BOULDER, Colo. — Today, the Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), is releasing early topline data from its forthcoming Outdoor Participation Report. These topline findings, as well as the full report, which will be available in early summer of this year, include much-anticipated insights about how and how much Americans engaged in outdoor activities throughout 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Early numbers support what the outdoor industry was experiencing and reporting anecdotally: Americans found respite and solace from pandemic restrictions by increasing their time outdoors, participating in activities such as trail running, hiking, camping, fishing and biking. A few of the notable highlights include:

  • Camping participation grew 28 percent with 7.9 million additional participants in 2020
  • 8.1 million more Americans hiked in 2020 versus 2019, as the participation rate grew 16.3 percent
  • Freshwater fishing added 3.4 million participants in 2020, a gain of 8.6 percent

Encouragingly, the data also indicate an overall decline in reported inactivity for most age groups and income levels as well as a continued significant uptick in total outdoor participation to 52.9 percent, up from 50.5 percent in 2018 and 50.7 percent in 2019.

“These topline figures and the forthcoming full report build on more than 10 years of tracking outdoor participation trends and help the Foundation understand both motivations for and barriers to outdoor participation,” says Outdoor Foundation Managing Director Stephanie Maez. “In particular, we use the data from this annual study to identify barriers that keep Americans from going outside and to break down those barriers through supporting strategic community-based Thrive Outside programs.

“The 2.2 percent jump in total participation over the past year is the largest annual increase we’ve seen since we began tracking the numbers, and it translates to many millions of additional participants who discovered the outdoors in 2020. Given the unique and unprecedented events of 2020, members of OIA are already asking what they can do to ensure the above numbers aren’t merely a short-term blip and to sustain the increase over time.”

“OIA and its member companies track trends and gaps in outdoor recreation and use this data to drive positive growth in the outdoor recreation economy and help get all Americans thriving outside. We do that through a two-pronged approach that includes the Foundation’s community-based initiatives and our recreation and conservation policy work, ” says OIA Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug. “Our member companies want to know how they can shift their own business operations to provide more outdoor opportunities to more people and create more outdoor stewards.”

To that end and in response to its members’ requests, Outdoor Industry Association commissioned a one-time special report from research partner NAXION to answer four timely questions:

  • Who are the new outdoor participants who discovered the outdoors for the first time during the pandemic?
  • What barriers that previously prevented them from going outdoors came down in 2020?
  • How likely are they to continue participating in the outdoors after the pandemic?
  • What can the outdoor industry do to retain the new participants?

OIA and NAXION will release the Special Report: The New Outdoor Participant (COVID and Beyond) in March. The trade association anticipates the special report, in combination with the full Outdoor Foundation 2021 Participation Report, will provide an unprecedented resource for outdoor companies, outdoor-reliant communities and outdoor stakeholders.


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