing tough hills with any amt of weight on their backs. They may even hate the natural colors of green and brown.

    So I'm left with a wide area of backpackaging on a solo basis with no human interruptions. Plus, they are fixated and enamored with devices and electricity; and drool over the smell of gasoline and become rolling couch potatoes. The greatest percentage of Americans I see (actually hear) are those getting their nature fix while rolling in cars or racing on motorcycles without adequate mufflers.

    40 foot RVs are called "camping" and the predominant way for the average human to see nature around here is in a seated position with the no-calorie pursuit of nature. Ergo the rolling couch potato appellation.

    I wrote this in a 2014 Trip Report---

    "What's amazing is their ability to actually walk the distance from their house to their car! From the front door to the car could be over 30 feet and there's no explaining the gumption, fitness and courage needed to do such a thing. It's like a successful Navy SEAL training evolution and after a couple more house-to-car cycles they'll get the Trident."

  14. #14

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    Tipi, though, I agree with everything you've said here, after reading your words here and on other websites (and gazing at amazing pictures that you post) I really wouldn't expect you actually would encounter too many people out there (short of discovering some lost civilization, which I fully feel you'd be the one to do.) I'm not sure much of anybody treads where you do, lol.

    Please consider that all of the above was typed with a big grin and nothing but the highest admiration, envy, and respect for you. And I've since developed an interest in the BMT because of your posts and pictures. However, I just think you find a way off the beaten path that not many others will ever be able to follow. <<= (Said with utter envy!)

  15. #15
    Registered User misprof's Avatar
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    I have not noticed a downward trend in the number of backpackers. The market research as to the sales of heavy multi-day packs and heavy mountaineering type boots is down, but that maybe because of lighter more compressible gear. For instance, I see more trailer runners than hiking boots out there and I hiked for the past two years with what many consider a day pack.

  16. #16
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    Mags made some posts regarding this topic here. I had some serious questions about details in how the data was accumulated and of arriving at that conclusion. I'm not saying one way or another. I'd just like to know greater details on the data.

  17. #17
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    I really couldn't comment on overall trends. I do know, though, that one major "feeder program" for outdoor living and activities, Girl Scouts, has pretty much walked away from the field in the past 10 years. It's way too depressing to go into here at length, but basically what's been happening is, national leadership had decided that girls don't really enjoy primitive outdoor activities, and that in any event urban families didn't have an interest in pursuing these things, so the program focus has shifted to a much more academic approach. To the extent camping survives at all, we're now supposed to go "glamping" (gag) or dovetail it with STEM activities, as if being out in nature is insufficient all by itself. Put that together with the sell-off of many, many GS properties (sell the camp, spend the money, 10 years down the line... no camp, no money) and the prognosis for ever recovering an outdoor focus is pretty poor.

    I wasn't fortunate to go camping with my family as a kid, and so GS camp was my introduction to the outdoors, and the source of many wonderful memories. I don't think that today's Girl Scouts are finding that same love of nature, sitting inside working on a workbook. I do know there are alternatives for girls now, such as Venturers, but Girl Scouting for sure isn't going to be feeding too many girls into an outdoor lifestyle.

    Jane

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by gsingjane View Post
    I really couldn't comment on overall trends. I do know, though, that one major "feeder program" for outdoor living and activities, Girl Scouts, has pretty much walked away from the field in the past 10 years. It's way too depressing to go into here at length, but basically what's been happening is, national leadership had decided that girls don't really enjoy primitive outdoor activities, and that in any event urban families didn't have an interest in pursuing these things, so the program focus has shifted to a much more academic approach. To the extent camping survives at all, we're now supposed to go "glamping" (gag) or dovetail it with STEM activities, as if being out in nature is insufficient all by itself. Put that together with the sell-off of many, many GS properties (sell the camp, spend the money, 10 years down the line... no camp, no money) and the prognosis for ever recovering an outdoor focus is pretty poor.

    I wasn't fortunate to go camping with my family as a kid, and so GS camp was my introduction to the outdoors, and the source of many wonderful memories. I don't think that today's Girl Scouts are finding that same love of nature, sitting inside working on a workbook. I do know there are alternatives for girls now, such as Venturers, but Girl Scouting for sure isn't going to be feeding too many girls into an outdoor lifestyle.

    Jane
    Well, that's sobering to wake up to this morning. And I'm really sorry to hear about it. How did the word Scout even survive for the organization?

    I don't have a daughter so I never kept up with the state of that organization, but if I did, that's one of the many things I would have wanted to introduce her to. Thankfully, there are girls and women out there (making big names and accomplishments in the outdoors) for young girls to see and aspire to - though, I understand that's hardly the same. Wow... That's just sad (in every sense of the word.)

    I need more coffee.

  19. #19
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    As I see it, it is evolving back to what it once was and increasing in this new way, not decreasing. Old style backpacking going down, new style (which really is the old old style) going way up.

    There is a wonderful convergence happening with technology, people (society) and nature, this was our ancient and sacred connection with Mother Earth that is being reformed and reintroduced. We didn't live isolated from nature, or each other, we were part of both and our technology (tools and toys) we had with us.

    The old backpacking trend has historically been for people to come into nature to get away from society and this form of escape from society and technology and has been handed down generation to generation through hiking clubs and others who ventured out. For many decades this was the main intro one had to nature.
    The number has been proportionally very low and recently the hiking clubs failed reaching the next generation. Thus the old way is losing numbers, but for people who need to escape this style will never die out, there will always be those people who chose this type of experience, just it will no longer be the norm.

    The new trend is that society is coming back into nature in huge numbers, not to escape life, but to live with it, to include nature as part of their normal lives, as we also include technology as part of our normal lives, and to have them blend synergisticly. The internet and the convergence of technology (smartphone), and much lighter and more comfortable hiking and backpacking gear has opened up the wilds for the 'children of the earth' (all of us) to come and play and they are coming, and mother nature welcomes her children back.

    The greater use of the internet and social media, along with the growth of interest in books and movies will hit a critical mass, if it has not already, where this trend will be self sustaining, the draw of people to nature will be the shear numbers of people already drawn, and sharing their experiences and lives with others.

    With the different type of experience sought between the new and old groups, a different style of backpacking is to be expected. Backpacking may involve more travel through towns along the way, not seek out places of solitude but where they can find like minded people at powerful places of great beauty.
    Last edited by Starchild; 08-14-2015 at 07:40.

  20. #20
    Registered User Majortrauma's Avatar
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    If what I saw in Dolly Sods and SNP the past month is any indication backpacking is not dieing off. Lots of backpackers, not day hikers.

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