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  1. #1
    Maryland Naturalist ddanko2's Avatar
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    Default Night Hiking with No Moonlight

    Greetings,

    I am planning on starting a long day hike early in the morning on 10/28, which will involve 2-3 hours of night hiking prior to twilight. I was hoping to get some tips from anyone that has night-hiking experience - especially those who have not relied on moonlight for their night hiking (the moon will have set already on 10/28). Can anyone recommend any lighting strategies?

    My current plan would be to strap a headlamp around my waist (easier to see for my footing?) and have a second headlamp up top to see out a little further. Thoughts?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    I do a LOT of night hiking, basically mostly approaches for climbs. I once left camp at 10pm to make a summit at daybreak, when conditions deteriorate quickly, and we regularly leave camp at 3-4am for summits.

    Anyway, I do use the double-lamp scheme, it works great. One on your head for overall illumination, the other held low. The key aspect of the low one is that it casts nice long shadows on rocks/roots/whatever on the trail. The lamp on your head does NOT cast shadows, because it is too near to your eyes, and sometimes rocks blend in well to the trail and, well, have a nice trip! Demonstrate his to yourself sometime; in the dark on a trail sometime, hold the lamp near your eyes, then lower it and watch the shadows on trail irregularities appear. Most people don't get or understand this headlamps-cast-minimal-shadow concept.

  3. #3

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    It really depends on the trail. Knowing the trail helps on a nighthike, unless the trail is a well maintained thing with hatch marks like on the AT. And even then it can get tricky with road crossings and creek crossings. But as anyone who backpacks in the Southeast knows, you can tell whether you're on a trail at night just by the feel of it under your boots---a trail typically is compacted while off the trail is not.

    I just pulled a 5 mile nighthike off Big Frog Mt on the BMT as Hurricane Irma got me to bail off the high ground---I knew this trail well anyway.

    People nighthike the AT all the time. My only advice is to have fresh batts for your headlamp and the more light the better.

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    Your overthinking it.
    Just walk. Its not a big deal .
    Ive hiked a couple hundred mikes in dark. By 20L light. Never tripped.....
    Can you see ground 5' in front if you? Youre good.
    All the crap about a second light lower is just that. 100% unnecessary on trails. Can you see better? Sure. Is it needed? No. Neither is 200L.



    Know how long your light will last
    Be able to change batt in dark by feel.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 10-10-2017 at 14:32.

  5. #5
    AT 2012 1azarus's Avatar
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    going to agree with muddy waters about the second light not being necessary, but not because i've tried the waist light, just because i've hiked a lot at night with just a headlamp and have never felt the need for more illumination. I do suggest you pay attention the the lumen output and use a bright headlamp. And I always have a conversation with myself about what I'll do if i wander off the trail by mistake in the dark: to plan on just camping where I am and figuring it out in the daylight, instead of wandering around in the dark and making everything worse. This has never happened to me, but I do try to be careful.
    Last edited by 1azarus; 10-10-2017 at 15:50.
    Lazarus

  6. #6

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    Some trails you would never want to nighthike---I can make a long list if interested. They're almost impossible in full daylight.

  7. #7
    Maryland Naturalist ddanko2's Avatar
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    Thanks, everyone... I'm going SOBO from PenMar, which is quite rocky and involves a bit of scrambling for the first 2ish miles up to High Rock. That's the only place I'm concerned about.

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    Registered User JJ505's Avatar
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    I used to hike quite a lot at night esp in the summer. It's a good way of avoiding the summer heat in the desert. I just used a standard headlight (nothing fancy, actually think it is a Rayovac). It has a red light which is handy in case you run across some other folks. My hiking buddy once brought a huge UV light and we watched various bioluminescent plants and animals. We took our time, but I never tripped. I wouldn't hike on some trails due to lots of tree roots and that type of thing. However, right around sunset one night, my dog went after a rattlesnake before I even saw it, she did not get bit but it was pretty scary. From then on she was put on a shorter leash!

  9. #9

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    Nighthiking thru rocks in a boulder field is tough during the day much less at night. Have fun.

    Here is the Panther Creek trail in Cohutta looking down the trail as it falls thru a jumble of a million rocks---Thar's a trail somewhere in there boys!


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    Many of my hikes include some time in the dark.
    I found out that its contraproductive if the headlamp is too bright. Any strong beam will be reflected back into the eyes by most of the small particles in the air ahead, like, breath in the cold, night butterflies, and similar.
    I have much better results using old rundown batteries giving low, but just enough light to hike. Estimated 20-30 lumen. Old batteries keep up this way a very long time.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Many of my hikes include some time in the dark.
    I found out that its contraproductive if the headlamp is too bright. Any strong beam will be reflected back into the eyes by most of the small particles in the air ahead, like, breath in the cold, night butterflies, and similar.
    I have much better results using old rundown batteries giving low, but just enough light to hike. Estimated 20-30 lumen. Old batteries keep up this way a very long time.
    Headlamp disorientation 101. One time I was camping atop Flats Mt in TN and left my tent at night to find a sweet spot to make an end-of-trip phone call to my shuttle ride. It was cold and very foggy on top of olde Flats. I got about 100 feet down the trail and dangit could not find my tent on the way back. Why? Light reflected off the fog and blinded me. Eventually groped my way back.

    TRIP 118 257-L.jpg
    Flats Mt before nightfall.

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    Fog and mist droplets are excellent point. You can see this early morning in southern appalachians.

    Ive traversed talus and scree with little 20L light. A few times stopping because I wasnt sure I wasnt imagining a trail. But...in the end intuition ruled. With experience you follow subtle cues hiking, dsy or night, places that look flatter than 45 degree side of mtn, small rocks instead of big, patches of sand in the sparser rocks instead just steep rocks, etc. Signs of human intervention.

    My little light hits 85L when I want it. I hike with 20 because get 15 hrs of time from single AAA batt.

    My experience is I can see brighter with high, but I cant see anything additional in 30-40 ft range that I dont see on low. Comparing 85 and 150 at home, in backyard, I can detect only.a subtle difference in brightness.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 10-10-2017 at 16:31.

  13. #13

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    Moon or no moon, you need a lamp. A headlamp is the obvious choice. Having a second light at waist level is a good idea, but rarely done. You just have to go slow and watch your step. Keeping track of the trail where it isn't well defined can be a problem.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  14. #14
    GSMNP 900 Miler HooKooDooKu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Your overthinking it.
    Just walk. Its not a big deal .
    ...
    Can you see ground 5' in front if you? Youre good.
    Maybe for a trail you either know well, or a simple to follow obvious trail. But that's not always the case.

    When hiking an unfamiler trial, I've found numerous situations where being only able to see 5' leaves you in trouble.

    A case in point:
    The 1st time I hiked up Forney Creek Trail in GSMNP, I hiked from lower BC68 to Clingman's Dome parking lot after dark. I had a headlamp that provided clear visibility to around 12'. Everything was going great... until I came upon Forney Creek cascade just above upper BC68. What had been a simple to follow trail diverged in a multitude of paths and lots of trampled ground around the cascade. I could tell from my NatGeo map that the trail crosses the creek above upper BC68, but in the dark, I couldn't find the crossing. I even ford the creek where the most well warn path let to the base of a cascade, but couldn't find where to go next. Fortunately I ran into some campers at upper BC68. They were able to tell me that rather than looking for a crossing towards the right, I needed to stay to the left and go uphill until I could find the trail heading AWAY from the creek. Basically, the trial made a pair of U-turns crossing the creek at a higher elevation. But my NatGeo topo map didn't indicate this minor detail... a detail that was easy to spot hiking the trail in the day-time when you can see 25' to 50' around you to find where the trail continues.

    On that same trip, there was a second time farther up the mountain where I nearly lost the trail again. Near the upper reaches of Forney Creek, there is about a 15' section of trail where you basically walk the rocks that form the headwaters of the creek. But the map again doesn't make this minor detail obvious. In the day time, it's easy to see where the trail exits the creek bed at the other end. But when you could only see about 12' ahead in the dark, you couldn't. In this case, the only thing that saved me was the fact that the trail clearly entered the creek and had no signs of exiting the other side. So clearly you have to head up creek. Doing so, it wasn't too hard to eventually find where the trail exits the creek. But in the dark, this isn't clearly obvious when you have limited site distance.

    I've has a similar experience on Mt LeConte where the moon actually saved me. I went out to Cliff Tops to watch sunset. I stayed passed sunset and watched the stars come out. When I was ready to head back down the hill to LeConte Lodge, I only had a 'AAA' flashlight that only lit up the trail about 10' in front of me. But on top of LeConte, the trail is basically a rocky path with several short side rocky paths for water drainage. I come to one of these intersections, and with my head lamp, I can't see far enough to tell which path is the trail and which is just a drainage. However, it was a moonlit night. When I turned off the flashlight, the moon was already high enough in the sky I could see its light reflecting off the rocks. By turning the flashlight off, I was able to tell which path continued forward.

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    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Moon or no moon, you need a lamp. A headlamp is the obvious choice. Having a second light at waist level is a good idea, but rarely done. You just have to go slow and watch your step. Keeping track of the trail where it isn't well defined can be a problem.
    The waist-high light thing really works well, it really pops out those rocks/roots when you're cruising, but agree, it is rarely done. But, most of the folks in my little circle of ultra runners DO almost always use a waist light on ultras at night on the rougher trails. The southern AT or the same 100 miles-square of TN over and over and over and over again and again, not needed.

    The AT in PA? Maybe! Try it. Or, at least if you only carry one, try lowering it sometime and see the difference.

    Except for my little crew of folks, I've only see others with two lamps a few times.

  16. #16

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    I don't night hike much at all but those times I've done it I find that the headlamp alone works fine.

    Last fall I was coming down Pharaoh Mountain toward Pharaoh lake (Adirondacks), which is a very rough and steep bit. (I pissed away the last half hour of twilight trying to find the correct trail down!) I was glad to have the headlamp because I had to look around a lot for hand- and foot-holds and a light at waist level would have been of little use. My dog had no problem with no headlight at all. Down on flatter trail by the lake I walked for about another hour with no problems despite the fact that it was rough in places. The reflective blue trail markers made it impossible to get lost.

  17. #17
    Registered User Kaptainkriz's Avatar
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    Just go slowly and be sure of your footing One headlamp is enough. That section of trail is unusually rocky for the area. At around 2.4 miles south of PenMar, the trail proceeds steeply up a very rocky section for about 0.8 miles. I've done portions of MD and WV in the dark and once I got used to it, had no issues. I was more creeped out by the night sounds and startling piles of deer.
    Some photos of PenMar to Raven Rock when I did that section here: https://goo.gl/photos/Eh82YCBQ49Fy5bW36
    and a youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0tWU3gVnfg

    Raven Rock to PoGo photos here: https://goo.gl/photos/unM35CMkagcs9m1u9


    Quote Originally Posted by ddanko2 View Post
    Thanks, everyone... I'm going SOBO from PenMar, which is quite rocky and involves a bit of scrambling for the first 2ish miles up to High Rock. That's the only place I'm concerned about.

  18. #18
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    Iíve never had an issue night hiking with a GOOD headlight.....Iíll take a few oz penalty for the 300lm zebra light single AA....honestly I canít remember a trip that didnít involve at least a few hours of night hiking....Iíve thought about trying the waist light set up but havenít yet. Few years back on the JMT a did a good bit of night hiking to make up for an unplanned zero day. I left Muir hut as it was getting dark and had another 10 miles to go...this section is a little tough to follow....i was glad to have a bright light when needed! I actually rather enjoy night hiking....Iíve never seen stars as amazing as out west during a cool September night....nothing better...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by saltysack View Post
    I’ve never had an issue night hiking with a GOOD headlight.....I’ll take a few oz penalty for the 300lm zebra light single AA....honestly I can’t remember a trip that didn’t involve at least a few hours of night hiking....I’ve thought about trying the waist light set up but haven’t yet. Few years back on the JMT a did a good bit of night hiking to make up for an unplanned zero day. I left Muir hut as it was getting dark and had another 10 miles to go...this section is a little tough to follow....i was glad to have a bright light when needed! I actually rather enjoy night hiking....I’ve never seen stars as amazing as out west during a cool September night....nothing better...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    That area 1/2 -3/4 mile south of Muir hut would be confuzzling at night. A well known ultra runner had a guide for fkt there so they wouldnt lose time going thru at night.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ddanko2 View Post
    Thanks, everyone... I'm going SOBO from PenMar, which is quite rocky and involves a bit of scrambling for the first 2ish miles up to High Rock. That's the only place I'm concerned about.
    I have done this stretch under headlamp many times as part of my annual 4 state challenge yoyos. The only caution that I will give you is pay careful attention to the trail up to high rock. There are blazes very frequently but the trail zigs and zags a few times. Once on top it is a cake walk. I have not need nothing other than a single head lamp.
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

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