For many of us, road running and work are both facts of life… even if we would prefer it otherwise. During the longer days of summer, it’s often easy enough to hit the road during daylight, but this time of year that’s often impossible. Whether you’re running back country roads or negotiating urban sidewalks it can be hard for even the most conscientious of drivers to see you. Therefore, making yourself more visible to drivers is an important safety consideration. With that in mind, iRunFar is excited to present you with reviews of three night running visibility devices this week: the Nite Ize LED Sport Vest (today), the Nathan Magnetic LED Safety Light (Thursday), and the Nite Ize Marker Band (Friday).
The first product in iRunFar’s night safety series is the Nite Ize LED Sport Vest. For this review, we\’ve brought back occasional correspondent Gavin “Sparky” Boyles who spends plenty of time training in the dark of the Vermont winter. Overall, he really liked Nite Ize’s Sport Vest with his only complaints being relatively minor, such as the number of buttons and the difficulty of their operation when wearing gloves. As a bonus, we’ve got a second Nite Ize Sport Vest review by iRF reader Dave A from Seattle. You really should check out both reviews, as they’re fun reads and from completely different perspectives: Dave is a self-proclaimed safety vest expert, while Gavin has worn them sparingly, if at all.
Nite Ize Sports Vest Review #1 by Gavin Boyles
I have to admit at the outset that I’ve never been the safest of runners. I wear black at night, brown in hunting season, and too little clothing in winter. But since my son was born, that little careful voice on my shoulder has gotten steadily louder. And, simultaneously, the percentage of my running that happens in the dark has gone through the roof. So when Trail Goat offered up the chance to review the Nite Ize LED Vest, I jumped at it.
My first run with the vest could not have been a better test. I started out at about 4:00 p.m. Here in central Vermont, that’s just before twilight these days. So the vest was turned off when I left the house. But it soon became dark, and as I left town the streetlights quickly disappeared. So I turned the vest on. Or, rather, I struggled to turn the vest on. You see, it was not only dark, but cold. So I was wearing gloves, and I couldn’t find the eentsy-weentsy buttons to turn on the lights. They’re way up on the shoulder of the vest, so you can\’t see the little buggers and you have to find ’em by feel. But they’re super-low-profile. And there are, inexplicably, two of them, one for the front and one for the back. For those days when it\’s only dark in one direction, I guess?? So it’s off with the gloves for some groping around on my shoulder.
I finally get the lights on. And, praise be, they are BRIGHT. So bright that I kept thinking there was a car coming up behind me. So bright that cars were driving way over on the other side of the road to avoid me. And I wasn\’t getting the usual irate honks from people who couldn\’t see me very well. In short, I stopped worrying at all about whether cars could see me. What I did worry about a little bit was whether they could see all of me; the vest only has lights on one side, so you essentially have to pick which side of you needs to be visible. I often run on the right side of roads to give some relief to my long-suffering left IT band, but on more heavily trafficked roads I tend to stay on the left. On this run I had put the vest on so that the LEDs were running down the left side, so I felt like I should stay on the right side of the road. The one-side-only LED setup is not ideal.
On the whole, though, this is a good product. It does what it needs to do, which is to make you bright (and flashing, if you like). It does it in a lightweight package that works in the cold, and that seems like it wouldn’t be too warm in hotter weather. The cons are relatively minor, while the pros (like, um, not getting creamed by eighteen-wheelers) are huge.
- Light weight
- Doesn’t shift around
- Velcro attachments are very adjustable and easy to use
- Blinking setting is super-noticeable
- Buttons hard/impossible to use with gloves
- Unnecessary to have more than one button
- LED strips only on one side
The Nite Ize LED vests main purpose, like all safety vests, is to keep you visible when lacking ambient light. In certain conditions, it can also make you a target, but the Nite Ize vest pattern is a vertical bar, and not that common “bulls-eye” found on other vests, so it should keep you out of harms way in those “other” conditions, as well.
The Nite Ize sport vest is made of nylon mesh that has an opening for your head and Velcro straps that connect around each side of your torso. They say “fashionable” on the web site, and well, I’m no fashion expert so I’ll leave that critique to the folks in the fashion industry, but I have suspect they would describe it in other terms such as “practical” or “functional,” but I don’t think we’ll be seeing “black nylon mesh vests with LED lights” on the runway anytime soon.
I’ll try to make this as interesting as I possibly can, but in the end, it’s a safety vest. :)
I have to tell you that I am a full on expert in safety vests… Ok, not really. I have used exactly two safety vests. One has a few straps of reflective cloth (yellow and white) that you strap on you body in a vest “style.” And, the Nite Ize. So, I will throw out some comparisons during this review to provide context.
Purpose: Make you visible in dark or “visibility challenged” situations. Check.
Target Market: Runners, cyclists or anyone that will wants to be “seen in the dark”.
Vest: Made of nylon mesh with two separate red LED lights, running vertically on the front and back of the vest (shoulder to torso) and white reflective tape running horizontally across your torso. The vest has 3 modes, blinking, on, off. (Not sure if “off” is actually a valid mode, but it\’s in the literature.)
Fit: Honestly, this was my first concern as if it doesn’t fit right, I won’t use it, and this vest fit great. (and when I say “fit right” I mean, when I’m running, I forget that I have it on). The “other” vest either started to rise up my torso or hugged too tight, pulling down on the shoulders (which actually felt like my 5 year old poking my shoulder trying to get my attention, over, and over , and over again). If the other safety vest was too loose, it would fall off my shoulders and require a constant adjustment. Not good. The Nite Ize on the other hand never needed adjusting and if it wasn’t for the bright light, I would have forgotten I had it on.
Function: “Does it make you visible” This is the easy one, the vest can be seen for miles. (Ok, maybe not “miles” but a long way.) It is easily as bright as some of the flashing or glowing lights you see on cyclists these days, so it rates pretty high on function. I like the blinking option, as well. (I make the strip on my back blink and keep the strip on the front solid, so I don’t look like a candy cane bouncing down the street.) Another key feature is that unlike the reflective cloth, the LED lights are visible to others with little or no other light.
|The Nite Ize LED Sport Vest visibility by reflection only (left) and with the LEDs illuminated (right).|
What the vest will do: Keep you visible in the dark.
What it won’t do: Get you out of bed on these dark, dreary winter mornings.
Is it missing anything? The vest could use a pocket or two for gels, but other than that, no.
Call for Comments
- Anyone else used the Nite Ize LED Sports Vest?
- Have you used other safety vests while running?
[Disclaimer: Purchases made through the Amazon links in this article help support iRunFar.]