Hikers and Backpackers – Who are They? 6

On Monday I am going to do something I never thought I would do – I am going to climb Mt. Whitney.  Located in the eastern Sierras of California, Mt. Whitney is the highest mountain in the continental US at 14,505 feet above sea level.  I have no idea if I will make it to the top – but I will certainly do my best.  I am an avid reader of non-fiction about places like Mt. Everest, but climbing it is something I never had the desire to do – in part because I don’t like the cold weather – but even more than that, the difficulty is simply astounding. I decided to attempt Mt. Whitney because a friend of mine from Esri invited me.  I certainly couldn’t turn that down.  And it isn’t as cold as Everest there.

All of this had me thinking, of course, who are the hikers in the US – and where do they live?  Am I even in the demographic that would normally do this?  And who lives in Lone Pine, CA – the town at the base of the mountain.  Do people who live there love hiking?

Lone Pine, CA

Let’s start out by looking at Lone Pine.   The town’s population in 2011 was 2,330.  The median age is 44.8 years.  There are slightly more men than women (50.5% vs 49.5%) and Hispanics are 25.5% of the population.

Esri, a geographic information systems company which also does data analysis, developed the Tapestry Segmentation system that classifies US residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.  The households in Lone Pine can be classified primarily into 3 main tapestry segments:

Tapestry Group % of HH
Rooted Rural 42.5%
Simple Living 41.2%
Senior Sun Seekers 16.1%


Residents of the Rooted Rural tapestry segment, for example, are married-couple families, though 23% are singles who live alone.   Many employed residents work in the service and manufacturing industry sector.  Seventy percent of residents live in single-family dwellings and twenty-six percent live in mobile homes.  Home improvement and remodeling projects are common activities among this group.

Hiking is not a popular activity for Lone Pine residents despite its proximity to one of the tallest peaks in the world.  In the US, 7.2% of adults go hiking or backpacking.  In Lone Pine, just 5.7% of residents (or 25% less than the US average), go hiking or backpacking.  I guess the avid hikers aren’t there.  Where are they?

Hiking/Backpacking Participation

Hiking and backpacking is a popular activity in many areas of the country.  As mentioned above, 7.2% of American adults hike or backpack.  This activity includes everything from overnight backpack trips to a simple 1-2 hour hike.

There are a few areas around the country where backpacking and hiking is most popular.  This includes the west (especially the northwest), around Denver, and the northeast.   It is popular in parts of Hawaii and Alaska as well.  Some of the zip codes with the highest index for backpacking and hiking are 93106 (Santa Barbara, CA), 47405 (Bloomington, IL), and 70893 (Baton Rouge, LA).  Each of the zip codes has an index of 252 for backpacking and hiking meaning residents in these zip codes are 2.52 times more likely than the average American to participate in the activity.

What type of person is typically most likely to participate in hiking or backpacking?  What type is least likely?  The Dorms to Diplomas segment is the one most likely to participate in hiking or backpacking.  The index for the neighborhoods where this segment is dominant is 200 for hiking and backpacking meaning they are 2 times more likely than the average American to participate in the activity.

Residents of Connoisseurs, Exurbanites, Laptops and Lattes, Metro Renters, Metropolitans, Suburban Splendor, Top Rung, and Urban Chic are also likely hikers and backpackers.  The index for residents in these neighborhoods to hike or backpack is 150 meaning they are 1.5 times more likely than the average American to hike or backpack.

Not everyone enjoys hiking and backpacking.   Residents of Home Town, International Marketplace, Modest Income Homes, NeWest Residents, Rural Bypasses, Southern Satellites, and Urban Villages have an index of 50 or less for participating in hiking or backpacking.  This means they are ½ as likely (or less) than the average American to participate.

International Marketplace residents, for example, are located primarily in cities in “gateway” states on both US coasts.  They are developing urban markets with a rich blend of cultures and household types.  Their median age is 32 years and is extremely diverse with more than half of the population being Hispanic, 11.6% Asian, and 7% two or more races.

Hiking or Backpacking on a Domestic Vacation

Some Americans actually plan vacations around hiking or backpacking.  About 2.3% of adults go on a hiking or backpacking domestic vacation each year.  Who are they?  Where do they live?

The avid backpackers and hikers who use their vacation time for backpacking primarily live on the eastern seaboard and in a few places on the west coast.  There are also pockets in Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona.  Some of the zip codes with the highest indexes for backing on a domestic vacation are 07092 (Mountainside, NJ), 94563 (Orinda, CA), and 85266 (Scottsdale, AZ).  Each of these have an index of 175 or higher meaning residents of these zip codes are 1.75 times more likely than the average American to go backpacking on a domestic vacation.

What type of people like to do this?  Several tapestry segments have an index of 150 or higher for backpacking on their domestic vacation.  They are Connoisseurs, Exurbanites, InStyle, Laptops and Lattes, Metro Renters, Metropolitans, Main Street USA, Prosperous Empty Nesters, Silver and Gold, Suburban Splendor, Top Rung, and Urban Chic.  The residents in the neighborhoods where these segments are dominant are 1.5 times more likely than the average American to plan a backpacking vacation.  No one group seems to dominate over others though.

Urbanization summary groups, which are based on geographic and physical features along with income, can also be used to classify consumers.  65% of Suburban Periphery I neighborhoods have an index of 150 or higher for going backpacking on a domestic vacation.  These neighborhoods are typically lower-density housing development located in metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas throughout the United States.   Married-couple families dominate, approximately half with children, primarily living in their own single-family homes with two cars.

Residents of some tapestry segments are very unlikely to plan a backpacking vacation.  They are City Dimensions, High Rise Renters, International Marketplace, Las Casas, Newest Residents, and Pacific Heights.  These segments have an index of 50 or below for going on a backpacking vacation.  This means they are ½ as likely (or less) as the average American to do so.  Many of these tapestry groups are part of the Global Roots LifeMode group.  Ethnic diversity is a common thread within this group.  Global Roots’ residents are young, earn modest incomes, and tend to rent in multiunit buildings

Why Does This Matter?

Understanding the activities that consumers like to participate in locally can help businesses target potential customers.  Consumers who like hiking – either just for a weekend adventure or for a longer vacation – may be interested in a certain product or service or movie.  This information can aid in advertising or marketing or determining where to open a new retail store or restaurant that targets a particular type of customer or a service provider who is looking for that perfect customer.

As for me – I guess I am not in the demographic that is the normal hiker – either for day hikes or vacation.  I didn’t really need this analysis to tell me that (I knew that already) but it certainly helps companies that want to target consumers who would normally be the hikers.

More information about Esri’s data can be found at www.esri.com/data or to learn more about Esri in general, go to www.esri.com.

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