'Roughing It' continues to get a little less rough

More than 40 million Americans will head into the wild on a camping excursion this year, but 2015 is different from previous years in that people are ditching the basics and spending significant dollars to take their outdoor experience to a whole new level, says Leslie Linevsky, Catalogs.com cofounder, in an announcement.

According to sales indicators from hottest outdoor gear retailers, campers this year want to “rough it,” but only if that means they have creature comforts on-hand.

“People want Dutch ovens and accessories, comfortable camp furniture such as hammocks, Yeti coolers and survival gear,” said Katie Barnes, eCommerce Manager for C-A-L Ranch Stores. These are all smart purchases considering that the average camper spends at least 13.6 days per year in the wild, according to the 2013 American Camper Report, an Outdoor Foundation study.

Among campers, 79% call their excursions an adventure and 75% consider it an escape, according to the same study. Whether campers call themselves adventure enthusiasts or wilderness escapists, e-marketing experts at Catalogs.com report that year after year, campers cause a May through June surge in consumer traffic at online stores and catalogs specializing in outdoor gear and camping equipment.

“So far, 2015 is no exception, and the activity for outdoor specialty stores is already up 60% over this time last year,” said Linevsky. “Consumers are ready to hit the trails, but first they are searching for high-end camping equipment, slick bird watching books and stylish outdoor clothing.”

She points to Sierra Expeditions, which specializes in top-of-the-line vehicle-dependent living gear for RVs and four-wheel-drive vehicles, and Camping World, which carries a wide variety of good-looking, well-designed camp furniture and deluxe RV equipment, as stores reaping the benefits of the “glamping” movement.

“Old school is really, really big this year, and even though it’s basic, it doesn’t mean it’s not high-quality equipment,” said Wil Radcliffe of 3Rivers Archery. “More people are going ‘stick and string.’ They’re looking old school, and youth are really inspired by the hot movies and TV shows right now, such as Hawkeye, The Hunger Games and The Hobbit.”

Primitive bows at 3Rivers Archery run from $200 to $500 and up, and archery accessories that add style to the sport, like the Robin Hood laced leather bracer, are big sellers.

Brands such as Camp Chef, Lodge and Stansport are huge for C-A-L Ranch stores, says Barnes, and the reason? They create convenient, easy to use cooking appliances that aren’t over-the-top, but take your glamping experience beyond basic pot and campfire.

Campers of all shades are looking to connect with the glamour camping trend, including those who prefer to travel and stay in RVs. And, the Outdoor Foundation says that hiking, which requires little more than quality boots and a water source, is the most popular camping activity among all campers.

“Whether you’re spending your trip bird watching, scarfing s’mores or relaxing in the shade, if you have the basic necessities in the most comfortable and stylish versions tailored for today’s ‘glampers,’ you won’t lose that sense of adventure,” added Linevsky.

Camping experts at major retailers suggest that would-be-campers need ready-to-go foods (or the means to catch their own), food prep items, and water purification systems.

They report that for the most part, campers are still purchasing tents to shield them from inclement weather, but high quality and trendy half-shelters and all-weather sleeping bags are increasingly popular this year; thousands of campers use them in lieu of full-sized tents so they can experience the romance of sleeping beneath the stars.

“At this time of year, people are not just planning camping trips,” Radcliffe said. “They are also shopping for Renaissance fairs and summer sports games, and they are spending more for a more elaborate experience. Archery — like other traditional sports — is really hot because it has such a historical foothold in all summer activities and the cache of what’s trending to go along with that.”