More than half of Germans hit the hiking trails regularly, according to a study by that country’s government, underscoring the market’s dedication to outdoor pursuits, despite another study that found they remain Europe’s “worry warts” when it comes to all things economic.
The recent 144-page study by the German government, highlighted in a May 2011 Der Spiegel magazine cover story, found that 56 percent of all Germans head into nature for hikes at some point during the year. Of that, 30 percent hike at least once a month, and about half of that – or 15.8 percent of all respondents -- are slipping into hiking shoes several times a month.
“Hiking makes hikers happy – we knew that already,” said Ernst Burgbacher, parliamentary secretary, in a forward of the German language study by the Federal Office of Economics and Technology. “But that hiking is pursued to this considerable extent or has this kind of economic impact – that we didn’t know with this kind of clarity until we completed the study.”
All that hiking, however, doesn’t seem to be calming the Germans’ nerves, or perhaps they’re hiking because of them. According to another recent study -- this one released by a Germany-based trends research institute, GfK Verein – Germans are the champions of worry among Europeans.
“Germans have the most worry wrinkles in Europe,” the study said. Just over two-thirds of Germans could name more than three things that worry them greatly without having to think too hard. Across Europe, most others only name two “worries.” The GfK compares that “worry number” to a similar study in fall 2010 and found it had increased slightly.
Nevertheless, despite increased worries, nature and hiking remains in their lives:
Why they hike – The experience of being in nature (87.3 percent), being physically active (72.2 percent), to do something for their health (64.6 percent).
How long they hike – In the winter, an average of 2.45 hours, while in warmer seasons the hikes average per research 3.15 hours or longer.
How old they are – Regular hikers – those who are out at least once a month – are mostly older, with nearly half of those between the ages of 55 and 74. Occasional hikers – a couple of times a year – are slightly younger, with 28.3 percent of those 45 to 54 and 21.9 percent of those 35 to 44 claiming the occasional outing.
Why some don’t hike – Nearly a third of those who never hike claimed health reasons. Just over a quarter said it was due to boredom, and the same percent said it was too strenuous. Nearly one in five said they don’t have time.
How much they use technology – Nearly two-thirds hit the Internet to find the information they need. But more than half don’t use maps or GPS devices.
Economic impact not small
Hitting the trails still means spending some money on gear, economic worries or not.
“Basically you don’t need much to go for a hike” the study noted, “ – shoes, protective jackets and a day pack.”
However, the study went on to state, that since hiking is so weather-dependent, that various types of functional apparel are becoming more and more important, especially since so many of these items are now lifestyle products and even can count as “status symbols.”
What do hikers and non-hikers own?
1.Protective jackets – hikers, 92.4 percent; non-hikers, 73.6 percent
2.Day packs – hikers, 80.4 percent; non, 50.3 percent
3.Hiking shoes – hikers, 72.2 percent; non, 24.6 percent
4.Sleeping bags – hikers, 62.2 percent; non, 45.8 percent
5. Maps – hikers, 58.0 percent; non, 20.4 percent
Beyond the top five items, listed above, other types of gear owned by less than half of hikers and less than a quarter of non-hikers includes backpacks, tents, boots, functional underwear, compasses, special hiking pants, hiking poles, special hiking shirts and, last but not least, GPS devices. (Only 17.6 percent of hikers own a GPS).
Where do they shop?
More than half (51.8 percent) shop at sporting goods retailers, while only 36.2 percent buy at department stores. Nearly one in five (19.2 percent) head to specialty outdoor stores.
“The renaissance of hiking in the recent past has contributed to a change in its image – a process that isn’t yet done,” the study concluded. “The analysis has clearly shown…that hiking is a widespread, cross-cultural phenomenon that although demanding has a following that is particularly educated, thoughtful, and ready to shop” for needed gear.