Ask most experienced off-roaders about going on a night run in the dirt and you'll typically get one of two answers. Some will say sure thing, let's go. But a lot of others will simply reply with disdain. That's because there's a good bet that they've been on a night run that didn't turn out smoothly, and swore off runs after dark. They ended up cold, stuck, broken, or stranded way too long in the dark when they were thinking they could be sleeping comfortably at home. Or, some have ventured out too far and for too long, and turned a day run into an unexpected night run while being ill-prepared for the darkness.
Well, consider giving night runs another chance, or if you haven't already tried exploring and running remote areas in the dark try it out on a trail you're already well familiar with. Adding on running trails at night can practically double your trail menu as the darkness can make the route seem far different than its daytime appearance.
Dunes, desert, rock trails, and even forest roads can increase their challenge after sunset so preparing with auxiliary lighting for the situation makes the run more fun. This may sound like a fairly simple idea just off-roading at night, but a lot of people miss out doing this for the reasons described. So, do some night exploring and you may just discover some new, old trails.
Desert and dunes can be a lot of fun at night, especially when summer temperatures are oppressive during the day, and you can enjoy more comfortable night temps. Good lighting is critical and a good combination of long-distance and flood lighting is useful when working your way up and down hills. Of course, high speeds and careless navigation can put you on your lid, so it can be more critical judging distances and terrain flow with limited lighting.
For rock-crawling or technical off-roading at slow speeds, under-vehicle lighting makes midnight wheeling far more predictable. Modern LED bulbs make it easy to tuck excellent light sources under bumpers and fenders, most anywhere you need light shining in the path of your tires. Try various mounting locations on your rig for these lights before final mounting. We find some time spent in a dark garage playing with mount positions to be well spent towards determining what light locations offer the most visibility under your vehicle.
Parts can break day or night, so pack some good flashlights or headlamps to supplement your vehicle lights so you can direct illumination in any direction needed should some situation arise. On the bright side (pun intended), the site of a long trail of headlights strung out across the dirt or scattered up some mountain switchbacks is a great vision.
Ending up stuck in the woods after a long day or during a night run can happen, and recovery at night can also take longer and be less safe in the darkness. Here's another situation where you'll want some adequate hand-held or portable lighting. Shadows and poor lighting can make it hard to judge depth and shape of the terrain in front of you. Spotters, if used, are also harder to see in the darkness. However, the fun of exploring darkened trails on a moonlit night can be rewarding.