The following article explains the technic of night hitchhiking. After a short introduction with some historic and overall informations, we will focus primarily on the topics equipment and technic (in the sense of behaviour). With night hitchhiking i consider the act of stopping cars in the darkness (not asking).
The technic of night hitchhiking is strong connected with the history of competetive hitchhiking. Alexej Vorov once explained us, that competetive hitchhiking began in the moment, when they started to analyse their movement. They didn´t even know what hitchhiking is, but stopped cars. For them it was a way to get into nature for skiing and mountaneering. They discovered that at some times during the day it was easier to get a lift and that specific places where more suitable for making movement. Beginning of analysation. When they found out, that it is also possible to move during the night and not only during the day, the ground for competetive hitchhiking was created.
In Europe is night hitchhiking because of the well build highway and service station network not a problem. I would even say, that sometimes going through the night works even better, than moving during the day. The highways are empty and the chance to get a long lift is higher than during the day. Especially for distances between 1000-1500 km it is definitely worth to stay up at night and wait for the next car. Most of the time i talked to people at gas stations. But also thumbing works during the day.
Before we start some words about danger during the night. I don´t believe that in the night is a significant higher risk than during the day. Please consider, that we move along roads. Of course there are some aspects to take care of during hitchhiking in the night. For example not provoke an accident and endanger you as also the driver.
But in general discussion about danger and hitchhiking in the night i guess it is often regarded to all kind of violence and serial killers. My point here is: Streets. In general i believe, that streets are safe, much more than people say (thanks to the German TV-Show Aktenzeichen XY ungelöst, as well as to the false information spreading of several governmental and administrational departements). Different it is in cities, but they should be avoided anyway for hitchhiking (cause they can be a pain in the ass). Just to say, neither hitchhiking nor night hitchhiking are in my opinion as dangerous, as i would not recommend it to anyone.
Most important here: With night hitchhiking we access new possibilities of movement. You don´t have to get up early to start a trip. You can go WHENEVER you want. Beside that it is also a question of luggage, if i need to take a tent or sleeping stuff with me for the night, or if i use the „second half“ to get to my destination.
In our competetions we rely also on movement in the darkness, cause otherwhise we wouldn´t be able to finish our route. And i can say, it is working fucking well!
The right equipment for night hitchhiking is most important and this is not coming out of an attitude of pseudo-padristic-careness, but because a good preparation gives self-confidence which is much needed during hitchhiking in the night. In general it is of course to reduce the risk of creating an accident. If you drove ever by yourself a car during the night and suddenly some black dressed people occur in front of you, walking along the highway, you might know, what i mean by that. Visibility!!!
For that issue we got or hitchhiking suits. They are made to be visible and fullfill their real destiny after it is getting dark. Normal bright dresses are of course working. But it is important not only wear bright trousers or only a bright jacket. The basic principle of our suits is, that we wanna create a full silhouette of a person, which is better understandable for drivers regarded to reaction time. It is much easier for your unconcious mind to classify a silhoutte, than a strange moving object without legs (even though you will be recognized also with out bright pants at some point).
Second important accessoire are lights. Here we got two different kind of lights: active and passive lights.
Active lights describe an an active source of lightning. We use headlights with remote control. It is more comftable to have a remote control for making light signs, but i will explain this further down. Beside that we have an external battery pack, which you can wear near your warm body and prevent that the batteries die out in very cold regions (from -20° down). Our headlights are strong enough, that drivers automatically turn down their lights, if i use the highest level, which i appreciate. My light is my weapon!
Passive lights are regarded to reflectors. The Russians use hand reflectors for making signs. I personal never do this, because it is extra weight for me and i am not sure if it is necessary, or working better. Or: Maybe its simply not as fun for me as without. But really important are our leg reflectors, which reflect to the front and to the back. The reflectors are at the leg, because the light of the cars often points to the ground and the reflection starts much earlier that if you would stick some reflector to your head.
In general thats it for equipment. Bright dressing, creating a silhouette, active and passive lights.
(partly taken from http://autostop.lt/old/faq/night.html, but it is general Russian teaching)
As during the day the positioning shoul be ideally: slow speed of the upcoming cars, enough keeping area and good visibility. Especially early and good visibility are more important during the night. If you can´t cover this with equipment, you should look for a place which enlightens you, like a young god. Please remember when standing under street lights, to not have the light in your back, but coming from the front, because otherwhise your face will stay dark and it might look a bit unfriendly.
Another point of the positioning is to find a place, where the driver might feel safe. This is especially important if the car is stopping and you start the first conversation. In the night it often happens, that people stop, but might become scared and drive off. Not nice. Avoid crooked streets and tight places, bushy ones are also less suitable. I personally try to find places, where everything around me is good visible and where is no need for the driver to get scared of „unwanted friends“ that occur through the darkness. I like thumbing in the middle of total darkness and nature, if i have the choice. Thumbing near houses and villages is sometimes difficult.
More important than during the day is also to have enough keeping area. Also to be able to make a step beside, if you don´t get seen for whatever reason. Don´t go out without proper equipment. It is not efficient and dangerous.
Behaviour during the night
The following technic is well used and well-tried by our russian colleauges. It is all about communication and your primar communication works through the light impuls.
(1) If the car occurs at the horizon i give a short signal with my light, that the driver recognizes, there is something.
(2) This first light impuls i re-echo after 3-5 seconds if the car comes near (long straight road needed!). Normally the cars start to lower their speed from now on and switch of their high beams.
(3) If the car dazzles if give a sign back to say hello.
(4) Now is the most critical moment. If the car is near the driver might ask himself, what the *** you are doing there on the side of the road in the middle of the night. It is important to offer the car with a gentle and friendly gestic the possibility to stop. You have to be absolutely self-confident and believe in the drivers stopping. Doubts or even frustration are not very good friends during hitchhiking in the night and transport a negative attitude, which shines even more through, than during the day.
(5) If the car stops you should better turn off your flashlight to not dazzle the people in the car. Alternativly you can also point the flashlight on yourself. Especially when moving towards the car i keep my lights on, to make my moving visible. Move slow and relaxed to not scare anyone.
(6) Afterwards having a friendly conversation and move into the car.
There is one special thing while hitchhiking in the night. The percentage of freaks is much higher than during the day. During my night hitchhiking i met regularly absolutely interesting and crazy people who picked me up. Kalle, the former Deutsche Bahn employe, who told me about the “Gulasch-Collection”, when they scratched a dead suicider from a train. Andreas who came from Ukraine and was already 60 hours on the road without sleeping, coming directly from the Krim. Sallah from Marokko, Döner-Snack-Bar holder, who had a endless number of funny stories to tell. And Vitali from Romania, who did some suspicious business, only had a 500€ bill with him and couldn´t pay with it at the gas stations. Several times we almost died out of gasoil on the highway. There are much more crazy people in my head and all gave me a long-distance-lift in the night. It just rockz during the night!
Other tips for not being sleepy in cars: Cool temperatures. Chewing chewing-gum. Listening to music. Drinking alot of water. Avoid drinks with coffein, they will push you in first instance, but make you more sleepy later. But in the end there is only one thing that helps against being sleepy: Sleeping.