The switch to more domestic travel since last year’s Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which has benefited the RV industry, also has helped the tent camping business, according to industry sources.
“I think everybody in the industry on the camping side would say (business is) way up,” said Southern California tent manufacturer Jeff Basford, president of Paha Que’ Wilderness Inc., of Poway, which provides tent products for backpackers as well as family campers.
“Tent camping is up,” agrees Dave Peri, a board member of the Colorado Campground and Lodge Owners Association (CCOA) in Denver. Peri bases his comments not only on recent discussions with other campground owners, but on his own experience as president of Chief Hosa Lodge and Campground, near Golden, Colo.
The pine-covered campground, located on I-70 about 20 miles west of Denver, has 48 tent sites in addition to 53 RV sites.
“We’ve seen people come up with equipment they hadn’t used in 10 years,” Peri said. In fact, this past winter was the first time since Peri joined Chief Hosa two years ago that he saw people pitching tents at the 7,700-foot high campground during the winter months.
Last winter, he said, “There was not a single week – including when it was 20 below with snow on the ground – that we didn’t have at least one tent camper staying at least once during the week.
“If you would have told me two years ago that we’d have people tent camping in January and February,” Peri added, “I would have stuck a thermometer in your mouth and checked for a fever.
“I think 9/11 did shake people up a bit and have them look at their lives and revalue their relationships,” he continued. “It also made people get out and experience the world a little more, to get out of their air-conditioned cubicles and experience nature. It’s like, in a primal way, people want to get out and experience the world directly.”
Between Christmas and New Year’s, Peri said, the campground had eight different tenting groups camping out in the snow. “The majority of them were young families or couples with kids and just wanted the experience,” he told Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM). “They wanted to have family time together.”
Meanwhile, O’Connell’s Yogi Bear Jellystone Park in Amboy, Ill., a 653-site campground dotted with oak, cottonwood and hickory trees about 90 miles west of Chicago, also saw increased interest in tent camping this past summer, which followed an unusually wet spring in the Midwest.
“I see tenting becoming more popular,” says owner Dan O’Connell, adding that he expects tenters to account for about half of his business this year. “I think everybody is kind of taking a look at what they’re doing with their lives,” he said.