Many individuals advise avoiding night trekking because they believe it’s risky. What if I told you there are some reasons why you should not hike at night?
Even during the day, when there is ample natural light, hiking may be physically and mentally challenging. The trekking experience at night is much distinct from that of hiking during the day. Hiking in the dark isn't for everyone, especially new hikers, because it's a different experience that presents unique obstacles.
There are several reasons not to go on a trek at night, including the possibility of encountering dangerous wild creatures, issues with the law, or just the inability to see well enough. While these are only some of the dangers lurking at night, there are many other reasons not to hike at night.
Nighttime trekking has its downsides. To avoid a horrific, insect-infested horror fest, it's necessary to be prepared for any potential problems. For this reason alone, you should avoid nighttime trekking if possible. As a result, going night hiking necessitates extra safety precautions.
We have interviewed expert hikers and spent a lot of time reading and researching hiking to learn about its risks. Hiking at night is dangerous for several reasons, including those listed below.
Extreme Weather May Struck the Region
Take a look at the weather forecast before setting out on a hiking trip. If you plan a night walk at a high altitude, bad weather might spell disaster.
Consider the potential perils of extreme weather before venturing out into it. Consider conditions, weather, and terrain in your location while planning a trip.
Hiking in a specific area has its own set of challenges and hazards. Hiking in the dark during the winter is a no-no.
Problems with the Law
Going on a hike after dark might be illegal in some places. However, if you're going backpacking, you won't have to worry about this.
To make matters even better, the parking lot of areas that prohibit nighttime hiking will nearly always have a notice.
A physical barrier will be erected in some cases, making it impossible to access the parking lot after hours. Don't disregard a sign that's been put up.
If they saw it, your car might be mistaken for a lost or wounded hiker by a ranger or other local law enforcement official. To find you, they'll send out those who could have been able to aid those in actual danger. In addition, you may be subject to a monetary penalty.
Look into the possibility of wildlife. It would be best to avoid some wild animals depending on the situation.
To prevent catching any predators off guard, make some noise as you travel. Many wild creatures are at their busiest in the morning and night.
Hiking between dawn and twilight significantly enhances the odds of seeing bears and animals.
Hiking at night, like trail running, has a high level of risk. You're less likely to encounter bears until it's too late since they are more active at night.
Make a lot of noise if you decide to go for a walk at night in bear country. Also, bear spray is an excellent idea to have on hand just in case.
Seeing Clearly Could Be Difficult
While nightwalkers may be frightened by giant animals, they aren't the primary danger. Poor visibility is the greatest danger. Night hikers are more likely to get lost, trip and fall, and stumble into anything harmful.
For example, nighttime hikers might end themselves in a river or a ditch if they wander off the track.
Night hiking presents a unique set of challenges, but there are a few techniques to mitigate the risk.
To begin, make sure you have adequate light available.
Unless you know the area exceptionally well or have no other alternative, do not attempt to ford rivers or streams at night. Only time will tell if it's possible to cross when it comes down to it. Crossing a fast-moving river or stream requires extreme caution, so proceed with caution.
Many individuals misjudge the force of the gushing water and suffer the price.
A good hunting time is between twilight and sunrise. If you're a night hiker, you're almost certainly going to be out and about at one of these times.
This doesn't imply that you should avoid night hiking, but it does indicate that you should take some additional steps to ensure your safety.
For starters, try to find routes further away from locations that hikers often utilize. Make sure you're visible to hunters by wearing luminous apparel and hunting colors.
The optimum color for this assignment is generally bright orange.
Losing One's Way
Is there a reason why people become lost in the wilderness? Overconfidence in one's abilities, an underestimation of the terrain and trail conditions, a lack of information, a lack of preparation, or a bad experience is the many possible causes of being lost.
Trails might be challenging to follow at night if they aren't marked. Stay on the route and avoid going off-trail to avoid being bewildered and lost.
Keep a map, a compass, and a flashlight, and consider features like rivers and canyons while planning your route.
When organizing a hiking excursion, use your GPS and all the information you've gathered about the location.
You may not feel the need to drink water since it is dark and colder. Inadequate fluid intake will lead to dehydration, which is a mistake.
You'll have more energy to deal with the difficulties of night hiking if you keep your fluid and electrolyte levels balanced. Another reason why dehydration is problematic is that it increases your risk of hypothermia, which you want to avoid at all costs.
Do's and Don'ts of Night Hiking
Keep the Weather in Mind When Planning for a Hike
Hiking at the right time of year might help you get the most out of your time in nature. However, be sure to check the weather in your area as well.
Your visibility might be hampered by clouds or fog. Temperatures could also drop. While the day may have been warm, a nighttime trip will bring lower temperatures, so be sure to dress appropriately.
Get to Know Your Equipment
It would be best if you never used a brand-new piece of gear on a new path at night. If you need to access your hiking gear quickly, be sure you know the ins and outs of the goods you've packed.
Never Go Ahead with a Plan without Informing Someone Else
Getting lost or in trouble on a trek may happen to even the most seasoned hikers. A friend or family member who knows your intended route, expected departure time, and expected return time might help you seek aid more quickly if you ever need it. The speed of nighttime hiking may be significantly slower than during the day.
Pack the Usual Essentials, Including a Few Extras
If you're going on a nighttime trek, you'll need to rehydrate. Ensure that you have adequate food and fluids for the length of your journey, plus a little more in case of an emergency.
Bring an additional layer of clothing, a jacket, and extra batteries for your light sources if it becomes chilly.
If needed for stability, trekking poles should be considered depending on the trail's topography.
Do Not Disturb the Wildlife
Would you like a camera or a bright light flashing in your bedroom? Think of yourself as a wildlife animal that becomes a target to people flashing at them.
Keep a respectful distance from the nighttime creatures and observe them from a darkened area.
Also, keep a sharp eye out for wildlife, which is more active at night. As a precaution, slow down and pay attention to your surroundings.
Go Outside for Hiking Alone
Hiking in a group at night is an excellent way to ensure your safety. In an emergency, the more people you have around, the more gear you'll have access to.
Group night treks have been conducted in certain cities and towns. Find out if there are any hiking groups in your region by contacting your local REI shop, state park, or national park service.
Travel Away from the Designated Route
This policy serves both the natural environment and your well-being. "Leave No Trace" guidelines recommend that hikers travel in a single file and use established routes and campsites.
By staying on the pre-existing path, you're helping to preserve the natural beauty you've grown to appreciate.
To avoid getting into a dangerous scenario, you should always stay on the route while hiking at night and during the day.
Try a Different Hiking Route
Starting a journey to unfamiliar places in the middle of the night is not recommended. To ensure your safety and to have a sense of what to expect, stick to a path you're familiar with.
It's possible that seeing your favorite route lit only by the moon will provide a unique experience.
Explore different route alternatives throughout the day before venturing out at night once you're ready to take the next step. At night, it's essential to know how to keep yourself safe.
Tips to Follow While Hiking at Night
A Group Hike Is the Best Way to Experience the Outdoors
If you've never done a nighttime trek before, it's good to go with a group.
Running across a cougar, bear, or person who intends to hurt you is highly unlikely, but it does happen, and there is safety in numbers.
When you're among a group, you're less likely to lose focus when you hear a twig crackle or a branch creak or stones clatter behind you.
Choose hiking buddies that appreciate nature. You don't want to be trapped with a chatty companion as a stargazer.
Take a Spare Headlight
If you're planning a night trek, make sure you have a headlamp for each person at your party.
Though it is possible to trek in the dark using only the moonlight, it is essential to have a reliable light in case of an emergency.
It is ideal if your headlights feature a red light option and the usual white light. Maintaining night vision on a trek will be easier since your eyes are less sensitive to red wavelengths than white light.
Don't Stray from the Path
This becomes even more critical for hikers at night as a rule of thumb. In addition to adhering to Leave No Trace standards, you can be confident that you will not be in a possibly life-threatening position at night.
If you must deviate from the track to, ahem, answer nature's call, stay close to a companion or a tree at the trail's side and use a rope or cable to keep you connected.
Even in the middle of the day, hikers have become lost in the wilderness after wandering off for a restroom break.
Improve Your Vision at Night
In some cases, brighter does not equal better. Your eyes will adjust better to natural light sources (such as the moon or stars) when night-hiking rather than using a flashlight.
Additionally, you'll save battery life for when you need it while still being able to take in the scenery in the most natural way imaginable.
Getting used to being in the dark takes at least an hour, so factor that into your schedule ahead of time.
Avoid gazing at intense light sources on the route, such as automobile headlights, smartphones, or flashlights from other hikers, which may immediately destroy your night vision.
It Is Essential to Keep an Eye Out for Animals
Many animals, such as deer, coyotes, owls, and even cougars, are more active at night than during the day. Although you shouldn't be scared, it's good to know you aren't in the woods alone if you are.
Be on the lookout for any noises or visual cues that indicate the presence of animals.
Predators are likely to flee in the opposite direction if they see red lights, even if they're just dimmer than normal ones.
Be mindful of any animals you come across. Using a flash while photographing nocturnal animals might harm their night vision, making them more exposed to predators or preventing them from obtaining their food.
Always Keep Your Battery Topped up or Have Extras on Hand if Necessary
Take care of your headlamp's battery before setting out on a nighttime trek. Batteries can be challenging to find in the dark; this is a duty best done during the day, especially at camp or during a school break.
It is a significant hassle to plug in a rechargeable battery for hours because it's dead.
If you're hiking in the dark, you should put your spare batteries and battery charger (along with food, additional layers, and any other supplies you might need) in an easily accessible pocket.
Take Your Time and Be Cautious When Crossing Streams
To avoid becoming lost, be especially careful with your footing and keep an eye on the route and your maps. Look across stream crossings before entering the water (or rock-hopping across).
You may not be able to tell how deep a body of water is because your headlamp's beam reflects off the water's surface. Waiting till the sunlight to cross risky and difficult fords may be preferable.
Hiking at Night: The Advantages
There's a Lot More Time
There aren't many daylight hours if you go trekking in the winter, late fall, or even early spring.
To acquire additional time on the route, extend your trekking time until the sun goes down. This will allow you to cover more ground in less time.
You may not be able to make it to Mt. Kadatin if the AT is blocked to hikers before you get there, which might be a significant setback.
Hiking may be a real pain during the hottest part of the day. The trek may not be as enjoyable as you expected it to be if it's hot and sunny outside.
You can avoid both of these problems if you take the same walk at night. You won't be sweltering in the heat, and the sun will have set.
Consequently, your hike will be more enjoyable, and you may even consume less water as a result of it.
Some hikers running low on water choose to rest during the day and continue their trek at night.
Get sick of going on the same hike every weekend? The trail will appear radically different at night than during the day.
It's possible to view the stars and the moon while trekking, depending on where you are.
Taking a trek at night will give you a wholly fresh perspective on the same old path you've been hiding for so long.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks