Best Reflective Running Gear of 2022

Here are the iRunFar team’s picks for the best reflective running gear to help you be seen while you run at night.

By on November 3, 2022 | Leave a reply

Oftentimes runners struggle to find enough time in the daylight to fit in their workouts, and other times we just plain love to run in the dark — and either case is where the best reflective running gear can help you out.

Work, spouses, partners, families, and other life commitments all take time, and there are only so many hours of daylight available. For many runners, this often results in runs that start or end in the dark.

Running before sunrise or after sunset brings on a different set of challenges — and joys! — than running in the daylight, and the proper gear to ensure that you can see and be seen by others will enable your best and safest night running experiences.

Visibility is key when choosing gear for night running, and most runners opt for having a strong light source and wearing reflective clothing. When considering gear for pre-dawn or post-dusk adventures, runners should choose items that will maximize their visibility for motorists, cyclists, and other runners. There are many options for adding reflectivity from head to toe, but making your torso as reflective as possible is important. Having a light source can also help you be seen in addition to lighting the route in front of you.

In this guide, we’ve included lots of options for you to consider based on your personal preferences. We have offered our recommendations for the top reflective shirts and jackets, packs, vests, hats, gloves, and light sources.

Check out these picks, make selections that best suit your needs, and be safe on the roads and trails, especially in the darkness.

For more background information, please see our buying advicetesting methodology, safety tips, and frequently asked questions below the picks.

Here are links to each of the top recommendations:

Best Reflective Running Gear - testing a Brooks jacket for visibility while running at night

Hallie Taylor tests a Brooks jacket for visibility while running at night. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Reflective Vest With Included Light: Noxgear Tracer2 ($86)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Noxgear Tracer2 - product photoThe Noxgear Tracer2 is an exceptional option when you want to make sure that you’re seen in the dark. The lightweight vest weighs just seven ounces and is among the most comfortable we tested. It offers various options for illumination and can change between eight different colors while either flashing or remaining solid. Regardless of which option is selected, runners will be easily spotted. The vest sits comfortably on the runner’s torso and will make sure that they’re seen by motorists or cyclists approaching from any direction.

While this vest will protect runners, we also see it as a great option for those days when runners get on their bikes for an early-morning or late-night cross-training ride. The impossible-to-miss lights on your back are an excellent safety measure for traffic approaching behind you.

The battery will last up to 20 hours and can be recharged with the provided USB-C charging cable.

Pros:

  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Multiple options for illumination
  • Good option for cyclists
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • May be too expensive for some
Shop the Noxgear Tracer2

Best Reflective Minimalist Vest: Amphipod Xinglet Reflective Vest ($35)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Amphipod Xinglet Reflective Vest - product photoThe Amphipod Xinglet Reflective Vest is a good solution for runners looking for an inexpensive option for being seen during nighttime runs. The vest is easily adjustable to fit any size runner and can fit over a single shirt or multiple layers with ease.

The clips on the front make it easy to put on or take off the vest, a simple yet effective distinction from similar vests in this category. This vest comes in four reflective colors that provide visibility from all directions and has extra reflective material on the front and back. The lightweight and compact design makes it easy to stash the vest if the sun has risen and it is no longer needed.

Pros:

  • Easy on, easy off
  • Lightweight
  • Adapts to T-shirt or multiple layers seamlessly

Cons:

  • Would need another light source to see the road ahead
Shop the Amphipod Xinglet Reflective Vest

Best Reflective Pack: Nathan QuickStart 2.0 6 Liter Hydration Pack ($100)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Nathan QuickStart 2.0 6 Liter Hydration Pack - product photoThe Nathan QuickStart 2.0 6 Liter Hydration Pack fits the bill precisely for what runners need during longer pre-dawn or post-dusk runs. It is reflective without being an eyesore, with reflective material placed strategically around the pack to keep you visible from all directions.

The pack also offers plenty of storage pockets, and it includes multiple hydration options. Two back storage pockets are ideal for extra clothing layers or nutrition, and a separate zippered pocket can securely stash a phone. The pack comes with a 1.5-liter water bladder and has front pockets to carry soft flasks so that it can accommodate any hydration system.

The moisture-wicking fabric and breathable mesh shoulder straps make it comfortable in all conditions, and runners who select this vest for their night runs might find it so useful that it becomes their go-to vest for any time of day.

Pros:

  • Good reflectivity
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Multiple options for hydration

Cons:

  • Cumbersome to clean inside bladder
Shop the Nathan QuickStart 2.0 6 Liter Hydration Pack

Best Reflective Jacket: L.L. Bean Bean Bright Multisport Jacket ($100)

The L.L Bean Bean Bright Multisport Jacket stands out among those we tested for this guide. The jacket lives up to its name and works really well for those who want to be seen at night.

While most other comparable jackets just use reflective trim or highlights to increase their visibility, this one goes all in with its completely yellow reflective shell as well as 14 points of reflective trim. The combination of the two maximizes visibility to help a runner be seen in the dark.

This jacket is wind and moisture-resistant and can keep you warm on chilly morning and evening runs. A back vent allows for airflow and can help manage sweat and body temperature. With plenty of pockets, including a zippered one for your phone, this jacket covers all the bases and more.

Pros:

  • Highly visible
  • Suitable for cooler weather
  • Plenty of pockets, including one for a phone

 Cons:

  • Sleeves are long

Shop the Men's L.L Bean Bean Bright Multisport JacketShop the Women's L.L Bean Bean Bright Multisport Jacket

Best Reflective Shorts: Proviz Reflect360 Running Shorts ($40)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Reflect360 Running Shorts - product photoThe Proviz Reflect360 Running Shorts are a great option for reflective shorts. While most of the material is black, there is a good amount of reflectivity along the sides, front, and back of the shorts ensuring 360-degree visibility. In the daylight, the reflective material appears gray and the shorts don’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary to the casual observer.

These shorts don’t have a drawstring, which may be a deterrent at first glance for some potential customers. However, the shorts stay on without an issue.

The shorts are made of a lightweight material. The lack of any pockets may be a turnoff for someone who doesn’t want to carry an extra waistpack or hydration vest to carry keys or a small snack during a run.

If you are looking for shorts that will perform well and help you be seen at night, these are an excellent choice at a reasonable price. Pair the shorts with a device to light your way and a vest for carrying any extra items, and you’ll have a safe and comfortable setup.

Pros:

  • Visible from every angle
  • Lightweight
  • Good value

Cons:

  • No pockets

Shop the Men's Proviz Reflect360 Running ShortsShop the Women's Proviz Reflect360 Running Shorts

Best Reflective Short-Sleeve Shirt: Brooks Carbonite Short Sleeve ($70/men’s, $65/women’s)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Brooks Carbonite Short Sleeve - product photoThe Brooks Carbonite Short Sleeve shirt is a mostly white, quick-drying shirt with black and yellow reflective stripes to increase a runner’s visibility in low-light conditions. The black stripes, made of 3M Scotchlite Carbon Black Stretch reflective material, are placed strategically throughout the shirt to maximize its visibility. The stretchy fabric is highly breathable and comfortable, making it ideal for summer wear.

This shirt is a very good option for runners looking for a high-performing shirt that will also increase their visibility before sunrise and after sunset.

Pros:

  • Well-designed reflective stripes
  • Highly breathable
  • Superior fit

Cons:

  • Just one color option

Shop the Men's Brooks Carbonite Short SleeveShop the Women's Brooks Carbonite Short Sleeve

Best Budget Reflective Short-Sleeve Shirt: Proviz Reflect360 Short Sleeve Top ($40/men’s, $45/women’s)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Reflect360 Short Sleeve Top - product photoThe Proviz Reflect360 Short Sleeve Top comes in an array of color options, all with reflective striping to keep you safe and visible in low light.

The reflective striping incorporated on the arms, hips, collar, and chest of the shirt will help keep a runner seen by others. The material has multidirectional reflectivity and illuminates when highlighted by headlights, street lamps, or another runner’s light source. Additionally, the reflective logos add increased visibility.

This comfortable top is a good option for running during warmer weather as the fabric wicks away sweat and dries quickly.

Pros:

  • Well-placed striping for reflectivity
  • Comfortable
  • Good value for the price

Cons:

  • Lots of color options

Shop the Men's Proviz Reflect360 Short Sleeve TopShop the Women's Proviz Reflect360 Short Sleeve Top

Best Reflective Long-Sleeve Shirt: Brooks Carbonite Long Sleeve ($100)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Brooks Carbonite Long Sleeve - product photoThe Brooks Carbonite Long Sleeve shirt is just as good as its short-sleeve version, the Brooks Carbonite Short Sleeve. The torsos of the two shirts have a similar reflective striping design, and the long-sleeve version has additional reflective material by the wrists.

Like the short-sleeve version, the black stripes on this shirt are made with 3M Scotchlite Carbon Black Stretch material. The high reflectivity of this material makes a runner visible to a driver from up to 600 feet away.

This shirt is made from moisture-wicking material that will keep you as dry as possible throughout your run. The fabric stretches, and the fit is designed to be comfortable on many body shapes.

Pros:

  • Runner can be seen from a great distance
  • Comfortable
  • Fits just about every body type

Cons:

  • Expensive for a shirt

Shop the Men's Brooks Carbonite Long SleeveShop the Women's Brooks Carbonite Long Sleeve

Best Budget Reflective Long-Sleeve Shirt: Illuminite Long Sleeve Reflective Men’s Warm Up Tee ($59)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Illuminite Long Sleeve Reflective Mens Warm Up Tee - product photoThe Illuminite Long Sleeve Reflective Men’s Warm Up Tee is a great long-sleeve tee for a very reasonable price. The shirt comes in three different color options, including bright neon yellow. It is breathable and wicking to help you manage your sweat during a run, and the sleeves have large reflective stripes from neck to wrist to keep a runner seen. By highlighting the movement of the arms of a runner, a relatively small amount of reflective material can make a big difference in visibility.

Similar to Illuminite’s short-sleeve version, which we tested but did not include in this guide, the long-sleeve shirt’s reflective arms can be seen well from the front, back, and both sides. In testing, we found the short-sleeve shirt to be uncomfortable around the shoulders, while the long-sleeve shirt had a good fit and was comfortable, and thus is included here.

Designed for running in cooler temperatures, the shirt has an extended sleeve and thumb hole. It is made of a polyester-spandex blend that is incredibly comfortable to wear.

Pros:

  • Competitive price point
  • Colorful options
  • Thumbhole keeps sleeves in place

Cons:

  • Depending on climate, shirt won’t be an option for parts of the year
Shop the Men's Illuminite Long Sleeve Reflective Men’s Warm Up Tee

Best Reflective Gloves: Reflectoes High Visibility Reflective Running Gloves ($23)

Best Reflective Running Gear -ReflecToes High Visibility Reflective Running Gloves - Product photoThe Reflectoes High Visibility Reflective Running Gloves are a great option for those on a tight budget or not wanting to break the bank for running gloves. While these gloves aren’t as warm as some of the others we tested, their visibility in the dark was second to none. Their bright color will keep a runner visible in low-light conditions, and the reflective material will light up brightly in the headlights of a car or oncoming runner.

These running gloves slide off and on easily and have capacitive touch technology that will allow you to use your phone without having to take them off. The reinforced lining provides warmth that we found to be adequate in chilly temperatures, but it was not enough when things got down to freezing.

Pros:

  • Brightness
  • Very affordable
  • Comfortable

Cons:

  • Not meant for sub-freezing temperatures
Shop the Reflectoes High Visibility Reflective Running Gloves

Best Reflective Hat: Nathan Reflective Quick Stash Run Hat ($30)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Nathan Reflective Quick Stash Run Hat - product photoThe Nathan Reflective Quick Stash Run Hat is full of surprises. While runners may shy away from wearing obviously reflective gear in daylight, this hat bypasses the issue of questionable appearance by being made of a plain black material with stylish reflective outlines.

The reflective pattern is sneakily subtle, barely perceptible until light shines upon it in the dark. Runners can certainly look good in the hat during dark or well-lit runs. But before dawn or after dusk, it provides a decent reflective cast to warn others of your presence.

Another hidden gem of the hat is the stash pocket on each side. These can hold essentials such as keys, cards, ID, or gels. And when it’s hot out, the lightweight wicking material provides protection from the sun. Additionally, the mesh sides of this hat will keep you cool. This hat is so comfortable that it barely feels like wearing a hat, even after hours out on the trails.

Pros:

  • Fun, reflective styling
  • Stylish
  • Stash pockets

Cons:

  • Brim won’t block sun
Shop the Nathan Reflective Quick Stash Run Hat

Best Headlamp: Black Diamond Sprinter 500 Headlamp ($80)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Black Diamond Sprinter 500 Headlamp - product photoThe Black Diamond Sprinter 500 Headlamp ended up as the best of a crowded field of light sources. While headlamps aren’t pieces of reflective clothing, they are critical for running safely in the dark, so we’re including them in this guide.

This headlamp stood out with its unique design, having both a light source in the front and a flashing red light on the back. The dual lights help a runner be seen from multiple directions, keeping them visible to both oncoming traffic and cars coming from the rear.

The headlamp is comfortable, easy to adjust, and will provide an increased level of security while you are getting in the early morning miles on the trails or roads. With 500 lumens, you’ll be able to see on the darkest nights. This headlamp can run either on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery or on regular AAA batteries.

Pros:

  • 500 lumens light up the trail or road
  • Super comfortable
  • Flashing red light in back signals presence to those behind you

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work great on a bike helmet
Shop the Black Diamond Sprinter 500 Headlamp

Best Strobe Light: Avanto Lifestyle Clip-On Light Pro ($30)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Avanto Lifestyle Clip-On Light Pro - product photoThe Avanto Lifestyle Clip-On Light Pro is a unique option for those who want an extra bit of light and visibility in addition to their headlamps. This light uses a magnet to attach to any thin piece of clothing that you’re wearing and can easily be used with running shorts, tights, a pack, or even your hat. At just 300 lumens, this light doesn’t provide as much light as most headlamps or waistlights, but it’s a great secondary light source to help you be seen by others. It is USB-rechargeable and is small and light enough to throw into a running pack if there’s a chance that the sun will set before you get home.

Pros:

  • Easy to transport
  • Adaptable, can clip on a wide range of objects
  • Charges via standard USB cable

Cons:

  • Not a primary light source
Shop the Avanto Lifestyle Clip-On Light Pro

Best Reflective Bands: Amphipod Micro-Light Flashing Arm and Ankle Bands ($16)

Best Reflective Running Gear - Amphipod Micro-Light Flashing Arm and Ankle Bands - product photoThe Amphipod Micro-Light Flashing Arm and Ankle Bands are good supplemental options for runners or cyclists to wear at zero dark thirty. The bands put off enough light to allow a runner to be seen in low-light conditions and come in three different colors. Because they are small and light, they can easily be stowed in a pack for runs that may have gone just a little bit long.

They don’t cast off a strong enough light to be the only way to illuminate yourself in a high-traffic area, but they are a great supplemental light source to warn others of your presence.

They are easy and comfortable to strap on an ankle or wrist, and at just $16, they are a good value for those looking for a little extra safety on a run or bike ride.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easily transportable
  • Simple to put on and take off

Cons:

  • Will need additional reflective gear and light sources

Shop the Amphipod Micro-Light Flashing Arm and Ankle Bands

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Reflective Running Gear

Reflective Clothing

There are several important factors to consider when choosing clothing for running in the dark. Your running locations will help inform the type of clothing needed to keep you seen.

On roads, you will want to make sure that your gear will ensure you are visible to drivers whose ability to see may be compromised due to the time of day. On trails, especially during hunting season, you will want gear that makes it 100% clear you are a human and not a deer, elk, or bear. Focus on reflective garments that will be on your torso — this is the best way for the reflective properties of clothing to show you as a human on the move.

As with any running clothes, also consider the temperatures in which you wish to run in these outfits. A comfortable, moisture-wicking, highly reflective T-shirt may be the perfect item until the temperatures plummet. Similarly, a long-sleeve version of the same T-shirt might be the perfect solution during cooler early-morning or late-night runs but would be too warm during some parts of the year.

Reflective Running Gear You Wear Over Your Regular Running Kit

There are plenty of options available for runners who prefer to strap on a reflective material or a light source rather than rely on their outer garments for safety and visibility. When choosing a light source, consider whether you want it to be battery-powered or rechargeable via a USB port. Some runners may prefer a super-lightweight vest whose sole purpose is to be reflective. Others may want one with flashing lights for an extra measure of security.

For longer outings, runners may want to consider a vest or pack that is not only reflective but allows them to carry their nutrition, hydration, and other supplies like backup batteries. The iRunFar recommendation for a running vest for longer outings in the dark is the Nathan QuickStart 2.0 6 Liter Hydration Pack. It not only allows a runner to bring along all the necessary gear but provides supplemental reflectivity as well.

Lights

Don’t forget that in the dark you not only want to be seen, you will most likely need a source to light the path in front of you. There are several different options for light sources, the most popular being the headlamp. The Black Diamond Sprinter 500 Headlamp is the best we have tested, providing both lighting in front of the runner and a red light in the rear to keep a runner seen by traffic approaching from the rear. Other options to consider include waist lights or a handheld flashlight.

The Right Amount of Reflectivity to Be Seen

When trying to determine the proper amount of reflectivity to be seen, iRunFar recommends erring on the side of caution. Wearing an extra reflective device is better than having an issue due to your presence not being recognized by a driver, animal, or passerby. To determine the right amount of reflectivity for your outing, factors to consider include the amount of natural light available, the presence of street lights if road running, the amount of projected traffic, and the frequency of which you expect to be crossing paths with potential dangers.

Best Reflective Running Gear - testing reflective running gear at night

Jeff Rome wears a reflective Brooks jacket. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Visibility Gear for the Roads

When running on the road, runners should be aware that potential danger can come from a variety of angles. A runner may be in a motorist’s blind spot or obstructed from view. In addition to the challenges associated with having to drive in the dark, some drivers may also be sleepy, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or consumed with their phones. Whether they are alert or distracted, human response times can be much slower at night than during normal waking hours.

As runners, the best preventive measure is to be extra cautious and to make sure that they are seen as early as possible. That may include having gear beyond a headlamp and a reflective shirt. A vest with flashing lights such as our pick for the best reflective vest, the Noxgear Tracer2, will help alert passing motorists to your presence.

Additionally, there are other items such as ankle and wrist bands that are simple yet effective in reflecting eye-catching light to signal the runner’s presence to those nearby.

Visibility Gear for the Trails

Trail runners don’t have to worry about motorized vehicles invading their space. They do, however, need to ensure they communicate their presence to others enjoying the trails. In order to do this effectively, a combination of a good light source and reflective materials on your person is recommended. The Black Diamond Sprinter 500 Headlamp is the best option to not only illuminate your path but to also signal your presence to those around you. While a headlamp will light your way, reflective gear will communicate that you are a human in movement. Effective reflective gear can include a vest, shirt, hat, ankle and wrist bracelets, and more.

Why You Should Trust Us

The iRunFar team is composed of road runners, trail runners, and ultrarunners with a collective 150-plus years of running experience. We run at all times of the day, before the sun rises in the morning and after it sets at night, and we know our audience is getting in their workouts around the clock. That’s why we created this reflective running gear guide. We tested dozens of items in the dark, from headlamps to strap-on ankle bracelets to vests to shorts to gloves and more.

We evaluated each item based first and foremost on its ability to keep the runner safe. We continually asked ourselves whether a product’s reflective quality would ensure an approaching motorist, fellow runner, or animal would see the runner.

For gear that illuminates the road ahead, we wanted to determine which items provided the best light. For all items, we also considered the comfort, ease of use, weight, and price to come up with our recommendations.

Safety Tips for Running in the Dark

Many runners pound out their miles before sunrise or after sunset. When light is limited, runners face two issues that are more challenging than they would be during the day.

The first is the ability to be seen. Whether you are a road runner who encounters traffic or a trail runner who is sharing space with wild animals and other trail users, it is critically important for your presence to not come as a surprise.

Secondly, and just as importantly, runners need to ensure that they can see where they are going. Besides being dark, a runner is likely to be more tired than usual when running early in the morning or at night. This combination of dark and fatigue can lead to the runner having more difficulty navigating, failing to see things in their path, and responding more slowly to obstacles. This could lead to falls or getting lost.

Here are some safety tips to consider before going out, regardless of whether it’s before dawn or after dusk, on roads, trails, or a combination of both.

  1. Bring a buddy, or at least let a loved one know where you will be and what time to expect you to return. These are good recommendations to follow at any time but even more so when conditions are more dangerous.
  2. Even when running in a well-lit area, bring your own light source, like the Black Diamond Sprinter 500 Headlamp.
  3. For long runs, bring an extra set of batteries for your headlamp, just in case you need a backup.
  4. Dress to be seen. There are plenty of reflective options outlined in this guide including shirts, shorts, jackets, and other gear items. Everyone has their own personal preferences of what to wear to make sure they are seen in dark conditions. Choose wisely and prioritize your torso since it has a large surface area and is at eye level for many motorists, making it easier to see For added visibility, ankle or wrist bracelets, a reflective hat, and other supplemental pieces of reflective gear are wise additions.
  5. Bring additional nutrition and hydration in case you get lost or are out longer than anticipated. For example, if you are planning a two-hour run, consider bringing enough food and hydration to get you through at least four hours.
  6. Bring extra clothing layers. While pre-dawn runners should experience increasing temperatures, those heading out at night are more likely to encounter falling temperatures. And, especially in the mountains, a thunderstorm can emerge at any time. Extra layers will protect you against the elements should you need them.
Best Reflective Running Gear - a red light will help you stay visible while running at night

A red light will help you stay visible while running at night. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Reflective Running Gear

What should I wear running at night?

Focus on wearing gear that is reflective and bringing a reliable light source. You will want to get a good idea of how the temperature may change during your run so that you can be prepared to either shed a layer, add one, or even change into rain gear if there is a storm.

The basics don’t deviate from daylight runs — shorts or tights, shirt, jacket if temperatures will be cool, sneakers, and socks. What is different, however, is the need for your clothing of choice to be reflective, ideally focusing the reflectivity around your torso to improve your chances of being seen.

In this guide, we offer detailed suggestions in more than a dozen categories to help you decide what will work best for you as you navigate the roads and trails in the dark.

How can I be seen running at night?

There are two broad categories in which runners can improve their chances of being seen at night. The first is to have a light source such as a headlamp, waist light, or flashlight. The second is to wear reflective gear that can identify the runner to oncoming traffic, other runners, cyclists, hikers, and even animals on the trails.

How do runners stay safe in the dark?

In addition to reflective gear and having a good light source, there are some measures runners can take to be safe — at any time of day or night.

Letting a loved one know where you will be and what time to expect you back is always a good idea.

Additionally, having some additional items that you can use in an emergency is recommended. Those include a charged cellphone, whistle, and backup light source. Depending on where and how long you will be running, you also may want bear spray, a water filtration system, an emergency blanket, a lighter, and an extra layer of clothing.

Additionally, it is highly advisable to know your surroundings before you head out. Not only will previous knowledge of the route minimize your chances of getting lost, it will also help you navigate the trail or road. Regardless of whether a run in the dark is on a familiar route or you’re exploring a place for the first time, adjust your pace accordingly. This is not the time to set a land-speed record. Safety first!

How do I enjoy running in the dark?

You don’t have to run in the dark — you get to run in the dark. While it can be intimidating at first, there are benefits of running in the dark. It’s generally quiet, so it is a great time to focus your thoughts, problem-solve, and enjoy the quiet and serenity of the night.

And for runners who head out before dawn, there are often amazing sunrises to enjoy. For runners who are out late at night, they will have the opportunity to take in beautiful sunsets.

Are reflective items truly necessary if I have a strong light source?

Yes, absolutely. A strong light source is an excellent start. However, even the best light source may lose battery power, have a technical issue, or otherwise fail when you need it the most. A lone headlamp may also not be recognized as a runner by a passing motorist, while a lit or reflective vest will convey the human shape.

Additionally, a light vest or reflective clothing can help you be seen from behind. That’s important, as there may be other runners, cyclists, or motorists coming from different directions.

Best Reflective Running Gear - staying reflective and visible while running at night

We recommend you choose gear that allows you to stay both reflective and visible while running at night. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

How do I choose the best light source for running at night — headlamp, waistlight, or other options?

When considering a headlamp or waistlight to purchase, look for one that has a lot of lumens, 600 lumens or more is preferred. Light sources come in a variety of options. Some are powered with disposable batteries and others are rechargeable, typically with a standard USB cable. If you tend to go on long excursions, a battery option may be more practical since you can carry extra batteries and replace dead ones if necessary.

Also consider your personal preference for comfort. When possible, try on the headlamp or waist lamp. Keep in mind you will be wearing the device for hours. They are adjustable, of course, but if you don’t like the way it feels on your body for a few minutes at the store, it may be a distraction — or worse — when you are running for hours in the dark.

I often run on roads in the dark. What special considerations should I make?

Not only do runners experience slower response times during nighttime hours, motorists do too. The longer it takes a driver to see a runner in the dark, the less time they have to react to their presence. Even if runners follow the proper protocols, such as running against traffic, inattentive drivers can place your safety in jeopardy. Therefore, it is important to do as much as possible to be seen. In addition to a proper headlamp, a lighted vest to draw attention to yourself will maximize your chances of being seen.

I often run on trails in the dark. What special considerations should I make?

Focus your preparations on two key areas: make sure you can see the trail in front of you with a reliable light source and ensure others can see you by wearing a lighted vest or reflective gear.

A powerful light source is the top priority, and we recommend the Black Diamond Sprinter 500 Headlamp. You will want the device to cast a wide glow to illuminate as much of your surroundings as possible. Be sure to test out the device before going out for a long run on a dark trail. A short run around your dark neighborhood would be ideal. That way you can get a feel for the settings, its fit, and more in a low-stress environment instead of experimenting as you go deep into the dark woods.

Beyond that, it is still important to be seen. Even if dangerous animals are not a concern, there may be other runners, mountain bikers, and hikers out there too. Be sure to wear a vest with flashing lights or reflective gear to alert others to your presence. Light vests are preferred as they will not only make you more visible but can serve as a makeshift backup light source in case your primary light source goes kaput.

Call for Comments

  • Calling all runners who get their miles in well before the sun comes up — or goes down. What are your tricks for making sure you’re seen by others?
  • Let us know how you approach training when your runs take place in the dark. Is this intended training for overnight races? Or is it a matter of fitting in your workout due to family, work, and other obligations?
  • Add your favorite reflective and visibility gear to the comments section.
Henry Howard
Henry Howard finds joy as an ultrarunner, running coach, and writer who has combined those passions into his RunSpirited website.