13th October 2023 – (Hong Kong) The miraculous rescue of teenager Matthew Tsang after 8 days lost in Ma On Shan country park has captivated the city. While his remarkable survival remains puzzling to experts, his ordeal spotlights the need for proper preparedness when venturing into Hong Kong’s wilderness areas. Our hiking trails may seem tame compared to remote mountain ranges, but danger still lurks for the unprepared.
By learning essential survival skills and packing the right gear, we can avoid disaster if caught in unexpected circumstances. The following tips will boost your safety and self-reliance when exploring our country parks and remote islands.
Choose Trails Wisely and Hike in Pairs
Hong Kong boasts excellent hiking infrastructure like marked trails, signs, and mobile coverage in many parks. But trails still differ greatly in difficulty and isolation. Start with beginner routes and work upwards as your experience grows. Avoid obscure trails, especially alone. Hiking with a partner provides critical support if injured. Always check weather forecasts and avoid peaks during thunderstorms. Inform family and friends of your route and estimated return time.
Study Navigation Basics
Mastering map reading and compass skills is vital. Identify key terrain features like peaks and streams. Time and record your hiking pace. Frequently match surroundings to the map. Take photos of distinct landmarks as visual references. Stay aware of elapsed time and distance. Get comfortable orienting with a compass before relying on it. Phones can fail but a compass won’t.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
A proper kit can prove lifesaving if injured, lost or stranded. Essentials include a whistle, survival blanket, headlamp with spare batteries, lighter, water purification, first aid supplies, multi-tool knife, emergency rations, and plastic bags. Waterproof matches, cordage, and a signaling mirror are also useful. A power bank can recharge devices. Bring layers, raingear and extra socks. Avoid cotton clothes that lose insulation when wet.
Have a Survival Plan if Lost
Staying calm is crucial if lost. Panic leads to poor decisions. Stop and rest while assessing the situation. Determine your last known location and retrace steps methodically. Head uphill to gain a vantage point if able. Seek natural shelters. Make yourself visible. Build a fire for warmth and signaling if conditions allow. Forage edible plants only with expert knowledge. Drink flowing water only after boiling or chemical treatment. Moving downhill raises odds of reaching civilisation. Stay put if night falls.
Leverage Technology Thoughtfully
Bring fully charged phones and power banks but don’t depend entirely on devices. Mobile signals remain patchy in many wilderness areas. Apps can augment map skills but ultimately rely on reception. Waterproof personal locator beacons offer added insurance for remote terrain. Learn GPS functions beforehand. Pre-program important contacts. Share trip details and route maps with others. Apps like WhatsApp’s Live Location tracking can aid monitoring.
Cultivate a Survival Mindset
Developing key mental attributes boosts resilience when plans go awry. Stay observant of surroundings, weather shifts and terrain. Anticipate potential risks like darkness or injury. Commit to early turnaround times. Analyze decisions analytically, not emotionally. Reflect on previous incidents to correct gaps. Spend time alone in nature to grow self-reliance. Immerse in survival literature and training.
While Hong Kong’s trails are safer than many global counterparts, wilderness always carries inherent risks. But preparation and precaution go a long way. Build knowledge and skills gradually while gaining experience. Internalise survival priorities like shelter, water, navigation and signalling. Adventure responsibly within your physical limits.
Most importantly, maintain perspective. The statistical odds of calamity striking are low if you exercise sound judgment. Enjoy Hong Kong’s natural beauty with vigilance, but not anxiety. With the right mindset and precautions, the rewards of exploring the territory’s forests and peaks far outweigh the minimal risks.
The Bottom Line
Hong Kong’s extensive trail network allows city dwellers unique access to wilderness. But the convenience of marked paths near urban areas can breed complacency. Sudden injury, darkness or bad weather can turn a pleasant hike into an ordeal overnight.
Ultimately, avoiding disaster requires cultivating personal responsibility. No one will hand you survival skills; you must actively build them. Start by studying navigation, first aid and emergency kits. Choose appropriate trails and partners. Adopt a survival mindset focused on self-reliance. Leverage technology prudently.
With basic knowledge and preparation, you can explore Hong Kong’s natural wonders safely. But the onus lies on you to venture out wisely. Heeding this advice will let you enjoy the rewards of hiking while minimizing unnecessary risks.