Doing it in the day time is hard enough. Hiking at night, well, that creates its own set of unique circumstances.
Here’s my list of the fourteen essentials I take on a night hike to ensure I always have a fun and safe walk in the dark.
It’s not the end-all-be-all list; just a list that fits my needs. You’re welcome to adopt it if you want. Or change it. Your needs and comfort level may be different. It will at least give you a start.
- Appropriate clothing: Consider the season. Get a weather report, but don’t necessarily trust it. Pack a jacket in the summer. Pack a change of dry clothes in the spring and fall. Pack an extra layer in the winter. And consider bringing some rain gear, even if it’s a large green garbage bag.
- Trekking poles: I find them handy for rocky, rooty paths and steep grades – anytime, but at night they’re particularly helpful to keep you sure-footed and help you maintain your balance in low light conditions.
- Headlamp: The hands-free lamps are liberating and come with a multitude of settings to suit your needs.
- Extra batteries: Do I really need to explain this one?
- Back up light: I always bring a small flashlight just in case my headlamp fails and because someone else invariably forgets their headlamp. It’s the Boy Scout in me – you know, “always be prepared.”
- Daypack: gotta carry your own weight.
- Trail mix: Or any other snack you like. I prefer the basic nuts, seeds and dried fruit kind of trail mix. It’s more nutritious than the kind that has candy in it. And, in the spirit of being prepared, consider a little extra. You might get hungry if you’re unable to return for any reason.
- Water: Very important! I suggest you take enough for your hike AND even a way to purify additional water. You never expect to running out, but if you do it’s nice to know you have a back up plan. For purifying, I prefer AuqaMira drops. They’re effective, light weight and easy to pack.
- First Aid Kit: Another one I don’t need to explain – I hope.
- Pocket Knife or equivalent: Let’s face it. These just come in handy in the woods for so many reasons. Don’t underestimate their value!
- Toiletries: You never know when you’ll have to go and, believe me, it’s better to be prepared when Mother Nature calls. I keep a Ziploc bag with tissues, wipes and hand sanitizer in my daypack. Just be sure to use proper “Leave No Trace” ethics when using the woods as a potty.
- Hanky: Or something similar. Hankies, like pocket knives, come in handy for a multitude of purposes.
- Waterproof matches: Or some other reliable way to start a fire. This can be for your campfire once you arrive at your destination – laws permitting, of course – or serve as an emergency source of heat if you get lost or stranded. I take my Exotac NanoStriker fire starter. It’s lightweight, waterproof and always works.
- Cell phone: Even if you don’t use it, at least you have it if you need it. If you don’t have some form of communication, then at least leave a detailed itinerary with someone responsible enough to look for you or alert the authorities if you should not return. And stick to your plan. It makes it easier to find you.
There you go – your fourteen essentials for a night hike. I suggest you do your night hikes on a trail you’re familiar with. It cuts down on surprises and the potential for getting lost.
If you’re not familiar with the trail then be sure to include a map of the area and a compass. I’m sure there’s at least one person who would love to see you come home.
See ya’ on the trail,