The Outdoor Industry Foundation says backpacking trips deceased 22% from 16.3 million in 1998 to 13.5 million in 2005.
WhatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s to blame for the decrease? A combination of factors, say the experts, ranging from a graying of the backpacking demographic to increasingly hectic lifestyles to a growing list of backpacking alternatives to record high prices for gasoline.
Outdoor manufacturers and retailers are certainly heeding the call for higher quality and lighter weight equipment as they address the need of the sore knees of the baby boom generation to lighten the load. Poke your head into an REI or similar retailer, and youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll see plenty of customers in the aisles and whipping out their credit cards at the registers.
The West again boasts the highest percentage of those that strap on the packs, with a full 10% of the population saying that they enjoy at least one backpacking trip per year. Nationally, the percentage of the population who enjoys backpacking sits at 6%, with the flatlands of the North Central region claiming the lowest percentage of backpackers (3% of the population).