[2020 Update: Due to coronavirus precautions, camps mentioned in this post might have imposed some reservation restrictions, so double-check that you can successfully reserve on your desired date. Also, due to coronavirus, the utensils and bedding supplies offered for full-option camping are currently not available. That said, since the social distancing level was lowered to 1 as of Oct. 10, 2020, the above policies may have been modified. Email the Korea National Park Service at email@example.com for specifics!]
Hey, ladies! Long time no talk! If you followed my blog earlier this year, you might be wondering: “Where has she been?” What had happened was …
I got a new job and moved!
Back in February, I snagged a long-dreamed-of job as a university professor, and I relocated from Paju, north of Seoul, to central Korea. [2020 Update: I’ve actually switched jobs a couple times, got married and now live in Seoul — more on that in another post, ‘kay?]
So that’s where I’ve been — now let’s gab about the topic you came here for: easy camping in Korea!
Have you ever wanted to take in Korea’s amazing mountain scenery from the very heart of the hills? Do you see friends’ camping and glamping Instas and feel a grip of FOMO? Do youuuu want to try camping in Korea yourself?
But are you also lazy AF and/or don’t own any actual camping equipment because that’s not how your life is set up? I’m here to help you, friend!
I recently went on an amazing camping trip to Sobaeksan (Sobaek Mountain) in Danyang, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. What was so incredible about it? Not only that I got to take in the beauty of one of Korea’s National Park Service gems, but that I could have such an outdoorsy adventure without owning or lugging a single piece of camping equipment.
Sobaeksan has two campsites, and the northernmost one, called Namcheon, is what’s called a full-option campsite, where the camp provides as little or as much equipment as you need. In Namcheon’s case, you can bring alllll your goods and reserve a flat dirt patch or make an easy online reservation and snag a so-named lodge tent. I and my nature companion opted for the latter; but there are also regular tents, too, pictured below.
As it turned out, the lodge tent was pretty much a glampsite! Glamping, for the uninitiated, is “glamour camping,” i.e., doing the nature thang in a larger-than-average, nicer-than-average tent that’s big enough to walk around in. Most glamps have a bed and a patio area — fancier ones even have climate control!
The lodge tent was sweet, and there was more. Full-option means the campsite provides anything from chopsticks and soju cups to sleeping bags and heating mat.
Yeah — soju cups!
I added on the cookware set and the bedding set (10,000 won each). Blankets, pillows, lanterns, an electrical outlet strip, even a flashlight, came with the latter. The cooking set also featured a gas stove, serving bowls, spoons, pots and pans and lids, utensils and a chopping board. Boy, they thought of everything! (Well, almost — if you go, bring some oven mitts!)
The third full-option choice is sleeping bags for 3,000 won a pop, but an air mattress already comes with the basic tent cost (50,000 won per night), so I was plenty happy with the mattress and heating pads. Made things comfy and cozy when it came time to dim the lights and watch scary movies!
Before that, my companion and I grilled out, cooking up sausages and sides alongside an assortment of craft beer. The Namcheon campsite offers sink areas and sponges for washing dishes before you turn them back in (pro tip: In addition to oven mitts, bring your own towels) as well as a kitchen area with fridges and a microwave for storing and preparing food. Behind that area are shower rooms.
With all these amenities at your fingertips, really all you have to bring to the camp is your food and drink! When you’re done with all the borrowed equipment, simply fold or pack it up, and you’re all set to trek back home.
As for my stay at Namcheon, it was carefree and easy. The tent was clean, the bathroom was spotless — and heated! — and all the supplies were so convenient. I’m an older gal, so the air mattress didn’t make for the best night’s sleep. And I’m glad I brought my own pillow, as the camp gives you those cinder-block rectangular things that clearly aren’t meant for human necks. On the chilly night that I stayed there, I was thanking the heavens for the heating mat — wondrous doesn’t begin to describe how it felt! Lastly, the camp was pretty empty, except for one other party camped out in one of the nearby regular tents. Across from us there’d been a group of monks (I kid you not!) grilling out, but they ate and ran.
Are you ready for camping in Korea? I highly recommend Namcheon inside of Sobaeksan park; the only other full-option campsite in the National Park Service system is Daddonjae inside Woraksan park in Jecheon. Disclaimer: if you’re an outdoors lightweight, then, as of now (Halloween eve), you’ve missed the window for mild-ish weather camping, but tuck this article away for spring, or, hell — venture out there in the winter, you all-weather goddess!)
Whichever camping site or experience you choose, the KNPS’ English website is wonderfully robust and helpful in exploring and reserving camping spots; you must register and login to see full details of each site, as well as reserve. There are pictures aplenty, campsite maps, and oh, yeah — the site runs perfectly on Chrome (check out my earlier gripe about website woes).