Sometimes it’s because daylight savings is spent, sometimes it’s because the weather’s warm and the workday went long, but as an avid runner, I often find it’s easier to knock out some miles between dusk and dawn. I took that to something of an extreme recently. While 50,000 runners were preparing for the next day’s New York City Marathon, I was lining up for the Joshua Tree Half Marathon, a trail race under the stars on an incredible course just outside the gates of its namesake, Joshua Tree National Park. It was dusty and dry—and a testament to the importance of having some hi-vis (a.k.a., high-visibility) running gear.
I didn’t mess around, going hi-vis from head to toe: Black Diamond Spot headlamp over my trusty Satisfy trail cap (which is deisgned for a headlamp), a Nathan running vest with a light strip on the back, Norda 001 trail runners, and Bandit half tights (both of which have reflective panels). Because I was so well-equipped for running in the dark, I never had trouble finding footing on the uneven sandy trails, and knew I wasn’t going to get bumped into by another runner.
There weren’t any motor vehicles around for the off-road Joshua Tree Half, but that’s not the case for most after-dark runs. Training for a spring marathon? Early morning and after-work runs through the neighborhood are happening in the dark while Joe Schmoes driving to and from work are the checking their texts. Live somewhere that’s crazy hot or humid? Cooler-temped night runs are the smart move. Anyone who logs miles might find themselves at an after-hours fun run or knocking out some pre-trade-conference miles on a work trip. Point is, every runner—whether you’re a long-distance freak or a casual jogger—should have some high-vis gear.
There are two parts to running in the dark: seeing and being seen. The right hi-vis accessories can boost both halves of that equation without replacing anything you already lace up or pull on while running. So I pulled together some of the best nighttime running gear you need to run safely and comfortably in the dark. From headlamps to light-up hydration packs, these accessories will keep you in everyone’s line of sight, on and off the road.
And don’t be shy about using any of this gear. The moment the sun starts going down, other pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers have a hard time seeing you. Better to be shiny than sorry.
The Best Headlamps for Night Running
A headlamp is the secret to avoiding twisted ankles and letting oncoming traffic know you’re a person. I like the Black Diamond Spot best. It produces 400 lumens, which is plenty for visibility on pitch-dark trails and dirt roads, and your neighborhood runs. The flashing mode is great when you don’t need to light your way, but want to be 100 percent oncoming drivers know you’re there.
Other alternatives I’d recommend include the Nathan Neutron Fire RX lamp (above), which is tailor-made for running, or the BioLite HeadLamp 750 (below), which features a front and back light. And if you can’t stand the thought of running with a light on your head, you can also opt for a handheld torch, like the Nathan Zephyr Trail 200 (below), which puts 200 lumens of light at your fingertips.
The Best High-Vis Running Vests
Most running clothing only has tiny reflective logos on the front or back—and rarely both. A vest fixes that, and works with whatever you’re wearing. The Nathan Laser Light 3L is a minimalist hydration pack with plenty of pockets and a light strip on the back with three modes and a button on the strap to shift between them. Don’t need to tote water with you? There are tons of lightweight, barely-there options that offer minimal distraction and maximum visibility. Nathan makes a few easy-to-wear vests that go right over your normal running clothes, and the Lululemon Fast and Free Trail running vest has a 360-degree reflective fabric.
The Best Apparel for Night Running
In Joshua Tree, I ran in half-tights and a short sleeve tee. And while I just moved to the West Coast, I lived in NYC until recently. Which is to say, I’ve had to have nighttime running gear that can handle all sorts of temps. None of it is black (never run in black in the dark, for obvious reasons). Neon clothes are nice, but reflective panels and graphics shine brighter.