Hiking at night, tips

I have a brand new shiny girlfriend, and we’ve gone on a couple of day hikes before to local waterfalls, etc. with no problem.

I’m considering taking a hike with her to a local mountain peak that overlooks the entire city (of LA) to watch the sunset…I’ve done the hike by myself during the day with no problem. It’s pretty flat, and there is only about 1 mile of narrowish trail on an otherwise relatively short, flat trip. I’m not concerned at all about the trip up as much as the trip back. I’ve backpacked a couple of times, but always ended the hiking portion of the day as the sun is going down. I’m positively terrified of:

a) freezing my ass off.
b) getting lost/hurt.
c) getting stuck lost/hurt while freezing my ass off.
d) running into some strange carnivorous pack of nocturnal creatures.

It should be noted that I have a great navigational sense, and I have an electric lantern along with all of the standard backpacking things…

Now for the question. :slight_smile:

Has anyone ever hiked at night before? Is this do-able? Is this advisable? Any tips to keep me or her comfortable?

I believe the standard solution to this problem is to pitch a tent, if you know what I mean.

As long as you know the trail, and it’s not very rough terrain, you should have no problems. I’ve hiked quite a bit in a lot rougher places than you describe, and as long as you are careful, it’s usually not dangerous. I’m not sure what kind of critters you have over there in LA, but two things are adviseable. First, wear tough boots and preferably long pants to protect against the smaller critters and thorns. Second, you might want to wear a bell. This might sound silly, but it warns the bigger critters that you are around… There’s a place in lake superior called Isle Royale that I’ve hiked around on quite a bit, and they always advise wearing a bell so you don’t accidentaly “surprise” a wolf or a moose. Two critters that don’t like surprises! Good luck on your hike! (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say-no-more)

Night walks can be a blast! If you are on a trail and you know for a fact that there are no branch trails that you could get off on, it’s lots of fun to leave the light off. Yep, off. The darker the better. Take turns leading because it is quite an experience and you don’t want to hog it all. After the first couple hundred yards you’ll be hooked. It’s amazing how your feet actually feel out the path. You’ll readily recognize the path because of its hard packed nature. By all means, take all the gear you normaly would take with you just in case

Your lady will think you are a crazy bad backwoodsman.

I’ve even successfully led groups of people on owling walks in complete darkness, the trick there is to make certain you keep track of everyone by touch.

I’m actually from LA. The only large critter you have to worry about is mountain lions if you are hiking in the mountains or hills. The nice thing about them is that they have no real desire to attack you, so you should be safe, unless the lion is hurt, sick, or you are hurt or sick. I would also recommend you taking a cellphone to call for help if you need it. Other than that, you should be fine, dont forget a flashlight and first aid kit and the normal stuff you would take on a day hike. As for freezing your ass off, you might want to wear long pants and wear layers. It’s been hot here the last few weeks, but it could get cold. Layers will allow you to shed some clothing if it gets cold. But you shouldn’t have any problems. Besides, if it’s cold, that’s just another reason to snuggle up. Much luck to you.

It seems as though you may be a little over concerned, but that is all right in the name of protecting your girlfriend.

Some ideas:[ul][li]A good C-cell flashlight or better.[/li][li]An extra flashlight for the lady.[/li][li]Some spare batteries.[/li][li]Light windbreakers or coats.[/li][li]Long sleeve shirts.[/li][li]Long leg pants.[/li][li]A thermos of hot beverage.[/li][li]Some tasty bits (chocolates, dried fruit).[/li][li]A light blanket to sit upon (or so they say).[/li][li]A split of wine or chilled Champagne.[/li][li]Acrylic glasses or paper cups.[/li][li]A daypack to carry these things.[/ul][/li]Some tips for night hiking:[ul][li]Walk slowly.[/li][li]Lift your feet a little higher as you walk.[/li][li]Periodically look up to survey the path.[/li][li]Do not carry objects in your hands.[/li][li]Let the flashlight cast a wide beam.[/li][li]Memorize landmarks on the way in.[/ul][/li]
Have fun!

About the only thing I can add is, be prepared to spend the night outdoors, just in case you manage to get hurt or lost. Have whatever stuff that might sustain you in the wilds of LA county. I imagine your biggest concern might be keeping warm.

While I’ve done my share of night hiking (that wasn’t the official term) in uniform, I’ve never thought of it in relationship terms.

Even so, I can sure see it working - just the two of you, under the eternal stars, noone else around in the wilderness, the sounds of Nature surrounding you etc. etc. I can, unfortunately, also easily imagine taking the wrong turn and getting lost, which is decidedly unfunny.

Lanterns are presumably OK, but if there’s just a bit of light, try doing without. Your eyes adjust pretty good and you’ll have a better general sense of where you’re going. Memorized landmarks look “weird” when illuminated with your average flashlight.

Zenster’s list is comprehensive, please focus on #3, spare batteries. Dead batteries are the favourite medium for a quick visit from Mr. Murphy.

If the trail is safe and the weather won’t kill you (I have no idea of the weather conditions in LA) if you have to stay out until dawn, I’d say go for it.

S. Norman

Oh yeah, one last thing:

A source of frickin’ fire!

I cannot over emphasize this. Each of you should carry matches and a lighter. Lighters are easier to operate but you always want a chemical fire starter as well. If you do not carry a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife please consider getting one for the occasion. Maybe a model with a corkscrew for the wine you might bring. <insert big grin smilie here>

As to first aid, your best friends are some bandaids and a rolled ace bandage. You really do not need much more for a one mile hike. Scanning your landmarks and commenting on them casually on the way in is a good way to imprint the terrain. A map and compass are also your friends.

All of this is way too excessive. Nonetheless, everything mentioned can fit into a simple daypack. It will guarantee that you will be ready for any contingency and if need arises, you will appear most studly to your shiny new girlfriend.

Best wishes.

You know how you tell the difference between bear poop and deer poop?

The bear poop is the one with the bells in it.


If you want to get the full benefit of the ambiance, leave the light off. If, on the other hand, you want to be able to see clearly, leave the light off.

In my experience with night hikes (unfortunately just with Boy Scouts, no opportunities to impress a fair lass with my studliness), if you let your eyes adjust to the darkness, you’ll be able to see anything important almost as well as you can by daylight. The only difficulty is in reading or distinguishing color. Once you turn on your flashlight, however, you can see perfectly anything that’s within about four feet of the light, but you can’t see diddly beyond that.
Other considerations: I don’t know how cold it gets in LA at night, but be sure to dress for the weather. It can’t hurt to have a couple of spare jackets in your pack. As with any hike, you want to bring plenty of liquids, and if it’s going to get cold, hot liquids will probably be nice. Alcohol in various forms might help with other aspects of the evening, but it will actually make you more susceptible to the cold, rather than less. Be careful with it. The cellphone is an excellent idea, if you have one, and if you go hiking a lot, it’s probably a good idea to get one.

Plan your hike during a Full Moon, or close to it.

On a clear night, you shouldn’t even need artificial light.

Another nice item is a “Star Chart” you can often find them at bookstores or camping equipment outlets, the Miller Planisphere is one style. They are really nice to identify planets and constellations. Of course, if you’re overlooking LA I suppose you aren’t going to see diddly squat. Oh Well, just a thought.

Come to think of it, if you’re hiking at night in the hills of LA, a .357 magnum w/ nine inch barrel might be handy as well.

since you are overlooking LA, bring a cell phone. Also at least 3 sources on light where any one of the 3 both of you can use to return. Spair bulbs too along w/ batteries. Fire, water, some waterproof ‘emergency blanket’

also let someone know where you are going and what time you should return - call that person when you return to let them know yoru ok.

Also from what I’ve heard of LA, you might want to execercise you 2nd amendment rights to ward off native LA creatures :wink:

I remember one particular night hike I did, the one right after having watched the movie “Twin Peaks” a few weeks before. It seemed to be a romantic thing to do–look at a gorgeous saffron moon from a mountain peak–even if I was by myself and miles from the nearest town.

Wrong. Let me assure you that a woods that looks cool by day can really weird you out by night. As I clawed my way up the mountainside (I lost the trail early on), I kept hearing crunching sounds off to either side of me, really weird sounds that seemed to have no place in the forest but that were definitely out there. Not that I’m a wimp or superstitious, but that the whole “Twin Peaks Red Room” stuff got to me in a big way and, as I walked up, I saw a million shadows near trees, bushes, talus, etc. More than once I stopped to listen for those weird noises and the only thing I could hear was my heart pounding like a marathoner. Sorry to say, but a couple of times, I could have sworn I heard someone calling my name. Rather than romantic, the whole experience was like a nightmare from Hell. Suffice it to say I never saw “Blair Witch.”

Have a great hike…

Yes Tsumamisurfer the woods can be a scary place to hike at night -no question. But it sounds more like you did a serious hike while the op refered to a short, relitivally flat trail near populated area. I don’t think you can equate the 2.

Another option is to buy or rent night vision scope, which would allow you to look over your surroundings and see nature undisturbed by a light. Probally the type you can wear while hiking is waaaaay too much money for this, but maybe one you can use while your stopped.