Reflective Clothing for Bikers, Runners, and Walkers

November 9, 2015
runners at night
Reflective clothing that shows motion can improve your visibility. Photo: Sugoi

The sun sets before 4:30 p.m. in most of New England for the next two months. This means that if you spend any time out and about in the evening—running, biking, walking—you will be enjoying the cloak of early darkness. And if you happen to be active on the weekdays in the hours immediately after sunset, you’ll also be contending with heavy traffic on the roadways.

To stay safe, one of the keys is be as visible as possible to ensure that others can see you, especially drivers. This means lights, reflectors, and reflective clothing. As a night-time bike commuter these days, I use them all.

But, it turns out, I’m not maximizing their effectiveness. To do that, you want lights and reflectors that show motion, especially body motion. We’re inherently more adept at spotting movement at night than picking out more static light sources or reflections (think bike lights, reflectors on the torso, etc.)

So if you’re a cyclist, that means reflective straps or bands on your lower legs. If you’re a runner or night walker, light up those shoes, lower legs, or wrists. Consider holding a flashlight in your hand while walking or running.

At a minimum, always check that you have at least one reflective item or light—even the small reflectors on the backs of running shoes are far superior to being a completely dark sojourner through winter’s night.

Reflective straps are inexpensive ($5 to $10) and can make good holiday gifts. You should go get some. I am.

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.