More RV stats–with an ironic twist

Just like an onslaught of gift catalogues in the mail lets you know Christmas is around the corner, a recent burst of studies and surveys about campers and RVers must mean Memorial Day is fast approaching. But there’s always room for more!

Enter the “First Ever Campspot Outdoor Almanac!” as breathlessly announced in a press release yesterday. Issued by one of the more aggressive competitors in the crowded campground reservation industry, the almanac is an obvious bid to stake out a leadership position similar to the one pioneered by KOA in 2015, when it issued its first annual North American camping report. KOA’s reports paint a detailed picture of who’s going camping and why, and in that respect the Campspot effort isn’t breaking much new ground. (One notable exception: a finding that RV and van campers are “taking 3.8 bathroom breaks outside per day–signaling some adventurous escapades taking them far from the RV . . .or a faulty septic hose?” Bathroom habits are a topic KOA has yet to plumb.)

But while KOA’s reports clearly target the industry, Campspot’s almanac–prepared in partnership with Pinterest–just as clearly speaks to the camping public itself. So in addition to the kinds of statistics KOA touts, such as why campers do what they do (91% are in it to relax) or what they get most peeved about (the number-two complaint is drunk neighbors), the almanac offers fishing tips and key tournament dates, expert advice on bird watching and photography, a calendar of meteor showers and outdoor recipes. And sprinkled among the predictable stats is the occasional wry aside, such as the claim that “23% of campers have regretted the things they said while backing up the trailer or setting up camp.”

Just 23%?

But being a Campspot publication, the almanac also features campgrounds that are tied in with its various editorial features–campgrounds if you’re into star-gazing, for instance, or campgrounds best situated for exploring a national park–and all of which, it might go without saying, are Campspot clients. Nothing wrong with that, of course, as long as the reader understands that Campspot’s clients are just a segment–albeit a substantial one–of the campground universe. When the almanac highlights Angel Fire RV Resort as “the number one campground in North America,” for example, almanac readers should understand that there are more than 12,000 private campgrounds in the U.S. and thousands more on public lands, compared with the 1,500 or so in Campspot’s roster. So your experience may differ.

Meanwhile, in an ironic footnote, the almanac includes a “fun fact” about its number one campground that probably has its editorial staff cringing: “Angel Fire’s name originates from the Ute Indians’ observation of the orange and red skies and likening it to the ‘fire of the gods,’ which was later interpreted as ‘the place of the fire of the angel.’ ” The gods must indeed be crazy. The same day that Campspot released its almanac, the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire in northern New Mexico had spread to within 13 miles of Angel Fire “and fire managers said that’s a generous estimate,” according to local TV news.

The timing, as they say, could have been better.

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Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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