About the technology of the night ramp

Night ramps

The following article is about the night hitchhiking technique. After an introduction with historical and general information, we will focus mainly on the points of equipment and technology, in terms of behavior. By night ramp we mean here the stopping of cars in the darkness.


Position Night Ramps

The technology of night tramping is closely related to the history of the origin of sports tramping. Alexei Vorov once explained to us in a lecture that Sporttrampen was created at that time because they started to analyze their movement. Didn't even know hitchhiking existed at the time. Autostop, as the Russians say, was just a way to get into nature so they could go skiing or mountain climbing. At some point, it became apparent that at certain times of the day and in certain places, there was a higher propensity to be carried along. Start of the analysis. And finally, there was the realization that movement at night is also possible. The basis of the sports tramp was created.

In Europe, night hitchhiking is not a problem because of the well-developed highways and rest areas. Personally, I would even say that hitchhiking can sometimes work better at night, because the highways are empty and the percentage of long-distance lifts is much higher than during the day. Especially for medium distances from 1000-1500 km it is worth to stay awake during the night and wait for another car to arrive. Mostly I approached people at the rest stop. But you can also stop cars with hand signals and it works.

Before we start a few words about the danger of night hitchhiking. I think the threat potential at night is not significantly higher. However, it should also be taken into consideration that we are dealing with movement on and off the road. There are some things to consider in the dark to avoid a traffic accident and not to endanger yourself, as well as the driver.

But what is generally meant by dangerousness in hitchhiking probably refers more to murder and other violent crimes. And here we are again at the point: roads. I am basically of the opinion that the street is safer than many believe (thanks to the coverage of Aktenzeichen XY-ungelost and various unsubstantiated statements of the regulatory authorities regarding hitchhiking). It is different in cities, but they should be avoided when hitchhiking anyway. I also just want to say that I do not consider hitchhiking, nor do I consider night hitchhiking in particular, to be so dangerous that I would advise anyone against it.

Most importantly: Night hitchhiking opens up many new possibilities for movement. First of all, I don't have to get up early anymore, but can start WHENEVER I want. In addition, the luggage question is also decisively influenced by whether I have to pack a tent or something similar, because I'm staying somewhere overnight or just use the darkness as a "second half" to get to my destination.

In our sport tramping competitions we also depend on taking advantage of the darkness, because otherwise we would not be able to manage our routes. And I can say, it works!


Equipment night hitchhiking

The right equipment for night hitchhiking is indispensable, and I don't just mean that out of pseudo-fatherly concern, but also because good preparation provides the security (also in the sense of self-confidence) that is necessary for stopping at night. In principle, however, it is first about reducing the risk of an accident. And anyone who has ever driven a car and seen cyclists without lights or a few dark-clad hikers on a country road at night can perhaps understand that visibility is the be-all and end-all.
For this we have our hitchhiking suits. They are designed for visibility and fulfill their real purpose at nightfall. Light clothing does it of course also. It is important not to wear only a light-colored jacket or only light-colored pants. The basic principle of the suit is that the complete silhouette of a person becomes visible. The driver will be able to react faster and does not have to think about the strange object without legs.
Second important accessory is lighting. There are two different types of lighting. Active and passive:
Active lighting means an active light source. For this we use headlamps with "remote control". This is quite important for giving light signals, as I will explain below. We also have an external battery pack that can be worn on the warm body in particularly cold areas (-20° and above) to prevent batteries from dying. Our lamps are in principle so strong that with full illumination most car drivers dim their useless high beams by themselves, which is quite pleasant for me as a hitchhiker. My lamp is my only weapon at night.
Passive lighting refers to reflectors, for example. On the one hand, the Russians use a reflector for the hand, which is used for signaling. Personally, I usually do without it, because it is extra weight for me and I am not sure if this reflector is really necessary. But maybe hitchhiking is just not that much fun for me. What is really important is our gauntlets with reflective areas on the front and back. Reflective strips are placed on the shins, as most of the headlight falls on the ground and this provides the best reflection. If the high beam is not on and I have to turn my headlamp up to the highest level again.

That was it actually in the rough. Visibility is the most important. Bright clothing, active and passive lighting.


Night hitchhiking with partner


As with daytime, the ideal positioning is slow speed of passing cars, a sufficient stopping area, and good visibility. Especially the good and timely visibility is very important at night here. If you don't have appropriate equipment, it is strongly recommended to look for a brightly lit position! Also remember to have the light of the street lamp from the front and not in your back, otherwise the driver can only see an outline, but not your face, which tends to look suboptimal.
Another point for positioning is to find a place where the rider feels safe. Especially during stopping and the first conversation this is important. At night it can happen that people stop, but then get scared and drive on. Angled, narrow street corners or bushy sections are rather less suitable. When positioning myself, I make sure that my surroundings are clearly visible and that the driver does not have to be afraid of "unwanted friends". In principle, I prefer to stand in the middle of the darkness of nature, if I have the choice. Settlements make night hitchhiking sometimes a bit troublesome.

Even more important than daytime hitchhiking is also having enough surface area next to you and room to step aside if necessary. In case one is not seen. I can only repeat that night hitchhiking without proper equipment is not advisable, as it is not effective and, moreover, can be dangerous.

Tramp behavior at night

We learned the following technique from our Russian sport hitchhiker colleagues and used it successfully. Most important for the communication is a recurring light impulse.

(1) When the car appears on the horizon, I give a first short light signal with my lamp, so that the driver notices that there is something there.

(2) I repeat this light pulse after 3-5 seconds if the vehicle continues to approach me (long straight line very important!). Normally the car will already reduce speed and turn on high beam if necessary.

(3) When the car flashes briefly, I sometimes flash back to communicate with light signals.

(4) Now comes the critical moment when the car is approaching and the driver will wonder what the hell you are doing on the side of the road. In this case you should offer them the possibility to stop with a calm and friendly gesture. It is important that you are absolutely confident even at this moment and believe that the driver will stop. Doubt or even despair and frustration, which are often added at night, are not promising basic attitudes here.

(5) When the car stops, it is better to turn off the headlamp so as not to blind the passengers. Alternatively, you can also point the lamp at yourself. Especially when approaching the window pane I still leave my lamp switched on so that my movements are visible. Normally I move slowly and quietly, so as not to frighten anyone.

(6) Afterwards, friendly conversation and boarding if necessary.

Toll station at night in Peru


There is a special thing at night. The percentage of freaks on the street is much higher. I regularly had absolutely interesting and freaky people pick me up during night hitchhiking. Kalle, the ex-railroad employee who told me about "collecting goulash" when they once again scraped a suicide off the train. Andreas the Ukrainian, who was already awake for more than 60 hours and came directly from Crimea. Sallah from Morocco, kebab shop owner in Berlin with an endless repertoire of stories, and Vitali from Romania, who only had a 500€ bill with him and couldn't pay with it at any gas station, so that we almost got stuck on the highway without gas several times. There are many more of these people in my head and they all gave me long distance lifts at night. Just shreds!


Lastly, I would like to touch on an issue that is specific to lifts at night. It is not uncommon for you to join people who have already been on the road for 1-2 days, have several thousand kilometers in their bones and are terribly overtired. It happened to me not only once, whether you go there, everyone must decide for themselves. It is clear, however, that if the driver is totally overtired, you should stay alert and better not sleep (which only makes the driver even sleepier). In Chile or southern Argentina there is also such a friendly hitchhiking culture, because giving people a lift is seen as a way of not falling asleep on the long endless straights (and this is also taught in driving school). If necessary, keep up a longer conversation and keep reassuring you about his condition. Asking if he needs a break, if he is still fit and maybe also if you should replace him.

Otherwise, helpful tips against sleeping are: cool temperatures in the car. Chewing gum. Listen to music. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeinated beverages, as these first puff up, but in the medium term make you tired. In the end only one thing helps against tiredness: sleep.