ITEMS TO PACK FOR YOUR NIGHT HIKE
As we have already touched on in this article, a form of illumination is vital for hiking in the dark. Headlamps are the best approach because they allow you to keep your hands free for using trekking poles, your phone, a compass, bear spray, etc.
There are an array of headlamps to choose from and it can be a little overwhelming knowing which one to buy. I have used the Petzl Actik Headlamp for years and love it, but recently switched to the rechargeable version, the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp. I got tired of going through batteries and would prefer to carry a small portable charger as an emergency backup (plus I can use it for my phone). In saying that, I have never ran out of battery when using the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp as long as I have charged it before a hike.
EXTRA BATTERIES & PORTABLE CHARGER
As mentioned above, it’s important to pack extra batteries or some kind of portable charging system for your headlamp. It’s also a good idea to have a portable charger if you are using your phone for offline maps or to track your hike.
I personally love the Goal Zero FLIP portable chargers and will either pack the FLIP 12 or the FLIP 24. The 12 will charge my phone once and the 24 can typically charge my phone twice. There is also the Goal Zero Nomad 5 + FLIP 12 Solar Kit for multi-day treks or for day use (the Nomad 5 recharges via the sun).
GLOW IN THE DARK COMPASS
As we have already touched on, it’s important to have a form of navigation. A paper map and compass are a great way not to have to rely on phones and technology failing. Just make sure you know how to read a topographic map! This is a great resource if you need to learn. Another thing to keep in mind is bringing a night-friendly / glow-in-the-dark compass.
I recommend combining the use of compass + map with a trail navigation phone app like Gaia GPS app. It’s free to download and use but you will need the premium membership to have offline maps (best for if you won’t have phone service). Click here to get 20% off your membership.
EMERGENCY SATELLITE BEACON
An emergency satellite beacon is not a required item but it will definitely give you and your loved ones some peace of mind. I like to carry the SPOT Gen4 Satellite GPS Messenger whenever I go hiking or backpacking. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have to worry about getting hurt or lost, but it does mean I have access to an SOS button if something does go wrong.
DON’T FORGET THE 10 ESSENTIALS
We have already covered numerous items that are within the 10 essentials, but I feel it’s worth mentioning again. The 10 essentials are items that keep you safe in the outdoors and could potentially save you from a very bad situation (e.g. getting lost, hypothermia, etc.) The National Park Service (NPS) has a great article on the 10 essentials, but I’ve also run through them below.
1. NAVIGATION (MAP, COMPASS, GPS SYSTEM).
You will use your navigation system to help plan your trip/route, as well as to stay on track during your hike. Be sure to know how to read a topographic map and use a compass before needing to rely on one!
2. SUN PROTECTION (SUNGLASSES, SUNSCREEN, HAT).
These items will protect you from harsh UV rays that can lead to sunburn and skin cancer. I always wear a sun hat when hiking (let’s make wide brim hats cool again!) and would also recommend wearing long sleeves if you are particularly prone to sunburn.
3. INSULATION LAYERS (JACKET, HAT, GLOVES, RAIN GEAR, THERMAL UNDERWEAR/BASELAYERS).
These will depend on the type of weather and season you are hiking in, but always be prepared for sudden changes in conditions. The NPS recommends you pack an extra layer of clothing that reflects the most extreme conditions you could encounter.
4. ILLUMINATION (HEADLAMP, LANTERN, FLASHLIGHT).
You will need some sort of light source for night hiking, such as a headlamp. Be sure to pack extra batteries if your device is battery operated.
5. FIRST AID SUPPLIES (LIGHTWEIGHT FIRST AID KIT).
Be prepared for emergencies and have a lightweight first aid kit with you on all hiking trips. I personally bought a pre-made kit and then added a few extra items that were specific to my needs and the type of trip.
6. FIRE STARTER (MATCHES, LIGHTER, FIRE STARTERS).
This is in regards to emergency settings where you may need to use fire as a signal, to keep warm, or to cook food. Otherwise, I recommend using a camp stove and avoiding open fires (always make sure to adhere to burn bans).
7. REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS (DUCT TAPE, KNIFE, SCISSORS, MULTI-TOOL ETC).
Having some basic repair items will help if a gear item breaks or in other emergency situations. Bring any tools/repair items specific to your trip.
8. SHELTER (TENT, SPACE BLANKET, TARP, BIVY).
Adequate shelter will help protect you from severe weather conditions and exposure during an emergency survival situation. A lightweight emergency blanket is easy to throw in your bag on night hikes.
9. FOOD (MEALS, SNACKS).
Make sure you have enough food for your trip length, plus a little extra. Think about the calorie density to weight ratio and avoid heavy food items that will weigh down your pack.
10. HYDRATION (WATER, WATER FILTER).
Remember to drink water often and before you feel thirsty. I also recommend using electrolytes when sweating. Water filtration is another consideration as it is best to avoid drinking unfiltered water. My go-to water filter is the Katadyn BeFree 1L Water Filter Bottle.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HIKING AT NIGHT
I hope these night hiking tips make you feel more confident to hit the trails and explore nature! I love the opportunities hiking in the dark can open up, including catching more sunrises and sunsets in the mountains. Have fun and be safe out there!