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Saturday, January 19, 2013

It's dark. Be bright!! --nighttime gear review

It's January.  Probably one of the hardest months of the year to get motivated to run.  With the short days and the cold winters in Va. all of the runners I know are either on the dreadmill, running in the dark, or still in hibernation mode after their fall races.  At least during the work week anyhow.
I am running in the dark.  All this dark running makes me even more anxious for the weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, I can't wait to take in the sunlight, and get as much Vitamin D synthesis going on as possible!  But during the week, I am heading out for my runs in the dark.  On each of these runs, I am always genuinely happy to see other runners out logging miles.  However, I am often equally amazed at how many fail to wear any sort of reflective gear, or carry a flashlight!  While it's always fun to feel like a ninja, it's way more fun to NOT get hit by a car while crossing a street on your evening jog.  I would put money on about 80% of runners not carrying or wearing any sort of light or reflective gear.  And sorry folks, but a white tee-shirt does not qualify.
Now since you are reading my blog, I am going to assume you fall in to the 20% category, or you are a family member that thinks I'm a little silly for running so much anyhow.  Either way, thank you for humoring me and your reward is my review on the gear that I rely on to keep me visible when I am hitting the pavement without the sunshine. :-)
My Nighttime Running Essentials
For starters, I recommend that any runner that is expecting to be out between dusk and dawn don a reflective vest.  I recommend the Nathan Sport Streak reflective vest which retails for about $20-$25.  This little investment will make you visible 1200 feet away, is super lightweight (.2 lb), machine washable, and easily fits over any running shirt or jacket.  It also comes in sizes (not one fit all) and the newer versions even have an incorporated waterproof ID information card.  Without reflective gear, a runner at night is only visible from about 200 feet away.  If you like running as much as I do, please wear a reflective vest for those early am and late evening runs.
Next, I recommend a light.  At least one. I carry two.  A headlamp is a great hands free option, and is far easier to get used to running with than you may suspect.  I use and love my Black Diamond the Spot headlamp.  At $40 and available at pretty much any outdoors store it's a great value.  It's also light weight and in "Spot" mode, throws out 90 lumens of light.  Trust me, at 5am, that's a bright path to follow down the road.  I also find that it is light and bright enough for trail racing.  I wore it all night at Western States and didn't notice it at all.  The battery life is also exceptional, although after several hours of high powered use, the light will dim some, and it's one drawback is probably the 4 AAAs it needs to operate.  But in terms of light output, cost, and size, I find it to be a truly essential piece of gear.
Finally, I also carry a flashlight.  I prefer to keep to a small Princeton Tec AMP 1.0 light which fits easily in my hand, and is not uncomfortable to carry in my teeth thanks to the plastic/rubber handle.  The key to the flashlight is that in a really dark spot it gives some extra light, and if you have it with you, it may provide the light you need to change out your main light (headlamp) batteries without being completely in the dark.  Additionally, I like the plastic handle because it is not cold to hold onto in the winter, and the rubber side has a grip or two on it that prevents it from slipping out of your hand in the summer.  The Princeton Tec AMP 1.0 light retails for about $10-$12 and is also available at most outdoors shops.
I rely on each of these products multiple times a week and have had no issues with the quality of any of them.  I hope that all the runners reading my blog find this information useful. If you have had different experiences with the gear I mention, or think you have an even better piece of nighttime running gear, please leave a comment and let me know! In the mean time, imagine how hard core you look running outside on a dark rainy night with a headlamp on.  You. Look. Business.
Happy trails everyone!

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