In the late spring of AD 125, the Roman emperor Hadrian sailed to Sicily to witness the sunrise from the top of Mount Etna. It is said that the volcanic smoke and the small particles in the atmosphere created such iridescent effect that the effort put into the night hike was more than worth it.
Night ascends have a mystical allure to this day. Not because new generations follow ancient traditions just for the sake of repeating past feats, but for the unique experience a night hike brings. By the time you descend the mountain, you are likely to gain fresh insight into your existence on this planet.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do this as our ancestors did it years ago – with a piece of cloth drenched in combustible liquid and wrapped around a long stick. Nowadays, hiking at night can be made easier with the help of a couple of innovative accessories and good company.
Take a Lot of Light
Even if you prefer walking along a moonlit path, don’t forget to pack a reliable light source. You can invest in a sturdy flashlight, but if you want to have your hands free, your smartest choice is buying a hiking headlamp. If you are hiking in a group, make sure the first and the last member of the group is equipped with the proper light, although the ideal scenario would be everyone holding a source of light. Besides illuminating your way, this tool can also serve to make yourself more visible to the wildlife.
Go for high quality hiking headlamp by renown manufacturers like Petzl, Led Lenser, and Black Diamond. They usually have high output in lumens that will allow you to cover a great distance. Since night hiking can take considerable time, double-check the run time of the headtorch. You want to go for an LED model that holds consistent output during prolonged periods of time.
Any option that offers more than 6 hours of run time when fully charged is a good contender. Since red light helps preserve the night vision, headlamps that offer this option should be shortlisted. You can also take your kids along the way and get them a companion kids headlamp. The market is truly abundant with various options.
Take Some Friends
You can go alone on a night hike, but where’s the fun in that? Sure, there is a whole bunch of extreme athletes that spend considerable time in the mountains at night. Take ultra trail runners for example. However, if you don’t have much experience hiking at night, do the smart thing and take a friend with you. If you are not interested in sharing your night climbs with anyone else, start small. You can start by spending an hour hiking in the dark by yourself and gradually increase your night hikes.
Take Timing Seriously
Timing is everything, especially when you’re hiking and trying to catch some breath-taking views. Set your goal and plan in advance. Do you want to catch the sunrise on top of a mountain? Then plan your start accordingly. Have you checked the weather forecast? Please do so, for there is nothing more disheartening than expecting a pleasant moonlit hike and getting torrents of rain coming at you from a cloudy night sky. If you are embarking on a night hike to get away from the daylight heat during summer, make sure you calculate the estimated time it will take you to cover the intended trail.
Take Darkness as a Given
Just because you have all your gear on it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience the night the right way. Expect darkness and embrace it. This is might be easier to do if you start your hike at sunset as you’ll have time to get used to what would otherwise be pitch black. Become one with your surroundings and embrace the journey.
Take a Communication Device
Ancient mountain climbers didn’t have the privilege of being in contact with the civilization that they left behind. Today, however, there is a range of communication devices to keep in touch with civilization when going for a hike. It can be something as simple as a cell phone or a more complex solution like a two-way radio system (VHF) or satellite communication. Nowadays, athletes can have personal location beacon able to transmit a signal across hundreds of kilometres. This alone makes night hiking on your own far safer than it used to be.
Take the Hike as Is
It is easy to fall into the trap of using all of this gear to remain on top of your game at all times. Don’t allow yourself to solely depend upon the gear in your backpack. The hiking headlamp, the GPS beacons, your mobile phone, and all of your backpacking gear is there to make the hike safer, but not to rob you of the experience. What is the point of hiking along a remote trail at night if your face is fixed on a screen? Take the hike as it is – nothing less, nothing more. Finding a quiet place to unwind is becoming increasingly hard. When you decide to go on a night hike make the most out of it!