Tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation

Nearly half of all Americans over the age of six, or 48.8% of the US population, participated in outdoor recreation at least once in 2016. That equates to a total of 144.4 million people – two million more people than participated in 2015.

The “leaky bucket” analysis shows why outdoor participation increased from 2015 to 2016. While 10.6 million Americans returned to or started participating in one or more of the outdoor activities measured, 8.6 million stopped. That equates to a net gain of 2 million total participants and a churn rate of 6%.


Looking at overall trends in fishing participation with data and analysis on specific fishing categories

Fishing participation was on the rise in 2016, increasing by 1.8%, or by 1.5 million participants, since the year before and reaching the highest participation rate since 2012. Indeed, in 2016, 47.2 million Americans, or 15.9% of the population ages 6 and up, participated in fishing at least once during the calendar year.

The “leaky bucket” analysis shows a net gain in fishing participants. There were more new/ returning participants (6.1 million people) than were lost (4.6 million people), contributing to a 1.5 million person increase in fishing participation from 2015 to 2016. The churn rate was only 10.2%, versus 14.2% in 2015.



Providing a snapshot of American participation in outdoor activities

In 2016, nearly half of all Americans — 48.6% — reported participating in at least one outdoor activity. That equates to 144 million participants, who went on a total of 11 billion outdoor outings. The participation rate and number of participants slightly increased, while the number of total outings decreased. The decline in outings was a result of the decline in core participation. In other words, in 2016, Americans participated in outdoor activities, such as traditional and non-traditional triathlons, mountain and road biking, boardsailing and others, less often than they did the year before.


Examining camping trends throughout the United States

Forty million Americans, or 14 percent of the population over age six, camped at least once in 2015. While the activity lost 500,000 participants, the participation rate remained steady. In fact, participation in camping has remained steady at 14 percent since 2012. In total, participants camped 587.2 million days, or an average of 14.7 days per camper. This was an increase from 2014 when campers logged 572.4 million days, or an average of 14.1 days per camper.

As seen in previous reports, the majority of camping participants were Caucasian and skewed slightly male with an average age of 35. While participation was spread fairly evenly across the nation, the Mountain Region – which stretches from Montana down to Arizona and New Mexico – had a slightly higher participation rate than the other regions in the United States.