Online Demand for Camping and Outdoor Gear Remains Well Above Pre-Pandemic Levels

The Memorial Day long weekend, observed the last Monday of May, makes it a perfect time to kick off the annual “outdoors” season with a backyard cookout, attend a memorial parade or war memorial, or to hit the road for the first big camping trip of the year.

Since we’re data fanatics and love uncovering new ecommerce trends, we thought the lead up to Memorial Day would be a perfect time to take a closer look at online demand for outdoor and camping equipment changed throughout the pandemic. Specifically, we wanted to find out:

  • When do people shop online for outdoor and camping gear?
  • After spending spring in lockdown, did more Americans turn to the great outdoors in the first year of the pandemic?
  • Which camping supplies saw a surge in demand in 2021, and which didn’t?
  • What are the trends heading into summer 2022?

To find the answers to these questions, our data science team analyzed market demand for outdoor and camping gear on Amazon over the past three years. A few of our key findings:

  • Demand for outdoor and camping supplies is highest during spring and early summer
  • COVID-19 had a huge impact on demand for outdoor and camping gear, but that demand has shifted as the pandemic has lingered
  • “Emergency supply” gear saw extreme surges in demand in Spring 2020
    • Freeze-dried food demand increased by 303% year over year in March and April 2020 vs 2019
  • Demand for traditional camping gear hit all-time highs in 2021
  • 2022 has seen demand stay well above pre-pandemic levels but dip behind 2021’s highs, except for certain types of backpacking gear

Let’s dig into the data.

2021 Camping and Outdoor Equipment Demand

Before diving deeper into the data to understand COVID-19’s impact, let’s take a quick look at 2021 to see when market demand was at its highest and lowest throughout the year.

Weekly demand for outdoor and camping supplies looks just about how you’d expect. It climbs steadily throughout the first half of the year, peaking just after Memorial Day through the week of June 13. Then it steadily drops before receiving a mild end of the year boost driven by the holiday shopping season.

But there’s no question that the past couple of years have seen Americans change the way they vacation and recreate thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, so let’s compare demand over the past few years:

In 2020 we see a clear impact during the early months of lockdown. Demand dipped in April 2020, as Americans were sheltering in place. It recovered quickly, though, surging ahead of 2019’s levels in May and staying there for the rest of the year.

2021 saw demand reach all-time highs, suggesting that even in year 2 of the pandemic, with more travel options at their disposal, many Americans clearly opted for open spaces and more rugged adventures for their summer vacations.

Demand has remained high in 2022, matching 2021’s levels in the first few months of the year– a trend to keep an eye on as we enter the summer surge.

To even better understand how COVID-19 impacted demand for camping and outdoor equipment, let’s dive deeper into the data by examining demand for specific types of camping gear.

Demand for Top Camping and Outdoor Gear

The charts above were a combined view of over 80 different types of camping and outdoor equipment. Here’s a breakdown of total demand for the top 30 specific types of equipment in 2021:

This gives us a good idea as to which types of categories see a lot of demand, and quickly shed even more light on how COVID-19 has impacted the outdoor industry.

Let’s start this time with the first year of the pandemic by comparing total demand for each category in 2020 to total demand in 2019. Here’s what we found, starting with the top 20 categories by largest increase in demand and the bottom 20 by largest decreases in demand:

It’s pretty clear that there was a certain “survivalist” element driving a significant portion of the demand for outdoor and camping gear during the first year of the pandemic.

Freeze-dried food saw demand more than double than in 2019. Camping showers saw the next largest increase, while teen and young adult camping & outdoor activities saw the third largest increase suggesting a lot of families were looking for new ways to vacation.

Other emergency essentials like fire starters, chemical water treaters, and purifiers, also saw healthy year-over-year increases.

The categories that saw a drop in demand included more standard camping fare like water flasks, pillows, sleeping bags, and maps.

For an even clearer indication of this trend, let’s examine March and April of 2020 specifically. As you recall in the previous section, combined demand dipped compared to 2019. Here are the top categories where that wasn’t the case:

Year over year, there is an even more pronounced surge in demand for “emergency” outdoor equipment. Demand for freeze-dried food was up an astonishing 303% in March and April 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.

Outdoor activities for teenagers and young adults saw demand surge by over 220%, but the rest of the top performing categories primarily consisted of water treatment, storage supplies, and other emergency supplies.

Traditional camping supplies, meanwhile, saw demand drop significantly during those first couple of months:

Pandemic Year 2: Traditional Camping Gear Demand Bounced Back Big

We’ve already seen clear evidence that outdoor and camping gear was more popular than ever last year, but let’s see which categories benefited the most.

People were far more interested in being adventurous during the colder months in 2021 than in 2020, as hand warmers and foot warmers saw the biggest year-over-year increases.

From there we see that while 2020 was the year of “emergency” camping supplies, 2021 saw a lot more people simply wanting to get out and spend their vacations simply camping. Demand for cooler accessories, fuel bottles, pads, chairs, and all the classic camping gear saw the biggest year-over-year boosts.

The largest drop in demand was teen and young adult activities, which, in 2020, had received a particularly large early-pandemic boost.

Other emergency items like freeze-dried food, fire starters, and purifiers, also all saw demand drop.

However, when we take a long term view at some of those terms, we can see that 2021 wasn’t necessarily a “down” year for those items, 2020 was just that big.

Freeze-dried food had greater demand for most months in 2021, it’s just that the early months of the pandemic brought demand to extreme heights.

Interestingly, 2022 has seen demand for freeze-dried food outpacing 2021 so far. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular outdoor and camping categories to see if we can forecast what kind of camping year 2022 is shaping up to be.

As Americans started hitting the road again after a socially distant year, tents and shelters had a huge summer in 2020 and an even bigger spring and summer in 2021. 2022 has seen demand trail slightly behind 2021’s highs, but it’s still well ahead of 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

It’s a similar story when we examine demand for camping furniture. Spring 2021 was absolutely huge, and spring 2022 suggests demand is still quite high.

2022 Outdoor and Camping Gear Demand

So, which types of outdoor and camping gear are doing particularly well so far in 2022? Here are the categories that have seen demand go up in spring of 2022 compared to 2021:

Foot warmers saw demand leap by 81% in March and April of 2022 compared to the same months last year. Water treatment and storage have also all started this year quite strong, as have sleeping bag stuff sacks, bivy sacks, and camping soap and shampoo.

Camping and outdoor gear is popular year round, but our data shows that COVID-19 has had a much larger impact on some types of gear. There is early evidence that while 2021 was the year of traditional camping, 2022 might be a particularly big year for long backpacking trips and more adventurous outings.

It’s definitely something we’ll keep an eye on this Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer.

A Takeaway for Brands

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design, bundle offerings, and marketing strategy.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, we’d love to get in touch.

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