When you’re starting out, walking after dark can feel more intimidating and challenging than going during the day. But try not to let any initial pangs of trepidation put you off. If you follow these expert tips, walking at night can be both a comfortable, rewarding and exciting experience.
Start somewhere familiar: If you’re new to night walking, start with a route that you know well. This might be around well-lit local streets of villages and towns, or as you get more comfortable and confident with it, you may want to take your after-dark adventures beyond urban boundaries into woodlands, hills and fields. In this instance, pick a route you’ve walked many times before during the day. This way it won’t feel quite so foreign at night, whilst at the same time highlight how wonderfully rewarding and different the experience is after dark.
Take someone with you: Walking at night can be intimidating at first and your mind can sometimes be your own worst enemy if you’re out there alone. Every small sound or looming shadow can feel like a threat. If you’re just starting out, take a friend with you. Even if you’re confident enough to go it solo, it’s always good practice to tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
Take it slow: Darkness makes terrain a little more challenging, even on familiar paths. Slow down and don’t expect to walk at the same pace or cover the same distances that you would in daylight. Picking shorter routes in favourable weather is going to help make your first night walk a great one. On the plus side, you’ll soon notice that your reduced speed allows you to observe things you might otherwise miss.
Sunsets and full moons: Starting your evening walk with a goal of seeing the sunset can be a great motivation at the end of the day when your body would usually be winding down. Another good time to go is on a night when the moon is at its fullest as you’ll be able to see much more and depend on your headtorch a lot less. Open areas with reflective surfaces like light-coloured rocks are easier to navigate and provide a great view of the sky for stargazing, whilst darker areas like forests will allow your eyes to fully adjust to the night so you can spot nocturnal animals.
Keep an eye out for wildlife: Any night time wildlife encounters in the UK are almost certainly likely to be benign, but if you’re worried it’s worth researching which animals are common to your local area so you know what to expect. Foxes, owls, bats, badgers and deer are more common at night, but the main thing is just to try to be aware of your surroundings. Listen and look for animals, not only so you can enjoy seeing them but also so you can respond if necessary.
Keep the kit in your pack organised: It can be harder to find things buried in your pack at night. Stowing important items like your water bottle and food in easy-to-reach places means you won’t have to turn on your headtorch unnecessarily. If you’re starting out before sunset, remember with the setting sun comes cooler temperatures. Check the forecast and make sure you’ve got layers and waterproofs, hat and gloves in your pack, just in case. And if you’re walking at night in more built-up areas or near roads, then reflective elements on your pack or clothing are a good feature to have.