First of all, what is night hiking. It’s actually exactly like it sounds, you hike at night. For the average person, a hike during the day is already a fun and healthy activity. So why would you want to go night hiking? There are several reasons why some avid hikers consider night hiking.
Firstly, temperatures are much cooler at night, making it easier to walk longer without breaking a terrible sweat. Second, it’s actually much easier to observe nature in the evening. Most forest animals are actually nocturnal, so you may have a run in with more woodland creatures than you would during the day. And lastly, it’s an entirely different experience to be able to hike underneath the stars. While intriguing, is night hiking even safe to do? The answer is yes, if you’re prepared.
Let There Be Light
Obviously, being able to see is important when you go night hiking. If you’re unable to see the trail, you’re most definitely going to get lost. It is highly recommended that you invest in a good quality headlamp. This way, you can strap on your light source and free up both of your hands. Having two free hands is very important for safety in case of accidently slips or falls.
It is also highly recommended that if you are looking to become an avid night hiker, learn the cycle of the moon. On a clear night, the moon can actually be a very useful source of natural lighting. Every bit of light that you can get to illuminate your path is the best to ensure your safety. Plus, there’s the added bonus of having a hiking adventure by moonlight!
Hiking in a Safe Location
Night hiking is perfectly safe if you are prepared. Before you participate in a nighttime hike, plan your route out carefully and pick an appropriate and familiar location. Knowing the trail and the area can really help you out should you accidently stray from the path. Being in a familiar area is better than being completely lost. Always inform somebody that you are going for a hike, so should something happen, they will be able to contact authorities to help locate you. It’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Safety in Numbers
That being said, do your best to go in a group of at least two or more. You never know when you may need extra help, and having others around you can increase the chances of being assisted. In addition, hiking in large groups can dissuade potentially dangerous animals such as bears or other predators native to your area. It’s a lot harder to get lost when you’re with a group of people, which is an added bonus.
Take Your Time
The worst thing you can do while night hiking is rush. Moving too quickly in the dark increases the risk of accidentally tripping over something, going the wrong way, and so on. Even with your headlamp and the light of the moon illuminating the way, always proceed with caution. If you are ever unsure or find yourself turned around in the dark, there’s no shame in stopping to take a minute to gather yourself. By not rushing, you will remain calm and able to think clearly. A clear head is vital for safety in the great outdoors.
Bring the Essentials
Food & Water
While night hikes are typically very short in duration, it’s still important to pack food and water. Being properly nourished is important when conducting a nighttime excursion. Your body will be burning lots of calories, and over-exhaustion can be dangerous at night time when temperatures are much lower. It’s also common sense to keep hydrated just as you would during a daytime excursion. By packing just a little bit extra, you’ll have a supply cache that should last you a few days with proper rationing should an emergency situation occur.
In addition, another essential that you should consider bringing with you while night hiking is extra batteries or a power cell. You can seal these in a plastic sandwich bag to keep dry. You never know when your headlamp may run out of juice, and the last thing you want is to be stuck in the dark without a clear path.
Thirdly, make sure that you’re appropriately dressed. Just like with any other outdoor activity, you want to dress for the elements and always dress in layers. It’s better to dress in layers because if you do begin to overheat, you can easily take off a jacket or a sweater and put them back on once you’ve cooled off. If it’s the other way around, there is no way to warm up if you have nothing to put on. Over exposure to the cold, especially at night, could put you at risk for hypothermia.
Lastly, before you go on a hike, make sure that your cell phone is fully charged. Nobody said that you had to leave all technology behind when you went out on a nighttime escapade. Your cellphone will be your best friend in an emergency situation. Reserve your phone’s battery life for calling emergency services should the occasion arise. If you’re ever lost, you can also use the GPS in your phone to open up a map in order to figure out where you are. It really is a handy little device.
You could grab a GPS hiking watch just in case you need to track your trail back to safety. See our review article here.
Night hiking is a perfectly safe activity if you are willing to put in the effort to prepare and educate yourself about the potential risks. You may want to sign up for HikeAlert to be extra safe.
Use as much light as possible so that you can see your path, stick to the trail in an area that you’re familiar with, always go in a group for safety and for guidance, take your time to enjoy the experience, and bring essential supplies in case of emergencies. Chance favors the prepared, as the saying goes. With this in mind, go off and enjoy a new nighttime adventure!
Here’s a video with some extra tips!