Aug 4, 2017 at 3:27 pm #3483069
Ryan TuckerBPL Member
How many people are comfortable starting a backpacking trip by hiking in a mile or so after dark from the trailhead? I.E. get on the trail and squeeze more time in the backcountry.Aug 4, 2017 at 4:05 pm #3483080
I often leave the Bay area later in the day, sometimes driving up to six hours or more to the trail head after picking up a permit at a ranger station on the way. For me it’s not so much about squeezing more time in the backcountry but more about getting away from the car camping crowds.
Not a big deal as long as you have a decent headlamp or it’s a full moon night and you’re hiking in open terrain (esp. above treeline). It also helps to be familiar with the trails by studying maps and reading trip reports before hand.
My first time going up Whitney many years back we started around 3AM in the dark. I missed the turn at the North Fork of Lone Pine creek and mistakenly followed the “Mountaineers’ route” for a couple of hundred yards before realizing what we had done and turned back to the junction and back on the main Whitney trail.
In most National Forest areas in and around the Sierra dispersed camping is allowed a couple miles in (past the designated Wilderness Boundary) which beats camping at the usually crowded trail head campgrounds. I try and identify flat camping spots inside the Wilderness boundary from topo maps and Google Earth before the trip.
The other times I’ve done it is when day hiking one of the Sierra fourteeners (Whitney, Langley, Shasta….) which requires an “alpine start” to avoid being up high when the afternoon thunderstorms usually develop.Aug 4, 2017 at 4:43 pm #3483086
nunatak down gearBPL Member
No problem. You will likely find the experience unusually fascinating.Aug 4, 2017 at 5:31 pm #3483094
Brando SanchoBPL Member
My wife didn’t find it as fascinating as I did, however. If doing this with a lady friend, I recommend night hiking to a place where you can build a fire first thing when you get to camp to make it less scary.Aug 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm #3483111
Lester MooreBPL Member
@satoriLocale: Olympic Peninsula, WA
Night hiking is an excellent experience if you’re familiar with the trail, or if it would be hard to get mislead by not seeing trail junctions and the like. It’s a great way to do an in-and-out hike (you get a completely different experience hiking in at night and hiking back out during the day). The different creatures and sounds at night are quite interesting to experience too. And the cool temperatures and hard-packed snow at night are welcome additions.
Good to have a backup headlamp if you purposely plan on night hiking any distance IMHO. It’s really a blast to turn off the headlamp if you have a bright moon and not too much shade to block the trail bed. A few of my best hiking memories are from night hiking actually. I did a lot of it while living in CO, mostly on day climbs with early starts, but also a few times after sunset due to longer than anticipated days.Aug 4, 2017 at 6:37 pm #3483113
Greg MihalikBPL Member
If you decide to do night hikes requiring supplemental lighting you will have a better time of it if you can arrange for a waist level light. Being below your eyes, it will cast shadows that you can see, allowing you to recognizing dips and rocks in the trail. A “head” lamp will cast shadows Below you sight line and make the trail look flat.Aug 4, 2017 at 8:10 pm #3483124
Ryan TuckerBPL Member
Thanks for the responses. I often car camp when I only have a single day to fish and hike. Was thinking about trying to slide in a few miles down trail then hiking from that point in a week or two.Aug 5, 2017 at 5:16 am #3483153
Bob MoulderBPL Member
@bobmny10562Locale: Westchester County, NY
I’ve hiked in a few times at night with an early start planned for the next morning. Helps to bring a sandwich for dinner or to get something from a fast-food place before reaching the trail head so you don’t have to cook.
Not a big deal — do it once and you’re an expert! ;^)Aug 5, 2017 at 6:58 am #3483160
@pastyj-2-2Locale: SE US
There is a local state park we frequent that has a large number of trials…we are pretty familiar with all of them. On a full moon we often do a nighttime loop hike from camp without additional lighting just for the fun of it. Even on a new moon hiking by headlamp (attached at your waist for better depth perception) is very pleasurable. If it were a completely new trail and/or fairly technical I would probably not solo hike by headlamp, but likely would with a partner or small group.Aug 5, 2017 at 3:56 pm #3483228
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
The lighting isn’t an issue in Alaska in June, but in many other places, I’ve started hikes before dawn because I was going to be walking for 20 hours.
I’ve also left at 2am or 3 am partly to beat the heat on some hikes (or at least be going downhill as it heats up). Another benefit for really popular hikes is that you get it mostly to yourself. I’ve hiked the 8 miles up Half Dome, about 12 miles in the main trail corridor in the Grand Canyon and, my personal best for an improved trail, 25 miles on the Resurrection Trail here on the Kenai Peninsula without seeing anyone else all by starting really early. Also, in the case of Half Dome and its required permits, there is no one to check your permit at the base of “Quarter Dome” until they’ve clocked in and hiked there, around 9 or 10 in the morning. I can be back in the cafeteria having breakfast by then. And being on top for the sunrise is cool.
It’s also happened that I’ve been out longer than I expected and came back in the dark. My most commonly carried bit of “emergency gear” is a capable flashlight (usually a Zebralight H51) should I, for whatever reason, be out longer than planned.
And, yes a “head”lamp or flashlight works best at waist level to reveal the dips and bumps in the trail.
For hiking on a known trail, 20-50 lumens is fine. For route finding on an unknown trail, being able to blast out 100-200 lumens helps. And for off-trail stuff, 500 to 1000 lumens in a fairly focused beam lets you pick out more optimal routes in the dark that more than make up for the added weight of the larger light. The problem I have on new trails, is I don’t know WHEN I need the extra light to ID a branch in the trail. I can either use a high level all the time, or sweep the sides and further ahead with a lower level light every 10 paces. Checking a map in advance, and in much more detail (miles between trail junctions, vertical rise / fall profile of the trail relative to those junctions, etc) helps me look more closely for those junctions and to notice my mistakes sooner. On a stupid-long hike, it is very disheartening to walk a mile down the wrong trail and have to retrace those steps.Aug 9, 2017 at 5:51 pm #3484074
Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
Rather than hike in the dark at night, I’d prefer to sleep at the trailhead and get up pre-dawn and start walking. But it’s a matter of taste.Aug 12, 2017 at 10:13 pm #3484613
I can’t believe no one took down Brando for that comment! C’mon already! I don’t know any women who are afraid of the dark. Sheesh.Aug 13, 2017 at 4:33 pm #3484730
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Maybe no-one thought it was worth the bother?
CheersAug 13, 2017 at 4:59 pm #3484736
Greg MihalikBPL Member
Aug 13, 2017 at 5:44 pm #3484741
- This reply was modified 5 days, 12 hours ago by Greg Mihalik.
Paul MagnantiBPL Member
@paulmagsLocale: Front Range Zoo
For those of us who are weekend warriors, it is a great way to extend the weekend. Get to the trailhead at dusk, hike in a mile or two or three and start in the morning. I’ve started more than a few hikes in the dark. I avoid the awful traffic in the morning, and I really do feel like it makes the weekend feel longer. I do not hike off-trail using this method FWIW.
I do not do anything fancy. I try to avoid using a headlamp when I can, but will use a pinch light in a few strategic places.Aug 14, 2017 at 9:57 pm #3485049
For most of my hikes, I drive to the trail head the night before in order to maximize my time off work. I often just sleep inside the back of my SUV as the back seat lays down flat and I have a 4″ 3 section foam pad that is pretty comfortable. I then get up at first light and start hiking since all my gear was already packed up from the day before. Though, I’m sometimes just antsy to get hiking, so I have hiked in a few miles in the dark many times. In places like the Sierra Nevada which are full of white granite, the starlight and moonlight reflecting off it can make a light unnecessary.
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