The year is 2019, your flight boards at 10:34. Best to be at the airport by about 8:30. You walk into the airport and see facial expressions all around. No one is wearing a mask, no one is getting their temperature taken, people are standing well within 6 feet of each other as they line up for security. Life is good.
Here we sit in early 2021, some of us with just a mere memory of what standard travel used to be. Travel evolves year over year as environmental and economic circumstances change but 2020 was likely one of the greatest shake-ups in travel that we have seen in recent years. As individuals hunker down in their homes – whether by personal choice or government mandate – hopping on a plane to Ibiza is far out of reach for the majority of us. Where can we go to respect the social distancing efforts required by all, yet still feel like we have escaped the monotony of everyday life?
The outdoors may be your answer.
We in Alberta are lucky enough to have incredible landscapes blanket the metaphorical backyards of our cities. The mountains just a hop, skip and a jump away means that travel to the outdoors is a realistic adventure for many Albertans. However, as lockdown became reality (and then became reality again) it felt as though everyone and their dog flocked to the mountains just to getaway. Which again caused the issue of, where do we go?
Studies conducted by Outdoorsy – the world’s largest on-demand marketplace for recreational vehicles (RVs) and campervans – show that people are happier when they spend time outdoors. 94% of respondents noted that spending time outdoors improved their mental health and 78% said they felt enhanced spirituality from being outdoors (1).
It’s no surprise then that the camping industry and travel to the outdoors exploded the way that it did in 2020. In a recent article posted by newswire.ca, Outdoorsy is on track to reach $1B in sales by the end of Q1 2021 (2). As of January 14, 2021, Outdoorsy had more than 3.2M rental days utilized from their platform across the 14 countries they operate in (2).
The demand for RVs hasn’t been the only outdoor industry to skyrocket as people make the outdoors their vacation spot of choice. Camping supplies have seen an unexpected increase as well. The market for camping coolers is expected to rise to more than $1B USD between 2020 and 2026 far higher than what was projected for the 2019-2026 period (3). This increase echoes the sentiment of Outdoorsy’s study, there has been a large increase in the adoption of individuals partaking in outdoor activities (3).
The desire to get outdoors is so strong that frigid winter temperatures are no barrier to the dedicated camping enthusiast. Jennifer Botham, her husband Doug Sloane, along with their two Alaskan malamutes Takoda and Cinder readily head out to the mountains in subzero temperatures for camping and ice fishing. “I think with this pandemic, what it has done … has just kind of brought you back to basics,” says Botham in an interview with CBC (4). Botham’s ideals yet again echo the sentiment that people are yearning to get outdoors. Sloane states that “camping helped him cope with the pressures of the pandemic” (4). It's no surprise then that the demand for winter camping is high. This is in part because of the newfound excitement by many, but also because of limited availability from campgrounds that have closed from COVID-19 restrictions (4). Experienced winter campers warn that this is not an activity to take lightly. “Mistakes can be amplified,” says Dale Kiselyk who operates Nature Alive Adventures 120 km NW of Edmonton (4).
Even with the cold temperatures and increased risk, people are just looking for an escape. A place to go where the first thing they read is not a headline emblazoned with bad news. Will the eventual tropical vacation be replaced by rustic backwoods adventure? That is yet to be seen. What can be said is that people are looking for adventure, even if that simply means a 45-minute drive to the mountains for the day.
(1) Outdoorsy’s Road to Wellness Survey: The Health and Happiness Benefits of RV Travel – Posted July 28, 2020, by Team Outdoorsy https://www.outdoorsy.com/blog/road-to-wellness-report
(2) Camping Cooler Market Share, Trends, Growth, Future Prospects, Forecast 2020 to 2026 | AO Coolers; Bison Coolers; Engel Coolers; Grizzly Coolers; Igloss Coolers. The Courier, posted January 14, 2021, https://www.mccourier.com/camping-cooler-market-share-trends-growth-future-prospects-forecast-2020-to-2026-ao-coolers-bison-coolers-engel-coolers-grizzly-coolers-igloo-coolers/
(3) Outdoorsy on Track to Reach $1B in Sales by End of Q1. Cision Communication Cloud, posted January 14, 2021. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/outdoorsy-on-track-to-reach-1b-in-sales-by-end-of-q1-853646815.html
(4) Albertans rush into the cold as winter camping ‘fever’ takes hold. CBC News, posted January 10, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/albertans-rush-into-the-cold-as-winter-camping-fever-takes-hold-1.5860850
Tags: nature, outdoors, travel, findingbalance, roadtrip, camping