As we move into fall, the days are getting shorter. We will lose about an hour of daylight over the month of September. While you might think it won’t happen to you, it can be very easy to lose track of time on an outdoor adventure and you might end up getting caught in the dark.
Being out on a trail at dusk or into the night can be an enjoyable experience if it is something you planned for, but if you’re unprepared it can feel scary and disorienting. Sore muscles, getting a late start, taking longer than you planned to enjoy that mountain view – there are a lot of reasons why you might get caught in the dark. Hikers and outdoor recreators should always be prepared to be out at night, and there are some basic, easy precautions you can take to avoid an unintended night hike or to ensure a safe conclusion to your day even if you’re out there later than you want to be.
Know the trail and your group’s ability level and have a hard and fast turnaround time. If it’s getting darker, don’t panic. Take a pause and have some of that extra food and water you brought, put on a warm layer, and make sure you and everyone in your group is calm and comfortable as you continue heading back to the trailhead. Check your map and compass to ensure you’re on the right route – trail markers aren’t always as visible at dusk. Always bring a working headlamp and flashlight – don’t rely on a cell phone flashlight. If you have cell service, text or call the person you left your trip plans with to let them know you’ll be delayed.
The bottom line is preparing well will make every trip more enjoyable. Take along the Hike Smart NY 10 Essentials for safer and happier hiking this season.