Night Hiking Basics
For those of us who are drawn to the thrill of hiking at night, it’s important to know the essentials of ensuring a safe and fun time for everyone involved. Whether you’re an inexperienced adventurer or an avid hiker, there are more things to keep in mind when hiking after sunset.
Always Go with a Group
There are more dangers lurking about at night; you will want to be hiking alongside others who can help you in case of injury or can be on the lookout for wild animals. You will also feel more secure and enjoy the experience way more when you know that the group has your back.
Stick With Trails You Know Well
Nighttime exploring comes with the added concern of getting lost more easily. By sticking to familiar ground, you will have a much better sense of direction for getting to your destination. Also by staying on the trail, you will avoid disrupting the natural habitat and the nocturnal animals within it.
Use Proper Clothing & Shoes
Wool and synthetic materials make a good “base” layer for wicking away sweat, while “mid” layers of clothing should help insulate your heat. Think fleece sweaters, puffy jackets, and hiking pants to keep you warm. Finally, especially if it’s windy, an “outer” layer will protect you most from the chill; a windbreaker jacket will do the trick. If you plan to change your shoes from hikers to walkers, remember your ShoeSling®. It’s got two pockets and is adaptable to carrying other light things. Bonus…it’s easily clipped to your backpack exterior!
Boost Your Night Vision
Plan your hike at a time when the moon is fullest and high in the sky to get the most light possible. Consider the forecast and make sure the moon will stay visible during the entire hike. Keep in mind that it may take more than 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness, so beginning your trip around sunset will give your eyes proper time to adjust. Any bright lights you carry might interfere with your natural night vision. Many night hikers will use red light headlamps and flashlights so that the rods of their eyes- cells which can receive light in dark environments- are not affected too much. It’s also courteous to turn off your lights when passing nearby hikers so that their night vision isn’t disrupted. Lastly, of course, bring extra batteries.
Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Besides telling family or a friend exactly what trails you’ll be embarking on, tell a local sheriff or a park ranger about the route you’re going. Set a time frame for how long you will be gone and when they should expect you back. They will be grateful to have information in case of an emergency. Which leads us to…
Take Your Time and Have Fun
Remember not to rush! Night hiking will have you relying on your other senses. Pay attention to your surroundings as best as you can and, soon, you’ll be able to relax a bit. You can learn to enjoy the natural world from a completely different, exciting perspective!