10 Steps For Safely Completing a Night Hike

Ever get out of work with hopes of hiking only to find it’s already dark outside? Ever wished that you could turn back time on a Sunday to fit in that hike you’ve been wanting to venture to all week? If you answered yes to any of the proceeding questions, you are not alone. In fact, you shouldn’t have to miss out on a hike just because the weekend is coming to a close or you get off work too late on a weekday. Instead you can take a night hike.

Taking a night hike might sound like a scary idea, and while it is ideal to go during the day, it can be done with the proper safety precautions.

Some might say that taking a night hike is the only option for them because they love the quiet and solitude. Others might argue a night hike allows them to hike desert trails even during the hot summer months. One man detailed bonding with a friend during a night hike in the San Diego Reader.

No matter what your reasoning is, next time you find your hiking plans extending into the evening – whether by choice or poor planning – you can be prepared and know what to expect by following my ten tips to safely completing a night hike.

10 Steps For Safely Completing A Night Hike

  1. Light – This may seem like a no brainer but sometimes a night hike happens by accident – you hit the trails too late in the day and next thing you know the sun sets. Always pack a bright flashlight in your backpack no matter what time you set out on a hike. While flashlights are great, head lamps are even better if you can carry both. Bring an extra set of batteries for your flash light as well just in case. On a moonless night, the worst thing that can happen is being stuck in the pitch black darkness.
  2. Group Hiking – Safety in numbers is especially crucial when taking a night hike. Not only will having friends keep you entertained, but night is when wild animals typically hunt for their prey. That being said, wildlife always goes for the weakest link. Stick close to your group when hiking at night and don’t stray ahead or behind from the pack.Another benefit to having more hiking companions with you is you are more likely to have luck with safety gear, communication devices, maps, and help if a crisis were to occur. If someone were to injure themselves, a group would be more capable of helping the injured person back to the trailhead.
  3. Stay On The Trails – Stay on the marked path and do not wander off the trail. As previously mentioned, wildlife tends to hunt at night and you don’t want them to mistake you for their dinner. With that being said, wildlife is also unlikely to be attracted to a trail that it knows people venture down. Just like you, they want to stay undisturbed.
  4. Extra Batteries – There is nothing worse than hiking completely in the dark. This highly increases your chance at tripping and severely injuring yourself. This can be avoided if you taking the proper precautions to ensure your electronic devices stay charged. Namely, by packing extra batteries. Have a few different sets of batteries on hand, just in case one or two are faulty. You never know when your flashlight might unexpectedly go out.
  5. Wear Layers – As with any hike, be sure to dress appropriately for your night hike. Wear plenty of non-cotton layers, that are both windproof,= and waterproof. Your clothing should also be able to be shed or added with ease. This is particularly important for night hiking as temperatures tend to dramatically drop within just hours of the sun setting. Check the hour by hour weather forecast prior to departing for your hike to prepare for any adverse weather conditions such as rain.
  6. Stay Hydrated and Fueled – Even though you won’t be hiking in the blazing hot sun on a night hike, it is still crucial to stay hydrated throughout the entirety of your journey. Bring plenty of water and protein-packed snacks to stay fueled and energized throughout your hike, or in case you end up taking a longer than expected route. Bring dry snacks with you. Food that emits strong smells may attract animals.
  7. Choose a Familiar Trail – A night hike isn’t the optimal time to explore a new or rigorous trail. Stick to a hike that you are both comfortable and familiar with rather than trying a new adventure. Save a new hike for a sunny Saturday when you have ample time to explore, stop to take pictures, and check out different parts of the trail – all the things you shouldn’t do when taking a night hike. Night hiking hides some beauty of your surroundings and with a new hike you want to be able to take it all in.
  8. Moonlight – Full-moon hikes are perhaps the best reason to go on a night hike. Plan your next night hike to coincide with the full moon – you’ll be astounded at not only how much light there is but how beautiful your surroundings appear under the glistening moon light. Even during half-moons, a surprising amount of light can hit the trails.
  9. Plan For Sunset – Plan your night hike for when the sun sets. Not only will you get a chance to take in a gorgeous sunset but you will also give your eyes a chance to adjust to the dimming light rather than plunging straight into the darkness.
  10. Appropriate Length Keep your night hike short to start, even if you’re an experienced hiker. Build up your night hiking skills before tackling a major hike. When it’s dark, you’ll need to pay more attention to your footing which can cause a hike to feel more strenuous than it truly is. Pick a destination and length that will be comfortable to tackle.

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