It’d be a crime for me to allow the winter season to close without dedicating space to one of my favorites of the season, Laid-Back Camp. Along with A Place Further than the Universe, this show makes approaching the outdoors seem as natural as breathing. While the sites shown in the anime are real places in Japan, the characters’ attitudes towards camping will hopefully push viewers to explore similar activities close to home. I know it has certainly inspired me to re-evaluate my hesitation towards tents and off-season camping. My complaints suddenly seem small compared to the wide views seen by these girls.
Let’s start with my history in camping: I grew up in Alaska where spending time outdoors was a natural part of childhood. My Dad was an avid fisherman. On the weekends, we’d pack up the RV with all his fishing gear and head out to a campground where we’d register our number of days and a specific spot to set up camp.
Then there were my school trips from as early as middle school—sometimes we’d go canoeing, or hiking, and stake actual tents for the night. Coupled with the wilderness survival training we all went through in grade school, Alaskan kids are for the most part extremely comfortable with nature. I have vivid memories of curling up for maximum warmth in my mummy sleeping bag, a type of bag that cocoons you inside much like an Egyptian coffin. I would tie the drawstring on the opening so tight only my nose could poke through for the nippy air. I started to associate camping with fishing and cold nights, and little else.
I thought I had a pretty good grasp on camping, but watching Laid-Back Camp introduced me to different styles and perspectives. First off was the equipment. It had been years since I last ventured to a campground, so I found my knowledge outdated. The show introduces us along with Nadeshiko to modern tools meant to make certain activities more convenient, as well as campsites well maintained and often complete with basic amenities like public restrooms and even on-site restaurants.
My background with tent camping comprised mostly of equipment optimized for our climate. I never thought about how different types of environments would require their own specific versions of tents and sleeping bags. Car camping means you can pack to fill the car, so you don’t need to worry about volume as much. Backpackers obviously aim for packability and weight.
Then consider cooking. The campgrounds I knew had dedicated fire pits and sometimes simple grills. At the most rudimentary, we’d stake hot dogs on sticks and roast them directly over the fire, or we might crack out some foil-wrapped meat and potatoes. RV camping felt much the same as cooking at home with our microwave, stove, and oven.
Laid-Back Camp shows us a delicious-looking meal almost every episode thanks mainly to a portable, one-burner stove. The miniature grill she gets later on in the season provides its own space for a fire starter and coal, and can be used as both a hot plate and grill. We even see a couple of other campers whip up meals in cast-iron pans, like steak and jambalaya. Despite my own familiarity with car camping, cooking full meals never seemed practical. I never would have dreamed of whipping up a stew on my own, yet this show makes it look not only desirable, but easy. You just need to have the right tools and prep ingredients beforehand. Fresh food also adds a homey feeling absent from instant food.
Seasoned campers might argue the inconvenience of packing unnecessary equipment or sticking to one location for a night or two like the girls in this show, but this just underlines the different approaches people have towards enjoying the outdoors. I have friends who venture into the wilderness for adventure, like hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing. Camping is a logical inclusion of their goal. Then there are families like mine who have no choice but to camp if they want to get in on a day of fishing and hunting as early as possible.
The types we experience in Laid-Back Camp enjoy camping for camping’s sake. Their feelings of accomplishment in reaching their destinations precludes the delight they share in the sights they see and the food they eat. They find somewhere beautiful away from the city and its crowds and bask in the view. They stay in one spot, relaxing or cooking as the mood strikes. They lie back and drink it all in. They go as a group and share their excitement with one another. Rin goes alone and finds satisfaction in her solitude; she actively avoids groups in favor of her style of camping. This isn’t because she dislikes people, or out of some sense of superiority. She simply likes her alone time with nature. The anime accepts both approaches as valid and precious.
Whether you’re a camping veteran, or completely new to the activity, the appreciation for wildlife shouldn’t be unobtainable. Laid-Back Camp shows us how easy it can be to take a weekend, or even just part of your day, to find your own place of peace. That place might be in the back country, or at a reserved spot in a manned and serviced campsite. The right spot might even be a sunlit lawn at the nearest city park.
Watch Laid-Back Camp on Crunchyroll.