Still eager to travel and do so safely, Americans took to the roads by RV in massive numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kampgrounds of America (KOA) reported that interest in RVs and the RV lifestyle is at an all-time high. Over 13 million households used RVs as their primary camping accommodation in 2020, up from 11 million in 2019, and this trend appears likely to continue. KOA also reported that the majority of 2020 campers planned to increase their camping trips in 2021, and roughly 60% of current RV owners said they planned to upgrade or replace their existing RV within the next year.
According to statistics from Recreation.gov, there were over 130,000 RV reservations made in 2020 on public lands, including national parks and forests. This represents a three-fold increase from 2008 when there were just 43,000 RV reservations made. Even from 2019 to 2020, total RV reservations increased by nearly 10%. While this growth partly reflects an increase in online RV reservations, RV shipment data from the RV Industry Association shows a mostly upward trend in RV shipments from 2008 to 2020. Additionally, the RV rental market has grown steadily in size over the same time period.
There are several explanations for the growth in RV popularity in recent years. As hotels have become more expensive, RV travel offers a more cost-effective way to experience new places. At the same time, equipping RVs with reliable high-speed internet has also become easier, which allows people to stay connected and work remotely while on the road. Lastly, new peer-to-peer RV rental services have made it far easier for first-time RVers to test out the lifestyle without incurring the upfront cost.
While RVing was growing in popularity before COVID-19 hit, the pandemic inspired a whole new group of RVers to hit the road in 2020. Some people took advantage of the ability to work remotely, while others decided to try RVing in order to avoid air travel and hotels. Some RVers stayed close to home while others traveled across the country. According to KOA, a roughly equal number of campers traveled at least 150 miles from home as those who camped less than 50 miles away.
At the state level, public land in Texas—such as Waco Lake and Lake O’ The Pines—attracted the most RVers in 2020, with more than 70,000 RV nights booked according to Recreation.gov. Reservations in Texas accounted for nearly 19% of the 378,000 total RV nights booked on all U.S. public lands. RVing on public land in California was also popular; the state had over 47,000 RV nights booked in 2020, with areas like Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite National Park among the most visited destinations.
To find the states with the most popular public lands for RVing, researchers at Outdoorsy analyzed data from Recreation.gov. The researchers ranked states according to the total number of RV nights booked on public lands—national parks, national forests, lakes, national monuments, etc.—in 2020. Researchers also calculated the total number of RV reservations in 2020, the average number of nights per reservation, the average number of people per reservation, and the most common home state of out-of-state visitors.
The analysis found that last year, Recreation.gov registered 47,045 RV nights booked in California across 18,553 reservations. The most common home state of all out-of-state visitors was Nevada. And out of all U.S. states included in the analysis, California had the 2nd most RV nights booked in 2020. Here is a summary of the data for California:
- Total number of RV nights booked in 2020: 47,045
- Total number of RV reservations in 2020: 18,553
- Average number of nights per reservation: 2.5
- Average number of people per reservation: 3.7
- Most common home state of out-of-state visitors: Nevada
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Total number of RV nights booked in 2020: 377,978
- Total number of RV reservations in 2020: 130,509
- Average number of nights per reservation: 2.9
- Average number of people per reservation: 3.3
- Most common home state of out-of-state visitors: N/A
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Outdoorsy’s website: https://www.outdoorsy.com/blog/most-popular-public-lands-rving
Mike LaFirenza writes for Lattice News Wire