View Full Version : Night Hiking

2004-08-04, 15:07
Hi everyone,

I recently hiked 3 miles up to a lake to camp at midnight with my brother. We used headlamps though so it wasn't true "Night Hiking". Anyway, I found the experience very frightening since there could be mountain lions or bears out at night, and I'm not sure if I would like to repeat the experience. However, I was intrigued when I read about hiking with absolutely no light and I would like to try it. I am in Montana and there is a lot of wildlife in the mountains here. My friends have had runins with bears, mountain lions and moose. Would it be wise to still attempt night hiking, or is it too dangerous due to my location? Do I need to carry mace or a gun if i want to hike? What do you guys think?


Jim Henderson
2004-08-04, 17:31
I don't do a lot of night hiking anymore, and I certainly don't hike where there are a lot of criters who would look at me as a tasty treat.

But, I used to hike fairly regularly with the Sierra Club(no I'm not a tree hugger) at night, but we always hiked in well scouted areas, usually right on the outskirts of a major city(LA) so not many criters there, and we always had maybe a dozen people, about half with flashlights. I will say on nights where there is a good moon, hiking can be done fairly easily and sometimes with no flash at all. On dark nights away from city lights, I would be very hesitant to hike much in the dark mostly for safety reasons.

When it is really dark, it is way too easy to discover cliffs, raging rivers, scree slopes and such that you didn't know were there. If you are alone or just a few people, this is probably a bigger hazard to you than meeting a hungry creature. Nothing like a broken ankle or drowning to ruin a nice hike. All it takes is a root to twist your ankle.

Even with a small flash or head light, sometimes the darkness can gobble up the light and lead you to an accident. Even if you can see obstacles, it is way easier to get lost in the dark than daytime. So it is really important to know where you are.

I wouldn't worry too much about animals unless you are in serious bear country. Mtn lions are also becoming a hazard now that our PC friends have banned pretty much all hunting so the animals don't look at us with fear like they used to, now we are a tasty treat. Still, most animals will avoid you especially if you are noisy.

Not saying hiking at night is bad, just be prepared.

So in short if you hike, hike with several friends, know your terrain, hike in bright light or use bright light and maybe carry some bear spray, and make noise. Doesn't hurt to have a cell phone or walkie talkie. And always make sure someone knows where you are and when you will be back.

Always remember, you don't have to outrun the bear, just the slowest member of your group, so make sure you bring a slow fellow.

Good Luck,

Jim Henderson

2004-08-05, 11:21
easiest solution whether you hike with or without light is to take a can of pepper spray. Be careful if you have to spray it up wind....

Down here in east Texas there aren't any critters in the woods that you have to worry about. I do a lot of night hunting for hogs, & when I was younger, coons with blood hounds. For hog hunting at night I have red filters on all my lights so if I have to turn it on I won't loose my night vision. When I was younger and coon hunting with my grandfather we used flashlights to walk, turned the lights off when we were standing and listening to the dogs, and carbide headlights for when the dogs treed the coons.

When I hike in west Texas, BigBend &the GuadalupeMtns., bears, cats and especially rattlesnakes! are a problem when hiking in the dark. I think I'd want to hike with a good red filtered head lamp.

I really don't like using white light at night. Once my eyes adjust to the dark I want them to stay that way. I very seldom have a campfire (usually only when I'm with someone else). I prefer a dark camp. I also prefer to solo hike or hunt.

2004-08-09, 14:29
I've night hiked many a time without running into anything bigger than a possum; then again, I did this in areas in NC, GA, and AZ that didn't feature big game. Your mileage may vary.

However, I would think that in Montana, you have enough of an increased risk running into bears or whatnot in the daytime that you might want to hike with anti-critter precautions any time...

2004-08-09, 14:35
Thanks for the comments everyone. I think I'll just pickup some bear spray as a precaution...

2004-08-10, 09:33
I think I'll just pickup some bear spray as a precaution...

I've never used bear spray, but I have to wonder if this would be useful. If a bear decides to attack you in the dark, I can't imagine that you have much chance of being able to use the spray.

2004-08-10, 13:17
you're right. maybe its just there to make me feel better. although in some situations i think it would come in useful. if you have a little warning, and you keep the spray in a quickly accessible place then i think you could get to it in time.

2004-08-11, 07:59
Hi all, just hikin through and I saw this thread, which sparked a question.
Is it legal in places like Montana and Wyoming and other bear and mountain lion states to carry a firearm?
Somehow I'm not convinced a can of aerosol will discourage a 1500lb PO'd mama bear.
A couple of years ago I ended up in Alaska and was rooting around in a sporting goods store when I saw these special 44 mag cartriges. They had solid brass bullets. Not brass plated lead, but solid brass. The guy at the store said they were made specifically for protection from bears. Says lead 44 mag bullets have been known to bounce off of a bears head.
Obviously you wouldn't want to shoot them through your gun very often.
I'm just curious. I don't have any critters to worry about around here, except the very rare encounter with a Timber Rattler or Copperhead. But I am kinda curious to know if you have to have a CCW permit for wearing a sidearm in the wilderness areas of such states. Actually, I doubt I'd even want to be troubled with the extra weight on a hike. When I think about it, I think being killed by a bear would be a lot cooler than rotting away in an old folks home.

2004-08-11, 12:23
It is legal in MT to carry a firearm...

SGT Rock
2004-08-11, 16:45
It seems it would be awful hard to hit anything at night, especially with a pistol unless you use some sort of light source or night vision.

2004-08-12, 08:57
Sarge, when I was a kid staying on my uncles farm, me and my cousins hunted mostly at night. As inhumane as this sounds, we would hang a live chicken up by one foot just high enough so that its other foot could touch the ground. That chicken would carry on all night hangin like that, while we hid in the creek bed and waited for the coyotes to show up. We'd wait till there was at least two coyotes sniffing around the chicken, then we'd open fire. Of course we did have to have some moonlight.

SGT Rock
2004-08-12, 09:02
LOL, I have a soldier that was raised on a ranch that shoots M16 better if he has a spot light in one hand.

SGT Rock
2004-08-12, 09:25
Since we are talking guns, I added a box in the user profile that allows users to specify if they have guns and type. I'll leave it and see if it is usefull.

2004-08-13, 10:01
LOL Rock. Spotlighting works great for deer and such, but them wiley coyotes won't freeze in the light at all. They disappear as soon as you flip it on.
As far as guns go, all I have is a .22 rifle, and old double barrel 12 ga, and a .50 cal Hawkin. And I haven't even been hunting in years. I planned on doing a lot of hunting when I moved here, but after spending time with these critters, I've decided I like just lookin at 'em. The deer are getting kinda thick though, and mama coon raised four young'ns and they're gettin to be a pain in the....
Anyways, tonite me and a friend of mine are going on a night hike along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi river. I know a spot up there where we can hang our hammocks and look out over St Louis. Ain't as nice as the Appalachians or Rockies, but it's as good as it gets around here. It's only a couple miles hike from my house, but it's really rough. We have to cross several deep ravines, and climbing out of them is all loose limestone and dirt. I have a grappling hook I made out of rebar to throw up around the tree trunks to help with the climbs. We use those red LED headbands for light if it's too dark. He has a cheapo night vision scope too he likes to play with. I played with it a while and all it did for me was turn everything green and when I took my eye away from it I couldn't see at all. I think its an old russian gen 1 scope. I sure as hell wouldn't put my life on the line with it.