With the weather finally warming after the deep freeze of the Polar Vortex, it’s safe to say that summer is, in fact, here. Many Canadians, however, are not—home, that is. With the abundance of nature and a shortage of summer within our borders, many of us head to a provincial or national park for a hike or to a remote lake for a few days of fishing. But some people seek to blend nature and summer into their seasonal holiday, and that means packing the car with tents, sleeping bags, over-stuffed coolers and plenty of water-proof matches for a weekend of camping in the woods. According to our 2014 BBM RTS Canada PRIZMC2Link, 20 percent of Canadians took a camping vacation in the past three years. In fact, camping is more popular than a trip to the cottage, going to a spa or embarking on a cruise.
Given the relatively low financial commitment required to camp, it’s not surprising to see its popularity. For nature-loving Canadians, what could be better than relaxing in a temporary home in the woods? Once the setup is done, there’s no fretting about clean laundry, or what to wear for an evening out; you’re already out. And there’s no need to ruminate over dinner plans because the raccoons have hijacked the last of the hot dog buns and marshmallows. Even though camping can repel some outdoor enthusiasts like citronella to mosquitoes—many of them aren’t into roughing it after a day of adventure sports—for others it’s a summer-season rite of passage.
Oasis in the Woods
Camping appeals to young and old alike, but according to our PRIZMC2Link segmentation system, the households mostly likely to go include Upward Bound (upper-middle-class, middle-aged suburban families), Fast-Track Families (upper-middle-class exurban families), Tools & Trucks (upper-middle-class town families and couples) and New Homesteaders (rural, midscale couples and families). As a group, camper households tend to be middle-aged, live in suburban and rural communities, and have the means to acquire camping equipment. Tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, tarps and rain gear are needed to survive a few days of outdoor living. And a vehicle is a near necessity to haul the kids and gear to campgrounds or that remote little spot near the mountains. Camping attracts younger people because it can be a cost-effective vacation alone or when shared with friends. Young singles and couples, like members of Solo Scramble (young and mature, low-income city dwellers) can pile into a car with friends, head to a lakeside campground and share sleeping quarters for a few days of communal roughing it.
Camping conjures up images of campers finishing breakfast, heading out for a ten kilometer hike up the mountain and rounding out the morning paddling a canoe around the lake. But not all campers are interested in such aerobic-intensive activities. Upward Bound families tend to be more active as they are likely to take backpacking treks while skipping more sedentary activities such as fishing. Meanwhile, members of Fast Track Families, Tools & Trucks and New Homesteaders follow the general population when it comes to hiking, fishing, backpacking, canoeing and kayaking. There may be something to the fact that camping takes a good deal of organization and loads of human expenditure—it’s work. After fighting the weekend traffic, setting up complicated tents and camp stoves, and finding a water source, the camping experience may just be more about collapsing on a camp chair than hunting for dinner. That might also explain why these Canadians score above average for using a camper or recreation vehicle.
What it boils down to is that camping is really about the investment. For those who invest in a camper or RV, the camping experience is a chance to enjoy a home away from home within nature’s backyard. For those who make do with a tent and sleeping bag, it’s an investment in ourselves. Leaving behind the complexities of modern living and embracing nature’s unstructured environment allows us to let go of our troubles and tap into our senses—and sense of being. It’s an opportunity to digitally detox, shed our city-bred identities and redefine who we are. But even the most passionate of all camping folk know that the conveniences of home can outweigh a rainy camping weekend and soon, home can look pretty good. After a few days in the woods, the array of fast food outlets dotting the highways offer a reintroduction to civilization. I’ll have large coffee please, and hold the bugs…