View Full Version : Night hiking situation

Blue Jay
03-09-2004, 15:37
I do a lot of night hiking. Get one of the three or more LED lights. Very light, you can see at least ten meters and the batteries last a long time. I like the Petzel Tekka, but there are other very good ones.

03-09-2004, 15:56
I've done some night hiking here in the desert because sometimes that's all the daytime temps will allow. I enjoy it, I'm rather nocturnal myself, and the different experience and being able to see nighttime animals and such is a nice change.

Since I am having trouble keeping warm enough to sleep comfortably in my Hennessy I was thinking that a way of dealing with that might be to go to sleep in the afternoon and get up very in the early AM (before daylight) to start hiking, when temps are lowest and it's hardest for me to sleep. I don't have trouble with freezing temps at all as long as I'm moving around, it's just sleeping in them that presents a problem.

All of my previous night hiking has been done on trails I'd been on before in the daytime. I've never hiked at night on a trail I've never been on before, nor have I ever night-hiked alone. Is this a really dumb idea? I'm worried that under 32F the ground would have icey patches that would be difficult to see at night, even if there weren't any snow. I wouldn't attempt a night hike alone in the snow, and never any steep accents or decents.

If this isn't a dumb idea, which kind of headlamp (ultralight, please) or other light would you recommended?

On the beginning of your AT hike that is all you will encounter is steep accents or decents...that being said several people do night hikes but not on an everynight basis. A Tikka Plus is 2.8 ounces and has an adjustable setting for night hiking or use a "red" photon (.25 oz) to give you better nightvision. You will increase your observation of wildlife at these early starts and may be lucky enough to see a bear. The other hikers will be glad you cleared the spider webs and some of the dew off of the overhang on the trail before their morning starts!

Try some nighthiking, but better yet, buy a cheap tent for the start of the trail and bounce your hammock to yourself when you feel it will be acceptable to you being comfortable with it. I bought a Texsport hiking tent (2 person) at Big Lots for $17 and it only weight 2 1/2 lbs using your hiking poles for setup, seamed sealed it inside and out and it works great. Use this until you receive your hammock and then just donate your $25 investment to a hiker box.

03-09-2004, 16:10
Hey Tracey. Night hiking can be fun. It is best under a full moon, or when you are on a ridge and can see all the lights below. I night-hiked out of Duncannon on July 4th, and saw fireworks on both sides of the ridge. Very cool!

It is something you'll get used to. I started my thru-hike last year on 4/1 and ended on 10/12, and not once did it get below freezing. So, for the most part you won't have to worry about being too cold. Even if it does dip below 32 degrees, the ground is still much warmer and will not freeze over.

Your biggest problem will be trying not to trip. :) Have fun!


03-09-2004, 16:18
I did quite a lot of solo night hiking on my '03 ME->GA. It is a little creepy at first, but I eventualy learned to love it, especially in the hot summer months. The air is cool, and the bugs don't bite quite as much. I used the princeton tec aurora, which worked well but I would recomend the 7 bulb LED Septor Streamlight. Here's amazon's link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00008BFSC/qid=1078862789//ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl60/103-5788763-1771864?v=glance&s=hi&n=507846 My friend Stringer called it the Bay-Ga-Lead, in his southerneese.
The septor is only a couple more ounces and is much brighter. The one problem with LED's is that they don't work well in rain or fog, kind of like the brights on a car. I've also heard a rummer that the eye's of mountain lions don't reflect in LED, although plenty of animals eyes reflected with my LED, and who out there has really seen a mountain lion anyway! Anyway I got off the subject a bitl, but night hiking is a lot of fun, but there's a lot you miss the you would see in the day.

03-09-2004, 16:27
I knew a couple of hikers who would stop early in the day (~2-3pm) and wait for the Sun to set. They did about half of their daily miles in the dark every night, and hiked this way for probably several hundered miles. I use, and recommend, the Petzl Zipka (~3oz, and more than 150 hours of burn time on a set of 3 AAA batteries). I have found it to be a great compromise between light weight and adequate lighting in the dark. If you want the option of even more light, the Petzl Zipka Plus adds a fourth LED for extra light when you want it.

There is another side to your issue, however. While you may be fine with waking up and hiking in colder weather, this dependency on hiking to stay warm could very easily threaten your personal safety, and the safety of those around you. I too, reserve hiking-to-stay-warm as an emergency option, but that's what it is, an emergency option. Planning on doing it whenever is a sign that you may be ill-prepared for the conditions that you will have to face. If you are unable to stay warm in your hammock, and the temps have dropped to 7*F, and it is a literal blizzard outside (i.e. limited vision, blowing snow), then you would be up the hypothetical creek. This very situation happened to me (without the hammock of course) on March 12, 2000, three days after I started the trail. I barely slept that night, much less stayed warm.

The moral is that while it is certainly possible to nighthike 95% of the nights on the trail in the South, doing so because you want to and doing so because you HAVE to are very different things. I would not recommend placing your last-ditch effort at staying warm in Mother Nature's hands. She can be very fickle.

I recommend either using a tent/tarp and an adequate sleeping bag, or aquiring an underquilt for your hammock that will keep you warm to your desired temeperature.


03-09-2004, 16:33
Hey 3 oz our own "Hacksaw" has been fortunate enough to see several...a prior post on this forum.

Last Sunday night on the top of Springer, I was talking with "Gizmo" the official LNT starter and he was very excited because he had recently encountered a black mountain lion!

Hammock Hanger
03-09-2004, 18:14
I was always awake arounc 3 AM and would try to get myself to go back to sleep. Then I decide hell, I'll get up and hike. I was known to be up and hiking at 4 AM. One night I got up to go pee and decide to just pack up and hike, it was around 3 AM. All I used was a Tikka. It worked just fine. I really loved listening to the owls and night animals. I did learn to click my hiking sticks together every once in a while, after I startled a few bears. I saw beautiful sunrises I would have normally slept thru. Also I found that I enjoyed hiking up the mountain in the dark, I didn't seem so focused on the summit, cuz it really didn't matter. Then as the dawn comes in you get to hear the morning birds... It is great. I loved it. Sue/HH

03-09-2004, 19:46
If you haven't already begun cutting...

Unless it's a money issue (i.e. you don't want to spend the cash on buying materials), you can make your own underquilt for minimal extra work than destroying another sleeping bag. The materials will cost you about ~$100, and you can make one that will weigh only 10-11oz! All you have to do is cut the fabric, sew the baffles, stuff it with down, and hem around the sides (and add the same attachments as you would do anyway!). That's it!

If you've already begun cutting...well...can't help you there, can I. Anyway, I'm glad to hear that you'll be carrying some form of warmth for your underside. You may also want to carry a reflectex pad (the kind that you put in your car window) to help just a little bit more. They aren't very heavy or expensive, so you could just dump it at Neels Gap if need be.

Good luck on your hike!


03-10-2004, 00:29
In 1998 when I was section hiking in the South during a horrible hot/humid/hazy spell, I fell in with a few thru-hikers and we did something we called "10 before 10, 5 after 5."

That allowed us to take the hottest part of the day off, hopefully near water or someplace with a slight breeze. It also required us to get up at 3am and start hiking. I have fond memories of that night-hiking, especially when first light would break.

In rocky or steep terrain while dark, we had to go slow of course, but at the time we were in Central VA and the A.T. isn't that tough in many places there. Well, compared to New Hampshire or Maine it's not, anyway.

03-10-2004, 18:51
I have done little hiking at night but I have had some incredible experiences paddling a canoe at night. Usually you can see more without the headlamp - even on moonless nights.

Here is an interesting link: http://www.navaching.com/hawkeen/nwalk.html

Senor Quack
03-11-2004, 03:10
I have done little hiking at night but I have had some incredible experiences paddling a canoe at night. Usually you can see more without the headlamp - even on moonless nights.

Here is an interesting link: http://www.navaching.com/hawkeen/nwalk.html

Woah, did that get extremely kooky towards the end..

03-11-2004, 08:44
Four years ago today I left Neels Gap at 4:00 PM with a new pack and a lighter load. The owners warned me that a violent storm was expected, so I aimed for Whitley Gap Shelter, 1.5 miles of the trail, and about 7 miles from Walasi Yi. That meant night hiking.

I arrived at Hogpen Gap with my headlamp on, and headed up that tough pull in the dark. When I arrived at Whitley Gap Shelter at about 8:30 PM, there was a thru-hiker in the shelter from 1999, just out for a few days with a buddy. I still remember his words. "Geez, its early March and already they're night hiking".

Well, the storm arrived as predicted, and it was a doozy. I didn't night hike too many more times, but it's something I have always enjoyed.

03-11-2004, 09:19
I remember that storm...

There were tornadoes all over the place, and it killed about 4-5 people in N. georgia. Wild Child woke up in the middle of the night with rain blowing in his face (he faced the outside of the shelter) and was saying, "Man, and just think that by the time we finish the trail, this storm will be NOTHING compared to what we'll see!" It, and the subsequent hard-freeze (the next night it dropped to 7* at Woods Hole Shelter) were probably the worst weather I experienced the whole time.


03-11-2004, 09:26
Yup, 80 degrees one day, single digits the next. The weather in the mountains is very changeable.

Speaking of tornadoes, the storm that both Howie & I experienced saw temps rise 10-15 degrees in about 15-20 minutes! One minute I'm in my long capilenes, the next I'm bare arse naked and sweating. Not being from the South, I was not aware that's a real danger sign for tornadoes. The thru-hiker in the shelter said something about the temperature rise the next morning. He thought we were gonna get hit by one. So did I, but that might have had something to do with the 50-60 mph winds. The wind sounded like a freight train coming up out of the valley below.

03-11-2004, 10:08
Woah, did that get extremely kooky towards the end..

Senor - yeah - it does get kooky towards the end - but the point of learning to use the rods of your peripheral vision to develop your night vision works.

03-11-2004, 11:07
I took my Petzl headlamp on a 3-day September hike this year. I was thinking that I really didn't need it, because we were in the height of full moon and it was predicted to be clear. But I did not have any experience with not using a light at all for several fall days, so I brought it as usual.

I ended up using it a lot. First, it had not occurred to me that there would not be much moonlight under the forest canopy.. (duh!) Second, it was very useful in finding fallen branches for the campfire that evening in the dark. I underestimated how much firewood I would need for a 3 hour campfire, and needed to go find more wood.

Third, with the early sunset (about 5:45 it was dark in the woods) I found it hard to stay up forever. I went to sleep in my hammock about 9 PM, after reading for a little with the headlamp. At 0400, I was still 3 1/2 hours shy of sun up, but had run out of the need to sleep. By 0430 I had decided to get up, pack up, and walk in the dark.

The hike was not very hard and it felt good to get out early and see the sunrise. Though the moon was up, it was casting almost no light through the trees to the path. My headlamp worked well for walking. I did notice that it was almost impossible to see the water in the little streams that cross the path. Nothing reflected back to me, and they appeared transparent. I could hear them, but not really see the water in the stream bed unless I looked very carefully.

Lesson learned: Head lamp is worth taking.
- night time camp tasks - finding wood
- reading
- hiking in the early AM

Fortunately I learned the lesson without having to beg/borrow/steal/buy one.


05-03-2004, 05:47
I hiked a good bit at night in 96...I also found that it nice to have the headlamp in your pocket instead of on your head...Only use the light when you need it.
Most ridgetop hiking is plenty light enough if you let your eyes adjust.

03-23-2005, 21:03
Is red light better to night hike with? I been caving for years and there has never been a red light movement. In the navy we use a red light to allow our eyes to adjust and see other white light i.e. other ships better. Also it keeps us more hidden (shorter wave length) and it is night vision compatible. What is the benefit to red light/lens for hiking?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

SGT Rock
03-23-2005, 21:25
Well you wouldn't want it for cave hiking because the strategy with red light is to protect your natural night vision, and since there is zero to practically zero light in a cave, it isn't needed.

Red for walking in the woods, it can help to preserve your night vision, but it is something to decide for yourself. It just isn't cool to shine a headlamp into someone else's eyes.

03-23-2005, 22:44
In 2000 Ziggy NightOwl did most of his hiking at night. He seemed to really enjoy it. He was planning a night ascent of K on Friday, Oct. 13th, which was a full moon. Last time I saw him we were on our way down on the 12th and he was doing a little recon around treeline. So I don't know if he succeeded. But I do know that most, if not all, of his miles were done at night.

Me, I usually only night hike when I'm with Funkee Munkee, and it's almost always accidental. Like: Funkee wants to sleep in a metal firetower, and a lightning storm blows in. Or Funkee wants to sleep in the open on the edge of a lake, and a lightning storm blows in. Or Funkee wants to sta y on top of Camel's Hump for six hours, and the dark blows in. Stuff like that. Though we once did hike 32 miles overnight (intentionally) to get to Irwin's Pizza Hut AYCE buffet in time before the weekend. Got (literally) clotheslined by Baltimore Jack (imagine catching HIS socks in your mouth) and still missed it by ten minutes.

Mountain Dew
03-23-2005, 23:57
The only thing nastier than Jack's socks are his toenails. Filthy gross. Poor Jester...