I’ve been running long distances in dark, early morning hours since I was in junior high in Seattle. And when you’re that far north, in the colder seasons it stays dark until late in the morning and the sun goes down early in the afternoon. My mother was always concerned when I ran the streets in the early morning, or in the evening after dark, and would insist I wear something white.
I haven’t given up my exercise routines as I’ve gotten older — the main difference is that now it’s my wife who is concerned when I run in the dark before work. And with good reason: some estimate that as many as 122,000 runners, pedestrians and cyclists are struck by cars each year. Often this happens as a result of poor visibility during low light conditions. But as this video shows, white clothing is not adequate. As you can see, only those wearing appropriate reflective material are visible from 1,000 feet away. Wearing white, you only begin to be visible at 250 feet — which is not adequate distance for a car to correct themselves to avoid hitting you. That is why 3M has launched a campaign to have everyone remember to wear “no white at night.”
New Balance collaborated with 3M to produce an exercise jacket that adheres to best practice principles of visibility, using Scotchlite Relfective Material. But New Balance isn’t just using a touch of it hear and there on a relfective logo as some manufacturers are. Instead, they have some principles that they are adhering to around using reflective material in enough quantity and in the right locations for cars to know that you are a living person and not just a reflective bit of material on a road sign or something. The jacket is 360 degree certified for visibility when viewed from any direction. To ensure cars can recognize you as such, it is important to have reflective material on the chest, back, and on your arms as they swing so that cars can notice the human motion as you run. For pants, according to 3M it’s important to have reflective material near the ankles and perhaps the knees and legs as well to show the motion of your body, too.
For the 360 Degree Jacket, New Balance has adhered to these principles. The jacket is a glossy black nylon material that is extremely lightweight — perfect as a windbreaker when exercising. But in addition they have striped it on the chest, back, and down the arms with 3M Scotchlite Reflective material. This gives me (and my wife) a lot more comfort when I run at the hours I have to run (early before work, or in the evening after dark). The inner mesh lining of this New Balance jacket is also a Hi-Viz flourescent yellow material, which can be turned inside out for emergency situations. Flourescent colors are most visible at dawn and twilight.
Beyond the safety features of the jacket, the fit is perfect for me. I am 5′ 11″ and 170 lbs, and the body allows movement without being baggy or boxy. The back is vented, and the sleeves have elastic wrists and aren’t too short (a pet peeve of mine). I have been using this jacket very happily from fall into December, even on very cold mornings, and my one complaint with the jacket is that when you put your hands through the sleeves the flourescent lining sometimes comes out the ends of the wrists a bit. The collar is a stand-up collar (not a hoodie) with a soft material on the edge of the neck.
Taken altogether, this jacket is an excellent jacket in my opinion for athletic activity along the roads in dark or darkening conditions. The jacket has an internal pocket for your mp3 player, as well as front pockets and an ICE (In Case of Emergency) identification tag. It retails at $90, and can sometimes be found for less.