Apr 162012

Light Up or Leave Me Alone

By Randy Woods

Review of Nathan Sports Photon LED Reflective Vest

I bought my first Nathan LED equipped reflective vest at Maine Running Company in Portland in early 2011. I run to work most days and my job starts in the pre-dawn hours. I wear a headlamp every day and before I got the reflective vest I always used a clip-on light or two. I wasn’t really shopping for a reflective running vest, but I bought it the first time I saw it because it looked like something I could wear year round to increase my visibility. I have worn it most days for a little over a year and I’ve found it to be comfortable in all weather conditions. I have mostly positive things to say about it and the one problem that I had was corrected by Nathan.

To put the vest on, I hold it by the back with the front hanging down in front of me and then flip the back part over my head. There are clips on the bottom front and back to secure it around your waist. I’ve worn it with just a short sleeve shirt and with several layers and have never had any chafing. The vest has a small zipper pocket in front for a phone or other small items. I carry a snack in mine every day. The front is a deep V-neck that separates over the shoulders and comes back together at the very bottom of my chest. The pocket begins about an inch below that junction and goes to the bottom of the vest.

The problem I had with my original vest was with the lights. The three LEDs are spaced out along a 6-inch strip with an on/off button on one end. The lights on the first vest I bought stopped working after about a month. The strip felt very flimsy. When I called Nathan, I talked to a real person and they replaced the vest for me in less than a week. But that light strip didn’t last very long either. I kept wearing the vest without the benefit of the LED for several months. When I decided to write this review I noticed on the Nathan website that they had redesigned their running vest. I called Nathan again, told them that I had bad luck with the LEDs on my vest and they provided me with a new vest at no charge. Their current offering is what I have described above. The current vest has two LED strips (one on each side of the chest) and it is obvious that the strips have been improved. I’ve worn it for about two months with no problems. The new LED strips seem much more sturdy. The on/off button is more responsive.



In the interest of safety I highly recommend that runners and cyclists display lights and wear a reflective outer layer. Most people are not comfortable drawing attention to themselves and I think that emotional element may be the biggest obstacle for some who could benefit from a product like this vest. If you’re worried that the flashiness of the vest will make you look like a freak, please consider this – you’re running in the dark. Or you’re running through the woods during hunting season. Most people would not do that. You are a freak. Let your freak flag fly.