Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Press Releases

Eighth Annual Study by Outdoor Industry Foundation Indicates 72% of Americans Participate in Active Recreation

Outdoor Industry Foundation's newly released ‘Outdoor Recreation Participation Study’ reveals 72% of Americans participate in active recreation, and that Americans top outdoor activities include bicycling, trail running, fishing, hiking and camping.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

BOULDER, COLORADO – Outdoor Industry Foundation (OIF) announced today that availability of its most recent Outdoor Recreation Participation Study. According to this study, 161.6 million Americans, aged 16 and older, participated in at least one of 22 active outdoor activities tracked in the study during 2005.

“Outdoor Industry Foundation is pleased to announce the availability of the 2006 Outdoor Recreation Participation Study,” said Michelle Barnes, Foundation Vice-President. “The study shows that Americans’ participation in active outdoor recreation remains strong. Despite concerns that the severe weather of 2005 would hinder outdoor recreation, participation did not decline; in fact 2 million more Americans got outdoors and got active last year.”

This is the 8th edition of the annual report, which tracks nationwide participation levels for Americans ages 16 and older in 22 active outdoor activities. OIF began tracking participation in 1998 measuring 13 core activities including: backpacking; bicycling on paved roads, dirt, and single track bicycling; car camping and camping away from car; canoeing; cross country/Nordic skiing; hiking; rafting; snowshoeing; Telemark skiing; and trail running. Since the study began, OIF has added 9 additional activities including: bird watching; climbing on natural rock; artificial wall climbing; ice climbing; fly-fishing; non-fly fishing; sit-on-top kayaking; touring/sea kayaking; and whitewater kayaking. For the first time in 2005, participation data for hunting and motorized off-road activities was also collected.

Key Findings
While participation increased across the 22 outdoor activities from 159 million Americans age 16 and older in 2004 to 161.6 million in 2005, outings decreased by 11%. In 2005, Americans 16 and older took a total of 7.3 billion outings compared to 8.3 billion outings in 2004. Bicycling and fishing accounted for the bulk of that decline, with an approximate 800,000 and 300,000 outing decrease respectively. Despite that, both these sports ranked among the top five for most outings in 2005: bicycling (3.1 billion), trail running (1.3 billion), fishing (1 billion), hiking (800 million), and camping (347 million). The median number of total annual outings (all activities) declined from 51 in 2004 to 45 in 2005, and the majority of people participated only one to two times during the year.

Overnight backpacking’s dramatic 22.5% decline in participation over the past eight year period and the significant increase in snowshoeing (83%) and trail running (22%) participation indicate that individuals are looking for less commitment-heavy activities. Instead, activities that can be done occasionally and without great planning effort seem to be on the rise.

“The Outdoor Recreation Participation Study confirms trends that emerged last year: participants are focusing on low-commitment activities, especially those that can be done in a day, in locations near their homes and with limited technical equipment,” commented Barnes. “The industry will benefit from focusing on this type of outdoor recreation as gateways to higher-commitment outdoor activities.”

In 2005, there were a number of notable weather events in the U.S. – hurricanes in the South Central region, bitter cold winter in the Northeast, late snow in the Midwest, no snow in the Pacific Northwest, and good snow in the southern Rockies. This weather was likely a contributing factor to both changes in participation and outings: in 2004, biking participants took an average of 45 outings compared to 36 outings in 2005, possibly kept away by a strong hurricane season and bitter cold; sit-on-top kayaking increased 34.4% from 2003 and 22.4% from 2004, helped by full rivers from the heavy snow run-off; fly-fishing declined 19.9% in 2005 when too much snow run-off and a bad hurricane season made conditions less than desirable.

Outdoor/adventure vacations continued to grow in popularity and within that category, water-sport vacations are increasing. In 2005, one in four Americans 16 and older (59.5 million) took a vacation specifically to participate in an outdoor activity. Top vacation outdoor activities include: swimming (20%), hiking/backpacking (18%), fishing (14%) and camping vacations (14%). More Americans are participating in water-sports such as swimming in 2005 (20%) than in 2003 (15%). Participation in camping is also greater in 2005 (14%) than it was in 2003 (11%). The baby-boomers are making their mark on outdoor/adventure travel – one-third of active travelers are over the age of 45.

Participation in outdoor activities by young adults and women is watched closely in this annual study. In 2005, 86.5% of American young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 participated in tracked activities. These young adults took 21.7 billion total outings in 2005 and participated in an average of 4.2 different activities. Total outings per young adult have declined from 68 average outings annually in 2004 to 60 outings in 2005. As for women, participation among female Americans ages 16 and older remained stable from 2004 (63.7% or 73.2 million American women) to 2005 (64.2% or 74.5 Million American women). Like young adults, however, female participants, on average, took fewer outings in 2005 (28.4) than in 2004 (38.3).

A full copy of the Outdoor Recreation Participation Study, which was produced for OIF by The Leisure Trends Group, can be downloaded from the OIF website at

About Outdoor Industry Foundation
Outdoor Industry Foundation (OIF) is a non-profit foundation established by Outdoor Industry Association to encourage active outdoor recreation for all Americans. OIF’s charter is to increase participation in outdoor recreation and to encourage and support healthier active lifestyles. Through education, partnerships, programs and advocacy, OIF is working to make active outdoor recreation the number one leisure activity in America. We invite you to join us on this important mission by making a long term commitment to the health of our industry, our public lands, and our nation. For more information go to or call 303.444.3353.