What happened

In Friday trading, a handful of recreation equipment companies traded sharply higher. At the close, the stock of RV dealer Camping World Holdings (NYSE:CWH) was up 8.4%, while boat maker Brunswick (NYSE:BC) gained 10.1%. And Callaway Golf (NYSE:ELY) did the best of all, up 12.5%.

Three colorful arrows racing straight up on a black background

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

With spring starting to turn into summer, and restrictions on socially-distanced fun starting to relax, investors appear to be focusing their attention on stocks that could benefit from both trends: companies that trade in outdoor recreation equipment that turns popular in warm-weather months. Also, these three companies slot into socially-distant activities, rather than those that put people in closer proximity to one another.

Now what

Camping World, Brunswick, and Callaway Golf are natural choices. Callaway CEO Chip Brewer recently said the "joy of being outdoors, whether hiking, camping or simply taking a walk in nature, has never been more evident and is both logically and emotionally appealing" in a world still plagued by the coronavirus. Callaway, as a company that caters to folks in funny pants walking around in small groups at sizable distances from one another, is perfectly positioned to profit in a world of social distancing.

Boating (Brunswick) and camping in RVs (Camping World) can both make similar arguments, and investors appeared receptive to them today. That being said, if you're an investor looking to play this trend, it may pay to be picky, and one of these stocks is not like the others.

According to the latest data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, neither Camping World nor Brunswick is currently profitable over the past 12 months, while Callaway is. Indeed, with $60 million in trailing earnings, and a market capitalization of only $1.1 billion, you can almost call Callaway a value stock at its current P/E of 18. Callaway also carries the lightest debt load of the three ($855 million net of cash on hand) versus $1.1 billion for Brunswick, and $2.8 billion for Camping World.

If I were of a mind to follow the herd today, and buy into some outdoor recreation stocks, I think I'd start with Callaway.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.