Activity | Top 10 essential tips for night-hiking
You’ve got to be prepared if you’re taking your Scouts on a night hike, so bear these tips from our partner, Brunton, in mind next time you’re out and about at night.
1. Expect the unexpected
Prepare a contingency plan for potential emergencies. Let everyone know what they have to do in case of a crisis.
2. Carry the right kit
Ensure you have suitable footwear, clothing and equipment. Carry spare supplies as well as a survival and first aid kit. Test equipment prior to departure. Mark your map reading equipment with luminous materials, attaching them with lanyards, cords or straps.
3. Shine a light
Carry a spare torch and batteries. Head torches have the advantage of leaving both hands free, while angled torches can be clipped to clothing and directed accordingly. Ideally, everyone should also carry luminescent sticks.
4. Rest easy
It’s important to rest regularly, as resting helps recuperation. Use this time to reassess your situation or check your equipment.
5. Be aware
The main danger at night is restricted vision. Route markers can be overlooked due to poor visibility and dramatic changes in weather or terrain can disorientate. Stick to open areas and navigate using natural landmarks such as the silhouettes of hills or mountains.
6. Eat and drink regularly
The energy you use to travel at night is greater than the energy you use in the day, so drink plenty of water before you start hiking. On a full night’s walk, each member should consume about two litres of water and maintain ample food and energy sources.
7. Judge it right
Everything looks different at night and things can appear nearer than they are, leading to errors in estimating a route. There is a tendency to head directly towards bright lights or distinctive features; guard against this and walk slowly and carefully. If you can’t see in front of you, use a stick to judge distance or hold your hands out at arms length.
8. Know your limits
Pressure encourages mistakes, so know the group’s limitations and choose the easiest route. Set safe distance targets and move at the speed of the slowest member.
9. Stay alert
Night navigation is all about learning to use your heightened senses. The noises from nearby water or the smell of fresh vegetation are excellent indicators of which direction to travel in. Tracking students are taught to keep their mouths slightly open and to turn their ears towards sounds to maximise their receptiveness.
10. Stay in touch
Be organised, periodically changing the leader to avoid tiredness. Make regular headcounts, brief the group often and ensure everyone knows where they are and where they’re headed.
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