Jun 30, 2006 at 1:36 am #1218908
I went backpacking today…just a one day twelve miler. Half of it…about six miles was done in the extreme late afternoon and early night. I hiked back to the car when it was pitch black tonight, no moon under heavy treecover.
Six miles in pitch black by myself. And I actually enjoy it…I am not scared of the dark at all. I honestly find it relaxing, although I admit it is a little dangerous and probably bad judgement.
On my breaks, I ditch my pack on the ground and sit on the ground and drink water and just zone out, staring at the sky and the stars…turn off the light and it is the most relaxing feeling in the world. There is nothing out there dangerous…its not bear country or anything.
What makes it possible is this new LED light I bought this past Spring. The Petzyl Tikka XP. Backpacker magazine gave it an “editors choice” in 2006 so I went and bought one. And it is one tough little lightweight but POWERFUL and long lasting LED light!
It provides plenty of light for me to follow the trail (this is in a hilly National Wilderness area…no roads…zippo). Without this light or something similar to it, I wouldnt think or dare of night backpacking like this.
This is a conditioning trip for me, just to maintain my backpacking fitness.
I finished at around 2 am tonight, drove home and almost hit about six deer on the sides of the rural roads…the deer come out like crazy around here at night.
But my lack of being afraid at night in total pitch black wilderness area, by myself? Im in my thirties and grew up on a farm and have done a lot of backpacking, so I never really had a real fear of the dark out on the boonies. But I wonder still, cause what Im doing is kind of crazy. I also carry a cell phone and its in an area where I never lose reception if an emergency occurred.
Ive been doing this a lot lately since I bought the Tikka XP LED light. Before that, I NEVER went night backpacking by myself. Even with others I rarely did it. Now I find it fun and relaxing.
Mister Ultra-lightJun 30, 2006 at 7:33 am #1358757
In the early 70’s I was convinced by others to learn to hike on trails at night without any light. You can develop the ability to feel a trail with your feet, and without a light your eyes can adjust to use starlight to help as well. You are more connected to your surroundings. The skill can be useful, as well. One memorable night I needed to hike over Bear Mtn, NY, between groups I was supervising. My nearly dead penlight was enough to find the painted blazes in the talus sections, and the rest of the trail was navigable by feel. Is this normal? No. Is it satisfying? Extremely.Jun 30, 2006 at 12:55 pm #1358768
@crazypeteLocale: Above the Divided Line
Yes….I too can feel the ground beneath my feet…a close connection with nature unmatched by anything else…except perhaps for the pultrusion of a rock a few inches out of an otherwise completely flat trail…and the pain of two ultralight trekking poles sticking you in throat as you embrace mother natures goodness with the extra sensitive skin on your nose and forehead….
This is not a good idea…Jun 30, 2006 at 1:13 pm #1358769
You left out the cliffs and the sharp branches at eye level, not to mention landing your heel squarely on a 6″ slug and doing a weird ballet move down the hill on one foot, or doing the splits over a rock or root.
And our ancestors are watching and saying, “we invented perfectly good lights so they wouldn’t have to do things this way…….”Jun 30, 2006 at 4:05 pm #1358777
Some of our ancestors are also watching and saying, “we invented perfectly good cars and ATV’s so they wouldn’t have to walk.”
The risks are clear. There will always be skeptics. For those interested in a new experience, note that others have learned this skill and used it safely.Jun 30, 2006 at 5:24 pm #1358782
Ben 2 WorldBPL Member
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
Didn’t somebody fall off a cliff to his death just a few months ago when he went out of his tent to pee in the night — and walked one step too many?
I don’t think I will ever hike in the dark. My night vision isn’t so great. But then, I won’t hike under a full moon either cause that’s when werewolves come out!!!Jun 30, 2006 at 6:15 pm #1358784
Count me as one of those who enjoys night hiking. As with any activity, the risk is directly proportional to your judgement. In my case, I typically night hike trails that I’m familiar with. In fact, this is often a necessity in all but the longest days of the year if I want to maximize my weekend time in the backcountry. I usually can’t get to the trailhead any sooner than 6 PM or so on Friday, so I hike until about 9 PM so that Saturday morning I awake far enough away from the weekend throngs at the trailhead.Jun 30, 2006 at 7:27 pm #1358787
Count me as one of those who enjoys night hiking. As with any activity, the risk is directly proportional to your judgement. In my case, I typically night hike trails that I’m familiar with. In fact, this is often a necessity in all but the longest days of the year if I want to maximize my weekend time in the backcountry. I usually can’t get to the trailhead any sooner than 6 PM or so on Friday, so I hike until about 9 PM so that Saturday morning I awake far enough away from the weekend throngs at the trailhead.
There are no cliffs to step off of where I am doing this at. And like I said, no dangerous wild animals…its not bear country. I do wear long pants when I do it though, even though its hot out. That is my one rule when I do this, wear long pants not shorts. Normally I would wear shorts but with Copperheads and Rattlesnakes, I wear pants in addition to boots.
I wouldnt do night backpacking in areas where there are cliffs you could step off into and I wouldnt bushwhack at night…at least not by myself. I stick to the trail.
My night vision is also very good. My vision overall is very good. And that Tikka XP is the best flashlight…three AAA’s and it burns forever and gives a really bright beam of light.
I was reading that the white light of LED flashlights doesnt distort map colors like conventional flashlights distort map colors.
One of the advantages of night backpacking in the warm months is that its cooler, so you need less water than if you backpack during the heat of the day.
Plus you get to see lots of deer on the sides of the road when you drive back!
Mister Ultra-light.Jun 30, 2006 at 7:32 pm #1358788
Didn’t somebody fall off a cliff to his death just a few months ago when he went out of his tent to pee in the night — and walked one step too many?
I don’t think I will ever hike in the dark. My night vision isn’t so great. But then, I won’t hike under a full moon either cause that’s when werewolves come out!!!
Awww man you should try it! Take a friend with you, make sure you have a really good LED light with fresh batteries. On your rest breaks, you throw your pack down on the ground, break out the water bottle and sit down on the ground and use the pack as a backrest. Turn off the LED light and just zone out, relax and drink water. Maybe pop a CARB-BOOM!
Its so relaxing man…the pitch blackness of the wilderness.
Mister Ultra-lightJun 30, 2006 at 10:53 pm #1358802
Douglas FrickBPL Member
>But my lack of being afraid at night in total pitch black wilderness area, by myself?
It’s fun. I did it several times as a kid, mostly because I forgot my flashlight. I did a short hike to camp a month ago with my headlamp off and the quarter moon behind me on a known, wide, well-maintained trail. I loved it.Jun 30, 2006 at 11:10 pm #1358804
Doug JohnsonBPL Member
@djohnsonLocale: Washington State
It’s my favorite time too. In college I learned how to feel the trail like others have mentioned and could go for long walks in pitch darkness. Absolutely amazing the sensation.
I still love hiking at night- and solo too- but I always have on my safety necklace. It’s a whistle and a spare LED light on some spectra. More than once I’ve been caught out or had batteries go dead. That’s when the dark takes on a totally different feeling- one that I enjoy far less. I highly recommend the safety necklace for when things don’t go quite your way.
But hiking at night- everything becomes elevated. It’s a fantastic sensation. I just came down off of Rainier- we starting climbing at 2AM. There’s another wonderful and totally necessary night experience- trudging past crevasses and seracs in the dark so that things will still be firm on the descent. But watching the sunrise- wow, that’s something amazing.
Thanks for helping me to come out of my busy day and to think about the joy of walking in the dark. :-)Jul 1, 2006 at 1:51 am #1358808
@waterloggedwelliesLocale: United Kingdom
Well, i’ve been on many night hikes and agree it is a totally different kind of experience. I’m not afraid of the dark but when walking through woodland in the pitch black with the wind blowing, the trees creeking and the sound of sticks and twigs falling to the floor, or birds suddenly taking flight as you approach, i’ll confess raises all of my senses and can be pretty spooky by yourself.
I have found night hiking the best time to practice navigation skills with a compass because you can’t always make out distant features and the impotance of staying of using your compass to maintain a bearing increases.
The wildlife is great at night too.
I went on a night hike a few months ago when a really bad wind blew up almost out of nowhere. I kept on hiking but even with my exertions, started to feel increasingly cold due to the wind chill factor. My teeth started to chatter and my insulation just wasn’t making it and I started to recognise the first signs of hypothermia in myself. Anyway, I realised that I needed shelter and something hot to drink / eat and that those things were now a priority. The wind by now was really fierce and the surrounding landscape was I believed, channelling the wind into the valley I found myself in. I did’nt want to climb up to the ridge either to get out of the valley, where the high winds would be a major problem. I ended up finding a small sheltered depression near a large tree, collected the fallen twigs, braches from around the base and nearby and after clearing an area of ground built a small fire. I kept it small (Around the size of a dinner plate in diameter)so that I could sit close to it in the wind break provided by the tree, and also so that I would have sufficient dead wood material at hand without the need to have to leave the fire area and search for more wood. I also managed to eventually get my alcohol stove going and boiled up a hot drink and made some porridge. I can tell you, being in the middle of knowhere, with your teeth chattering, the wind howling around you and the dark night sky above you is certainly a different experience. It felt kind of primative, sat around the fire for warmth and being aware that it was the fire that was really seperating you from that wilderness, coldness, darkness, etc etc.
Anyway, the hot food and drink did its thing and after about two hours or so, the wind dropped almost as suddenly as it has arrived. I put the fire out and continued on the remaining 5 hours of hiking to my destination.
Then as first light broke, in the mist, lower down the valley, I saw a herd of red deer, just stood silently, surveying the horizon. It was a breath taking moment and a complete thrill.
Anyway, hiking at night can be fun but it can also have its moments!!!Jul 1, 2006 at 5:39 am #1358812
Miguel ArboledaBPL Member
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
I’ve done quite a lot of night hiking, especially on moonlit nights when the trails seem like something out of the Lord of the Rings. A place that seems totally familiar and a piece of cake to walk during the day can seem eerily beautiful or threatening or like a completely different place at night.
The first time I did a night walk it was like magic… the moon shining like silver on the tree leaves and the sky aglow above… when I came over one rise and came face-to-face with the entire night jewel of Tokyo lit up as far as I could see below, it was like walking into a dream.
One other time I went hiking on the evening after having watched The Blair Witch Project. Not recommended! Every shadow and flicked leaf, every nook and branch had my skin crawling. I swore there were hairy men swinging in the tree canopy.
The last time I went night hiking it was dark and cold. I was the only person on the trail. Suddenly up ahead (I wasn’t using my headlamp) there was a deep snuffling and a series of heavy grunts… the silhouette was too big to be a dog, but too small to be a ring-necked bear. A wild boar! I nearly jumped out of my skin! It started snarling at me and in response I picked up a big stick and madly started thrashing it about while snarling at back at the top of my lungs. I just was glad there were no other hikers about, or they would have reported me to the autohorities.
Night hiking is special. It’s not for everyone, but when you get out there like that even places close to home can seem like remote wilderness.Jul 1, 2006 at 7:08 am #1358813
“Some of our ancestors are also watching and saying, ‘we invented perfectly good cars and ATV’s so they wouldn’t have to walk.'”
Hey now! I swore off internal combustion flashlights years ago. I had a 100 million candlepower light with a 350 CID/375 HP Chevy smallblock, high lift cam, roller rockers, twin 650 CFM Holleys, remote sump and chrome vavle covers. NASA shut me down because I was blinding the Space Shuttle crews. I didn’t mind because it was hard on my wrists and the fuel tank took up too much pack space.
It’s a little different choosing titanium and silnylon over ATV’s. I can appreciate taking a moonlit walk and we haven’t even mentioned the awesomeness of standing under a canopy of stars, but encouraging people to FEEL their way down a trail in total darkness sounds foolish to me. We have enough trouble with people getting lost in broad daylight. Someone is really gonna look like a genius when SAR has to haul them out after they fell down a cliff in the dark with a working light in their pack. DOH!Jul 1, 2006 at 10:52 am #1358819
Agreed, some people shouldn’t be encouraged. Hopefully a reasoned dialog will inform them of the risks as well as the rewards.Jul 2, 2006 at 4:55 am #1358846
Mark LarsonBPL Member
@mlarsonLocale: Southeast USA
I have done a bit of night-hiking here and there–some of it by choice :) It really can be an otherworldly experience. I know that when I’m out there all of my other senses go on high alert.
I’ve done some miles in good ambient light without a lamp. It’s slow-going, but it’s not bad. As far as headlamps go, I’ve done leisurely, strolling night hikes with a PT Scout and a regular Petzl Tikka. The Scout would have worked even better if it hadn’t been so foggy that night. With that said, it could have been worse if I was pressed for time or hadn’t been on familiar trail.
-MarkJul 5, 2006 at 10:14 pm #1359006
I was hiking at night during a full moon so I wasn’t using any light. There was this tree that had some roots along the trail and water made a small sink hole between the roots. I stepped in that hole and fell to my right down a 8 foot bank and landed on my back in a dried creek bed. My backpack broke my fall but my 2 friends behind me freaked out cuz I all of sudden disappeared. Anyways be extra careful!Jul 6, 2006 at 6:39 am #1359009
“There was this tree that had some roots along the trail and water made a small sink hole between the roots…”
Much of my hiking is under a canopy of old growth heavy tree cover so there isn’t much moonlight or starlight that reaches the forest floor. Add a terrain like this in the dark:Jul 7, 2006 at 4:16 pm #1359081
Reginald DonaldsonBPL Member
@worthLocale: Wind River Range
I have always marveled at how much you can see when you are away from the light polution. There have been times where I could have easily read beneath the full moon’s glow.
By the way, I heard a story where someone left their tent to relief himself during the night. On his way back to the tent he walked into a small limb and accidentally jabbed and broke a twig in his eye. I was told it was a miserable trek and paddle out of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Fortunately, he was with friends.Jul 7, 2006 at 5:12 pm #1359085
Dylan SkolaBPL Member
@phageghostLocale: Southern California
Hehe. Nice “trail,” Dale.Jul 7, 2006 at 8:50 pm #1359096
I concur on the Tikka XP… it’s a good nighttime friend. I think night hiking great. It’s peaceful to listen to just the wind (sometimes those birds just won’t shut up during the day!), or spring peepers, or to watch the stars.
Night is often good for viewing wildlife, but that can also be a source of stress – like when some deer decide to run off out of thick brush at the last moment and for a split second you think all the commotion is a bear coming at you…. Or how about when you can’t immediately tell for sure if that’s a porcupine ahead or a skunk?
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