The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Hong Kong 2020
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Hong Kong
Backpacking is one of the best ways to travel eco-friendly in any part of the world. Backpacking or trekking is a way of travel without any transportation but your own foot. It is often associated with the natural environment and outdoor activities. Hong Kong offers you a unique backpacking experience, a "city in nature" characteristics that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world.
Hong Kong, a city in nature, hiking trails are just within walking distances, and most of the hiking trails are interconnected, which you can almost walk your way through Hong Kong. One of the best things about backpacking in Hong Kong is all the campsites within the country park areas are free!! You just have to pay for your food and transportation to and from your starting point.
Yet, there is still a number of questions and issues to answer when planning your backpacking trip in Hong Kong. Good preparation is never wasted. The better you prepare yourself for the trip, the greater the experience. This is an Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Travel in Hong Kong.
Since this is a REALLY LONG post, I've divided the content into Climate, Food, Campsite, Water, Wildlife, and Route Suggestions into different pages. Just to make it easier for you to navigate. You can still read this long post in one, if so, I salute you!
Climate, the weather, is the number one priority when planning any outdoor activities. Especially when you know you will be alone in the wilderness situation. The weather factor will determine your gear, clothing, food, and routes.
Hong Kong is a city within the subtropical region overlapping the temperate zone and tropical zone. The monsoon clearly defines the four seasons, Spring starting from February to April, long Summertime from May to September, Autumn starting from late September to early November, and a short Wintertime from December to January.
Generally speaking, the climate in the subtropical region is more comparable to a tropical climate rather than the temperate zone. The monsoon is the main factor affecting the weather in the region. Monsoon wind from the South affects the area during Summer, bringing in a lot of tropical depression and rainfall. While the cold air from the northern temperate zone generates strong prevailing wind during the short Winter.
The table showed the actual temperature your body feels like. The readings highlighted in yellow indicate there will be very high chances of having heat exhaustion, heatstroke and dehydration.
As Hong Kong is more comparable to the tropical climate, humidity is the key when you look at the weather forecast, to anticipate how the temperature is actually going to be like. The higher the humidity, the higher the density of the air, which makes your body “feels more”. In other words, if the humidity is high during the summertime, your body will feel a lot hotter than the actual temperature, and if the humidity is high during the wintertime, your body will feel a lot colder than the actual temperature. Given that the average humidity is around 85%, most of the time you will feel more than the actual temperature.
As you may have noticed, the long Summertime contributes a lot to the general climate. Another worth to mention is that the daily sunlight can be as long as 13 hours a day during the summertime. This is certainly an advantage when you are out in the wilderness. It gives you more time to set up camp, collect firewoods, or even give you more flexibility when planning your routes.
On the flip side, Summer brings in tropical depressions, or worse, the Typhoon or Cyclone. We have reports from damages caused by typhoons almost every year. Not to mention the high-speed wind causing the damage, but the rainfall that comes along with the tropical depressions. Mudslides or even landslides are very common, and it happens almost most of the time in country parks. The tremendous amount of water also causes a lot of flooding and overflow in the rivers or streams, and water reservoirs.
Somehow there are good and bad for your considerations when planning your trip. In conclusion, some tips regarding the climate factor for you when planning your trip are:
Your gear must be waterproof and highly breathable
Your clothing must be dry quickly with sun protection
Your food must be insulated and packed airtight
Your route planning must be updated with weather conditions
What Season is the Best for Backpacking?
It depends on the activities you are planning to do while backpacking, and it depends on your backpacking style. It would be hell if you are planning for an expedition trip with extensive hiking in summer, while it would be heaven if you are planning for a grill and chill trip in a forest during Autumn.
You can plan various activities within the scope of country parks. Hiking from one spot to another, and camp in between is great, but wouldn’t it be awesome if you could see more and do more during your backpacking trip? Personally, I do recommend some activities in different seasons during your backpacking trips, and a few examples are listed below:
Sounds interesting? It’s not common to include snorkelling activities in backpacking trips in many parts of the world. Yet, it is very common in Hong Kong to include, or some of us will consider snorkelling as the highlight of the trip. There are 7 Marine Parks with 84 species of reef-building corals in Hong Kong, and nearly 1000 fish species from the South-China Sea. Double Haven Marine Park is the top pick!
Photo was taken in Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park. Snorkelling during my backpacking trip in Sai Kung.
For those of you who can stay sun and sand all day! There are over 100 beaches in Hong Kong, and many of those are located in remote islands. But still, there are too many beautiful beaches to mention and introduce. My top picks would be Pak Lap Wan (Sai Kung) and Pui O Beach (Lantau Island).
Photo was taken at Maclehose Trail Section 2, lookout to Long Ke Beach
You might be thinking there will be a lot of gear to carry, right? You get it wrong. You are lucky enough to have kayaking facilities for almost every major spot for kayaking. The facilities or stores are mostly run by villagers, and they will charge you a fixed amount of money with everything included (lifevest, kayak, and paddle). A waterproof bag is all you need.
This is my favourite activity while backpacking. Especially when it comes to the moment of catch and cook, that really nailed the trip. One of the great things about fishing is that the activity itself is very challenging and time-consuming. It gives you a vibe of hunting for your own food. With over 450km long of coastline, and different microhabitats within, you have endless hunting grounds for fishing.
Another great thing about including fishing activities in your backpacking trip is that you have an option for fishing freshwater fishes in most of the water reservoirs. Water reservoirs are all within the scope of country parks. So you have even more options when planning your backpacking route. From my experience, those freshwater fishes living in water reservoirs are generally larger and stronger. That “FISH ON” experience is like fighting a monster in a peaceful environment.
You do need a Fishing License for fishing in the water reservoirs. And there is a fishing period from September to March every year, avoiding the spawning activities.
For more information, click here.
Sunrise / Sunset
Seriously? Sunrise and sunset every day, do I really have to plan for this? Well, yes, I’m very serious about this. There are several factors that affect your chances of getting the best sunrise or sunset.
First, the time for sunset and sunrise is different for every season, so you should keep your backpacking plan updated. You might want to adjust and prepare yourself more buffer time to “wait and see” for the best sunset or sunrise you can get.
Second, the paths of the sun are different throughout the year. Which means the location of the campsites or any selected spots will have different results of seeing sunset and sunrise.
Photo was taken at Tsin Yue Wan Campsite during sunset
Check out another post for “The Best Spots for Watching Sunrise and Sunset”.
Visit Natural Attractions near Campsites
With more than 40% of the lands are included in country parks, and hundreds of years of Chinese and British Colonial history, there are so many spots to see and explore around or nearby. You should check out other posts for more natural attractions:
There are so many things to talk about when it comes to style, regardless of the planned activities. Whether you want to pack light or ultra-light, or considering comfortability is the priority, how you pack your gear should adjust according to 5 Weather Warning Signals, so to make every season perfect for your backpacking trip.
It is anticipating a probability of flashes of lightning and claps of thunder within the area of Hong Kong. It may be the signs of an arriving cloud of a storm, or in between the period of tropical depressions. You should seek shelter and avoid getting close to any tall or metallic objects.
Cold and Very Hot Weather Warning
The signals are the calculations of sunlight, wind speed, temperature, and humidity, to conclude a state of weather may be harmful to our health and people with special conditions. Summer in particular, Very Hot Weather Warning, is a signal indicating there will be very high chances for heatstroke or dehydration.
Strong Monsoon Signal
The prevailing wind of monsoon comes from Northeast, and the signal in place when the monsoon wind is expected to exceed 40km/hour. If you are planning your route over several exposed peaks, the monsoon wind may exceed 70km/hour, The wind chill is no joke.
Fire Danger Warnings
As a responsible camper, you should be aware of the signal when you are thinking of starting a fire. The signal is in place mostly during the wintertime, it indicates the humidity is extremely low, and nature’s surroundings may easily catch fire. We have fire reports every year, all of them are human mistakes. So please be mindful when starting a fire.
The warning signals are required precautionary measures and decisions to prevent or avoid unpleasant or even deadly accidents. It is your responsibility to check and understand the meaning of other warning signals. For instance, if the Red Rainstorm Warning Signal is in place, all outdoor activities should be stopped and stay in a safe shelter. For more weather warning signals information, please visit: The Details of Weather Warning Signals. https://www.hko.gov.hk/en/wservice/warning/details.htm
What Will You Expect From Different Seasons, and What Clothing and Tent Should I Prepare?
Most of the tourists from the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere consider the winter in Hong Kong as “WARM”. Well, think about the average temperature from the northern hemisphere in many countries, Hong Kong is “WARM”, I mean, at least for them. And some of my friends just moved to Hong Kong, they found summer is like “HELL” if they are walking on the streets with tall buildings. It’s like a sauna on the street.
SO, the question is, what clothing and tent should I prepare for the trips?
Clothing: Quick-Dry is the priority. I can guarantee you, you will sweat a lot! If your clothing can dry quickly, you can wash them at night and will be dry the next day. Second, sun protection, wear long sleeves if you don’t like putting sunscreen on. My tip is to bring more spare underwear. Trust me, you will need them for a comfy night.
Tent: Grab a tent with separate rainfly, in case you stand the heat during the night, you can take off the rainfly, let the wind get through. But don’t forget the rainfly, it saves a lot of souls when it rains so hard, you will be grateful when you have a waterproof shelter. A tent with a mosquito net is a must! The mosquito net is not only against the mosquitos, and many other small and large creeping crawlings. I will address more about the wildlife in Hong Kong in a later part.
Clothing: Waterproof and highly breathable. You may wonder why? The reason is simple, the humidity is high most of the time, and when it gets cold, the humidity will make you feel even colder. For those of you who are not from the northern hemisphere, following the 3 layers clothing approach should get you through the long cold night.
Tent: Pick a tent with a high function of ventilation. Again, it’s about the humidity, the moist or condensation will start to form once you get inside the tent. As the temperature drops, the inside of the tent gets colder and colder. Another accessory for the tent will be a footprint. It helps insulate from the ground and reduce the moist formed underneath your tent, which will cause a wet floor inside the tent.
How Seasons Change Affect Planning a Backpacking Trip?
I have mentioned a lot about summer and winter, what’s likely to happen and what to prepare. What about Spring and Autumn? Even though the two seasons are comparatively short, just account for around 4 months. Since the two seasons is the transition time for summer and winter, when there is a change in seasons, there will be some form of weather aggression.
From relatively dry and cold weather, it turns into a warm and extremely humid condition. The average humidity in Spring is ranging from 90-95%. The monsoon wind from the South-China Sea is bringing in warm air with a lot of moistures. A foggy day with very low visibility, sometimes you wouldn’t see your buddy just a few meters away. Drizzling rain throughout the day and night, it makes everything damped, and difficult to get a fire started. It will be cool or even cold during the dawn and the night, but it’s going to be very stuffy and humid during the day.
It doesn’t sound very ideal for going out, right? Let’s look at the bright side, especially when the weather beats you so badly. Spring is the blossom time for most of the plants, even just a window of sunlight, it dresses up nature’s surroundings like you are the Alice In The Wonderland. And the average temperature is around 18-degree celsius, which is a very ideal condition for outdoor activities.
Summer’s average temperature is around 33-degree celsius. It only takes less than 3 weeks to reach 20-degree celsius, the average temperature for Autumn. The sudden temperature drops make the weather even more unpredictable. Cold rains and strong winds, extra precaution need to be taken when going on an expedition trip. Generally speaking, the temperate and the humidity is reaching the equilibrium for body comfortability.
The residual heat will gradually release, you will find a hot tent in the middle of the night. For most of the campers and hikers, Autumn is the best time to go outdoors and do their loves. Unfortunately, Autumn is changing over the years. It has become less noticeable in recent decades. The transition time from summer to winter is shorter, and the average temperature for autumn and winter is getting closer to each other.
Where to Source Your Camping Food?
It is tricky when you are sourcing the “RIGHT” food outside of your familiar environment. Food is essential to your body, yet, it is cultural to the mind. When you have your comfort food with you on the mountain, you feel like your trip is completed. In this section, I will be addressing the different needs of food sourcing in Hong Kong.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
Have you ever had a thought crossed your mind, telling you should have some sort of local food when it comes to travel? There is local food, or it’s better to put it this way, the local practice when selecting and preparing their food for backpacking.
Hong Kong is an international city, where you can get pretty much everything from anywhere in the world. If you go check on the supermarket or wet market near the neighbourhood, you should be able to find the food or snacks from your country.
So, what is the local practice? Given the fact that the country parks are highly accessible, and the facilities are very well equipped for some of the campsites. For most of the family trips or overnight trips, people tend to bring a lot of fresh food and cooking tools. And Majority of the campers are doing overnight trips or base camp multiple trips. So base weight and loads are never the concern for those people. You may see them carrying a little trolley with them to the campsites.
In other words, there aren't many people planning backpacking trips in Hong Kong, rather camping and cooking outdoors in the wild. For many local campers, cooking a meal is the biggest thing. I’ve seen people cutting a cracker tin to make an oven, for roasting a chicken in whole. By the time you get to Hong Kong, you will see more examples.
SHOP LIKE A PRO
There are numbers of shops that provide hiking or backpacking food. For those of you, who are not a big fan of cooking and taking care of the mess afterwards and cleaning the utensils, you got it covered.
You wouldn’t expect a lot of selection and choices will be made available in Hong Kong. Since local practice for meal preparation is pretty much bringing a small kitchen to the campsite. So the choice of dehydrated meals is very limited.
Check out the link below, this is a very comprehensive shop for outdoor activities. To the best of my knowledge, not every shop offers the dehydrated meal. You better call them and check before your visit.
SPARE YOUR LOADS, EAT AND GO
Country parks are formed and established after the British Colonial time. But then, many villages are still living within the areas. Quite a number of campsites have access to villages, and most of them have stores or small canteens for you to pick up some food and supplies.
There are too many to mention. And the situation is different from one to another. I will explain more in detail in later chapters regarding Route Planning, give you more ideas for utilizing the resources around you within the country parks.
Top 5 Camping Meals in Hong Kong
Whether it's going to be a big meal or a convenient meal, some sort of preparation is needed. The top 5 camping meals are the most commonly seen in Hong Kong and loved by most of the campers. Depending on the storage and preparations, the top 5 meals all require some sort of cooking, and some of them even require extensive cleaning.
The 5 camping meals written down below is according to their level of cooking, preparation efforts and storage requirements. Starting from the most difficult to prepare to the quick and easy.
Breakfast, the most important meal for starting your day. I personally don’t really enjoy it so much when it comes to a full and heavy breakfast in the morning. Nevertheless, most of the campers in Hong Kong, they do enjoy it a lot. I think they do enjoy preparing it more than having it.
A full English breakfast consists of bacon, fried egg, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, grilled tomatoes, etc. It could be more or less depending on personal preferences. But look at the list, there is so much to prepare and to bring. Cooking them is easy at home, but doing it in the wilderness certainly requires a lot of tools and skills.
STEAM RICE & STIR FRY
I am a Chinese guy, and I love Jasmine Rice. I have rice for my backpacking trips all the time. Many of the campers prefer to have some rice on the side, to go along with anything from the frying pan. The storage and preparation for rice and stir fry are not difficult, but cleaning the mess afterwards will be a headache.
Especially when it comes to some sort of sauce and oil to prepare the stir fry or for the rice. You do need a proper sink for kitchen waste, not to mention it requires a large amount of water and some kind of detergent to clean it thoroughly.
Yes, you heard me right! Barbecue! Impressive right? Fresh meats and vegetables, barbecue utensils, packs of charcoal, and the list go on… depending on your favourite and preferences. Some of them will bring a small fridge or some kind of cooling device, just to make sure they got the drinks well-chilled. Commonly seen for family trips or friend’s gathering trips, mostly overnight trips.
No idea of what it is? Hot Pot is cooking and eating at the same time. The keys for preparing Hot Pot are, first, the soup, and the second, your choice of ingredients. You basically cook and eat the food from the pot of soup. The key is having a large pot for a great volume of soup, and a certain amount of space to allow cooking the ingredients inside the pot.
The ingredients may range from fresh meats, vegetables, noodles, seafood, rice, etc. The list goes on depending on your personal preferences. Bring the soup to a boil, and start cooking and eating the ingredients.
SOUP RAMEN W/ CANNED FOOD
This is my personal favourite when it comes to the choice of meal. This is certainly my comfort food when it comes to winter in particular. Storage-wise, easy to pack and it will never go rotten. But the downside is that canned food is heavy and bulky, it takes up space in my pack.
Just like any other countries in Asia, we have so much to offer when it comes to instant soup ramen. Plus the variety of canned food, it could be fish, vegetables, or meats. The combinations are endless. The best part is, it is easy to clean.
Food Storage & Precautions
In the previous section, I have mentioned about the storage of a few. Considering the weather in Hong Kong is mostly warm or even hot with high humidity. You have to store it right or pick something which is not perishable when selecting your backpacking food. If you love the food you picked, I believe there will be other animals who will feel the same. So some precautions of storing your food in the wilderness are needed.
PACK IT TIGHT, HANG IT RIGHT
The animals I am talking about are not limited to insects, small mammals, birds, and large mammals. Their ability to search for food is far greater than our imagination. Most of the campsites have hanging posts, which you can use for hanging food. Before you hang the food bag, ensure the food bag is sealed air-tight. And there is no residual food trace or food waste outside of the bag.
NEVER PLACE YOUR FOOD INSIDE YOUR TENT!
A couple of scenarios will explain why. Ants, a group of small, never settled intruders with mighty mandibles. They will go wherever the food smell leads them to, and they will cut through pretty much everything in their way. A friend of mine experienced hundreds of ants inside her tent because some of the food residuals left inside the tent. The ants smelled it and cut their way through from the groundsheet to the inner tent.
Not to freak you out, another story from the friends of my brother. Place the food inside the tent, and think that it will be safer. In the middle of the night, a wild boar sniffed it and used its sharp tusk to tear the tent apart. Luckily, the people inside managed to get out safely, but the tent was totally ruined. A hard lesson learned.
KEEP YOUR PERISHABLE DRY
Perishable such as vegetables, keeping them dry is the key to preserve them. Anything gets wet won’t last long in such weather conditions. Even if it is wintertime, any fresh food without refrigeration won’t last for more than a day. If you’d love to have some fresh food on your backpacking trip, I have some advice in later chapters.
TAKE AWAY YOUR OWN FOOD WASTE
No matter how many times we tell people, either tourists or locals, it just never stresses the point enough. This is basically a Leave No Trace principle. The reason why you must bring the food waste with you, just like I mentioned, whatever food that you love, the other animals will love too. The food we have is not like food from a natural environment.
They are technically not part of the decomposing system of the natural world. The food we bring in is the surplus for the environment. If there are more food sources, the animals will have a higher ability to reproduce; then they will come back to the same location and look for more, the more disturbance from other animals while camping will occur.
Having a thorough understanding of the campsites gives you a better planning idea ahead. You will know where to stop or re-supply, what to bring for your activities along the trails. Since there is no “standard” for campsites in Hong Kong, the thing you expect might vary from one and another.
There are 41 official campsites managed by the government. And each of them is slightly different in terms of configuration, elevation, facilities, accessibility, and the nature’s attractions around them. Some of them are barely equipped with anything, some of them are too remote to reach, some of them are too close to the main road, and some of them are too popular to fight for a camping space.
All the campsites are managed by the Agriculture, Fishing and Conservation Department (AFCD). The campsites are equipped with a certain level of facilities, including hanging posts, fire pit, table and chairs, toilet, cesspit, washing sink, and shower room.
Two wires linked on two iron poles. The purpose of hanging posts is said for drying your clothing, but the real usage of the hanging post is far more versatile than drying clothes. We hang our backpack whenever the floor is wet or with a lot of creepy-crawlies, or hang our food bags, used as the anchor pole for our tarp, etc.
The shape and size vary, most of them are built up with concrete blocks and iron bars on top. The fire pits were originally designed for burning charcoal for some family barbecue. And big blocks of concrete are built around the fire pit as chairs. You have to pick up some rocks to modify a bit if you are aiming for some bushcraft and campfire activities.
TABLE & CHAIRS
Tables and chairs are not equipped in some campsites, and having tables and chairs in some areas with a lot of disturbance from insects will be nice. And after a long day of hiking, somewhere you can sit properly will be a luxurious thing.
Toilet, a sign of civilization!! You don’t have to dig a cat hole or carry the human waste with you when backpacking in Hong Kong. All the campsites equipped with toilets of two kinds: Dry Toilet Pit and Flush Toilet.
Dry Toilet Pit is an enlarged cat hole with a platform elevated from the ground and a concealed shelter overhead. It doesn’t have any water supply or flushing system. It simply lets nature do its job, decomposing human waste naturally.
Flush Toilet, TaDa!! This is the best you can get when backpacking. Water supply and flushing system are available. And most of them are equipped with other cleaning or hygiene facilities. A spot which can solve a lot of problems, and you should have it marked on the map.
A cesspit is a hole for sewage. The cesspit is located somewhere near the firepit. The main purpose of the cesspit is for liquid kitchen waste, NOT FOR HUMAN WASTE. I am not sure about the reason why AFCD provides the cesspit, but it is just not logical to dispose of any waste within the camping area.
Washing sink is equipped in most of the large campsites. It provides a drainage system where you can use detergents or any cleaning agents for any purposes. You can clean your clothing, cooking utensils, or even your shoes.
The shower room is absolutely a luxury while backpacking. It is equipped in most of the large campsites. Some of the design has individual shower rooms, and some of them are in a common shower room. All shower rooms are built in conjunction with toilets of gender privacy.
Campsites are not evenly distributed in country parks. They are scattered in some of the country parks, but some of the country parks don't even have one. Since Hong Kong is interconnected with hiking trails, excluding the barriers of the sea, knowing the distribution of the campsites in country parks helps you to plan your backpacking trip efficiently.
Lantau Island is a rather primitive natural environment compared to most parts in Hong Kong, and around 80% of the lands are country parks. There are 14 campsites on the island. And they are connected with one single Long Trail, the Lantau Trail.
Sai Kung, with the most number of campsites in two country parks combined. 24 campsites of a total of 41 campsites in Hong Kong are located in Sai Kung East and Sai Kung West Country Parks. The campsites are not all linked with one single trail, rather linked with multiple hiking trails, it looks like a spider web on the map.
NORTHEAST NEW TERRITORIES
The most remote part in Hong Kong, covered by dense forests and continuous mountain ranges. The Northeast New Territories consists of two main country parks: Pat Sin Leng Country Park and Plover Cove Country Parks. The vast northeast area is only equipped with 5 campsites. You will be expecting extensive hiking between each campsite.
MIDDLE & WEST NEW TERRITORIES
There are 6 campsites in the area, and 5 of them are scattered around the highest peak, Tai Mo Shan. The campsites are either very popular or rarely used by campers. 2 of them are not even connected to any major hiking trails. Planning your backpacking trip around here is tricky, and requires a certain level of navigation skills.
OTHER OUTLYING ISLAND
We are talking about the 2 campsites on each outlying island: Tung Ping Chau and Tung Lung Chau. “Chau” in Cantonese means island, and Cantonese is the official language in Hong Kong other than English. Each of them is very different, yet, very popular throughout the year. I’ll cover both in another article for more detailed information when planning your trip in the two islands.
By law, setting up a tent or starting a fire must be at designated sites while backpacking in Hong Kong. Regulations made under this section may provide that a contravention or breach thereof shall be an offence punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 year.
Country Parks and Special Areas Regulations 11 (3)
No person shall camp or erect a tent or temporary shelter within country park or special area except:
a. in accordance with a permit in writing granted by the Authority; and
b. in a designated camping site.
Yet, there is still some camping code to follow:
Camp only in designated campsites
Light fire only in designated pits and never leave unattended
Place litter in bins and keep the campsite clean
Keep your noise down and respect other campers and nearby residents
Keep water sources clean
Protect wildlife and plants
Respect villagers' property and rights
Extinguish all fires and tidy up the sites before you leave
Respect the countryside and conserve the natural environment
Water, the number one priority when backpacking. You always have to look for water or know where to find water. Especially in the subtropical, known for its warm and humid environment. Dehydration and heat stroke are very commonly happened during summertime, while water runs dry in most of the streams or creeks in wintertime. Water is also used to clean and cook, addressing both fundamental needs, in order to maximize your backpacking experience.
Water Sources Available in the Country Parks
Hong Kong does not have any major or large aquatic environment such as a river or lake. But we do have thousands of streams and creeks which run all over the mountain ranges. I know river/stream/creek share the same meaning in terms of science, but it is easier to communicate when talking about running water from a large scale of the river to the least water flow of a creek.
The water reservoirs within the country parks are the largest man-made aquatic environments in Hong Kong. However, we are not allowed to get water from the water reservoirs, as it is the water supply for the city. There are several checkpoints throughout the trails where you can find water and use them.
Tap Water from Toilets
I have mentioned the toilets equipped with a water supply and flushing systems. That is the point where you can get clean fresh water from. There will be signs in some toilets telling you the water is gathered from a nearby stream, so the water requires treatment before drinking. Even if there is no sign telling you to treat your water before drinking, I highly recommend you to do so. Equipping yourself with a water filtration system is a must!
If you are using a large water bottle, a litre or above, you will be finding it very difficult to fill your bottle to the fullness. For most of the setup in the toilet, the sinks are very shallow, which you can’t place your bottle straight under the tap. I do recommend water bags or using your water bladder or anything that are flexible in shape to collect.
Water Filling Stations & Drinking Water Fountains
Clean and filtrated, ready to drink water provided by the country park authority. They are ready to drink and mostly located around the country park visitor centre and other recreational sites. Click the link for specific location information:https://www.afcd.gov.hk/english/country/cou_vis/cou_vis_rec/cou_vis_wfs.html
Creeks or Streams near Campsites and Along the Trails
Getting the water from streams or creeks is convenient but never easy, though there are over thousands of streams and creeks along the trails. Some streams are even the main source of water for the campsites. Some of the campsites rely on a small creek, which might run dry during the wintertime.
To fully utilize the streams or creeks along the trails, is to understand the topography of the area. Do not solely rely on a trails app, but prepare yourself with a countryside map. Do include the possible water points when planning your route, or check if there is a point where you can fill up your bottle in case you are not able to reach the next checkpoint.
The countryside maps do have a lot of useful geographical information other than leading your way out. There are 5 maps covering all the country parks in Hong Kong, more purchasing and map coverage information can be found in the following link: https://www.landsd.gov.hk/mapping/enpda/paper_map/pda_cm.htm
Water Availability at Campsites
No matter where you get the water, from the streams or the taps, the water availability in different campsites is summarized in the table below.
Stores / Kiosks in the Villages
I think this is the most popular way to get yourself hydrated and your bottle filled up. Like I mentioned in previous sections, villages are often seen within country park areas. And quite a lot of villagers will operate stores or kiosks or cafes to earn a few bucks from hikers or campers.
Having them as the resupply points are great. If you are planning to have them as one of your checkpoints, you should be careful about their opening schedule. Some of them might not be open throughout the week, but mostly just on weekends.
Understanding the wildlife around helps you a lot when planning your backpacking trip. Just like you will be equipped with bear spray when backpacking in bear country. Knowing the dangerous or nasty creatures will certainly help your preparation, and something to bear in mind or tell yourself to be careful of.
For quite a lot of people, insects are some creepy-crawlies creatures which will sneak around. Especially when they are in numbers, the situation will escalate. I’ve encountered people who are afraid of anything that flies, including birds. That might sound like a joke to you (even to me), but it actually happens.
Insects are a large group of animals, and they are all around you. Most of them are beautiful to see, but a nightmare when they are within your comfort zone. Some of them are dangerous, like wasps or hornets; some of them are nasty as Green Tree Ants.
I, myself, do not bring any insect precautions with me, even though I get allergic reactions from stings or bites sometimes. I’m not encouraging you to do the same, I’m just trying to avoid them by understanding them. Since I enter their comfort zone right before they do. Avoiding them is different from killing them. Insect repellent comes in different chemical substances and components, make sure there is no residual within the areas or use eco-friendly insect repellent.
The largest group of insects on the planet. Commonly known as beetles. Beetles are beautiful and harmless insects in most of the cases. Do not try to get them on your hands, as beetles are mostly armed with “human spray”, a defensive secretion.
Some will just stink your hands, but one in particular to mention is Blister Beetles. The secretion contains Cantharidin, which is a chemical agent forming blisters on human skin. Blister Beetles is seen most frequently during spring and early summer.
Another species of beetles worth mentioning is Longhorn Beetle. It is my favourite kind of beetle, an ultra-long antenna with an elongated body and super strong mandible. Do not get any part of your body close to their mandibles, their bite is no joke.
The most fascinated and loved the group of insects, including over 250 butterflies and 1500 months in Hong Kong. Butterflies are commonly seen during the day and moths are mostly found after sunset. Generally speaking, butterflies are harmless and delightful to see. Some of the butterflies are poisonous, but you aren’t going to eat them, right?
Moths are far more diverse than butterflies, and quite a lot of them we don't even have information about. Most of them are harmless, as far as I know, and by the encounters. But some moths are known for its needle-like hair on its body, the contact of its needle-like hair will give you an itchy sensation and sometimes burning sensation in the affected area. The caterpillars of some moths are also equipped with needle-like hair on its body.
A group of insects famous for its stings, ants, bees, wasps, hornets, you name it. Their presents are extremely common in summer, and you will see some of them throughout the year. Most of the insects in Hymenoptera exhibit different levels of social behaviours and structures. In other words, they will defend their home and hunt for food in numbers. They love the food you love, and there are no boundaries or property rights. The largest hornets/wasps can be the size of your palm, the mighty ants can bite through thin fabrics.
To avoid them, three things you should bear in mind:
They don’t hurt you unless you hurt them.
They don’t come after you, but your food.
They don’t ruin your shelter unless you ruin theirs
Ants are a huge problem in campsites. You don’t really see them if you don’t pay attention to the ground where you put up your tent. Most ants construct their nest underground, with numbers of exits and ventilation holes. If someone was blocking the exits and ventilation holes, what would you do if you are empowered by soldiers with mighty jaws? The major reason for their existence is human food waste. So, first, check the ground for any holes or trace of ants before you put up your tent. Second, do not leave any food waste behind, so that the area is not attracted to any hungry crowds.
This is a group of insects that are hated by people the most, flies and mosquitoes, the most annoying flying creatures in the world. They carry diseases and bacterias, a very active medium transmitting from one to another.
Mosquitoes are common in the countryside. Mosquito bites cause temporary itching. Dengue fever is an acute mosquito-borne infection caused by dengue viruses. It is transmitted to humans through the bites of infective female Aedine mosquitoes.
It is very little you can do when it comes to mosquitoes. There is still no solid research about why and how mosquitoes pick on us. Some mosquito repellents work for some people, whereas others do not. I would not blame any of you if you are trying to kill them, but just be careful the substances that you use are not doing any damage to the environment.
HEMIPTERA / HOMOPTERA
Some insects from Hemiptera are well-known as invasive species. They are commonly called Stink Bugs. Similar to those beetles with defensive secretions, Stink Bugs rather have stronger odours and it will cause permanent stains on your garments or backpacks. They are mostly harmless unless you want them to dance on your hand.
Cicadas are also part of the families too. They are absolutely harmless yet amazing to see them. Check out one of the Instagram posts about cicadas from Outdoor_Holiday_HK.
Mammals, our closest relatives, most of them are adorable and amazed to see. They used to be either very friendly as our agricultural partner, or mountain creatures which live undisturbed. Unfortunately, increasing human activities incurs disturbance and conflicts with the animals. The line between human and wildlife seems to be ambiguous, both of us are crossing the line, and the animals are confused. Much of it is caused by humans, and yet, the consequences are unpleasant.
I have shared a story about the Wild Boar that ruined the tent, a true and reflective story. A full-grown adult of a Wild Boar can weigh up to 350kg, twice heavier than an average motorcycle. Male’s tusks are much more pronounced. Try to imagine two motorbikes with long and strong tusks running over your tent.
Wild Boars are omnivorous, their menu is ranging from the root and leaves to insects and worms. They also love our menu too, bread, steak, cracker, cheese… etc. They are very aggressive in terms of finding food. They exhibit vigorous behaviour when finding food. They were not in love with human food before, not until we fed them. Sadly, people have an intention to use food as a bait to drag them close for a selfie.
When you see a Wild Boar with cubs, you should pay extra attention to the walking directions that you and the Wild Boar do not intercept. Mother with cubs is extremely sensitive and aggressive, she might attack you before she runs away.
They were originally imported as agricultural tools. Since the agricultural industry diminished, the “living tools” are left behind. They are now widely spread all over Hong Kong. They are mild and harmless to most of us. Again, the only issue is people feeding them for selfies.
The food that they feed them which you can hardly imagine. I’ve seen people feeding bread, sausages, steak, pork chop, fish ball, rice, fruits… etc. Those are absolutely not on their menu and it shouldn’t be. They are herbivores, and every now and then they will roll over the trash bin looking for human food. It causes a lot of hygiene issues in campsites.
They are extremely clever animals that exhibit complex social hierarchies and learning behaviour. They learn VERY well I’d say. They always show up in numbers, from 20 to 200. Yes, you heard me right! Your adrenaline level to the max when hundreds of monkeys surround you and try to steal food from you.
Fortunately, they are not common in campsites, most of the campsites are far from their presents. You will see them in the forests around Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong. They are another wild animal learning that humans are one of the food sources, and people are still feeding them for selfies today. The problems and injuries caused by monkeys are far more than other animals.
They are generally calm and harmless to people. They may belong to other villagers as guard dogs, so they might be pretty fierce when you appear in their territories. They wouldn't come after you if you are leaving their territories.
Some wild dogs ever had fed by some campers and they constantly coming back for more. And sometimes, they will steal your food or food waste. But they are smart animals, they will eventually run off if you guard your food well. Don't try to pet them, as they are not real pets, you never know how they react, and the result can be unpleasant.
Photo was taken at Lantau Trail Section 7, on the way to Nga Ying Kok Campsite
Who doesn’t like Mickey? Well, they are really adorable but super fast and agile. I never get a chance to take a photo of them. Their disturbance is minimal. Their presents are caused by food waste left in campsites. They haven’t done anything very serious so far.
A story of mine to share, I was having a steak over a charcoal grill, sipping my favourite tea. The little guy showed up and suddenly disappeared. It came probably because of my steak and went off because of the presents of me. I finished my meal and had the utensils cleaned then went to bed. The next morning I found a bite mark on the side of my flip flops. I might have dropped some steak juice on my flip flops.
Snakes are incredible creatures which I will be amazed by their presents every time. It would be another ultimate guide to talk about snakes rather than just a few lines to conclude them. There are over 50 species of snakes in Hong Kong, and less than half are venomous. And there are less than 10 venomous snakes that are deadly, and only a few of them you might see them during the day or in the campsites.
Precautions as to any snakes in the world. Do not try to hold them or kill them, as you may not be able to identify the snakes. Which means you do not know how the snakes will be reacting. Leave them alone, they will be off once they sense the presence of humans. For more snakes information, check out HK Snake ID. They have so much awesome information regarding the snakes in Hong Kong.
There are no such venomous spiders causing death in Hong Kong, and most of them are harmless, as their venom is only used to kill their prey which has little or no effects on humans. But getting bitten is still painful, just like any other nasty animals introduced upfront.
There are over 3,000 species of plants in Hong Kong, covering a lot of wild edibles or bush tuckers. Some of them are deadly poisonous to humans. Even if you are 100% sure about the species, there is no way you should try eating them. The Hospital Authority of Hong Kong has put together some poisonous plants database online. For more information, please check out: https://www3.ha.org.hk/toxicplant/en/index.html
Planning a backpacking trip in an unfamiliar area is not easy. I'm total with you. I believe if you are reading this long blog till here, you must be that kind of person who loves backpacking as much as I do. I wouldn’t let you leave with your hands empty. With all that information upfront, there are still uncertainties, and of course, there are numbers of issues to tackle when it comes to personal choices.