How to keep walking on winter nights

5 tips for making walking & Nordic walking in the dark more fun

We always look forward to this time of year when our evening walks are in the dark. It’s a transformative experience – your familiar world but from a very different perspective. We lead Nordic walks in Wiltshire but we also go out on our own in the mountains and in the wilder country the UK and Europe has to offer. The darker nights don’t stop us –they just make the experience more exhilarating.

Here’s our top tips for getting out there walking in the dark and having some fun.

  1. Glow in the dark

We love the reflective gear that’s on offer these days. Our group walks become a train of glowing stripes, fluorescent yellows, flashing waistbands, glowing beanies, torches on the poles  and even glowing shoelaces – all disguising the human forms underneath but letting others know that we are there.

Our advice is to wear at least one major piece of reflective gear so you can be seen in the dark – jacket, belt or vest. Many branded coats and trousers have reflective strips but look for those that have stripes in the front, back, and down the sides so that a car driver can recognize you as a walker from any angle. Often the presence of reflective strips on clothing isn’t obvious under shop lights so do ask about them.

Our favourite clothing? Anything from the Pro-viz high visibility sportswear range is awesome http://www.provizsports.com/en-gb/

  1. Lighting up

A lightweight torch is a must on a nighttime walk – even if you are walking with streetlights there are often darker areas to be navigated. The best option is a head torch as you can keep your hands free – this is of course obvious for Nordic walking but is also true of general walking and running.

There is a huge range of head torches to choose from and the right one will depend on what you want to use it for. If you only intend to walk for 1-2 hours at an easy pace on fairly even ground then you don’t need a very expensive or very bright torch. However if you’re planning on remote, uneven terrain then a more powerful torch with long battery life is essential.  It’s also a good idea to carry a spare and extra batteries if you are out on your own.

How bright should it be? In some situations having a very powerful beam is important, for example when you need to see a long way into the distance. So as a walk leader we use a more powerful beam to safely navigate. Probably slightly more important than brightness is the beam pattern. A bright, narrow beam is good for looking into the distance but doesn’t give a good spread of light. A wider, flood beam allows you to use your peripheral vision to see things rather than needing to turn your head and so is better for walking, especially on technical ground.  A torch that lets you easily switch between spot and flood is a good option.

Modern torches also have an often bewildering array of features on offer so it’s about choosing the right one for your needs otherwise just finding the right beam can be a pain if you have to switch through all of the options first. Red night vision is useful if you are walking in a group to avoid dazzling each other. If you are walking in a group down a road then a red rear light option is also a good idea. All that said, sometimes on/off and bright/dim works just fine.

During the winter you’ll likely be wearing gloves so make sure that the torch had large buttons to make it easy to operate

The next point might sound obvious but a head torch does need to fit you. All of our heads are different shapes and sizes – so one size doesn’t fit all. You might also be wearing the torch over a hat so best try the two together, or if you wear your hair up make sure that the strap system fits. 

Often times if we are out on our own in the boonies we don’t use a light and try to preserve our night vision but we always carry at least one torch for safety.

Our favourite torch? The whoppingly powerful and fully rechargeable Petzyl Reaktik https://www.petzl.com/NL/en/Sport/PERFORMANCE-headlamps/REACTIK#.WDLLqPmLSUk

  1. Have a more exhilarating experience on your familiar routes

Walks you know well during the daytime transform themselves in the dark and can provide a much more exhilarating experience with different senses heightened.

If you want to start walking in the dark try familiarize yourself with the route and any hazards during daylight hours first. Our top tip here is to avoid walking across fields with livestock in them as it’s easy to startle them at night.

Our favourite routes? Getting out on to the wilder areas of Wiltshire and experiencing the rook murmeration at Fyfield Down; the glowing eyes of the muncjac at Savernake Forest; the badgers jumping in the Kennet and Avon Canal; or the barn owl screeching in the field around Devizes. We also love trying to guess the location of the strings of lights from atop Salisbury Plain.

  1. Watch out for squaks, bumps, creaks and groans

Be ready for the sounds of the night. It’s a bit startling at first when you disturb sleeping birds as you pass by and they clatter around you trying to find a quieter spot or a badger jumps into the canal right next to you to taste the juicy worms on the other side. They’ll all make you jump out of your skin until you get used to them and then you’ll seek out places where you can find them because you just won’t see them during the day.

  1. Join  Fun Night Walking Events

There are plenty of options out there to join an exhilarating night walk with like-minded people.

  • Join a local Nordic walking group that offers evening walks – instructors can be found on the British Nordic Walking  http://britishnordicwalking.org.uk/ and Nordic Walking UK’s  http://nordicwalking.co.uk/ website.
  • Join a local running group who train at night – walkers are generally very welcome.
  • Take part in a charity event. Here are a few charity events in 2017 just to give you a flavour:

-          Moonwalk London 13 May Breast Cancer

-          Big London 13 March The Big Issue

-          Snowdon by Night multiple dates and multiple charities

-          Trek the Night – South Downs Way 17th July Action medical Research

-          London to Oxford Trek 13 May British Heart Foundation

-          London to Brighton Trek 24 June British heart Foundation

-          Shine Night Walk London 23 September cancer Research UK

-          National Trust Night Runs series – various locations and multiple dates

-          Glow in the Park Night Run Series – multiple locations and dates

There are really no excuses for the winter nights and there are plenty of warm pubs and cafes to finish up in!

Written by: Lisa Drewe on 21 Nov 2016, 10:52 AM

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