While celebrity-backed wellness trends and high-tech fitness equipment dominate the headlines, simply spending more time outdoors is a low-cost, science-backed, and underrated way to improve well-being.
Call of the wild
Beyond the health benefits, answering the call of the wild fulfills our inherent sense of adventure. Surprisingly, despite the obvious overlap, outdoor recreation has remained largely separate from the broader wellness boom.
But now, younger generations are heading for the hills in record numbers. At the same time, increasing access to the great outdoors has become the mission of tech startups seeking to tap this demand. The result has given rise to a new customer cohort: the casual camper.
Why it matters: Combined, the convergence of wellness, adventure, and technology represents a massive opportunity worth exploring in greater detail.
The Outdoor Opportunity
- In 2018, 78.8M US households camped at least once.
- Consumers in the US spend about $887B annually on outdoor recreation.
- Between 2013 and 2019, investors have poured $722M into outdoor startups.
From retail to beer, millennials have become the scapegoat for “killing” slumping industries. But on the contrary, they’re actually the driving force behind a camping boom.
“Representing 38% of the US outdoor consumer population, Millennials spend more time outside and more money on outdoor products than the average outdoor consumer…” – Outdoor Industry Association
In 2018, 78.8M US households camped at least once. And millennials accounted for 41% of folks roughing it — an increase of seven percentage points since 2014. Going further, new campers aren’t just younger, they’re more diverse too. Among first-time campers in 2018, 51% identify as nonwhite.
Given the popularity of camping and the success of marketplaces like Airbnb, OpenTable, and ClassPass before them, a new generation of outdoor-focused platforms is making it easy to access adventure. Similarly, a growing number of tech-enabled tools and consumer brands are capitalizing on this trend.
- Camping/glamping: Hipcamp, Tentrr, AutoCamp
- RV rental: Outdoorsy, RVshare
- Mapping: AllTrails, Strava, onX
- Experiences: Airbnb, The Outbound Collective, Fixers
- Consumer brands: Yeti, Rumpl, Cotopaxi, Kinfield
- Hunting and fishing: Outdoor Access, GoWild, HuntStand
To fully grasp the opportunity at hand, consider these recent developments. Last summer, Hipcamp, a marketplace for “unique camping experience”, raised $25M from Andreessen Horowitz, bringing their total funding to $40.5M. Meanwhile, Getaway, a wellness hospitality company offering tiny cabin escapes, is backed by $40M in funding from investors including L Catterton and Starwood Capital Group. But AutoCamp has outpaced both Hipcamp and Getaway, raising $115M to expand its network of upscale Airstream campsites.
And accommodations only scratch the surface. Across every aspect of the outdoor economy, the race to reduce friction and improve access is on. While RV rental companies Outdoorsy and RVshare have raised $75M and $50M respectively, mapping and planning app AllTrails recently sold for $75M and onX, a startup creating interactive maps for hunters, landed $20M+ in funding.
Aptly timed, the rise of the outdoor marketplace coincides with the desire to disconnect. As we highlighted in The Shifting Fitness Landscape, the pendulum is swinging from social media and screens to in-person, human interaction.
“If connected fitness is characterized by tech-enabled equipment and streaming content, disconnected fitness is defined by the desire to unplug.”
With an emphasis on like-minded communities and technology-free quality time, getting outside offers the perfect respite from modern times. This fact helps explain the uptick in fitness programming and lifestyle branding from rock climbing gyms, the Outdoor Voices x Merrell collaboration, and Kinfield’s millennial-branded bug spray. Put simply, the great outdoors is being co-opted by the wellness economy. Like boutique fitness-goers before them, those that steer into this trend will find a captive customer in the casual camper