While much of the focus on campground accommodations has, for the most part, been geared toward rental units, such as yurts, cabins, park model RVs and even more unique options like Conestoga wagons and tipis, tent camping is still drawing in campers, according to many owners WOODALLSCM.com (WCM) has spoken with.
According to the 2019 North American Camping Report, which is commissioned by Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), 60% of all campers report that they are tent campers.
Still, a struggle exists for some owners as they look to maximize their land and incorporate more rental units and RV sites that tend to bring in more revenue.
“Owners struggle with tent camping because it’s often not the best economic use of the land that they’ve got,” said Mike Gast, KOA’s vice president of communication.
Some park owners also note that tent campers tend to be difficult guests.
“Some say, ‘They are my highest impact customers, the rowdy ones,’” Gast said, adding, “The true backpacker tent campers don’t come to commercial campgrounds until they have kids.”
However, some park owners note that tent campers tend to spend more at their parks, because with all of the gear required for tent camping space is limited in their vehicles and they pack less.
“We find that we get higher auxiliary sales at our campstore from tent campers,” noted Kitty Winship, who owns Papoose Pond Resort and Campground in Waterford, Maine. “They buy more ice and wood, and they also will purchase more at our restaurant and food vendors because they are packing less.”
Winship offers different types of tent sites — from basic with no electricity or water hookups — to sites that have an attached outdoor kitchenette and bathroom.
“Our ‘Kitchen-n-Bath’ sites offer a shelter with a picnic table, sink (with hot and cold running water), and a four-burner stove,” she noted. “Then on the back of that shelter is a small building with a full-size bathroom that’s private on the camper’s site. That way when they are tent camping, they have their own private, fully functioning bathroom with plumbing.”
Winship explained that her tent sites cater to new, younger campers and even to some older campers who still like to tent camp.
“We have never really been tempted to eliminate those sites, our park was originally designed with those types of campers in mind,” she said. “I think that there is a good population of the camping sector that really likes to get back to nature and tent camping is how you do that.”
At Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in Santa Claus, Ind., which is owned by Southfield, Mich.-based Sun Communities Inc., Dave Lovell, regional marketing manager, said that the park has seen an increase in demand for its 40 tent sites as more people have become interested in camping.
“Our tent campers are usually people who are starting out and down the road they are likely to move into an RV,” he explained. “It makes sense to offer the tent camping to get people introduced to camping at our park.”
Lovell said that the park offers water and electric at every tent site.
“They want the electricity and water access, it really is a big deal,” he noted. “Electricity mainly just because of smartphones, laptops and all of the electronic devices campers are bringing.”
Clint Bell, whose family owns and operates seven KOA campgrounds in California, Arizona and Missouri, said the affordability of tents makes it possible for young families or friends to experience camping together without making a significant investment.
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— Story provided by Jeff Crider to Woodalls Campground Management.