With the right preparation hiking at night can be fantastic, with no one else around and the knowing that everyone else is either locked away indoors or tucked up in bed, the feeling of being out hiking in the hills at night can be exhilarating.
If you’re relatively new to navigation and hiking at night, then it’s worth walking a route that you regularly do and know, and using a map to identify features along the way to help you practice relocating your position. This means that your regular walking trail will be a little more exciting due to the darkness, and the secluded feeling, but you will likely recognize features along the way and won’t be too worried about getting lost!
Navigation becomes much more difficult at night, especially if the weather turns for the worst so having a good set of skills will not only make sure you get to your camp spot or back to your car on time, but also means you will enjoy your hike a whole lot more!
For more adventurous hikes off the beaten trail you need to make sure your navigation skills are well up to scratch, in particular your ability to measure distance whilst walking, interpret less obvious map features, and use a compass to take and walk on bearings. Either practice this in the daylight or at night in areas you know well if your skills are good. If you aren’t fully confident in your navigation skills then it’s worth attending a course with a respectable outdoor provider.
A good head torch is essential
Some nights you may never need one during the whole walk, but others may require you to solely rely on what you can see using a head torch therefore it needs to be good one. Choose one that has a powerful and long distance beam, as well as a good battery life. Quite often the best torches have a separate battery pack located on the rear of the head strap (where it sits at the rear of your head). I use the Petzl Myo RXP for near enough everything outdoors including night navigation and I couldn’t recommend it enough!
Learn some head torch manners…
The mountains and scenery look so different at night, especially on a clear moonlit one and it’s pretty frustrating when someone looks at you with their head torch on full beam and instantly your night vision disappears. Try to have good “head torch etiquette”, If you need to face each other and chat, but still need light then just spin the head torch around to the side of your head so not to blind your friends!
The right gear
It’s difficult to say what exactly to pack for a night hike, as some nights the weather can be calm, clear and warm, whereas others can be howling wind and rain! Make sure you pack for the worst situation, I always like to carry a survival bag, bivy bag, or group shelter if I’m heading out so I know that if there was an incident, I have a means for sheltering myself from the elements.
It’s likely going to be colder if you’re heading out at night so make sure you have the right gear to suit. For example a nice insulated jacket, beanie and pair of gloves should do the job nicely on a cold windy night.
Choose the right night
There’s nothing like hiking under moonlight, with a clear sky and views all around. Last summer I went for a hike during the late evening with my partner well into the night, not once did we have to take our head torches out, even to read the map! The moon was so bright that it was lighting up the map and everything around us with a faint glow, yet it was still dark enough to feel like we were out at night.
One of the best views is from the top of a mountain on a clear night where you can see the stars, and the lights from the small villages below. Mountains and hills like Pen y Fan and the Sugarloaf in the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains are easily accessible and have great views to neighboring villages and hills around them. You could head up in the evening, watch the sun set in some warm layers with a nice hot flask and then enjoy a walk back down in the dark before heading to the pub for a meal and drinks! Sounds like my kind of evening…