Have you ever considered hiking in the dark? Perhaps you ventured off on a hike and it took longer than expected which left you hiking in the dark back to your starting point. There are many reasons why you may end up hiking in the dark but there are things you can do to prepare yourself in case of such a situation. Safety is priority, so don’t go out there without being properly prepared. You can take a few extra precautions to make sure you have a great hike whether in the broad daylight or under the cover of darkness.
Clothing You Should Have
It can get cold at night even if it’s the middle of the summer. Moreover, if you’re in a mountainous zone, you know how cold it can get out there at night time. The temperature differences from mid day the middle of the night can be drastic. First off, bring appropriate clothing with you for any long hiking trip. It could be scorching during the day, but if you’re covered in sweat and don’t have a change of clothes, you can risk getting hypothermia when the thermometer dips after dark. Bring wicking layers, long sleeves, long pants, change of socks, fleece sweater with hood and maybe even a warm hat if the weather gets cool enough. It’s great to pack light but there’s nothing wrong with packing smart either.
What Gear Should You Bring?
Sometimes it can be helpful to have a backpack full of gear that you wouldn’t think would come in handy. If you’re stuck hiking at night, this may be one of those times that you may want to re-check your backpack. Additionally, this can be even more important if you are in a heavily treed area. Night comes quicker in the woods as the trees block much of any moon or distant light that’s in the area.
First off, you will need some form of lighting. This doesn’t mean that you will need to use it the whole time, but it will become useful during your night hike. Try to find the best headlamp you can bring with you. Make sure it has multiple settings for brightness and a red light filter. The red light filter is important because it helps to preserve your night vision. Depending on the time of the month, you may not even need to use your headlamp. If you’re under a full moon light, this can be bright enough for you to see everything. Using your headlamp on full power doesn’t help either because you will be seeing all kinds of shadows and reflections that may throw your depth perception off. Use it sparingly and try to maintain it on the red light mode to preserve your night vision. Finally, this is especially important in the mountains if you are heading down a slope or rough, uneven terrain.
Trail hiking shoes are a must when heading out in the dark. If you’re hiking at night, you won’t be able to see the details of the terrain as clearly as you would during the day. This could mean rough or slippery surfaces that don’t catch your eye. Taking a spill in the dark on a remote trail is something you want to avoid at all costs. Having the right, well-gripped hiking shoes or boots will help you tremendously. Furthermore, if you can get your hands on a pair of Gore-Tex boots or shoes, your feet will stay considerably dryer if you have to walk through any wet areas on the trail. Just like hiking during the day, wet feet could be your worst enemy.
One hiking accessory that could be a potential life saver is a good pair of hiking poles. Roots, rocks and puddles can blend in to the terrain very easily in the dark leaving you essentially blind before your next step ahead of you. Bring at least one hiking pole with you. Many hikers don’t use these to their potential or don’t feel like they need them. You can use your hiking pole as an indicator of what lies ahead of you. Just put it a foot or two in front of you to feel out what obstacle may be there. One root or rock that’s popping out of the ground can leave you falling over and injuring yourself in the dark. Take any necessary precaution you can before heading out in the night.
This may not seem like something you would think of when hiking at night, but you would be surprised. If you’re stuck in the woods or on a trail after dark, get a pair of clear goggles or glasses that will protect your eyes. Moving down the trail and focusing on the ground ahead of you will take focus away from what’s right beside your head. The last thing you want is to have a twig poke you in your eyeball as you’re heading down the trail.
Other Useful Information
Continuing on, there are a couple other things to consider if you’re ever in a night hiking situation whether it’s by choice or by accident.
Bring A Friend
If you can, try to partner up with somebody. This may not always be possible, but if you plan on hiking in the dark, having someone else there with you can be not only comforting but an additional layer of safety for both of you.
Bring a cell phone with you. Many cell phones these days do not require any subscription to at least be able to dial 911. If you’re outside of a reception zone, there may be pockets of reception along your hike. These days with the convenience of cell phones, it’s can be very useful to have one on you.
Take It Easy!
Don’t rush your hike. You want to get to where you’re going safely, so, slowing down your pace is not a bad thing. Take your time and look at all the obstacles around you. Turn your headlamp on, get a good idea of your surroundings. Then you can turn your headlamp off, or put it on the red light mode and slowly continue your hike until your next waypoint.
Conclusion About Hiking In The Dark
Whether you are in the mountains or in the desert, anyone can end up hiking in the dark at some point. This can be a planned activity or even happen by accident. It’s best to be prepared with the right clothing and equipment. This includes having the best hiking headlamp, a good set of hiking boots and a pair of hiking poles. Going at it alone is also not the best idea, so, bring a friend if you can. Grab your phone and most importantly take it easy! You’ll get to where you’re going eventually. Finally, have fun out there! Hiking in the dark can be fun and challenging. Don’t forget to read about other safety tips about hiking in general as this article just gives you some basic tips about hiking in the dark.