When you hear the term millennials, camping probably isn't the first word that comes to mind. But a recent report suggests more millennials are putting down their phones and exploring nature, shattering the stereotypes many have of young people.
Research shows 44 percent of all new campers last year were millennials. Valerie Adolf, a camper from Lancaster, says technology is not how the generation should be defined.
“I think it’s extremely important to break down the stereotype because it’s not speaking to truth for a lot of the people in our generation,” said Adolf.
Gage Clegg, a millennial hiker from Lynchburg, Virginia, who recently went on a 135-mile expedition of the Lake Placid Trail in the Adirondacks, says camping helps give him peace of mind.
“Talking from my own experience, it’s almost like trying to achieve a balance that you haven’t been able to, because you’re surrounded by society and you’re interacting with people constantly and then you have to go to the opposite extreme when you go camping,” Clegg said.
Toby O’Rourke, Chief Franchise Operations Officer for Kampgrounds of America, says camping reduces stress, a key reason young adults are getting outdoors.
Phone or no phone?
Many parks across the country have started to adapt to millennials, recognizing that they are the future of camping. According to O’Rourke, almost every KOA campsite has free Wi-Fi available in hopes of luring young vacationers.
“The reality of Wi-Fi is not going away and more and more campgrounds are adapting to meet those needs of the consumer,” said O'Rourke.
Does this generation really want Wi-Fi as part of its outdoor endeavors? Adolf believes campers should leave their phones at home.
“It’s meant to be connecting with your environment not connecting with the internet,” she said.
To Clegg, it’s all about the experience of getting back to nature.
“Call it subliminal, call it what you want, but I think that there’s just this strong urge to get out into nature and it’s indescribable when you go out there. It’s something that fulfills you in a way that the American dream or success really can’t,” said Clegg.
An affordable vacation
Experts say millennials are more likely to go camping and avoid typical vacation destinations. O’Rourke says camping makes economic sense for many millennials.
“It’s a very nice, affordable option for a vacation.”
Some millennials face financial challenges and O’Rourke says that affects the way they vacation. You don’t have to spend a lot to become what some call a "tenter."
“As they become more comfortable with camping and gain more purchasing power, they might be buying RVs and that’s a large part of our segment. We definitely see our RVers tend to be our older campers,” O'Rourke said.
“Every person in my parents’ generation prefers to stay in a cabin with some sort of electricity and bathroom and water or in a camper with electricity and running water, where I, and many of my friends, are more capable of spending time in nothing but a tent with no running water and no electricity,” added Valerie Adolf.
Glamour camping, also known as "glamping," involves camping with many of the luxuries of home. But many camping diehards think glamping is cheating.
“It’s to avoid all of that, to put yourself out there in nature and be surrounded by less technology and less interaction with social media and things like that,” said Clegg.
This generation is also traveling more than any other generation. According to Expedia, young explorers travel about 25 percent more than older generations.
Millennials may have grown up connected with technology, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that many are also highly interested in connecting with nature.