Image of a walker in the dark with mountains behind them

How to train for a night-time trek

Before you take on the dark side, have a read of our top tips below!

Night walks have been organised by charities and community groups alike for decades. It’s a fantastic way of taking on a challenge you wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to do, while raising funds and awareness for a good cause.

Lots of charity walks at night take place in brightly lit areas, like streets and promenades – just like our sister hospice’s iconic Night to Remember Worthing walk, which doesn’t need much training to take part. But when you’re taking on something with more varied terrain and a lot less light – like Castle Night Trek – what’s the best way for you to get ready?

Although you don’t need to go all-out on the Castle Night Trek training, you’ll benefit from getting a bit of preparation under your belt. We’ve put together some top tips to get you started before you venture out over the castle grounds of Herstmonceux…

#1 Build up your training

First things first, ask yourself an honest question; “Can I walk 10k?” If you’ve confidently answered ‘Yes’ to this, the next question is: ‘When did I last walk 10k?’ If you have to think about it, it probably wasn’t recent enough and you’ve found the start of your training!

Step 1Establish that you feel comfortable walking a consistent 10k

Set aside some time at a weekend to go for a nice leisurely stroll. It doesn’t have to be at night just yet, and it doesn’t need to be any special type of terrain.  Have a look at our walking information for some general tips and tricks to get out on your first hike.

Step 2Get used to unfamiliar terrain

During a night time walk when your sight is impaired, you’ll benefit from having an understanding of how to deal with rocky surfaces or loose ground. Practice on different types of land – across fields, through forests and up hills. How do these different surfaces feel underfoot? Does the terrain change in different weather? The aim is to rely less on your vision to see where you’re treading and more on the feeling as you walk.

Step 3 – Head out at night

You don’t need to do this step if you want to wait for the big night, and make it that extra bit special and unique. But you might feel more confident if you’ve already had some experience of walking at night, if only to make sure you know how to work your head torch!

#2 Planning the perfect night-time training route

If you’re braving a night-time walk, there are a few things to take into account:

The first tactic is to take on a route you already know. In fact, it’s essential you’ve done a recce of the route beforehand, as you want to be safe on your night-time adventure and knowing where you’re going and what to expect will be essential.

Have you considered if you want to walk the night out in nature, or in a town or city? Being out in nature offers you the chance to really experience the darkness, while being in a town or city will mean extra light to guide your way. If you’re more interested in adventuring out into the wild, read this useful article that gives you some great ideas on which sort of environments you can walk at night in easily and safely. Just remember to steer clear of anything near cliff edges, large bodies of water and anywhere too steep!

If you’re more of a city-mouse, be careful choosing your route, making sure to stay clear of any parts of the urban environment that are too deserted and might attract danger.

#3 Equipment that you might find useful

We’d recommend that for any training you undertake at night you invest in the following gear:

  • A good headtorch. You could also buy a decent handheld torch, but having one ‘hands free’ makes things much easier! Check out this great article that lays out good options and advice on how to choose the perfect torch for you.
  • High vis gear. Get high vis items that cover large parts of your body – like a vest or a jacket – rather than clips on your ankles or wrists. If you’re walking at night you need to be instantly recognisable to any motorists.
  • Clothes for the weather. Don’t forget warm clothing to keep the night time chill off you, and a good waterproof jacket too (this is England after all!)

If you’re taking part in Castle Night Trek it’s not essential to bring any high-vis gear, but we do recommend a headtorch or a handheld torch, as there’s places on the route that are very dark. There’ll also be the chance to purchase glow-in-the-dark items on the night, or you can bring fun stuff with you to give yourself a glow up.

#4 How to walk safely at night

We’ve got a few hard and fast rules we recommend, but it’s essential you also consider other factors that might be relevant to your specific training, your environment and your circumstances…

  • Always go out with your mobile phone, fully charged, just in case you need assistance.
  • Take lighting and wear safety gear too (see #3 for more inspo).
  • Let someone know where you’re off to and how long you’re anticipating going out for.
  • Make sure you go with a few or more people, particularly in riskier areas.
  • Do a recce of your route at night-time in a car. This will help you get a sense of what the streets you might need to walk down are like.
  • Walk the route in the daytime too – and make a note of any potentially dangerous parts, like pot holes or loose surfaces underfoot.

Sometimes it’s not advisable to walk out at night, or you may not feel comfortable doing so – and that’s perfectly fine! Why not try walking in the early evening, when the sun is setting? This will help you acclimatise to the darker environment, but still feel safer than tackling a trek in pitch black.

#5 Remember why you’re doing it

Whether you’re training hard, just doing the odd bit or fully confident that you’ll be alright on the night, it’s always worthwhile taking time to remember why you’re taking on a night-time trek to help you stay motivated…

  • If it’s a personal challenge

Castle Night Trek is such an exciting and unique opportunity – how often do you have the chance to see the stars as you walk around a medieval castle? On those evenings when you can’t quite find the oomph to get those walking boots on, keep in mind how great you’re going to feel as you cross over the castle fortress with a glass of fizz in your hand and all your fellow walkers by your side.

  • If you’re doing it for the good cause

If you’re taking on Castle Night Trek to support children with life-threatening illnesses, then find out how your fundraising is making a real impact. Every penny you raise is going directly to the 300 children we care for each year; providing hospice care for them and their families.

  • If you’re doing it in memory

Taking on a challenge like Castle Night Trek in memory of a child who has died is a very powerful thing to do. It’s a moving tribute to the memory of someone to go out under the stars and walk in their honour, and also a great way to give back to the hospice who cared for them. Let the memory of the child who’s no longer with you spur you on as you go, taking the time to remember what they meant to you. If you’d like to, there’ll be a chance to decorate a lantern for your loved one before you set off, take it on the route with you, and set it down amongst the chestnut trees towards the end of the trek.