You see, many people find night hiking counterintuitive, given that it can put your comfort and safety into compromise. But for many hikers and outdoor goers, night hiking provides the extra thrill they need. It lets them explore the wild scenery embedded in the dark.
So before I discuss anything else, allow me to showcase some of the perks of why you should hike in the dark.
Benefits Of Hiking At Night
Once it is already dark, you know that it is time for you to prowl and move around. There's a lot to see and expect here, especially the only active wildlife during the night. Furthermore, without the sun overbearing on the top, you'll have a cozy time exploring. You don't have to worry about sunburns anymore.
Here are some other benefits that you can get if you hike at night:
It helps you appreciate your environment - When you're out there with no light source, you will be able to notice more details about nature. The darkness allows you to observe things like plants' growth patterns or animal behavior. This way, you can learn how these creatures live their lives.
It is cool and breezy - When you're out there without any light source, you won't feel so exposed. Your eyesight will improve because you won't squint from the bright sunlight. Plus, when you walk along trails, you'll enjoy the breeze blowing through your hair.
It is relaxing - Hiking at night can be pretty relaxing. With nothing but the stars above you, you may just want to roam around and take a breather. If you do this, all the stresses and anxieties within you could dissipate. Surely enough, that's a mental relief that you shouldn't miss out on.
Importance Of Proper Lighting For Night Hiking
For first-timers, it is pretty natural to think that having a brighter light source is better. But you see, that's not actually the case.
The high-lumen flashlights and headlamps are essential in activities where illumination is crucial, such as emergencies and search-and-rescue. Keep in mind that too much white light can damage your night vision.
Interestingly, hikers who want to try exploring their surroundings in the dark should never rely too much on their light sources. Instead, they should train their eyes to rely on the light generated by the moon--if the skies are clear. Doing this repeatedly for extended periods would enable your eyes to get used to the low-light conditions, which, in turn, would enhance your vision during the night.
Here are some of my recommendations on how you can "train" your night vision:.
Don't look directly at your lamp or flashlight - Your night vision can get thwarted if you stare at a light source, even for a short amount of time. It would ruin your progress, and you would need to adjust your eyes again.
Optimize your peripheral vision - While looking straight ahead, focus on objects near your feet. That way, you'd be able to spot potential dangers while still maintaining eye contact with what lies beyond.
Give time for your vision to adjust in the dark - Once you've been hiking for a while, your eyes will become accustomed to the dim lighting. However, until then, make sure that you give yourself ample time before attempting anything else.
How To Use Flashlights And Headlamps Properly On A Night Hike
Of course, there are instances where you need to use your light sources. For instance, if you want to look for gear inside your pack or scan areas that are too dim to see.
However, this doesn't mean you have to compromise all your effort to adjust your night vision. Hence, you should do the following whenever you need to use your light sources.
Opt for a red light - If you buy a flashlight or headlamp, make sure that they have a red light mode. This feature allows you to gain vision in the dark without eyes being affected. You see, your eyes are not as sensitive to red light as compared to white light. Hence, they are suitable for hikers who want to train their eyes in low-light settings.
Take advantage of multiple brightness settings - Most modern lights come equipped with several brightness levels. Make sure that you know how each setting works so that you don't waste any energy when using them. Furthermore, they would be able to illuminate your way even without distracting your vision.
Turn them off if you are not using them - When you're done using your light sources, switch them off immediately. Otherwise, you'll end up wasting battery life.
Don't shine your flashlight or lamp on other people - Shining it towards others could cause discomfort to those around you. In addition, it might also distract them from their own tasks. So, keep it away from everyone's sight.
Do’s When Hiking At Night
Be familiar with your equipment and gear - Before heading into the wilderness, ensure that you understand everything about your backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and other utilities. The more you know about these items, the better prepared you'll be for your night hike. You should bring your food and nourishments, as well.
Tell others about your plan - Night hiking can become dangerous. Hence, before you do this, make sure that you have informed someone about plans. Notify them about your destination, the schedule of your trip, and your expected return date. However, keep in mind that you should tell people that you trust. Never relay your plans to strangers--or even colleagues. At the same time, never post it on social media, especially if you are going to hike alone.
Bring adequate light sources - As mentioned earlier, most night hiking requires some form of illumination. Therefore, you must bring the right light sources, such as flashlights and headlamps. Again, let me emphasize that they should have the following features: red light and multiple brightness adjustment. Also, make sure that you carry extra batteries.
Take your time during the hike - When night hiking, it is quite wrong that you stay out for only a short period. You will never be able to enjoy the nocturnal scenery that way. Furthermore, it would prevent your eyes from developing the ideal night vision. Instead, take your time and explore every nook and cranny of the trail. It will help you get an idea of what lies ahead.
Avoid unnecessary risks - While exploring at night, avoid taking unnecessary risks. For instance, don't climb over fallen trees or cliffs. Doing so may lead to injury and death. Besides, there are many animals roaming around at night. Thus, always try to remain calm and alert.
Hike when the moon is visible - During the full moon phase, the sky becomes brighter than usual. That means that you'd be able to spot things easier. Moreover, you won't need to rely on artificial lighting anymore. On top of that, you wouldn't feel like you were walking through a tunnel because of its bright glow.
Use proper safety measures - Always use caution while hiking at night. Don't forget to wear reflective clothing and footwear. And lastly, make sure that you follow all rules regarding safe practices. Check the weather and ensure that you aren't treading on areas where there are dangerous areas (such as cliffs and ridges).
Don'ts Of Hiking At Night
Don't go alone - To try to act brave by night-hiking alone. This isn't advisable since you're not aware of any dangers lurking nearby. Plus, you lack experience in doing so. If anything goes wrong, you'll find yourself stranded without anyone to rescue you.
Never walk off trails - If you hike at night, make sure that you only stay at your designated trail. Never veer away from it. Otherwise, you might end up getting lost. In addition, you could stumble upon something unexpected along the way.
Do not attempt to cross streams - Crossing rivers at night is extremely risky. First, you risk drowning due to poor visibility. Second, you run the risk of being attacked by wild animals who are wandering nearby to drink water.
Do not venture too far - Most hikers who choose to hike at night usually want to see more of their surroundings. But remember that you shouldn't stray too far from your path. The reason behind this is simple; you cannot easily navigate back home after straying too far.
Never disturb any wildlife - Wildlife can become very aggressive if disturbed at night. They tend to attack humans with little provocation. So, do everything possible to keep them happy. Avoid disturbing them whenever possible.
Night hikes offer great opportunities to view nature's beauty. However, before embarking on one, you must first consider several factors. These include the type of terrain you intend to traverse, how long you plan to spend outdoors, and whether you've done similar activities before. Also, you should know about the best times to visit certain places.
Lastly, you have to decide which route suits you best. After considering these points, you'll surely come across some interesting experiences!