If you’ve ever had a hike extend into the evening—whether by choice or because of poor planning—you know that it’s completely different from hiking during the day. You’ll hear new sounds and see new few things that may be awesome. But a trip can easily be ruined if you’re not fully prepared. So here are some things to keep in mind for a safe night hike:
Go in a group
The saying is true: you’re safer in numbers. Not only will having friends keep you from being miserable in the dark, but it’ll also be much more difficult for some crazy wild animal to turn you into a meal. The more folks around, the more likely you’ll fall in luck with safety gear, communication devices, and just good folks who can help in a serious situation. Above all, make sure of one thing; if you’re hiking in bears territory, bring one friend who is slower than you. Just kidding.
Bring plenty of lights
This might seem like a given, but it might be a good idea to pack some lights on your night hike, so—you know—you can see where you’re going. Flashlights are great, but headlights are even better. It’s always a good idea to bring a lighter and some tinder (in case the foliage is wet — napkins or paper works great) so you can make a torch in case your light starts to flicker. On a moonless night, being stuck in the dark can be a scary thing.
Practice headlight etiquette
Part of the fun of night hiking is seeing things differently in the dark. But flipping on a light will ruin your (and whoever you’re with) night vision for a few minutes, which is incredibly frustrating because it takes time to get back. Work out a system with your group. But also remember: safety is much more important than being polite. So flip on a light if you need it.
Be mindful of the wildlife
Know what happens when you use flash photography on an owl? Without being an owl, it’s impossible to really know, although it’s probably something similar to staring at the sun with binoculars.
Pack extra batteries
There are few things scarier on an evening hike than being out in the middle of nowhere and having your lights die when you need them. So bring extra batteries. You never know when you might need them.
Dress for the weather
This is something you ought to do for every hike, whether day or night, but be sure to check the weather ahead of time and dress appropriately. You’ll want to be ready for any adverse weather, like rain, because it might not only ruin your hike if you’re not, but it can also be dangerous.
Pack food and water
Even though it’s likely cooler at night where you’re hiking, it’s still important to stay hydrated. Keep some snacks for the good ole blood sugar and remember to bring your trash with you when you leave. Be aware that food smells can attract animals so keep your snacks nice and simple.
Choose a trail you know
Night time isn’t exactly the time to explore the backcountry. Instead, trek a trail you’re familiar with. Besides, it’s awesome to see how different things look without the sun to illuminate your surroundings.