Everyone can pretty much swing hiking during the day, even though sometimes the heat gets to you. But night hiking is a different ball game. Well, as the saying goes, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. So know what you are up against before you head out into the dark.
But why hike in the night?
If you love hiking, swapping up a daytime hike for one at night can bring on a whole new experience. Just imagine getting the chance to find your way by moonlight or gaze up at the stars in the sky or hear the crickets chirp. Besides, hiking at night means you don't have to worry about the heat. Plus, hiking at night heightens your other senses, especially your hearing, which helps you adapt quickly to your surroundings.
Well then, here are ten night hiking tips that will make your night hikes safe, fun and unforgettable.
NEVER SOLO HIKE
Hiking alone puts you at a lot of risks. Many solo hikers have been victims of sexual or physical assault or animal attacks. Others have had a bad fall, been injured or made a wrong turn and got lost. If you want to take a crack at night hiking, hiking in a group is your best shot. Group hiking is safer, and it's easier to get help and gear from others in the group in case of an emergency. Find out if your city or community organizes group night hikes, it's the right place to start as you begin your night hiking adventure.
TELL SOMEBODY BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT
Even if you're an experienced hiker, it's always a good idea to tell a friend or your family about your night hiking plans. Emergencies do happen, so give them important details such as the trail you'll be hiking, what time you will start the hike and what time you will be getting back. That way, they can easily find you and get you help as quickly as possible if you do get into any danger.
BE FAMILIAR WITH YOUR HIKING GEAR
It's not advisable to use brand-new gear when it's sundown. Try out new equipment at least once or twice during a day hike, so you get used to it. You won't get mixed up using it during a night hike because you're familiar with it.
DON'T TRY A NEW TRAIL
In the night, the odds are against you. Your vision may not be as sharp or clear as during the day, so you might want to night hike a trail you are most familiar with. Besides, it's safer to try a new trail during the daytime a couple of times. When you get used to them, you can try them out at night.
DON'T VEER OFF YOUR CHOSEN TRAIL
If you shouldn't try new trails then you must stick to your designated trail (it's the right thing to do!). There are two reasons for this. First off, some trails are off-limits to hikers; they've been reserved for the wildlife in the area. Secondly, designated trails are the safest and most known to hikers; your chances of being in danger or getting lost are slimmer than hiking unknown or new trails.
To be safe, walk in a single line in the middle of a designated trail.
COME ALONG WITH ENOUGH LIGHT
Pack up a headlamp with a red light feature, lighter, flare and some tinder you can use to light a fire. The red light feature on your headlamp protects your night vision and that of others. Headlamps can be very blinding to other hikers if you are in a group, so switch to the red light mode while hiking to prevent this from happening (our eyes are less sensitive to low dosages of red light). You'll realise that when you switch off the red light mode after using it, you can still see in the dark even when your headlamp is off.
- All lighting gear or equipment must be water-proof.
- Pack up enough batteries for your lighting gear or equipment.
GET USED TO THE DARK
While you need to bring along enough light, try to enjoy the darkness - that's the whole point of a night hike! Besides, it takes 30 to 45 minutes max for your eyes to acclimate to the darkness and having any light on makes it difficult for your eyes to make that adjustment. It's best to start your night hike without any light so your eyes can adjust. That is why it is advisable to hike when there is moonlight.
Some animals can be very territorial; they may attack you if you trespass on their territory. So while on a hike, stick to your designated trail. Watch and admire animals from a distance. Do also hike slowly and be alert to your surroundings since wildlife can be very active at night.
CONSIDER THE WEATHER AND MOON'S CYCLES WHEN PLANNING A HIKE
Plan your hike around the moon's cycles; you could use some moonlight to get better visibility while out there. It's also best to check the weather report for fogs or mists. These can dim your lights and make temperatures drop. Also, since temperatures can drop at night, you should put on something to keep you warm.
PACK UP THE ESSENTIALS
We have already mentioned packing up enough light such as tinder, a flare, lighter, headlamp and some warm clothing. Other essentials you need to bring along are water to keep you hydrated, and some snacks to munch on when hunger pangs set in. And bring along some extra in case your hike lasts longer than you planned. Finally, come along with some trekking poles. These can help you keep your balance if your trail is rugged.
Well then, enjoy your night hikes!
Don't forget to share with us how helpful these tips were. Comments section, please.
By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team
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