Hiking After Dark

Plan on hitting the trails at night? Check out these tips.
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Plan on hitting the trails at night? Check out these tips.

Strap on your headlamp BACKPACKER readers: It's time for some night hiking. In our online poll last week, we asked for your opinion of hitting the trail after the sun goes down.

The majority of you were down with the idea--out of the 302 responses, 76.5 percent of you said that in the spring and summer, you'd head out for some nighttime outdoor fun. The other 23.5 percent disagreed, claiming just the thought of all the dark shadows had you quaking in your hiking boots.

Looking to spice up your nightlife with some trail action? Check out these tips from BACKPACKER's Southwest Editor Annette McGivney about hiking in the dark:

  • Time your hikes to coincide with the full and near-full moon.
  • Protect your night vision by limiting use of flashlights and headlamps. Cover the bulbs with red cellophane and turn them on only when necessary.
  • Allow 15 minutes for your pupils to adjust before you start hiking. It will take another 45 minutes for the rods, the light-sensitive nerve cells in the retina, to fully activate.
  • Practice using your peripheral vision, which is better at picking up weak light. Keep your gaze fixed on a specific point, such as a star or the horizon. Allow your visual field to go as wide as possible. Do it long enough and the single focal point will fade away.
  • Play it safe: Stick to established trails, use a walking stick or trekking poles to help you balance, and shield your eyes from branches with a billed cap.

It doesn't hurt to bring along your best scary story too. My favorite is about the hikers who disappered one night on this very trail...

--Morgan Keys

Image credit: Strength