Buying Guide 2014: Illumination Gear

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It’s impossible to see in the dark. Okay, sure, get yourself some night vision goggles and you’re set, but who wears those while running?! Until someone creates an awesome night vision solution for runners, we are stuck with the eyes we’ve got. It is for this reason that us runners run into (pun intended) a big problem in low-light conditions, and that is visibility. Not only our ability to see the terrain in front of us, but also the drivers or runners on the road who can’t see us.

Though visibility is an issue that is relevant year round, it becomes especially important to consider during the winter months. Daylight hours are at their yearly low (literally – today is the shortest day of the year!), and stormy weather cause our limited daylight hours to be darker than usual. But, you shouldn’t let that stop you from getting in your daily run. You need to see and be seen, and there is gear that you can use to help you increase your visibility.

I’m going to break this illumination gear guide down into these two categories: “See” (providing light to the path in front of you) and “Be Seen” (allowing others to see you).


Tired of stumbling along in the darkness? Kick a rock and bruise your toe? Trip on a root and get some nasty road/trail rash? If you’re like me, you’ve spent a few morning runs in pitch black, and it may have caused you to have an unparallelled hatred for this time of year when the days are so short. It only takes a few runs in the dark (and a few twisted ankles and stubbed toes) to make you reconsider your running routine. Light the path in front of you with these accessories. Because being able to see better will prevent tripping and injuring yourself, while also allowing you to run with confidence in your stride. Not to mention you can turn on the blinking mode and have a dance party at a moments notice. Untz, untz, untz…

Black Diamond Headlamp Spot 2014


Black Diamond Headlamp Spot 2014 – MSRP: $39.95

When purchasing a headlamp, consider three things: brightness, battery life, and weight. Brightness is measured in lumens, and depending on where/when you are running, you may need a brighter light. Battery life is important to consider because if you are running for an extended period of time, the last thing you want is your light to go out when you need it most. Lastly, weight becomes a factor when it comes to comfort. More batteries means more weight, and a bulkier, heavier design may get annoying and uncomfortable on a longer run.

Nathan Zephyr Fire 300 Hand TorchFlashlight

Nathan Zephyr Fire 300 Hand Torch Flashlight – MSRP: $55.00

No, not the flashlight that you have in your closet for when the power goes out, or the flashlight that you use to tell scary ghost stories by the campfire. Those things are big and bulky, and definitely not conducive to running. You need it to be lightweight and easy to hold, and you need to consider the battery life as well. But why would you choose a flashlight over a headlamp? Well, some find that a headlamp causes shadows at the feet which can be deceptive and cause you to stumble or prefer to be able to focus the light around at ease. A handheld flashlight helps to eliminate those shadows and can be pointed anywhere you choose without delay.

Be Seen

When you’re out on the roads in low-light or no-light conditions, you need vehicles to see you as you run so that they can drive safely, avoiding you. And when you’re out on the trails in dark conditions, you also need mountain bikers or other runners to be able to spot you to avoid an accident. Reflectivity features and built in LED lights can make all the difference in the world when it comes to making your presence known.

Nathan Domelight LED BeanieBeanie

Nathan DomeLight LED Beanie 2014 – MSRP: $50.00

It’s winter, and the cold weather causes you to start considering additional pieces to add to your running gear. When it’s time to get ready for a chilly morning run, adding a beanie can make a huge difference. Wearing a beanie that is made for running helps to keep in as much body heat as possible, while wicking away sweat and preventing overheating. Fleeced liners provide additional comfort around the ears and allow for easy adjustments. Along with warmth, some beanies come with bright, high visibility coloring, LED lights, and reflective design elements. It’s an easy way to add visibility to your outfit on a cold weather run.


Nike Shield Flash JacketJackets

Nike Women’s Shield Flash Jacket – MSRP: $350.00

Nike Men’s Shield Flash Jacket – MSRP: $350.00

Most jackets come with some form of reflectivity, but a few jackets stand above the rest with additional materials and panels that refract light at an intense magnitude. Seriously, there will be no mistaking your presence. It’s so reflective, it practically gives off light. Jackets like this one may be more pricey, but can you really put a price on your safety?

Amphipod Xinglet Reflective WearVests

Amphipod Xinglet Reflective Wear – MSRP: $24.95

A highly reflective vest with high visibility colors is an easy addition to any running outfit. You can put it on top of anything from a singlet to a jacket, so it works well year round. There are a lot of designs to choose from, and some even have LED lights built in for additional visibility. You can go with something more crossing-guard chic, or a more minimal design like the Xinglet. Either way, cars are bound to see you out on the road and steer clear, keeping you safe on your run.

Nathan Speedshift Gloves w/LED 2014Gloves

Nathan SpeedShift Gloves w/LED 2014 – MSRP: $50.00

If you’re already wearing gloves to keep your hands warm, chances are you are running in low-light, wintery conditions, and may already be considering ways to amp up your visibility. Many gloves come with reflective design elements built in, but some go a step farther with LED lights. It’s like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on your hands. You might not be guiding Santa’s sleigh through the foggy night sky, but thanks to these little lights on your gloves, you will still be spreading cheer to all who see you. Because really, nothing spreads cheer like avoiding potential accidents out on the road.

Nathan LightBender LED BandSafety lights

Nathan LightBender LED Band – MSRP: $20.00

Safety lights are a great option for when you need to be more visible and would prefer to add something bright to your current ensemble. It’s great because you can ramp up your visibility in any outfit without purchasing a bunch of new high visibility gear. Safety lights are often clip on, but there are also bands you can wear that fit securely and provide a burst of light that will keep you seen as you run in the dark.

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