I'm looking to expand the number of times I hike...I only hike infrequently at the moment but after having some cycling and running related issues (not quite injuries), I want to do more hiking. Problem is that with a family and full time job, the optimal time for me to do any activity is early morning...and with winter around the corner it is dark in the morning before work. So...does anyone get out there and hike in the dark, in the winter (or at any time)? I ride in the dark with good lights, and have trail run in the dark too. Mom not bothered by it, but not being able to see things naturally does take away from some aspects of what makes hiking enjoyable (scenery).
Loc: Portland, OR
The amount of ambient light can vary greatly at night, depending on the availability of moonlight and starlight, which in turn can depend on the amount of cloud cover or tree cover. In low light your depth perception falls off, so walking on highly uneven ground can result in the sort of jolting you get when you step off a curb without noticing. Obstacles, such as rocks or roots are harder to see and can trip you.
The easiest solution is to walk on relatively familiar and well-maintained paths. The next easiest is to carry an LED light you can dim way down and carry it low, away from your eyes, turning it on only when you need some extra assistance. It is said that red light won't ruin your night vision as much as white light, but I haven't really verified this for myself.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
A good headlamp and some familiarity with the trail are important. The sort of trail where if you miss a switchback you go off a two hundred foot cliff is not highly recommended for night hiking!
I found when evacuating my grandson with sprained ankle in late August that the Petzl e+light is completely inadequate for rough trail. My grandson had my Princeton Aurora headlamp and had to turn around at every rough spot to light it for me. Hard to say which of us needed the most help!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
I went for a 8km hike this morning with my Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp. The trail is down the street from where I live and I know it well. It was dark the entire time but the sky was clear and the stars were out so there was some ambient light when the tree cover was thin...at these times I shut off the light. I have run the same trails with the light so of course hiking them was easier as I'm moving slower. I was happy with the light for these trails, because I know them, but on my gear-to-buy list is a small handheld flashlight that I would use when I need more lumens (less familiar, but not new, trails) and as a back-up.
I used my GPS wrist watch to track lenth of time per km as I had no idea how 'fast' (or slow) I walk. This will help me plan longer hikes on weekends so I know how long it would take approx to cover x distance...taking into account challenge of terrain and that the longer I hike likely the slower I am towards the end.
I must say, I love 'getting into' a new activity. So much to read, learn and absorb.
I tried an LED headlamp the past three nights. I'm surprised how little it affected my night vision. I was still able to see pretty well outside the light pattern.
It has 5 LED bulbs and a high and low setting. I used the low setting. The box claims 17 hours of use on 3 AAA batteries. I haven't tested the limits yet.
The headlamp cost $12 at the Battery Store. It's made by Rayovac.
In the future, I'd like to get a solar headlamp.
Were you on a fairly technical trail, lots of tree cover, etc? Time-to-time I switch off the light and check my night vision and like you it's usually not bad (despite the headlamp).
This morning I used my regular 75 lumen headlight and veered off the wide path I usually walk (when it's dark) to a much narrower trail that weaves through a forest...it worked great on these trails. I don't see myself hiking for hours on narrow forest trails when it's dark, but nice to know the light is up to the task. I would prefer a bit more lumens and the right amount of flood and spot, but for what I do this is more than adequate.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
My night vision is pretty crappy. Might be from all the years I spent welding, or it might be I'm getting old, but it is what it is so I use a headlamp.
I mostly bushwhack, even at night, and I don't really figure there's much difference between night and day besides the light. I still know where I am, but here that's pretty easy if you know the lay of the land. It also helps to have a GPS, but I've never had to use it to figure out how to get someplace. I use it more, if I use it, to show me how to get their faster.
The main thing I do different is slow down. For me, a good headlamp is worth it. I have several and the brighter the better as far as I'm concerned. All of mine are low end.
One of my favorites is a small "Ozark Trails" Wal-Mart light that cost about $7. It's light, small, pretty bright, and last a really long time on 3AAA batteries. ( here's a link to it )
I've also got an incredibly bright, though much bigger and heavier, chinese lamp that uses a couple big rechargeable batteries. It has an adjustable lens that lets you narrow/widen the beam and you can see fine for about 200 feet in a thick forest with that. It's great for doing shorter hikes at night.
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I think my neighbor paid under $20 for the one he gave me. He told me that you don't want to run the batteries down to dead, and I've done pretty good at avoiding that and I've used it quite a bit, so I figure it's done pretty good. The battery cover had clips that have broke, but I wrapper a rubber band around it and it works just fine.
I might go do a night hike tonight. It's sweet out right now!
Even though I feel you can, with proper gear, make night hiking safe, it is not my cup of tea either. I turn into a pumpkin the minute the sun goes down. As much as I would like to stay up and watch the stars, I cannot even do that since I fall asleep before they become very bright.