Are there any advantages while backpacking to hike during the night and sleep during the day?

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4

This is something I have pondered on multiple occasions, when the light of the full moon and the altitude induced insomnia kept me awake long into the night.

I realize that this would be an unusual strategy, but I have heard of people doing it, such as Jedediah Smith while crossing a desert on his explorations or this person who was going to try to break the unsupported and without resupply speed record on the John Muir Trail.

Would there be any advantages to hiking during the night and sleeping during the day?

Charlie Brumbaugh

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 26 262

4Practice your night land nav.DLS3141 2017-03-27T21:50:24.593

Here is the account of Al Shaver's attempt to break the unsupported and without resupply speed record on the JMT.ab2 2017-03-27T23:51:30.080

4To be a fully balanced question, you should consider disadvantages of night travel in addition to advantages. For example - its hard to sleep when the sun is up and at its hottest.Criggie 2017-03-27T23:54:01.187

Have you tried it, I have.bobbym 2017-03-28T03:42:32.120

I have done it, but only in the Midnight Sun. Not sure if that counts?gerrit 2017-03-28T11:39:19.350

40I'm puzzled that the light of the full moon keeps you awake and you expect to sleep better under the light of the sungerrit 2017-03-28T11:40:17.890

5@gerrit His wolf genes kick in under the light of the full moon. :)ab2 2017-03-28T13:55:07.077

@gerrit I am going to blame the lack of oxygen for any illogic in that idea.Charlie Brumbaugh 2017-03-28T15:22:08.663

1@CharlieBrumbaugh Head down into the valley before you put up the tent: (1) more oxygen, (2) more mountains to block the moonlight, (3) more trees to block the moonlight, three times more sleep ;-)gerrit 2017-03-28T15:24:36.013

You are tired from a long night hike. You are full from eating a luscious freeze-dried dinner. You have spread your sleeping bag in the warmth of dappled sunlight beside a small waterfall. The birds are twittering, a ground squirrel is chittering, you close your eyes........If you can't sleep there, take an Ambien.ab2 2017-03-28T19:16:07.500

1I have done a few nighttime hikes, mainly to be able to see the sunrise at some peaks. Note it's a lot easier to misstep in the night, especially in the jungle or otherwise dense forest where almost all light is coming from your headlamp.Sebastiaan van den Broek 2017-03-29T04:23:37.040

@gerrit Long ago (Easter Thursday 1971 I see) I travelled up the Coromandel Peninsula in NZ by motorcycle late at night. The road passes through multiple small coastal; bays and then climbs over the intervening ridge and descends into the next bay. I finally stopped for the night and lay down by the roadside. I was astounded by how bitterly cold it was - a very uncomfortable night's sleep. I arose early in the frigid dawn and rode on. Only then did I notice that the valley bottoms were near freezing but near the ridge tops it was very much warmer. So NO not the valleys! :-).Russell McMahon 2017-03-29T10:02:21.427

@RussellMcMahon Yes, in still and clear weather, valleys may be colder than hillsides (but they may also be less windy). However, with a good tent, mattress, and sleeping bag, I sleep better when it's cold.gerrit 2017-03-29T10:18:34.977

@gerrit That was 46 years ago - so details may have faded :-) - but I probably had a down sleeping bag and a groundsheet large enough to go over and under me - enough to be waterproof in rain. Worthwhile overall - I met my wife to be at journey's end. Fletcher Bay - scroll out :-). No campsite there then - just a valley with stream :-). Still very remote

Russell McMahon 2017-03-30T00:11:59.180

In the desert, yes, very sensible. Travel from rock formation to rock formation (or building with a well, preferably) avoiding the sun. In serious mountains, less so. Going will get slow, or dangerous.Monster 2017-04-25T05:24:22.820

Answers

54

There are several reasons, though not all of them would apply for one's usual holiday trip.

Remaining unseen

Obviously, during night its dark and this gives you a fair bit of cover if you want to remain unseen. This reason for traveling at night is common for many hunters in the animal kingdom (and sometimes also their prey), has been used by humans in insecure or hostile territory for centuries and remains a standard technique for some military operations even today.

Evading the elements

Hiking throughout the night and resting in the day can be especially useful in hot, arid conditions. For example in deserts, extreme heat during the day and severe cold in the night often come together. Hiking during the night here serves the double purpose of keeping you active and warm when it is cold while allowing you to save water resources during the day.

Boosting morale

When conditions get worse (cold, moisture), getting up during the night and starting to hike will not only make you feel warm again, it will also boost your morale. Being active, and actively coping with a bad situation rather than staying miserable in the tent for the rest of the night will make you feel better.

You want to avoid tourists

No, seriously, this is a real case in point. Most people travel during the day and one of the reasons we (or at least, I) get outdoors is to enjoy some quietness in the wild. Depending where you are, hiking at night is your best bet to fulfill this dream.

Navigation (only very theoretical)

Consider a situation where it is all cloudy during the day (so you do not see the sun), you lack a compass and currently have no sense of direction: if you are capable of navigating with the stars, you might consider waiting until dark and hope that the sky will clear up until then.

eigenvector

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 697

26Another environmental reason is to avoid avalanches and rock/ice fall induced by melt during the warmer parts of the day.mattnz 2017-03-27T23:34:37.327

8Under "Evading the elements", I can add a case in point, but more short-term than your examples. A weather window is no respecter of normal waking hours; there's been a few times that I've been holed up waiting out a storm, and had to move at night before the next storm arrived.Toby Speight 2017-03-28T09:11:08.350

2The last point is not theoretical. If you are lost and/or get into an accident, navigating with the help of stars is very useful. It is a fun skill to have, and a backup in case more technological navigational aids fail. I believe there was a story about scouts that got lost with no compass/gps and returned with the help of local geographic knowledge and star navigation.Mindwin 2017-03-28T13:51:14.430

3@mattnz Also, glacier fed streams are easy to cross in the morning but become raging torrents in the afternoon. Some hikers have needed to wait for night to get back.Keith McClary 2017-03-31T05:06:55.747

1Related to what Toby said, storms in Colorado at least are much more likely in the afternoon, and moving at night could substantially reduce your lightning risk.Rocky 2017-03-31T16:00:34.833

33

The main advantages are:

  1. You don't need sunscreen

  2. Even with a full moon, the night sky is awesome

  3. Things look (and sound) weirdly and wonderfully different in moonlight

  4. In summer, the temperature will be much more conducive to brisk hiking than during the heat of the day

The OP did not ask about disadvantages, but the main disadvantage is #3 -- that things look weirdly different. If you are hiking cross-country, this could cause you to become disoriented and even lost, even in territory that you know well.

ab2

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 8 917

3Wrt the disadvantage: A dog can help. You can see the trail better, but the dog can smell the trail better. That can really help when you can't see/find it.Drew 2017-03-28T02:18:51.213

6@Drew: unless there are squirrels nearby!whatsisname 2017-03-28T02:35:17.803

5@Drew: Helps if the dog is a border collie mix, with a large white tip on her tail. I like to hike in the evening and early night, and there have been more than a few times when I got back to the trailhead by following that waving white spot. Of course I could have used my headlamp if I really needed to, but that ruins my enjoyment of the darkness.jamesqf 2017-03-28T04:32:35.277

In winter you would have more nighttime hours to hike in than daylight hours (in the northern hemisphere). Vice-versa for summer/Southern Hemisphere. Also different game, wildlife, and/or predators would be out. Disorientation aside, a starry night can aid navigation for a knowledgeable hiker, although a timepiece and the sun's position is a much more straightforward aid. Nighttime animal sounds (crickets, frogs, etc.) could be so loud that you couldn't easily hear nearby animals or running water.Todd Wilcox 2017-03-28T05:40:15.573

6@Todd, whichever hemisphere you're in, you get more night hours in winter than summer. That's pretty much the definition of the seasons!Toby Speight 2017-03-28T09:08:18.383

4As part of "weirdly different" too, it becomes hard/impossible to see holes, tree roots and other obstacles. Unless you're walking down a paved road, the major risk of night hiking is injury because of stumbling.Graham 2017-03-28T12:20:59.473

3@TobySpeight Ah yes... my mind was sort of thinking "winter = November, December, January no matter where you are".Todd Wilcox 2017-03-28T13:01:29.010

@jamesqf: I remember that a dog was particularly helpful when crossing large meadows in the mountains, where the trail was not visible at all at night. No doubt she could "see" a trail clearly with her nose.Drew 2017-03-28T13:54:05.350

3Without adequate light, you can walk off of a cliff. In fact, on non-moon-lit nights, being without a flashlight in hilly terrain is extremely dangerous. Dogs actually can see better in the dark -- their eyes gather twice as much light as ours -- but smell and being closer to the ground would also help.Wayne 2017-03-28T22:04:15.157

11

Better sights

In some situations, there might be some beautiful things that can only be seen during the night.

This includes Northern lights (Aurora Borealis), but also some places might brag about the great view of the night sky or moon. Of course you can always watch during the night even if not hiking, but since you have to sleep you'd appreciate it for a longer time by hiking during the night.

Weather

Sometimes, the weather could be better this way, if it ends up raining during the day and not raining during the night, but that's a specific situation and not a general case.

Temperature

In very hot locations, it might be hard to hike during the entire day, or make you use up a ton of water, while sleeping would save that water and energy under the burning sun, and allow you to walk during the more comfortable night.

Fewer other people

You obviously could prefer to hike when there are as few other hikers as possible, to enjoy the nature more, and in that case night would be your best bet.

Keep in mind

Of course, in certain places or situations, all those advantages could apply to the day instead, so it really depends on where you are going, when you are goin, and what the weather will be.

Kaito Kid

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 211

6

This is an edge case, but I'll add it nonetheless:

If you are hiking above the polar circle during summer, hiking during the 'night' will give you the rare chance to experience the wonder that is the midnights sun in the endless nordic summer.

There is nothing quite like starting a climb after dinner, summiting a mountain and having a snack in the midnights sun.

Of course the same applies for hikes in the far south (those are not quite as easily reachable though, as you need to be on Antarctica).

fgysin

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 6 133

6

Some types of wildlife might be easier to see (with flashlight) at night than by day: odd as this sounds I have seen this first-hand hiking in Borneo. During the day I spotted relatively few animals, however hiking at night I was able to see many strange insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates. My guess is this advantage is more pronounced in tropical rainforests. In other locales it might be that you just see different wildlife rather than different & more.

Dan S

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 161

4

Done it, in all seasons. Usually because I worked late and still wanted to camp. Depending on the time of the year bugs attack your headlamp, so carry it in your hand versus on your head. It's cooler usually, but easier to get lost.

Carl

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 57

4

Something I've done in the Sierras where it can get quite hot at lower elevations during the day is to use the "siesta" method.

Get up early and hike until about noon. Wait out the hot hours of the day (roughly 1pm - 4pm) and start hiking again as the day cools off.

As far as hiking in the moonlight, even with the brightest full moon, it can be extremely disorienting. Without color vision your depth perception can be off, even relatively tame terrain can unnerve you.

Fred the Magic Wonder Dog

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 2 342

3

A disadvantage to be wary of is that nocturnal predators such as mountain lions are active during the night.

MountainClimberi

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 39

This could be a disadvantage, although I'm not convinced you're more likely to be attacked by a mountain lion at night vs other times. Also stating a one line disadvantage without adding any advantages isn't really answering the question of "Are there and advantages?" There surely are many disadvantages, but the OP wants us to focus on the advantages. So if you can expand your answer to include some new advantages then I'll reverse my down-vote.Erik 2017-03-29T19:39:00.837

2Not to mention that they are supposedly most active (hunting) around dawn and dusk, not in the depths of the night.Drew 2017-03-30T00:55:48.733

2

Lapland in the spring

We are going on a 2-week trek in Finnish Lapland 27th may. As it turns out, there's more snow this year than on average. If the snow won't melt before our trip, we're planning on traveling at night when the temperature freezes the surface of the snow which makes it possible to travel on snow. During daytime it melts and won't carry you. At those latitudes, the sun won't set even at night so there won't be any problems with visibility. Added bonus is that potential mosquitoes will be hibernating when the temperature drops.

Lapland in the summer

The sun won't set so visibility is not an issue. It's also cooler than during the daytime.

Lapland in the fall

You're better off by traveling during the day as it's getting really dark and cold in the night time.

Lapland in the winter

Wind tends to calm down as the sun sets. Even in northern latitudes when the sun won't rise in the middle of the winter it is possible to travel in full moon if the sky is clear. Added bonus is the potential auroras which are just frickin awesome!!!

Jani Hyytiäinen

Posted 2017-03-27T19:22:05.253

Reputation: 723