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To explore the world is not enough just to be a tourist. In fact, tourists “explore” no more than 2-3% of the Earth’s surface- only the famous and not so famous destinations, developed for tourism. The vast rest of the Earth is only for locals, for scientists and military personnel, for the wild nature and for the adventure travelers and explorers. And here I am talking about the last ones. Let’s explore one of the Earth’s areas- South China. And let’s see how to prepare for such a journey and what would your South China travel gear looks like.
Exploring South China
South China consists of the few southernmost provinces of China: Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangxi, and Hainan. Some include also the southern part of Hubei, Guizhou, Chongqing, and Yunnan.
This whole land is not an extremely challenging place like Sahara, Amazon rainforest, Siberia or Antarctica. It is quite well civilized and developed and richly populated. There are a lot of places which you can visit as a tourist, and basically, you don’t need any special preparation and travel gear. You can go there with a tour group, just bringing your “normal” luggage with things for daily use- clothes to change, toiletry, some snacks, and your photo camera or mobile. All this would be enough if you are going to visit any city, as well as most of the well-developed tourist destinations.
But if you want to go further and deeper, South China has really a lot to offer. And you would need something more than just “normal” luggage. You would need some more special travel gear.
Before we look into the travel gear, let’s first see how South China looks like and what does it offer for exploring.
The nature of South China
South China is located within the humid subtropical geographic zone of the Northern Hemisphere. Most of its area is mountainous, but the mountains are not high. However, they are very steep in some places. There are some gorges and rugged hills.
But the most attractive mountain landscapes of South China are the karst hills areas. It is actually one of the landmarks of China. Tower or conical-shaped hills, rice fields and rivers between them, all this create really fantastic landscapes, which can be often seen in South China. And the most famous of them is Guilin Karst Hills area with Li River flowing among the hills.
South China also has a long complex coastline, which consists of an endless chain of bays, peninsulas, capes and small islands. Unfortunately, part of it is too polluted today, but there are still some really stunning beaches and rocky shores to visit and enjoy.
All this gives you a lot of opportunities to travel in the interior of South China and get deeper into the nature. You can hike and climb the mountains. And not just “normal hike” (as it is arranged in some of the mountains turned into parks), but you can penetrate deeply into the subtropical jungles, in wild and adventurous journeys.
You can also swim and raft in the rivers, climb the rocks, go on bike trips and camp in the nights. And you can combine all this with some ethnic, historical and cultural travel- from the largest cities to the most remote villages.
The climate of South China
The weather of South China is not always nice and pleasant. Yes, it is subtropical, which means not too cold in the winter. But it is not dry subtropical, it is humid. Very humid. You can expect rains almost every day from February to October. Yes, not every day during this period is rainy, but when the rain starts, it can fall a few days without stop.
It can be especially bad in February when the rainy period starts, and in the same time, it is still too cool (not too cold, but due to the high air moisture, you may feel it like freezing). At that time the weather in South China can be much like the rainy days in Britain.
The snow is seldom, and mainly in the north part of South China or in the high parts of the mountains. And it is only during the winter cold waves, coming from Siberia. When they pass, it quickly melts.
From October to the first half of February is dryer, and generally, it is the best time for hiking, biking, and all other outdoor activities (but a bit cold for swimming). At that time the weather is generally sunny and nice. Not hot, but pleasantly cool. But even during the dry period, the bad weather can come, when a cold wave from Siberia reaches South China.
How to explore South China more deeply
So, if you want to go beyond the big and famous cities of South China, like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong or Macau, you would need a longer time to travel. You can cross South China for few hours by speed train. If you travel by slow train or bus, you would need 2-3 days, but again you can see the landscape outside only from the window.
You can get deeper if you travel by motorcycle. Then you can not only enjoy the landscapes around, but you can breathe and feel the air around you. Take a bicycle and go closer to the nature- you will travel more slowly, but you can go where all other vehicles can’t reach.
And finally- if you go hiking, swimming or hiking, this is the closest possible experience of the nature. Of course, it can be said for every area on the Earth, but let’s see how it can be applied for South China.
So, as I already mentioned, the nature of South China is not extreme, but you still need some gear, if you want to explore is closer to the nature and deep inside the environment, to see, hear, feel and touch everything around you.
South China travel gear
Exploring South China doesn’t require too much special (and heavy) gear. Of course, it depends on where do you go, how long and how deep into the nature you travel, and on the season you go. Below are the basic things that you may need to make your trip more successful, safer and more comfortable.
Clothes and shoes
In general, since South China is not so cold in the winter, and quite hot in the summer, you don’t need some special clothes, but just your “normal” clothes for travel. But you may need something more specific for hiking and biking.
Clothes for hiking
If you go hiking in South China, most of the time you would walk in a thick forest, sometimes on paths which are very narrow. There may be thorns, insects, even snakes. In autumn, there is a plant in the forest spreading small seeds which paste in the clothes and it is very difficult to be removed.
It is one of the reasons why summer is not a good season for hiking in South China. It is very hot and humid, and sometimes, if you walk on a sunny place without any breeze, you would feel like boiling in your own sweat. At the same time, you should wear long pants to protect your legs, but it makes you feel hotter.
So, one of the things that you would need for hiking in South China is long pants, which have to be enough comfortable and to protect you well. Since most of the time in this part of the world the weather is hot, you would need thin pants which are convertible. For those who don’t know- convertible pants are long pants with zips in the middle, allowing you to remove the downer part of the pant legs, so the pants can become shorts.
Here are some suggestions- for both men and women. Notice that since the comfort and protection are the most important, the manufacturers are not focused on the “men’s or women’s fashion”, so although some pants are for men, others for women, in fact, women can wear men’s pants too. Let’s see some examples, which are not only good, but also proper specifically for South China hiking.
These pants are breathable, two of them (those of Columbia) are convertible.
For more information and choice of hiking pants, see here.
Another thing that you have to consider is the rain. It can come at any time during the rainy season. Sometimes, especially in March and April, it can be just an endless shower. Sometimes it can come as a heavy rainstorm. So, what you need is a good raincoat, as well as clothes that are quick drying.
Most of the time the weather in South China is hot. And even if it is not hot, but just cool, you can still feel hot, especially when you ascend hiking or biking. So you would definitely want to wear something light, most likely a t-shirt. And it has to be made of a material which is quick dry.
You can choose between short sleeves and long sleeves t-shirts. Short sleeves t-shirts can be more comfortable in the hot weather, while long sleeves t-shirts can protect you better- from insects, thorns, and sunburn.
There are some examples of quick dry shirts, more proper for South China:
Notice that ExOfficio shirts can protect you from insects very well. And you would definitely face various kinds of insects in South China.
For more details and choices, click here:
Waterproof jackets and raincoats
It is another good clothing, proper for South China, mainly for the cooler parts of the year- from November to March. Yes, from November to January rains are usually rare, but in February and March are quite possible. Especially in March, the rains often come like showers. So, a waterproof jacket could be very useful in this season.
There is no big difference between jackets and raincoats, although the simple raincoats are just a nylon poncho. And many cheap raincoats (that you can buy from every supermarket in China for 5 to 30 CNY) can keep you from wetting but usually not too long. The water will make you wet not from outside, but from inside, due to inner condense so that you can feel like the rain has penetrated the raincoat’s material.
So, a good waterproof jacket is definitely better. First it has more breathable features, preventing condense. And second, it is much stronger and comfortable, because is like a normal clothing.
Check out some good waterproof jackets at a relatively low price.
For more choices and more detailed info about waterproof jackets, see here.
If you hike in mountains turned into national parks, such as Hengshan, Wuyishan and Lushan, the trails inside are regulated and the hiking paths are normally paved. So you don’t need special hiking shoes for such places.
But if you go hiking really wild mountains (and there are a lot of opportunities in South China), you will need something better for your feet. First, have in mind that due to the humid climate paths can be slippery and covered by moss (not everywhere, but in some sections of the paths). In the same time, you may walk on stony paths which sharp stones. And last- sometimes paths can be covered by grass and evens thorns. Snakes are possible to appear too.
So, you need shoes with thick soles, which at the same time are more stable against slipping. Good shoes for South China hiking also would be higher, protecting your feet better from snakes and thorns. And at the same time, especially for the hot summer, your shoes have to be breathable.
Let’s see some good examples of shoes for hiking in South China:
Check out more detail and info about hiking shoes here.
Camping in the nature, among the hills, rice fields or higher mountains can be really a pleasure (for those who like camping, of course). There are no campsites in South China (the exception is only Hong Kong, where the government has established many campsites at the seacoast or in the mountains), so you just find some more proper place and camp there. And again, due to the specific climate and nature of South China, which is cool in winter (seldom really cold), hot in summer, but always humid, you need the corresponding type of camping gear.
Tents for humid and hot humid climate
Let’s see the basic camping element- the tent. In summer it can be very hot inside a tent, even at night. So you need a tent with good ventilation- better with two doors and more ventilation windows.
In the same time, due to the often rains, you need a tent with good waterproof features. Usually, the waterproof tents have two walls, but there are some tents (normally more expensive) which have only one wall and at the same time good waterproof.
And at last, you would like your tent to be as light as possible. There is not a perfect tent, only tents which are “close to perfect”, but usually too expensive. So, here are some proposals for a good tent for South China. The first one- MSR Mutha Hubba is expensive, and with best quality for such conditions, while the other two tents are cheap, but still good for their price.
For more info about tents, their pros and cons, as well as other features, you can see here.
Tent pad is a need, no matter is it hot or cold. Most importantly, it will help you to not “almost sleep on the naked ground”. And if you hike in winter during cold weather, it can also provide more warmth.
Normally, tent pads are light and you almost can’t feel their weight. And also they can provide a nice feeling of coziness. So, take a look at some good examples for South China.
Tent mats, mattresses, and beds
Actually, these are things that you don’t necessarily need. When I go camping in South China I don’t use such “beds”. Yes, they can be good for cold weather, providing additional insulation. They would be also really great if you camp on hard and stony ground. But even without them, if you find a softer place, and especially if it is summer, you would be ok.
But if you don’t worry about additional weight and really want to feel more comfortable, here are some examples:
Honestly, I don’t think you need a sleeping bag if you go camping in South China in the summer. It would be hot and you would like to be as free of things over you as possible. But if you go camping in January or February, you would need it. Yes, it would not become extremely cold, but if your tent doesn’t have good insulation, you would feel cold. So, check out some sleeping bags which are proper for South China.
It could be one of the most important things for camping. I don’t know if it’s same for everybody, but if you don’t put something soft and comfortable under your head, you could easily have a sleepless night and on the next morning- back or neck pain.
Yes, you can improvise- you can just put your backpack under your head. If you feel enough comfortable- then it’s ok for you. But it may be not always possible to adjust your backpack or something else like a “pillow”. A better solution is an inflatable pillow. It is very light and without air, it is just like a napkin- it is nothing for your luggage, so I really recommend it.
Here are some camping pillow examples:
For more camping gear, see here.
Normally, when I go hiking somewhere (including in South China) for just a few hours, I bring as less as possible things, since I don’t want to bear heavy luggage. For just one or two meals I just buy some snacks and other dry food, and that’s all.
But if you go hiking longer, for 2, 3 or more days, or even only one day, but from morning to evening, you may want to prepare something to cook. You would need some picnic things like pot, plates, hob with gas bottle, etc. However, you can’t bring a gas bottle in the plane to China, if you come from another country. You can buy it even from China and bring it in the bus or train to your hiking starting point (it will pass luggage scan in the bus or train station), you can only buy it from the town or village, which is your starting point.
However, you can bring a picnic set, containing non-dangerous things like pots, cups, forks, spoons, mat, etc. There are some good examples with a relatively lightweight. Let’s take a look:
Hiking and mountaineering gear
Hiking in South China is not very different than hiking anywhere else in the world. There are easy and plain paths, but there are also steep, rugged and stony paths, just like everywhere. The only thing that is more specific, as I already mentioned, is that the paths are often slippery, covered by wet moss, especially after rain.
So, besides good shoes, you also would need some good hiking poles. They can be very helpful in some places and situations, and for those who are not experienced- they really help you not get too tired when ascend and protect you from falling when descend. Let’s see some examples:
Actually, the backpacks are something more universal. They are not only for hiking but can be used for every kind of travel. However, when we talk about hiking, they are a must. While you can go on a cruise, luxury travel or just to visit some famous landmarks in the big cities, you can go either with a backpack or a suitcase. But on the mountain, you can only bring your backpack. And it has to be proper for your length and type of hiking.
It depends on the trekking length that you are going to do, but in general, if you go hiking for more than 2-3 days, you would need a larger backpack. The best would be 60-70 L, which would have enough space to put what is necessary inside.
Another feature of the backpack which is really important, especially in such humid (and most of the year hot) place like South China is sweat preventing. If you have some experience with backpacks, you know that they quickly make your back wet by sweat. So the good backpacks are now provided by good anti-sweat solutions, mainly to ensure some distance between your back and the backpack. Let’s see some examples here:
For more backpacks check out here.
Leaving your luggage in the hotel
It is something that would be very useful for you and I definitely recommend you to do if you come from abroad and your hiking is only a part of a larger itinerary in China.
Before go hiking, leave your unnecessary things in the reception of the hotel where you stay! Bring only the things for hiking, nothing more! Then, you have two options. If you back to the same hotel after hiking, your luggage will just wait for you in the hotel. But if you go to another hotel, in another city, prepare for it in advance. First- contact the hotel that you have booked and that you will go after hiking, and ask them if they can accept a shipment with your luggage. Most of them would eventually agree. Then tell the people in the reception of your first hotel to arrange a shipment of your luggage to your next hotel while you go hiking. Finally, your luggage will wait for you in your new hotel.
Now, this is for more brave or professional people. Climbing rocks and rock walls can be very dangerous if you don’t have any experience. Usually, people relate it to climbing Everest or other snow mountains in the world. There are no such mountains in South China, but there are a lot of rock walls, especially in the karst hills areas. There are even some spots which are already equipped with some mountaineering elements like pitons, ropes. But most of the climbing spots are wild and unequipped, so you would need your own climbing kit.
However, first read here for more information about rock climbing. It is more dangerous than just normal hiking, so read it carefully. I am an adventure traveler and I don’t like too much “safety precautions” to harm my travel dreams. But in this case, when we talk about rock climbing, safety is very important!
Water sport gear
South China is rich in rivers in its interior, and also it has a lot of places on the sea coast, proper for swimming. But there is a problem- you can hardly find crystal clear waters like in the most tropical islands. The sea water, in the best case, is just not so clear (but still ok), and in the worst case is brown-black heavy polluted and poisoned liquid.
For swimming and diving
Anyway, you can find some small river ponds with really clear water, where you can enjoy some diving. And just for swimming, you may also want to use something helpful, like flippers, a snorkel and swimming glasses or mask. Let’s see some here:
For surf lovers- yes, there are good surfing spots in South China, and sometimes you can enjoy good waves, proper for surfing. Since most likely it would be inconvenient to bring your surf with you, you can hire it from the local sea resorts.
Another thing that you may enjoy is kayaking. You can bring your inflatable boat with you and enjoy it in some rivers and lakes. But avoid the big rivers with transport logistic ships, it could be dangerous and you could be also stopped by the local authorities. Let’s see some inflatable boats, which are enough light to bring with you to China:
Some other useful things
There are some other things that could be very useful for your nature exploring in South China. I would not go into many details, but I would mention some of them which are a must.
A headlight is a device which you definitely must bring with you, not only for night camping but also for long hiking even within one day. It would be a problem if you go hiking, but can’t arrive at your ending point before sunset. Yes, you can use your mobile light, but it is weak and uncomfortable since one of your hands is not free. So, the best solution is a headlight. It is very convenient and you have light all the time. And yes, you would definitely need it, especially if you still have to walk on slippery, stony or hard to find paths in the darkness. Let’s see some examples:
It would be very important if you go hiking for more than 2 days, even shorter. Yes, you can save your mobile battery if you just turn off your mobile. Ok, you can stop chatting, don’t need calling to someone. You can even stop taking photos with your mobile (although I highly recommend it, because you will definitely enjoy stunning views), especially if you bring a camera.
However, you may need a map with GPS. Yes, you can buy a GPS device, you can also buy walkie-talkie, and it would be very useful too. But if you don’t have, then your much lighter mobile can help you. It consumes electricity, so your battery quickly drops.
So, let’s see some good mobile chargers that you can choose:
GPS and walkie-talkie
If you anyway want a GPS device and walkie-talkie (if you are not solo), you can check it here:
These devices are bit expensive, but that’s normal. Especially the first one, which combines these two funcions- GPS map + satelite communication. And Garmin is still the best GPS brand for now.
Photo and video
Finally- something really important, which can be one of the main reasons for your exploration of South China. It is your photo and video gear. You can make a lot of photos and video clips with your mobile, of course. And for many people, that’s enough, since they don’t necessarily look for high-quality photos and videos.
But for those who are looking for quality, bloggers and other kinds of travelers- they need something better than just a mobile.
There are various kinds of photo cameras. Various camera products focus on different features, like image quality, video quality, convenience, price, weight. It is difficult to find a perfect camera, but you have to choose according to your preferences and financial abilities. Now I will present just some of the best cameras here:
This is the best mirrorless camera, currently the perfect camera for travel bloggers, explorers or just photography professionals. Yes, it is expensive, but the perfectness has its price.
Canon EOS M6
This camera is much cheaper, and this is what I currently use. Yes, it is not perfect like Sony a7iii. It is a bit heavier, and the quality is a bit lower too. But you almost can’t feel the difference (unless you have an “eagle eye”). And it is very proper for the new bloggers, since its price is much lower.
GoPro HERO 7
This is the best camera for adventures. It is smaller than the “normal” cameras, with waterproof feature. So you can make photos everywhere, including underwater. And actually, this cameras are better for videos. The only thing that I personally don’t like too much is that they have only widescreen view (although it can be adjusted depending on the model) and most of the landscapes and other views become curved.
There are much more details and information that you have to know about the cameras. So check for more here.
Look at this photo. Isn’t it stunning?
Yes, there are some spots where you can climb to the top of a karst hill or pillar rock and take a photo from above. But it would be an exception. Most of the tops of the karst tower and pillar hills are inaccessible, and even for professional mountaineers extremely difficult.
So, if you want to enjoy such beauty from above, the best solution is a drone. And you need a drone with a good quality camera if you want to make really stunning photos and videos.
But before you supply yourself with a proper drone, learn more about drones here.
Of course, if you are a solo traveler and want to make all kinds of nature exploring- hiking, diving, kayaking, mountaineering, camping, and picnic, even bringing the lightest gear for everything would be too much. So you can just choose what do you want to do and bring only the most necessary things.
But if you are a group of adventurers, it would be easier. You can share your luggage and help each other for the gear. And South China can really leave a lot of experience, memories and great impressions that are really worth to find, especially if you explore it deeper.