Americans Are Spending More Time Outdoors – And More Money, Too!


If you are an outdoor enthusiast who prefers your recreational opportunities to be anywhere but inside, you are not alone. Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) indicates that Americans are spending more time outdoors than ever before. Not only that, but they are also spending more money to do so.

This should not be surprising given the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic. During the COVID summer of 2020, people wanting to take summer vacations turned their backs on hotels and resorts in favor of RVs and tent camping. Meanwhile, those who skipped their vacations still spent their leisure time riding bikes, hiking local trails, traversing lakes with canoes, and other outdoor activities.

What the Numbers Say

About those government numbers, what do they say? Apparently, the total economic output of the outdoor recreation industry in 2022 eclipsed $1 trillion. The mining and oil and gas extraction industries didn’t produce that much output combined. But it gets better.

The industry employed some 5 million people and produced the equivalent of 2.2% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product last year. It is all very impressive when you step back and look at it through an objective lens.

What the Money is Being Spent On

I think it would be interesting to know exactly what Americans interested in outdoor recreation are spending their money on. I don’t know if such statistics are available. Even if they are not, I believe reasonable speculation is possible. For starters, let’s talk equipment.

Certain types of outdoor recreation don’t require any equipment at all. Walking around the neighborhood is a perfect example. But there are other types of activities that cannot be engaged in without equipment. You can’t play golf without golf clubs. You cannot go mountain climbing without carabiners and ropes.

The company behind the Rollercam brand of cam straps explains that outdoor recreation equipment has become highly specialized. Their own cam straps illustrate the point. They are ideal for certain activities like overlanding and wilderness camping. Yet they aren’t ideal for other recreational options.

Spending Money on Experiences

Above and beyond equipment, outdoor recreation enthusiasts are spending money on other things. They include experiences. If you want to go camping at a national park, you will normally pay a minor park entrance fee. You’ll pay more if you want to use someone’s private property.

Then there are experiences like guided whitewater rafting tours and organized hunting and fishing trips. You pay for those as well. The nice thing is that there are recreational experiences for every budget. If you only have a little bit to spend, you can probably find something in your local area worth doing. If money is no object, the world is more or less your oyster.

Paying to Learn

We cannot talk about the things people are spending their money on without discussing learning opportunities. Certain types of activities don’t come naturally to people. They need to learn how to do them. Take skiing. People spend money on skiing lessons so that they don’t injure themselves on the slopes.

People spend money learning to play golf in tennis. They pay to learn about bird watching, scuba diving, parachuting, and parasailing. If there is a recreational activity to enjoy, there is probably someone willing to teach you how to do it.

It seems to me that we have been spending too much time indoors in recent years. So I’m encouraged that so many people want to get outdoors and be active. Here’s hoping the numbers continue suggesting that we are doing just that, and more often as well.

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