One of my biggest struggles early on trying to get out and find a nice campsite in Hong Kong was finding reviews that were comprehensive in scope, detailed in information and unbiased in evaluation. Now that I've been around the block a bit I think I've come up with a few helpful categories for use in my review system, which I plan to apply to each of the 41 official campsites as they are reviewed. Let's go through them now and you can decide for yourself if they'll be helpful for you:
- ACCESSIBILITY - This is an issue of balance, and can be a bit subjective as sometimes the further out you go the greater the rewards. With that said, there are a number of locations that offer a great balance between accessibility and environment. In most cases it's these 'Goldilocks' sites that benefits the most from a scoring perspective. However, the method being applied here is a weighting of environment to accessibility so a great balance is ideal, but a perfect spot that is a little harder to get to will still do quite well in the ratings where a not so nice spot won't hugely benefit from being easier to get to.
- KID FRIENDLY - Since camping is often a family affair it's nice to know before you head out weather or not the site you have in mind is kid friendly or not. The Hong Kong government website dedicated to the official SAR campsites does a good job indicating sites that are more or less difficult, but I've found that the assessment is more about the hike than life at camp. In addition, based on my experience some of the sites labeled "Difficult; suitable for experienced hikers and campers" are actually very manageable for small children (3 to 4yrs and up) as long as there is a fit and experienced adult in the group. For the purpose of our rating system we evaluate how feasible it is to not only get to the site but also how manageable life at camp will be with small kids, including considerations for emergency situations.
- AMENITIES - Another balance category, amenities include anything from natural stone fire pits to flushing toilets and the ideal scenario, since we are not talking about wild camping, is to have some minimal amenities and not go over the top. Sites that are too built up will suffer and sites with little to no amenities will generally not gain or lose too much if the environment is nice.
- FERREL ANIMALS - A Hong Kong specific peculiarity is the presence of ferrel cows and dogs. Many sites will have one or both of these unwelcome visitors tramping through the grounds which is more a nuisance than anything but can be a bit dangerous especially if you have small kids in tow. I've had cows step on my tent, packs of dogs descend on the site in the wee hours of the night looking for food and everything in between. Never a situation in which I felt highly unsafe but always better when I find a site with little to no ferrel animal impact.
- ENVIRONMENT - This is one of the more subjective categories that is effected by many of the preceding factors and is in reference to how the site feels when you are there. Are there pleasant views? Does the site infrastructure blend in well with the surrounding environment? Is it as pleasant during the day as it is at night? Is there noise from nearby trails, too many other campers, roads, waterways, or airports? Can I find wood for having a small fire? Is it trash free? Does it feel secluded? etc... If most of these elements fall into place and I felt refreshed when I left it generally means the environment was nice and the site will score high on environment.
In order to keep things simple, a summary score chart will be included in key title sections for each camp review so that once you get comfortable with the system you can choose your campsites with just a quick look at the chart. An example is included below.