Shedding light on night hikes

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Now that winter is upon us and the days are shorter, it’s difficult to sneak in a quick hike after work without ending up benighted on the mountainside. Instead of fighting the night, embrace the season and experience hiking in a different — and arguably more exciting — way.

Stick with what you know

A night hike isn’t the time to explore new trails — you’ll be impaired enough without trying to find your way on a trail that is unfamiliar to you. Even a well-known trail can be missed in the dark, so always be alert. Also, be sure to choose an area that’s open to the sky and not in too dense of a forest so that moonlight is able to illuminate the ground.

PLAY IT LIKE A PIRATE

Did you know that at night you can close one eye before turning on the light and your night vision will be preserved in that eye?

Test this theory the next time you get up in the middle of the night to prevent stubbed toes on the way to the bathroom.

Engage your other senses

Turn off your headlamp and give yourself 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. With your vision reduced, your other senses will be heightened, giving you an entirely different hiking experience. If you need to read a map or a trail sign, use a headlamp or flashlight with a red lens — using red light instead of white can lessen the time it takes for your eyes to adjust.

Don’t go alone

We’re all guilty of the occasional hike by ourselves, but it’s especially important on a night hike to travel with a group or at least a partner. Be sure to leave your location with a friend just in case something goes wrong.

Dress in layers

Temperatures can drop dramatically after dark, and night hikes require more frequent stops for listening and getting your bearings. Pack extra clothes, such as a sweater or fleece, as well as a pocket poncho to keep you dry through a dusk rainstorm.

Slow down

Don’t expect to be able to keep your pace as you would on an average hike. Beyond taking longer because you can’t see as well, it’s better to slow down so you have a better chance of spotting obstacles in your path. Besides, one of the biggest perks of hiking at night is your chance to stop and enjoy some light pollution-free stargazing.

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90-lumen Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

Grand Illumination

Long gone are the days of carting around a heavy yellow plastic flashlight that uses D-size batteries. The 90-lumen Black Diamond Spot Headlamp is a compact, super-bright light featuring multiple modes that are customizable to any lighting situation. Red SinglePower LEDs can light up your path without cycling through the white mode — keeping your night vision sharp. $31.95

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