Getting Out on Shorter Days

Lincoln Lake sunsetOne of the biggest challenges to getting outside in the winter is shorter days. Sometimes winter weather is cold, and other times (like this winter) it is lovely. You can’t complain with 60 degrees in January. While temperatures may vary, the dwindling daylight remains constant. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside, the sun will set early in the evening.

Shorter days are inconvenient when all you want to do is be outside and play, but they don’t have to keep you in doors, or ruin your day. As long as you’re prepared, shorter days are nothing to worry about.

You don’t have to be observant and have a steel trap between your shoulders to know what time the sunsets these days. You can search “sunset” on most search engines and up pops the time that the sun will set. If you’re planning a trip outside, know what time the sun sets and plan accordingly. Know where you want to be, and by what time, so you’re not surprised by sudden darkness. Setting up camp in the dark is possible, but it be a pain.

Carry a headlamp. If you’re going to be out in the dark, you will definitely need a headlamp, but you should carry one on day trips as well. You might be planning to do a quick hike before the sun goes down, but lingering here and dallying there can extend your trip past sunset. You don’t want to be stuck in the woods without a source of light.

An obvious solution to beating an early sunset is to start your trip earlier. If you’re planning on doing a hike that takes four hours, don’t start at noon. Getting out early helps you beat the crowds and ensures that you don’t get caught in the dark.

As pleasant as temperatures can be during the day, winter nights are still cold. If you know you’re going to be hiking back in the dark, make sure you carry warm clothes. Stuff a hat and jacket in your pack to keep from freezing on your evening hike.

Avoid navigating completely new areas in the dark. It’s easy to miss a turnoff or a trail marker when it’s too dark to see. Sure, it’s possible to make it without daylight, it’s easy to get lost. If you are exploring a new area for the first time, make sure you leave enough time to get back before the sun sets.

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