Tips for Using a Hiking Flashlight for Night Hiking

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Hiking in the dark can be a thrilling experience. But it is essential to take safety precautions by using a hiking flashlight. Yes, just like the movies portray, things do go bump in the night.

One of the most critical pieces of equipment for night hiking is a reliable flashlight, often referred to as a headlamp. In this post, we’ll explore tips for using a hiking flashlight safely to ensure you have a successful and enjoyable nighttime adventure.

two men standing in field one with a headlamp on and one with a hiking flashlight

Importance of Using a Hiking Flashlight

  • Visibility: A hiking flashlight provides visibility and helps you navigate the terrain, avoiding obstacles and hazards.
  • Safety: A flashlight can prevent accidents and injuries by illuminating your surroundings.
  • Enhanced Vision: A bright flashlight helps you see better, even in low-light conditions. Consequently, it makes it easier to spot wildlife and admire the stunning views on your hike.
  • Emergency Preparedness: In case of an emergency, a flashlight can be used to signal for help and find your way back to safety. Some even include an SOS strobe light function.
  • Versatility: Hiking flashlights come in various sizes and shapes. Some have multiple settings, such as strobe or SOS.   These come in handy in emergency situations. Others include features such as red light for preserving night vision. And lastly, many are designed for hands-free operation which adds to personal safety during night hiking.

Choose the Right Hiking Flashlight

    • Brightness: The brightness of a flashlight is measured in lumens, The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light is. Look for a flashlight with high lumens to provide maximum visibility. Also, consider lights with multiple brightness settings. Lights with multiple brightness settings can increase battery life, especially when you don’t need it on the brightest setting.
    • Beam Distance: Consider the distance the light beam can reach. A spot beam will light up an area much further away than a broad beam light. Depending on the type of hiking you’ll be doing, a long beam reach can be invaluable. Unlike daytime hiking where you can easily see what is ahead of you, a long beam reach is required at night to see the same thing. Take advantage of lights with a long beam reach to keep you safe at night.
    • Battery Life: Long battery life is essential when hiking, especially on multi-day trips and night hiking. Look for flashlights that use rechargeable batteries or ones that have long-lasting battery life. In addition, bring extra batteries or a portable power bank to avoid running out of power.
    • Size and Weight: A compact and lightweight flashlight is easier to carry on long hikes. However, a larger flashlight may be more durable and have a longer range.
    • Durability: Hiking involves unpredictable weather conditions. So choose a flashlight that’s waterproof, shockproof, and able to withstand rugged terrain.

Types of Hiking Flashlights

  • Headlamps: A hands-free option (worn on your head) that provides a broad beam of light and is ideal for night hikes or camping. Many have multiple brightness settings and other neat features adapted for nighttime use. One of the best all-around headlamps is the Nitecore NU25-400 USB-C Rechargeable. Not only does it have multiple beam and brightness settings, but includes red LED lights for preserving nighttime vision. Moreover, for weight-conscious backpackers like the Geez, this unit weighs less than 2 ounces.
  • Handheld Flashlights: A versatile option that can be easily carried in a pocket or backpack.
  • Inflatable Lantern: A favorite among backpackers, small, compact, lightweight, and rechargeable. Solar rechargeable ones eliminate the need to carry batteries.
  • Lanterns: Provide a 360-degree light source and are ideal for setting up camp or outdoor activities that require a stationary light source.

Tips for Using a Hiking Flashlight Safely

  • Check Your Gear: Before heading out, check that your flashlight is working correctly. Bring extra batteries, a portable power bank, or a backup flashlight with you.
  • Use the Correct Beam: Adjust the beam angle and distance for your surroundings. Use a narrower spot beam for long-distance visibility and a wider broad beam for close-range.
  • Brightness: Choose the appropriate brightness level if your flashlight has multiple settings. A well-marked trail is easy to follow on a dimmer setting. This will extend battery life as well.
  • Don’t Shine Your Flashlight in Other Hiker’s Eyes: Be considerate and avoid shining your flashlight directly into other hiker’s eyes. If someone is approaching, angle your flashlight downwards.
  • Use a Red Filter: If you need to preserve your night vision, use a red filter on your flashlight. Alternatively, use a separate red-light setting on flashlights that have that feature.
  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Don’t rely solely on your flashlight for navigation. Be aware of your surroundings and use other senses, such as sound and touch, to stay on the trail. A dedicated GPS trail mapping device should also be considered, especially in unfamiliar areas,

Safety Precautions for Night Hiking

  • Stick to Familiar Trails: Night hiking can be disorienting. So, stick to familiar trails that you’ve hiked before during the day. Remember that everything looks different at night, So take extra care that you don’t lose your way.
  • Hike with a Partner: Night hiking is safer when done with a partner or a group. It is easy to lose the trail at night. As the old saying goes, two eyes are better than one.
  • Bring Extra Layers: Temperatures can drop significantly at night. So make sure to bring extra layers to stay warm.
  • Know When to Turn Back: If you’re feeling tired or uncomfortable, it’s essential to know when to turn back.

Related Article: Sleep Easy on the Trail: What is a Backpacking Sleep System?


Hiking in the dark can be an unforgettable experience. But, it is essential to take safety precautions. As mentioned earlier, things to go bump in the night. You need to be able to see those things.

A hiking flashlight is a critical piece of equipment for night hiking, providing visibility, safety, and emergency preparedness.

When using a hiking flashlight, choose the right flashlight, adjust the beam correctly, be considerate of other hikers, and use a red filter to preserve your night vision.

Remember to take safety precautions, such as hiking with a partner and sticking to familiar trails. With the right preparation and gear, you can have a safe and enjoyable nighttime hiking adventure.

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