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Safety, solitude and customised comfort

ANN/THE KOREA HERALD – Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, camping has gained traction among Koreans as a safe outdoor pastime adhering to social distancing guidelines. Even though the pandemic has officially waned, the enthusiasm for camping remains robust.

In recent years, car camping has particularly stood out in terms of popularity. According to a survey conducted by the Korea Tourism Organization in January, by the end of 2022, 41.6 per cent of Koreans reported having gone car camping at least once, a significant increase from the previous year’s figure of four per cent. The survey encompassed 3,079 respondents.

An intriguing trend that has emerged is the rise of female solo campers who document and share their experiences on YouTube. They cite the allure of enjoying the outdoors from the comfort of a customised vehicle and within a relatively secure camping environment as the driving factors behind their enthusiasm.

HAVING FUN & MAINTAINING SAFETY

Many of the popular car camping videos on YouTube, are uploaded by female campers. Some are joined by their pets and the content usually revolves around showing off their camping gear, setting up their vehicles for camping.

“My first camping experience was with my friends, but it was hard to arrange time to go as a group as everyone had their own schedule. This is how I started car camping by myself,” said YouTuber Kim-seonjji.

Kim-seonjji said the solo car camping experience appeals more to her compared with group camping because she can map out her own trip rather than spending most of the time trying to “reach a con-sensus with others”.

“I have to prepare and set everything up by myself when camping on my own, and I think that helps me strengthen my independence and self-reliance,” she explained.

ABOVE & BELOW: YouTuber Kim-seonjji goes car camping with her dog, Gangi, by Gusipo Beach in North Jeolla Province, South Korea; and Kim-seonjji in her van. PHOTO: KIM-SEONJJI
PHOTO: KIM-SEONJJI
ABOVE & BELOW: YouTuber BongBongCamping’s winter car camping in Wonju, Gangwon Province. PHOTO: BONGBONG CAMPING
PHOTO: BONGBONG CAMPING

Most comments written under her videos are positive.

One comment read, “Trying car camping alone has always been on my bucket list, but I’ve been scared to go by myself just in case something happens to me. Seeing your video gives me a bit of courage.” As reflected in the comment, camping solo in a car could raise safety concerns and increase vulnerability for campers. It is why solo campers like Kim-seonjji has to draw certain lines to maintain safety.

“Car camping alone in South Korea is relatively safe and nothing that could put me in danger has happened to me so far. But I still always make sure to camp in well-known campsites instead of staying out in the middle of nowhere, since it’s always better to be safe than sorry,” Kim-seonjji said.

Car camping is possible in most existing camping sites, as they have built parking areas that specifically cater to such campers. These spaces are cheaper than caravan camping slots. Campsites in Korea are often more than just an empty campsite.

Visitors can borrow cooking utensils like pots and barbecue grills or some additional camping gear, such as camping chairs and foldable tables. Convenience stores with snacks or instant foods or sometimes even restaurants are available nearby, and the sites are almost always equipped with clean toilets and showers.

These restroom are as also mostly have alarms that make a loud noise and automatically alert the police, in case safety incidents arise.

While most campsites are relatively safe, there are precautions car campers can take.

BongBongCamping – another car-camping YouTuber – mentioned that she makes sure to bring at least two portable fire extinguishers in case of a fire, and a portable toilet, as some camping sites could get extremely dark at night, and “it can be scary to go to the toilets alone”.

Kim-seonjji makes sure to pack her pepper spray and her stun gun with her every time she goes out car camping.

CUSTOMISING VEHICLES

Some car campers decorate their vehicles to make it almost like a small room, like YouTuber Bong-BongCamping, who decorates her vehicle “to resemble a small attic”.

“I wanted to decorate my car to make it truly feel like my personal space, with equipment and design of my preference,” said the YouTuber.

“It is a small space, but I wanted to make it into a space that would be enjoyable for me – a space where I feel like I’m playing in a small attic.”

YouTuber BongBongCamping’s vehicle is designed in a style that her viewers say is “aesthetically pleasing”, with a similar colour palette and portable household appliances such as coffee machines, toasters and portable heaters to add to the experience.

“I’ve always been interested in decorating pretty much anything, and I took this interest with me when I decorated my car,” said the YouTuber. – Lee Jung-joo

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