Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
By Hati Whiteley
01, Nov, 2018
It may be dark out, but the hills are still there; dig out your head torch and don't let those dark winter evenings get the better of you.
Let's win winter!
So what’s winning winter all about? Well, it’s taking what you normally do in the summer and doing it when the clocks go back too.
Winning winter is finishing work as dusk falls and heading out for a run anyway; rising early and cycling up to your favourite spot to watch the sun come up over the hill; staying at the crag a little later than you probably should on a school night.
Let’s stop being afraid of the night time, embrace the unfamiliarity of the nocturnal world, and win winter.
Fear of the dark isn’t irrational.
Our caveman brains are wired to be apprehensive of things that go “growl” in the night. Wanting to curl up under a blanket and sit in front of the fire all winter is understandable.
What a missed opportunity this is! The hills are still there all winter, waiting, but somehow different. Paths that you’ve trodden countless times take on a phantasmagorical quality, familiar landscapes are rediscovered, newly remarkable, and you get that unrivaled feeling of freedom and space that can only be found out in nature after nightfall. The sights and sounds, the familiar locations and journeys all take on a completely new perspective.
Also, we don’t live in caves anymore. Ok, maybe the odd person lives in a cave, but that’s their business...
If it’s cold we have warm, protective clothes. If it’s wet we have waterproofs. If it’s dark we have lights. Lots of lights. Lightweight lights, powerful lights, camping lights, bike lights and lights you can go running in. The only thing you actually need to be afraid of is running out of batteries (cough, we sell those too).
The right light for you will be one that offers you the best balance of brightness, weight and battery life. Obviously this depends on what you’re up to, check out our guide to headtorches.
Everything is a little different at night - the same roads you may have trotted along before could be totally pitch black, the quiet forest track for after work training suddenly looks nothing like you remember. Well that's all part of the charm, you feel like you're on that little bit more of an advenutre and if you want to take it up into the fells or mountains it will give a new test for your navigation skills! Pacing over pastoral terrain that we know like the backs of our hands by day, but by night it reveals a new and mysterious character, perfect for exploring.
Climbing, Bouldering and Mountaineering
Drop a grade and head to all the spots close to work for an evening session with friends. Grab a powerful torch and light the way for a friend. Alternatively get out on the hill a few hours before anyone else and bag the first ascent that day. Climb or walk all day and only come down when you're done, if the days not long enough just ensure you have your headtorch handy. Getting up a little earlier in camp to cook breakfast under lamp light before trekking across the still frozen snow and ice up in the highlands this Winter will guarantee some amazing sites. Sunrise from the summit of your favourite munro has got to be worth that extra cup of coffee.
Longer nights don’t mean less trails. If anything, you get more trails: trail by night, and trail by day. Trails by night are quieter and quicker, the twists and turns that you’re accustomed to suddenly take you by surprise. Alert, responsive, senses heightened; exhilarating. Think that red trail you whizzed through the other day was easy? Try it after sunset and let us know how you get on! Biking with limited vision adds a whole host of new challenges on technical trails. Good lighting and warm layers are a must.
Who said that camping is just for fair weather? Wrap up warm, cook up an extra big hearty soup, and savour that extra bit of time for gazing at the stars and squeeze in that extra night away. In winter we often hear about taking half a day off to get somewhere in the light to pitch the tent, or finishing a day on the hill a bit early to get back and cook in the light. Or possibly even forgoeing the camping and booking somehwere inside.
For the animal lovers
There is a vast array of creatures that keep hidden until sundown, and the early evenings are a perfect opportunity to grab a Filo down jacket (and perhaps a MytiMug for coffee) and go seek them out.
Bats are most active during warmer months so get in there quick before they snuggle down for winter. There are many bat hunts/ walks that you can just tag along with across the UK. The walks are regularly run at many National Trust sites. However, if you fancy something a bit more informal, take a stroll around your local area, they can be found in towns and cities as well as the countryside. Barns, bridges and trees are popular roosting spots for bats!
For something a little more feathered, try an owl walk. Many of the walks include some up-close and even hands-on experience with the owls.
Headtorch Scavenger Hunt
Create a list of items for the kids to find in the garden (or other specified outdoor space) after sunset such as leaves, rocks, bugs and flowers. Don’t forget to hide some glow sticks for added magic! Variations such as finding specific colours or species can be used for older children.
For those who already know their way around a kayak during daylight hours, why not step things up a notch and take a trip in the dark! Of course, safety precautions will need to be adhered to but once satisfied then paddling at night will provide a journey with a whole new perspective. Paddling through moon-reflecting waters under a starlit sky - what could be a more idyllic way to spend an evening!
Night-time Surfing or Paddle Boarding
This activity is described as ‘utterly incredible and completely terrifying’. Surfing at night can be likened to floating in space, albeit with the sound of crashing waves. If you prefer something a little gentler, Stand Up Paddle Boarding would be a calmer introduction to low light wave riding! Gets more extreme the closer you get to midwinter! Okay, so you might not need the head torch while you're in the water, but it will help while heating a nice warm brew for afterwards.
Don't let Winter or the darkness get in the way, a little forthought, charging batteries, a few more layers and you could be out enjoying empty trails. But keep it a secret, we wouldn't want everyone out doing it!
Filo [Mens]Tough and durable down jacket for comfort and warmth in cold conditions. Bombproof design to last for winters to come with 650 fill power hydrophobic downSale: £139.99Was: £199.99
AuraWarm multi-purpose fleece glove for sunny Alpine days, cross country skiing, lining a shell glove, local hillwalking... (you get the picture)Sale: £9.99Was: £14.99
Aura GripWarm fleece gloves with a grippy silicon palm for active days out on the hill or in the mountainsSale: £11.99Was: £17.99
Gamma IIIRunning head torch with 180 lumen white, red and green LEDs, a rear battery pack, and a rear red caution light.£25.99
BosonHigh powered 850 lumen torch, strong aluminium body, rechargeable with handlebar mount for your bike£39.99
MantaUSB rechargeable 300 lumen head torch with 11 hour burn time on max power and rear safety light, ideal for mountain marathons, endurance races, and all night adventuring£39.99
BobBob - the 200 lumen waterproof camping lantern that floats and will happily be submerged. Mountains, seas, rivers or lakes - no matter where your adventure, Bob will light the way£19.99
HunkaA simple bivvy bag weighing less than 400 g, Hunka is breathable, packs down small and a favourite of many weight conscious bikepackers and alpinists£49.99
Skyehigh 700 HydrophobicIdeal for big trips further afield as well as microadventures close to home. -8˚C limit 3 – 4 season sleeping bag weighing 1140 g with Nikwax Hydrophobic duck down£179.99