I would like to talk about the difference I felt when camping in Japan and the United States, based on my own experience.
Experiencing camping in the United States, the home of outdoor activities, what are the differences between Japanese and American camping?
The outdoor boom has taken root in Japan as well. Recently, various camping styles such as so-called "solo camping" seem to be popular, and camping and outdoor YouTube channels are also popular.
America is the home of camping!
Originally I enjoyed mountain climbing and camping in Japan, but one day I was stationed in the United States, and I was able to experience mountain climbing and camping in America, the home of outdoor activities. This time, I would like to talk about the differences I felt while camping in Japan and the United States based on my own experience.
America is just so big
In a word, America is hopelessly vast (laughs). The character, culture and natural environment of the people are completely different depending on the state and region. I have lived in Seattle, Washington on the west coast for about four years, and my "camping experience in the United States" is mainly about this area on the west coast of North America. Camping conditions in other areas may be completely different, so please bear that in mind.
That said, the West Coast is an outdoor mecca and home to many big name outdoor brands. For example, Patagonia, The North Face, Columbia, Kavu, etc. Therefore, I think that the experience in this area was able to touch at least a part of the camping culture in the United States.
What does camping mean to Americans?
In the first place, what is the position of camping for Americans?
Outdoors are a daily routine for Americans
This is my impression, but imagine a BBQ for example.
When it comes time to have a BBQ in Japan, gather the members, adjust the schedule, decide on a place, decide on roles, confirm the means of transportation, and so on. It's a lot of things to do.
On the other hand, BBQ is a daily occurrence for Americans.
An elderly couple usually grills meat on a BBQ and uses it as a side dish for lunch or dinner.
In the United States, apartment rooftops and common spaces almost always have a shared BBQ grill that residents can use freely, and most detached houses also have a BBQ grill in the garden. I have a certain impression.
I live in Seattle, where the weather is bad from autumn to early summer, so I can't really enjoy outdoor activities. Summer, on the other hand, is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors as the weather is wonderful. Around June and July, when the weather gradually improved, everyone started to get nervous. It felt like I was enjoying BBQ in my daily life, just like grilling meat quickly in the garden and eating it with wine for dinner.
For them, camping is probably an extension of that feeling of BBQ, and compared to Japan, I think it's closer to "everyday life." On weekends when the weather is nice, one of the standard ways to spend time is to go camping somewhere with your family and relax. is.
America's outdoor is huge!
On weekends, families go outdoors with huge campers, SUVs and pickup trucks that are likely to be oversized on the roads in Japan, with bicycles and motorbikes, and tow personal watercraft, boats and camping trailers. there are so many
What I felt was especially large was the style of camping in a national park for days in a car or camper van. I haven't been able to experience this myself, but it's truly unique to America.
There are a number of national parks of enormous size in the United States, but it is impossible to visit them all in one day. Therefore, we stay overnight while camping in the park and go around the park over several days.
Sometimes there are lodging facilities and shops in the park, so you may use those places as you go around. If you have the opportunity to go camping in America next time, this is one of the things you want to experience.
Differences between outdoor meals in Japan and the US
Where do the cultural differences between countries really show up? Yes, it's food.
In Japan, there are many books, magazines, and YouTube channels dedicated to camping food, and if you go to an outdoor shop, you will find a wide variety of outdoor foods and cooking tools.
Recent freeze-dried foods and canned foods are very good, and it can be said that "how to enjoy meals while camping and mountain climbing" is one of the major themes for many campers and climbers. .
On the other hand, America is the home of camping.
I thought they would be enjoying a full-fledged outdoor meal... Surprisingly, that wasn't the case.
When I first went to the United States and went mountain climbing with my friend, the lunch that my American friend took out at the top of the mountain that I had a hard time climbing was an apple, mixed nuts, and a protein bar. (Laughs) When I saw that, I thought, "I wonder if it's tasteless to eat it on top of a mountain you've gone all the way to, even if it's just for action."
As for myself, I had just moved to the United States at the time, and I didn't have the mental leeway to make special mountain meals. It wasn't for sale, so I just needed it the night before I climbed the mountain. I prepared a mountain meal lunch box.
However, when I showed it to an American friend at the top of the mountain,
"Wow, fantastic!" (Laughs)
It was an easy and simple compromise mountain meal for me, but still the grilled salmon, white rice, and pickled plums that I eat on the mountain are really delicious. If you add instant miso soup there, it's already the best. It was a moment when I thought, "I'm glad I was born Japanese!"
Outdoor meals in the United States are very simple
In this way, when it comes to outdoor meals for American climbers and campers, they eat functional foods such as trail mixes and protein bars, eat simple fruits such as bananas and apples, and bring sausages and chicken. Sandwich bread with cheese to make a hamburger or hot dog, or drink whiskey with potato chips or beef jerky.
It's too simple and I'm a little overwhelmed.
Other people were eating powdered mashed potatoes and freeze-dried meals.
However, many freeze-dried products in the United States have a subtle taste, and the product lineup was not as good as in Japan.
In the United States, outdoor meals are just nutritional supplements?
For example, freeze-dried foods for outdoor use in the United States often have a large display of protein content, and rather than deliciousness and variety, they are regarded as a "meal". It was an impression that emphasizes the functionality of
On the other hand, I got the impression that they were enjoying themselves with all their might when it comes to other activities, such as enjoying water sports in the ocean or river.
For them, the outdoors is nothing more than playing with all one's might in nature. It seemed like a lot.
In this way, when compared to the United States, I think that Japan's outdoor food culture is overwhelmingly more fulfilling. It may come from the national character of Japanese people who are particular about food. I'm curious about how the outdoor dining situation is not only in the United States, but in other countries as well.
In America, he should be careful when camping
Compared to Japan, the United States is still less safe, so there are things you have to be careful about in terms of security even when outdoors.
Watch out for car break-ins!
In the United States, there is a crime called "break-in" in which the windows of a car are broken and the inside of the car is vandalized. I have been robbed once, and it is quite likely that the expatriates around me have experienced it once.
I don't think it's as bad as the homeless and bad guys roaming around town, but of course you have to be careful even in the remote mountains.
For example, if it is a parking lot at the trailhead, or if the parking lot and the campsite are far away, you will have to park your car in the parking lot. Then the window glass was broken and the inside of the car was ruined.
In order to prevent car break-ins, it is a fundamental rule not to leave anything in the car. At least don't leave anything visible from the outside. Unbelievably, even clothes and shoes can be stolen.
Keep an eye out for outdoor goods from famous brands, as they can be easy targets.
Solo camping is a bit scary
I would like to believe that there are no bad people out there who enjoy camping in the great outdoors, but this is America.
I talked about car burglaries earlier, but theft is a daily occurrence, and guns, knives, and marijuana are also free in this country. Several people went camping.
It seems that there are more and more female solo campers in Japan these days, but I guess that's only possible because of Japan's good security. (Although there was also a strong woman enjoying a ten-night trip alone in the United States.)
There are vestiges of the gun society even in the mountains...
I'm sorry for all the scary stories about security, but I think the big difference between Japan and the United States is that they care about safety.
As for another experience, there was a time when the public toilet door and trash can at the trailhead near Seattle were full of bullet holes (laughs). I was told that someone had probably tried a gun in the middle of the night, but in Japan, it would have been blocked by a restricted line, but everyone was using it normally.
And there are many shooting ranges near these mountains, and I often hear gunshots coming from nearby as I walk through the mountains. As expected of America. .
Beware of bears!
Of course, this depends on the area, but Washington, where I often camped and climbed mountains, is a major bear habitat. The main species are brown bears, so-called brown bears.
It's only natural to hear from acquaintances that they've seen bears while hiking or camping.
It was clearly a more familiar existence than Japan.
In such an environment, sleeping in a pitch-black forest in a tent made of only one piece of cloth is always something different.
There was a sense of tension, so I studied various ways to deal with bears.
If you go to an outdoor shop in the United States before the season, there will be a special corner for dealing with bears.
There are plenty of anti-bear goods that are incomparable to those in Japan. On the contrary, it's scary. (laughs)
Differences in bear measures between Japan and the United States
In Japan, when it comes to dealing with bears, it is common to wear a bear bell while walking.
I think bear bells were sold in America, but I don't think I've seen many people wearing them.
Instead, bear spray and canned bears were commonly used as countermeasures against bears.(Bear canister).
Bear spray, as it is known in Japan, uses hot ingredients such as hot pepper to repel bears. However, this can only be used when it is really close, and if you are downwind, you will be eaten, so it will be a last resort, so "prevent the bear from approaching". is the basic bear countermeasure in the United States.
However, it is also to protect humans, and at the same time to protect food from bears and other animals.
As I will talk about later, there are no mountain huts where you can procure food and water in the middle of the mountain trails in the United States, so if you are trekking while staying in a tent for several days, bears will steal your food. In other words, it becomes a matter of life and death.
For that reason, I was told that the golden rule is to isolate food and smells that attract bears anyway.
Some campgrounds have anti-bear facilities
Some of the campsites had tall iron pole-like poles standing everywhere, and food could be hung from the ends of the poles. .
Also, the trash cans installed at auto campsites were generally designed to prevent bears from opening the trash cans and messing with them.
Some people who are accustomed to camping without such facilities hang food on a tall tree away from the tent. However, bear canisters, so-called bear cans, were common in the United States as an easier way to isolate food.
I don't think bear cans are very familiar in Japan. This is a structure that can be opened by humans but not by bears. In addition, it can be sealed to some extent, so that the smell does not leak outside.
When you go to bed, you can put not only food but also scented items (such as toothpaste, gum candy, sunscreen, lotion, etc.) in the tent and keep it away from the tent.
This reduces the risk of bears approaching your tent due to the smell of food, and also protects the food itself from bears.
The drawback is that it is quite bulky as luggage and has a certain weight, so it is not suitable for backpacking. In such cases, I used to seal food in plastic bags or zip locks and put them away from the tent.
I think we were taught in Japan that food should not be left outside and should be stored in tents to prevent animals from destroying it. In America, I was taught that this is the worst thing you can do. If you have food in your tent, the smell may attract bears to your tent.
By the way, an American friend told me that he always carries a rifle in his car when he's camping, both for repelling bears and for crime prevention. As expected of America. . .
As you can see, it seems that the US is more wary of bears and other wild animals than Japan.
Isn't there still a lot of bear damage?
Even though bears are so close to us, I have never heard of people being attacked by bears. In state parks and national parks in the United States, rangers are always patrolling the parks, and if information about bear sightings comes in, they will drive them away from the trail course. They don't get rid of bears, they just tell people where they are and keep the bears away. Rather than viewing bears as enemies, it seemed to me that the underlying idea was to control bears, coexist with them, and enjoy nature.
Make sure the water in the camp area is filtered and drinkable!
Before camping or staying in a tent in the United States, the first thing you should check is, surprisingly
"Whether the water source in that area is filtered and drinkable"
At least, I didn't pay much attention to such things in Japan.
Because there are mountain huts scattered throughout Japan's mountainous areas, where you can buy drinking water, juice, food, alcohol, etc., and there are also taps at campsites. .
There is also spring water and well water that can be drunk as it is.
As far as I have climbed and camped in America, there was no so-called water hole. In the first place, there are no facilities like mountain huts in the United States, so you basically need to secure all your own water and food.
As for water, it is normal to have a filter that can filter water, and to filter river water and mountain spring water to secure water. If you go to an outdoor shop in the United States, you will find a wide variety of different types of filters.
However, if the area where you camp is a large-scale agricultural area, the water source may be contaminated with chemicals such as pesticides, and in that case you cannot drink it even if you filter it.
In that case, you'll have to carry all the water you need with you, and your luggage will increase significantly, so you'll need to pack more carefully.
You can check on the internet whether the water in that area is drinkable with a filter, so it is essential to check whether the water source in the place you want to go is usable. It may be an unexpected pitfall, but it's pretty deadly if you don't know it.
Experience ~Camping in the desert~
The thing I really wanted to do in America was "camping in the desert".
You often see images on screensavers on your computer, with a tent shining in the background of a vast starry sky and a desert stretching to the horizon. I thought I would never be able to experience something like that in Japan, so I really wanted to try it.
As expected, my wish came true and I was able to actually camp in the desert. Although it is called a desert, it is not a complete sandy desert like the Gobi Desert, but rather an arid area with low dry vegetation and large and small rocks. The suburbs of Seattle are rich in water and greenery, and if anything, the natural environment is closer to that of Japan, but if you drive for about two hours from there, you will pass the Cascade Mountains and the climate will change dramatically, turning into a vast desert area. It will change. This kind of dynamic change in the natural environment is one of the real pleasures of America.
Camping in the desert was awesome. What's best is that you can enjoy the leisurely flow of time while gazing at the vast desert and sky that stretches all the way to the horizon.
Even though it's such a great location, it's so vast that other campers can be seen sparsely in the distance. It was like having nature all to yourself.
Sit in a chair and watch the sun slowly set, and at night enjoy a whiskey with a bonfire and a star-filled sky as a side dish. Enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the sun rise at dawn.
Because the view of the sky and the ground is overwhelmingly open, you can enjoy the feeling of liberation unique to the desert.
This is not something you can taste in Japan, so if you have the chance, I definitely recommend it.
Cautions for Desert Camp
However, of course, there were some things that we had to be careful about only in the desert.
First of all, it is a desert area, so it is often a habitat for snakes. A place called Ancient Lakes in eastern Washington, where I camped several times, was a habitat for rattlesnakes. is needed.
Actually, when I was walking, there were many snake burrows and shells on the ground. (laughs)
Also, the temperature difference is extreme, and the daytime is midsummer, and the night is cold like midwinter, so we also needed to be careful.
In addition, it is naturally dusty, so it is necessary to take measures against dust such as cameras and smartphones. In desert areas, there are many cases where large-scale cultivation of grapes for wine is practiced nearby. was. Along with winter clothes, tents, and food, we tend to have a lot of luggage, and we needed the stamina to carry these luggage around in the heat.
at the end
What did you think?
Even if you say camping in one word, there are quite a few differences depending on the country.
I think there are various ways to enjoy the outdoors depending on the culture and natural environment of the country. I was fortunate enough to experience camping in the United States, but I am very curious about the outdoor situation in other countries. If anyone knows, please let me know.