The Essential Gear and Tips for Safely Running in the Dark

There is no denying it, we have arrived at “that time of year”.  The time of year when we jolt from long days with lingering daylight to days when the sun burns through the sky in a miniscule amount of time, blanketing the land with darkness before dinner.

Finding time to run is one of my biggest adjustments when the limited daylight hours arrive.  I often run after work.  But in the past week, even running a few miles starting at 5 pm puts me in danger of running back home in the dark.

No, I’m not afraid of the dark.  I am, however, acutely aware of how dangerous it can be to run on both busy and quiet roads after the sun sets.  And for many reasons, I am quite adamant about my desire not to become roadkill.

So, what is one to do?  How can I keep running and walking in the dark evenings?

An Alien-looking Light-up Vest

“Alien Vest”

I recently purchased Noxgear Tracer360 vests for both Mr. Adventure Rich and I.  I was first introduced to these vests last year when several people I run with bought them.  My first thought was something along the lines of:

“No way am I going to be caught dead in that alien-looking weird light up vest thingy!”

By the end of the winter last year, my perspective flipped completely…

While I cannot deny the fact that these vests look kind of weird, I also cannot deny that they are the most visible, eye-catching piece of night-running equipment I have come across.

The vest has lights visible from all angles.  Awesome.  But even better?  The crazy flashing lights and changing color setting is eye-catching and give me a better chance of being seen by the texting or otherwise distracted driver I am sharing the road with.  Just check out this video of their vest in action!

Is your running partner a dog?  There is even a Noxgear LightHound vest for your pup!

Reflective Gear

In addition to a light-up vest, I like having some type of reflective gear in place to add to my chances of being seen in the dark.  Articles of clothing or gear (shoes, hats, gloves, belts) may have reflective piping.  If you do not have reflective clothing, you can buy iron-on reflective patches or reflective vests.


Evening run near a local horse farm

A headlamp is a key piece of my night-running equipment.  This will illuminate your path, helping you avoid a twisted ankle or the shin-deep puddle of water!  I currently use the Petzl Zipka Classic Headlamp, but I recently read an excellent headlamp review over at Cheap Athlete.  You may want to check out his recommendations as well!

Additional Lights and Flashers

Light up “slap sticks”

Better be safe than sorry, right?  In addition to or in place of the vest, headlamp, and reflective gear mentioned above, I suggest looking into other types of lights to increase visibility.  Here are a few inexpensive lights I (or people I run with) use on a regular basis.

Slap Stick Arm Bands

I have a few “slap-stick lights” which I will wear on my arm and ankle during lower light (dusk).  I have also used them on our stroller when I run with AR Jr. in the dark so the stroller is more visible.

Basic Clip Flashers

These guys are great versatile lights that clip onto almost anything (your shirt, jacket, hat, backpack, etc.).

Shoe Lights

Shoe light clips can be additional eye-catchers on a dark night.

Safety Tips for Running in the Dark

Dusk during a recent run

The proper lights and reflective gear can go a long way to ensure safety during pre-dawn and post-dusk running.  But I would be remiss if I did not share a few other safety tips to consider.

Tip #1- Music-Free Running

I run music-free most of the time, but especially after dark.  If there is a car, a bike or an animal approaching me, I want to hear it and be prepared to adjust accordingly.

Tip #2- Bring a phone

I have grown accustomed to running without my phone when I run familiar routes.  But when it is dark, I bring my phone regardless of where I am running.  If I twist an ankle, get lost, or just feel “off” or uncomfortable about my surroundings for any reason, I want to be able to call someone (Mr. Adventure Rich to the rescue!) to come get me.  Plus, most phones have built-in GPS and flashlights for additional help in sticky situations.

Tip #3- Bring your ID

Not to be too morbid, but if I am knocked unconscious, I want people to know who I am and who to call as they (hopefully!) rush me to the hospital!

Tip #4- Run with a partner or inform someone of my route

After dark, I either run with a group or partner, or I make sure someone knows the route I plan to run and my expected time running.  That way, if something happens to me and I am not home in a reasonable amount of time, Mr. Adventure Rich or some other contact knows where to look first.

Tip #5- Run familiar routes

For many reasons, it is worth running familiar routes you are already comfortable with in the dark.  The knowledge of the physical characteristics of the road (smooth, potholes, good shoulder, sidewalks), familiarity with the neighborhoods/surroundings, and the diminished chance of getting lost are all excellent reasons to stick to what you know.

Tip #6- Run against traffic

This is a running rule in general, but at night it is especially important.  I want to see the car coming at me long before they are passing me, and my best bet of that comes when I run against traffic.

Good luck with your dark-running adventures!  Does anyone else enjoy pre-dawn or nighttime running (walking? biking?)?  Any other gear or safety tips?  Or crazy running in the dark stories?

Always an Adventure,

Mrs. Adventure Rich