Night Time Navigation: Keeping Safe in the Hills. Tips and Hints from HilltopTreks

Terry Lambert of HillTopTreks shares some tips and advice for safely navigating the hills at night. Terry is a regular lead on evening and night time walks.

Walking by night can be a great experience but will obviously provide its own particular navigational issues. After guiding many evening and night time walks I have gained some great insight into some of these issues.

So for those of you who wish to gain some nocturnal exercise and enjoy some night walking here are a few tips.

Preparation is very important to any walk and makes the whole experience more enjoyable but it’s even more important for evening walks.

Bring a mobile phone with mountain rescue number on it (112). Injuries at night are a lot more dangerous due to the cooler temperatures and lack of proper vision.

Being efficient at reading maps and the proper use of a compass is essential.

If you are unsure of the route don’t try it at night. You could easily find yourself trapped late in the evening by thick brambles, gorse, deer fences or boulder fields and having to go back up the hill you just came down, causing you to make irrational decisions. Try to keep a cool head and if you are with a group explain the situation clearly.

Like any walk you should make sure you have suitable amounts of food and water with reserves.

Mark out your proposed route with shorter way marks and have your compass directions marked as such.

Make sure you have the correct map that covers the area you will be walking in.

Bring along a head torch with extra batteries and even better an extra head torch.

Generally it’s colder in the evening and account for this with extra clothing in your rucksack.

If you are guiding make sure you bring along a high viz and if you have extra guides make sure they have them also. Even if you are not guiding a high viz for night walks is a good idea. I always keep one in my pack as they weight nothing.

When walking at night take shorter and more frequent map readings. There is no point in trying to follow a marker from a compass direction that you will lose if you go down hill a bit.

Some useful notes:

The Moon like all stars and the Sun rise in the East.

If you can see the stars use them and use the north star to align your map, the north star can be found using

i) the Big Dipper, The Pointers: The two stars forming the pouring edge of the Big Dipper’s bowl (on the side away from the handle) point to Polaris, the north star.


ii) Cassiopeia (W shaped constellation) If you continue on this line from the Pointers on past Polaris, at an equal distance opposite the big dipper, you will intersect Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia, Queen of Ethiopia


So to sum up walking at night is a great experience but you need to be able to read a map and compass properly and be a lot more vigilant.

Generally don’t try walks at night you are unsure of and account for cooler temperatures.

Practice day time compass work and make sure you are confident with it before attempting any evening walks.

Written by Terry Lambert.

HilltopTreks organise Full Moon walks throughout the country and are a great way to enjoy the summer or winters evenings and learn a bit as well.