It's been years but we use to do a full moon hike several times every summer. It was awesome, beautiful weather, nice cool hiking, different animals out. Now I'm too much a creature of habit and need my regular sleep hours! I would worry about animals any worse than during the day. If a lion is going to get you, he's going to get you!
Once in the Sespe we hiked till about 11:00pm one warm night and had dinner on a rock in the middle of the river when we heard a terrible crashing coming from the brush. After a few seconds a bear comes crashing out about a hundred yards up stream. The animal runs as fast as I've ever seen a bear run, up the other side, right into the bush, crashing, breaking, tearing as long as we could hear. The bear didn't really frighten me, but the thought of what scared the bear. The funny thing is I don't think the bear even knew we where there.
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.
Loc: Washington State, King County
I think it's safe, but that certainly varies by the location, season, and individual. I wouldn't worry particularly about the big cats; unless you're a relatively small person who acts like prey, the odds seem quite good to me, day or night. If you want to worry about an animal, in some locales snakes will sometimes be out more at night, but ... so what?
I think the biggest risks to night hiking are falling, taking the wrong turn at a trail junction, missing an important water source, that sort of thing. And of messing with your sleep cycle. It can be a truly excellent way to cope with hot weather.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I've hiked at night many times since LED headlamps came about, most of it bushwhacking in thick forest.
I've noticed more water moccasins out while night hiking. They do tend to cruise the stream banks more then, especially in areas where there's lot's of vegetation. I suppose the copperheads might be out more then. I almost never see them but a couple years ago we had 9 people bit after dark in one weekend around here. All of them stepped on the snake, most were in their own yard, none were out hiking.
Other than that, I can't say I've noticed anymore wildlife out and about.
I've never got or worried about getting lost but I tend to use the terrain to navigate night or day and I usually only hike a few miles at most during night hikes.
One time I did have a bit of trouble finding my car at night after bushwhacking all day. I knew I was close, even had it way pointed on my GPS, but it was parked in thick brush and it took me a bit to find it.
My personal preference is NOT to hike at night unless it's winter and full moon is upon me! I don't backpack in summer months very often.. I ride mountain bikes a lot in summer at night to escape the heat, again this is due to geographic region. Humidity in the southeast is, um, very...fun?? Hiking at night will cause paranoia in me, and that it just me. Hike your own hike!
Edited by ETSU Pride (05/03/1410:31 PM)
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I used to scuba dive at night-a lot, so not being able to see very far doesn't bother me all that much. Yosemite at night in the winter is pretty amazing. I wouldn't go wandering around near the rim, but up along Glacier Point Road, or even walking around on the Valley floor, as long as you stick to the trails or out in the meadows, you cant get too lost or fall off of anything high.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
Night dives are a blast, especially under a full moon. This gives you some stealth around coral heads. Photo flashes pick up extra color and it's not as dark as one might think.
Hiking at night is also a lot of fun. Not much out there that can hurt you and I never hike with a light on. I sometimes do rounds in my nature preserve at night. Funny story though, another hiker was coming at me from the opposite way, stopped when I stopped, waved when I waved, and turned out to be my shadow backlit from a a streetlight that peeked through the trees. Gave me a bit of a scare but funny later.
Loc: Portland, OR
Our senses, especially eyesight, are not well-adapted to nighttime and darkness, so that even a good LED headlamp can't make up for that. Any time you're hiking in the dark you'll be getting a lot less visual information about what's in your vicinity. Unless you are accustomed to night sounds, your ears will not be delivering much info to fill in those gaps. You'll hear things, but not know what it means. So, compared to daylight, you're half-blind. That's the bad news.
The good news is that most wildlife consider us alpha predators, so their senses, which are much better attuned to darkness, will tell them we are DANGER. That gives us an edge as we blunder around in the dark and helps keep us safe.
Personally, I prefer hiking with all my senses operating at full capacity, but I admit I have done some full moon hiking, just for the novelty and eerie beauty of it. Just be aware that other alphas love full moons, too and are extra active then.
When I was younger and even more impatient than I am now, I use to leave for trips on Friday nights on a regular basis. Sometimes the hike wouldn't start until midnight. With much practice, I had little fear. Maybe not a good thing, but nothing bad has ever occurred, with the exception of losing where the tent was for a few hours one night after setting up and going for water. I got very use to trusting my balance and reading the shadows. I still do it occasionally, but my wife really does not like it. I use to hike in Death , Saline and Eureka Valleys at night and loved it. My wife and I have done a long night hike In Joshua Tree NP. I was challenged by a wild stallion one moonlit night east of Mono Lake. I never saw the band of mares, but they must have been in a nearby arroyo. Was I intimidated? I didn't stop shaking for an hour.
Hiking at night is different. You should start small and gain experience at first. You should also practice no-headlamp night hiking. I really think in some conditions you see more because a headlamp ruins your night vision. I personally would never hike at night if it were overcast. Moonlight makes big difference. I am not nocturnal- just staying awake would be a problem for me! I also notice that as my eyes age the adjust to dark a lot slower than when I was younger. I doubt night hiking is in my future.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Dryer, one of the few things that would freak me out was seeing big moray eels at night. They weren't particularly bothersome, but I just really don't like them. We usually had three lights on us, including a small backup. Full moon was definitely the best time of the month.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By Gershon
Going up hills was easier at night since we didn't see how steep we were climbing.
Originally Posted By W_D
You should also practice no-headlamp night hiking. I really think in some conditions you see more because a headlamp ruins your night vision....I also notice that as my eyes age the adjust to dark a lot slower than when I was younger. I doubt night hiking is in my future.
I think my night vision went kaput after welding for 18 years. I've continued to get even older since which hasn't improved it any either.
I often wear a baseball cap when using a headlamp. The bill keeps the light from shining in your eyes so they dilate better. It makes a pretty big difference for me.
Tom, we always have a couple lights each but try to keep them off if the moon was out. Eels and groupers are like the big puppy dogs of the deep. Actually very gentle critters unless you present your hand like "food". Morays have really bad eyesight, so fingers look like tasty hot dogs to them. What used to creep me out was....100% of the time....looking over my shoulder and seeing a barracuda enjoying the dive with me. I've never heard of anyone getting bit by one but their toothy presence is always there.
You should also practice no-headlamp night hiking. I really think in some conditions you see more because a headlamp ruins your night vision.
Amen! Keeping the light off allows your eyes to become dark adapted, which takes about 30 minutes from the last time you saw white light. At least carry a RED led light if you must use a light. Red won't effect night vision. Once you get past the creepy factor, night hiking is fun, cooler in summer, and you'll likely make sense of your surroundings better. Practice makes perfect as there is always a heightened "cautiousness" when hiking at night. Night hiking can be peaceful, mysterious, and exciting all at the same time. Using a headlight, any color, tends to give you tunnel vision, causing you to focus all your attention on the beam and not what's around you. Keep the thing off unless you really need to see, and use RED instead of white.
I don't have a particular reason other than time, but I can tell my night vision isn't what it once was, especially driving on rainy nights with oncoming traffic. Yuck.
Having done some research, I found you should wear the darkest sunglasses possible, as being in sunlight affects your dark vision that night. (Pilots who will be night-flying, sailors on night watch, etc. have guidelines about this.) Chemical changes occur in the eye when exposed to light, and our color vision is most accute in the yellow-green portion of the spectrum (think green fire trucks). Even a minute with a flashlight can affect night vision the next hour or two. I try to make my nighttime pitstops without a light to avoid that--the stars are usually worth watching during the unwanted trip outside my bag.
Programmable headlamps with discrete red mode and a low white mode you set yourself are my preference. A switchable spot/flood beam is likewise helpful and I want a light that switches on to the last mode used--I close my eyes when switching on common lights that always start on highest setting (I swear they do that to make them impressive in the store.)
I use the Petzl Tixxa XP with Li-ion Core battery (now discontinued). The battery has regulation circuitry and the white high/low settings are programmable (using a PC at home). It also has a diffuser lens that turns the spot beam into a flood. When walking after dark I start with no light, then red, then white low and usually only call on the high setting when scouting into the distance or navigating a tricky bit.
And on that last, the ability to hike at night is hugely impacted by the terrain and quality of the trail. A typically rocky Sierra path is often indistinct and criss-crossed with game and horse trails, and adds the thrill of a potential rolled ankle or worse. If it's a 1.5 mph trail during the day, it's at best 0.5 mph at night (plan accordingly). OTOH a clear tread across an alpine meadow usually won't require any added light whatsoever.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Safe? Depends on where you are hiking. Here in the Columbia River Gorge, with steep trails on cliffsides, it is awfully easy to get to the end of a switchback, not see it and keep walking walk right off the cliff. That's especially true because there's usually a path to the cliff edge from people wanting a view. Certainly a slower pace and a lot of caution are indicated.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
just to put my 2 cents in, I really like night hiking, but I prefer it w/o using a flashlight, under an open sky where you know you can get some star or moonlight (forests are too dark and too much tripping hazard). Also, if you're hiking in park areas that are near urban areas, you can end up with quite a bit of spillover light pollution that helps. Lastly, I use to love night hiking with my dog. She could tell where the trail was regardless, knew I wanted to follow it, and I'd just listen to the jingle of her tags when I was in doubt. Of course, following her once led me into a full-force face blast by a skunk. Luckily I wasn't backpacking!