The first night hike can be an unnerving experience for some people. For others, it’s a new experience to spice up the hiking regimen. Either way, our best tips for hiking at night will give you an opportunity to enjoy the experience.
Daytime hikes work differently from nighttime hikes; to start with the most obvious, you’re very limited in how far you can see. Some people like to follow the lunar cycle to give the best chance of a clear night with plenty of natural light.
If you’re planning to hike National Parks or any remote trail during the night, there are a few things you need to think about if you want to do it safely. The last thing you want is to risk your safety or the safety of others in your group. With that in mind, here are some tips for you to follow:
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1. Give Your Eyes Time to Adjust
To give yourself the best advantage for hiking at night, you need to allow time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Here are some tips for seeing better at night:
- It takes around 20-30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.
- You can see in the dark better using your peripheral vision.
- Closing one eye when a white light source is directed at you allows quick adjustments.
We’re not born with night vision, so knowing how to adjust your eyes is an essential skill if you’re going to be hiking at night… After all, if you can’t see, you might be in big trouble.
Make sure you spend some time adjusting your eyes before you start hiking. If you’re walking as it’s getting dark, you probably won’t need much time to adjust, so you don’t need to worry too much.
Also, try to avoid having bright light sources shining in your eye. As noted above, the trick is to keep one eye closed; it will help your eyes readjust to the darkness without waiting long.
2. Know The Trail and Its Terrain
Another recommendation in our tips for hiking at night is walking on a familiar trail. Not only will you better understand the terrain, but you’ll also know what animals you need to be aware of.
If you don’t know the area, you could put yourself in a dangerous situation, and here’s why: There are plenty of dangerous animals that live in the nocturnal world. The last thing you want is to run into any mountain lions while you’re hiking.
If you are in a remote wilderness area, it’s a good idea to bring some bear spray with you, just in case you need to protect yourself from any wild animals.
Another benefit of hiking your favorite trail is that you will be less stressed about the unknown, preventing you from making silly mistakes.
3. Choose a Shorter Trail
Don’t try to be the hero when you’re hiking at night; it’s not the time to try a challenging new trail you’ve never done before. Keep the hikes short and straightforward with minimal elevation; it will give you the best chance of seeing the sunrise with no issues.
As well, be sure to avoid rocky trails where you need to scramble or places with sheer drops (unless you know the area well and have a lot of experience).
4. Bring Extra Layers
It’s not unusual for the temperature to drop as darkness sets in along the route. You may have been dressed appropriately for the sun, but you’ll definitely need some extra layers for the cooler temperatures at night.
Bringing a couple of base layers to slip into when the temperature drops can literally be a lifesaver. There’s no point in taking unnecessary risks to save a few kilos in your backpack.
5. Bring a Head Torch and Spare Batteries
Okay, this is probably the most important thing to consider when hiking at night. Some people might tell you to take a hand torch, and while they are good, it limits your hands.
This is why we suggest bringing a head torch so you can free up your hands and catch yourself if you trip. You should also ensure you bring extra batteries with you just in case you run out of juice.
If you can, try and find a head torch that comes with a red light setting, your eyes are less sensitive to the red light option.
6. Don’t Hike Alone
Hiking at night in a group can be dangerous enough, let alone doing it solo. It’s easy to get scared or confused when you’re by yourself on a dark trail.
Not only that, if you injure yourself on the hike, the chance of people finding you will be slim. At least if you’re with someone, they can help you get back to safety or direct the rescue teams to you.
Always try to go with family or a group of friends so you can watch each other’s backs… the buddy system is key to any hiking experience!
7. Use Your Trekking Poles
Hiking at night can make you feel unbalanced because you can’t see where you’re putting your feet. In fact, the whole situation can feel quite disorienting at best, and using trekking poles helps to overcome this feeling.
They give you the extra stability you need to navigate your way through the darkness, and as a bonus, they also give you a little boost uphill.
8. Bring Plenty of Water
Although the weather may have cooled down, and you don’t feel like you need to drink as much water, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Staying hydrated is essential, even if you are hiking at night, so bring plenty of water. Dehydration can make you more susceptible to hypothermia, which is definitely something you want to avoid.
9. Have an Emergency Plan
You should always have an emergency plan when you’re hiking, but it could be considered even more important when you’re in darkness. Before going on your hike, work out where your best chances of finding some phone signal in case of an emergency.
You should also make sure you bring a first aid kit with you; if you or your friend get an injury, you’ll need to be able to treat it. You also need to know the escape routes and fastest ways back to the road, your car, or the National Park services.
10. Don’t Rush It
The final recommendation in our tips for hiking at night: You shouldn’t rush your hike. Take the hike nice and slow; walking at night is already challenging.
As the sun goes down, you’ll find it more challenging to see your surroundings, which can lead to injury if you don’t take things slow.
Staying cautious and walking slowly will help you avoid injury, which is what we all want for a successful night hike. And be sure to take in the stars on clear nights. Chances are, they are far more visible in remote wilderness areas.
Night hiking can be an incredibly fulfilling experience if you focus on safety first, dress for the weather, have good illumination, and hike in a group of two or more. With these best tips for hiking at night, you’re sure to enjoy every single step of the journey.
Jason is an outdoor instructor for climbing, camping, and kayaking who has traveled the world as a freelance writer.