Money

77 million Americans go camping—and 22 percent spent nothing to get started

Евгений Харитонов | iStock | Getty Images

Welcome to Camp Week! From August 6 to August 10, CNBC Make It is celebrating all things related to camp and camping, from the best budget destinations to a summer retreat for adults interested in financial independence. Come back every day for more camp-related fun.

Camping is one of the most affordable ways to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and Americans are increasingly embracing the hobby. Nearly two-thirds, or 61 percent, of households in the U.S. include at least one person who camps, according to Kampgrounds of America's 2018 North American Camping Report, and the number of households who camp at least once a year increased 20 percent between 2014 and 2017.

The number of households with people who camp at least three times per year or more increased a whopping 64 percent between 2014 and 2017. And of the 77 million American households with at least one camper, 2.6 million are new to the pastime, KOA reports. Nearly 20 percent of all households who camp started just in the past few years.

And it can be inexpensive, or even completely free. In 2016, 47 percent of adult campers spent between $51 and $200 on camping gear, according to the 2017 American Camper Report, presented by The Coleman Company and The Outdoor Foundation. And 22 percent of those going camping for the first time spent nothing at all. 

The most popular purchases were flashlights, which nearly half of all campers bought. Coolers, backpacks, airbeds and tents were also common purchases.

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Nearly 30 percent of camping newbies spent between $201 and $400 on gear for their first trip, and 8 percent dropped $401 or more. However, most people spent less: 65 percent of first-time campers shelled out $200 or less on camping gear, according to the American Camper Report.

As with any purchase, the more you use it, the lower the price per use. Luckily, most campers intend to get the most out of their gear: Nearly 90 of those who went camping last year intend to go again in 2018, according to KOA. In fact, 45 percent say they plan to increase the amount of time they spend camping.

For those planning a summer camping trip, it pays to think ahead. June is the best month to find discounted prices on camping gear, according to research from Sara Skirboll, the shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot.

"With Father's Day falling in June, shoppers historically see more consistent and stronger deals on outdoor gear versus any other month of the year," she tells CNBC Make It. "During this seasonal period, retailers who sell camping gear offer savings as deep as 50 percent off."

August can be a prime time to find deals as well, as retailers try to clear out summer inventory. "The summer's over and so is the demand for this stuff," Yahoo tech columnist David Pogue writes in "Pogue's Basics: Money."

Don't miss: Now is one of the best times to buy camping gear—here's how to find great deals

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