How Camping Benefits Everyone

From protecting health to boosting local economies, camping is the best form of travel right now.

backcountry camping in Algonquin Park
A backcountry campsite in Algonquin Park, Canada.

K Martinko

Earlier this year, I wrote an article that suggested we might be on the verge of camping's golden age. As the world emerged from lockdown, eager to get outside and see new places, camping was one of the few activities that felt safe. Well-ventilated, equipped with one's own camping gear, and with plenty of place to roam outdoors, it seemed like an ideal travel arrangement.

Based on anecdotal evidence and personal observations conducted throughout the summer and fall, my prediction appears accurate. I heard from numerous people who went camping for the first time this year, and who loved it so much they're planning to go again next year. Members of my immediate household took four separate camping trips between July and October, because why not? There's not much else to do.

Needing an official opinion, however, Treehugger followed up with Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, an outdoor accommodation website that has thousands of campground listings in North America, South America, and Europe. Yates agreed that it's been a remarkably busy season. He told Treehugger over email:

"Since restrictions began to ease in early summer, Pitchup.com has witnessed record-breaking bookings and website traffic as outdoor accommodation became this year’s go-to socially-distanced vacation option. [The site] soared to its highest ever daily booking figure this July with over 6,500 individual bookings and 1.4 million page views in a single day – an increase of 96% from the same day in 2019."

Campgrounds offer visitors a much-needed nature fix, while maintaining a comfortable distance from neighboring sites. Because all that's needed is a plot of land, many campgrounds have been able to expand rapidly to meet demand; by contrast, hotels and resorts have had to implement social distancing measures that reduce the number of clients they can serve.

Sales of camping gear have also been way up, which suggests that people will be more inclined to go on additional camping trips in years to come, making the most of their investment. Yates said this is already reflected in current bookings: "Beyond this year, bookings suggest that outdoor travel and camping will continue to gain traction in 2021. We have seen a 284% increase in bookings for next year compared to bookings made for 2020 by this time last year."

Furthermore, for travelers concerned about environmental impact and wanting to keep travel dollars within a local community, camping is an excellent choice. Local economies see a bigger boost from campers than they do from hotel- or resort-goers because the visitors must source more of their needs from individual businesses, rather than the hotel or resort itself. Yates weighed in on this:

"The surge in camping brings much-needed tourism revenue to small rural businesses hit hard by the crisis, helping to underpin the viability of local facilities (stores, bars, restaurants, etc.) for the benefit of the whole community. It is estimated that campers spend $47-61 each offsite per day. The majority of campgrounds are independent and locally owned themselves, meaning that travelers’ money goes directly to the community they are visiting."

So, perhaps you can think of your camping trip as helping to repair COVID-induced damages, in addition to keeping you healthy and safe! It sounds like a great reason to pull out the calendar and figure out when your next camping trip will be – because, at this rate, you'll want to book it soon.