Recreational shelter camping has become increasingly popular in Denmark prompting a demand for evidence on how to provide better settings. Knowledge about shelter camping is scarce, and this currently limits the possibilities for well-informed developments within this field. In response to this, the present study aims to identify key motives in shelter camping, and to examine how these motives differ according to group composition and past experiences with outdoor recreation activities. A survey completed by 719 recreational shelter users form the analytical basis for this study. Principal Component Analysis with subsequent reliability testing were carried out to examine whether the 14 motivational items could be reduced to a smaller set of factors describing different motivational aspects among shelter campers. Multivariate regression analyses were performed to reveal variations in motives across user groups and according to experience levels. Shelter users are primarily motivated by experiencing nature and being together as a group, while meeting new people is the least important motive. With the exception of solo users, motives are similar across user groups. Specific experience with shelter camping has impact on the following motives in shelter camping: Experiencing nature, relaxation and tranquility, using equipment and developing skills, and challenge and curiosity. The specific motivational profile of shelter users defines shelter camping as a distinct type of camping and displays the need for shelter camp sites that provide opportunity for experiencing nature together with the group without being disturbed by other users. Management implications: • Shelter users' desire for exclusive social interaction with the group combined with their absent interest in meeting new people indicate a need for shelter sites that provide for some measure of privacy. • Placing shelter campsites in outdoor environments that cater for a sense of remoteness and solitude may support the shelter users desire to experience relaxation and tranquillity. • The fact that motives in shelter camping vary according to experience level, call for managers to consider targeting shelter campsites to less experienced shelter users and more experienced shelter users respectively.