For some obvious reasons, overnight campouts are very different animals than day hikes. You don’t need to turn around and retrace your steps after hours of hiking or worry about getting back to the car before dark; instead you can sit down and enjoy the stunning views for even longer. There’s nothing better than relaxing at the end of a long hike with a hot drink and some food, knowing that you can spend the evening relaxing in nature. You can lie beneath the clear night sky, and in the morning you can watch the sun rise as you enjoy your breakfast.
Now is the perfect time to go for your first overnight hike as the weather is warm and the sun is shining for longer. Here are 5 tips for an overnight hike.
Your shelter should be determined by your region. If you live in a wet, cold area you’ll need a proper backpacking tent with a waterproof floor. But if you live in a warm, dry area without too many insects, you can try a tarp between two trees and a bivy bag; or put the tarp underneath your sleeping bag and sleep out under the stars. Most people are happy to invest in a quality camping or backpacking tent as it provides the most shelter—especially important if the weather is unpredictable.
Going on an overnight hike you’ll need to pack plenty of food and water. Some people prefer to pre-cook meals, some utilize dehydrated backpacking food, while others are happy to eat packaged food, snacks and sandwiches. The most important thing is to pack high-calorie food that will give you energy to keep hiking, as well as lots of water to stay hydrated.
You should also remember to hang the food from a tree so that it doesn’t attract insects or wildlife. If you are hiking in an area with bears, you should use a bear-proof bag or a bear canister.
The clothing you pack will depend on the temperatures and weather. You must also consider trail time and sleeping when you are getting dressed for your overnight hike. The temperature will drop at night time so you should wear some long-sleeved, thin shirts as they will help to keep you warm. You may also want to pack a warm fleece jacket and some spare socks; most people struggle to sleep in the damp socks that they spent all day hiking in!
Consider your sleeping bag options carefully before making a purchase, as you need to find a sleeping bag that is lightweight, warm and well fitted to your body. For instance, lots of people choose to buy women’s sleeping bags as they are smaller so it they warm up quickly. You can choose between a synthetic sleeping bag or a down sleeping bag; synthetic is normally cheaper but heavier, while down is fairly expensive but it is easier to carry and packs down much smaller. You should also buy or borrow an insulated sleeping pad—for comfort and so that the coldness of the ground doesn’t keep you awake.
When it’s time to head home, clean up your campsite properly. Hikers are normally very respectful of the wilderness, but it can be more tempting to leave rubbish behind after an overnight hike, if only because you’ve got much more garbage. Keep your overnight campsite clean, and when you leave in the morning, leave no trace of your presence. Pack garbage bags you can use to dispose of your waste when you get home.