Camping has been popular pastime since it became fashionable in the late 2000s. The number of campers in Korea was 600,000 in 2011 but broke 5 million in 2016, Statistics Korea estimated, suggesting a strong growth in the popularity of outdoor activities.
Among many types of camping, from classic tent camping to luxurious glamping in fully-equipped cabins, camping out in a car has risen as an affordable option.
Often called “cha-bak” in Korean, which translates to “staying overnight in a car,” this type of camping is especially loved by youngsters who want to save their time and budget for a quick trip during weekends.
Unlike camping in a tent or RV, which requires a spacious campsite and expensive camping tools, auto camping can be easily carried out anywhere there’s enough place to park and few supplies such as air mattresses and blankets.
Steps for car camping are easy to follow, park on a flat area, setting up a bed by installing an air mattress on flattened backseats and fill the place with music, lights and decorations.
According to eBay Korea, the sales of car camping supplies in 2018’s summer vacation period on the online shopping site Auction jumped more than 7 times compared to the sales of 2017. The camping gear includes automatic inflatable mattresses, rooftop cargo bags, sunshades, trunk nets and small tables for a car.
Sales of decorative accessories such as triangle garlands and party tables have also increased, as taking Instagrammable pictures during car camping has been trending among young hipsters in Korea. When searched “Cha-bak” on Instagram, more than 20,000 posts pop up which show off the warm and cozy atmosphere of spending a night in a car.
“It’s often difficult to reserve camping sites especially during the holiday seasons or weekends,” Kim Jong-hun, a 34-year-old camper told The Korea Herald.
“Since I started car camping, I do not have to worry about complicated reservation processes. As my car is already equipped with simple camping gear, I can go camping whenever I want.”
Finding proper washroom or shower facilities can be difficult sometimes, Kim said such small inconveniences are worth bearing when one goes car camping.
Camper Kang Dong-won and his car (Instagram @dalnote_kang)
“The best parts of car camping are high mobility and convenience,” a veteran camper Kang Dong-won said in an interview with The Korea Herald.
“When I’m on car camping, I can take a rest wherever I’d like to stop. If I feel hungry, I can drive to the local’s popular dining spots. My four-wheeled vehicle is perfect for exploring and spending a night in the wilds,” Kang said.
The camper recommended a pine tree forest in Paju’s Gamaksan and Mokgye forest in North Chungcheong Province as the best car camping sites in Korea to be surrounded by nature.
By Park Ju-young (email@example.com)