New Survey Reports on Climbing’s Consistent Growth

2022 Outdoor Participation Trends Report header
It’s no secret that climbing has been booming, and the Outdoor Foundation’s latest report highlights the change in participation in the U.S.―in outdoor and indoor climbing. (Image by Outdoor Foundation / Outdoor Industry Association)

This month, the Outdoor Foundation released the 2022 version of its Outdoor Participation Trends Report, an annual comprehensive and statistical assessment of outdoor recreation in the U.S. The 50-page report, available here, included such reportage as “Ethnicity & Race in Outdoor Recreation,” “Top Five Outdoor Activities,” and “Outdoor Participation Growth Trends.”

Perhaps most relevant to the climbing industry, specifically, is the report’s data regarding climbing participation (p.44), broken down into three broad categories: Climbing (Traditional/Ice/Mountaineering); Climbing (Indoor); and Climbing (Sport/Boulder).

Ever since the Outdoor Foundation began tracking participation for the latter two categories in particular [Climbing (Indoor) and Climbing (Sport/Boulder)] in 2017, the participation numbers for these two categories have steadily increased—even through the onset of the pandemic. The estimated number of indoor climbers, for instance, rose to over 5.6 million in 2021―an all-time high and a roughly 7.1% increase from 2019.

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The report’s data was drawn from a nationwide study conducted in 2021 by Sports Marketing Surveys USA (SMS). In terms of methodology, the report states: “During 2021, a total of 18,000 online interviews were carried out with a nationwide sample of individuals from U.S. proprietary online panels representative of the U.S. population for people ages six and older. Strict quotas associated with gender, age, income, region, and ethnicity were followed to ensure a balanced sample.”

Regarding outdoor participation on the whole, the report notes, “As the COVID-19 pandemic continued into a second year and vaccines became available most restrictions were lifted. However, the pandemic was far from over, and health and safety issues that drove participation in 2020 continued to have a positive impact on outdoor recreation participation in 2021.” In total, the outdoor recreation participant base increased by about 2.2% last year to an estimated 164.2 million participants.

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