6 Night Hike Tips and Essentials
Compared to hiking during the day, a night hike offers many advantages. For starters, it provides cooler temps, relieving you from a blistering hot summer day. And second, night hiking gives you a new perspective of the skies, allowing you to see stars, constellations and even the Milky Way galaxy.
Like the idea of hiking your favorite trail under the light of the moon? Then grab your headlamp and strap on your boots. Here are six night hike tips and essentials to make the most of your journey.
6 Night Hike Tips
Hiking at night after the sun goes down can be challenging. But with these tips and tricks, you can make your night hike go smoothly and safely. Take these tips into consideration and you’re sure to have a fun night hike experience.
#1 Begin at Sunset
Start your night hike at sunset, allowing your eyes to adjust to the darkness and your night vision to kick in. While it’s tempting to simply break out the headlamp, you want to use it sparingly and only when necessary. Instead, try to rely on the natural light of the moon and a full moon, if possible. “Dark adaptation” takes about 20 to 30 minutes to take full effect.
#2 Hike with a Group
Never go night hiking solo. Even if this is normal for you during the day, a night hike presents many more challenges. Night hiking with a friend or a group can calm the nerves and keep you safe. Simple as that. Also, let someone know where you’re headed and when you plan to be back.
#3 Choose a Familiar Trail
Don’t set out on your first night hike by choosing a new trail. Choose a path you are already familiar with. This way, you know precisely how long it should take you to return and all the obstacles along the way. Knowing a few local trails can also help you choose what kind of night hike you want. Light-colored rocks will reflect the moon, offering navigational markers to guide you, while a forest might be full of nocturnal critters you can spot.
#4 Know the Local Wildlife
Get familiar with the types of wildlife that might be roaming the trail, especially at night. You might be used to seeing daytime animals, but nighttime is a different story. While most are harmless, it still helps to know what could be dangerous if encountered. Besides that, it simply brings enjoyment when you recognize chatter and glowing eyes.
#5 Slow Your Roll
Take it slow on a night hike. It’s not a race. Even on familiar trails, the darkness presents a challenge, so slow your roll and watch your footing. Plus, taking it slow just makes the experience that much more relaxing and peaceful.
#6 Be Aware of the Surroundings
Again, it’s always wise to do your first night hike on a familiar trail. However, even then, you can quickly lose your bearings at night and get turned around. As you hike, be aware of trail markers and keep your sight on the path. Just in case, learn how to read a topographic map, too.
3 Must-Have Night Hike Essentials
On your night hike, make sure to bring along these essentials. While you should carry the Ten Essentials on any hiking trip, these items will especially come in useful when hiking at night.
Multiple Clothing Layers
Carry a daypack with multiple layers of clothing. As the sun sets, the air can get surprisingly cooler. Plus, some overnight rains can occur. So do yourself a favor and check the forecast and carry an extra thermal layer like a fleece jacket to stay warm on cooler nights.
Cell Phone and GPS
While it’s always a good idea to carry your cell phone, any hiker knows that service can be spotty. If you plan to be hiking at night, it’s also a wise idea to bring along a GPS device for emergencies. Again, hiking at night can make you disoriented and does come with its fair share of dangers, so should you need help, it could save your life.
Headlamp and Flashlights
While you want to use your headlamp as little as possible, relying only on the moonlight, it does come in handy. Also, you never know what might happen, so carry an extra light device like a rechargeable flashlight. Since a headlamp is so crucial on your night hike, here are some additional tips:
- Look for a red-light setting. Our eyes are less sensitive to a red light’s longer wavelengths, meaning night vision is less affected.
- Choose one with multiple brightness settings. This will allow you to switch from high to low when you need to see ahead of you. It can also save on battery life.
- Try the headlamp on. Make sure the headlamp’s straps fit comfortably.
- Never shine it in someone’s face. Turn off your headlamp in the presence of group members or other night hikers. The light can disrupt someone’s night vision.