So in this new gear review series, I am highlighting my favorite running gear items of 2019. At the top of my list, is the Noxgear Tracer360 running vest.
Noxgear is a super-light, LED lighted visibility vest designed to make you highly visible during night running or low-light conditions. It can also be used by walkers.
I purchased my Noxgear from Amazon back in October of 2018, along with a pair of Knuckle Lights Advanced Rechargeable LED lights. I decided to wait a few months before writing this review so I could give an accurate assessment. First of all, these two pieces of equipment are all you need to run or walk safely in the dark.
Here is the executive summary: If you need an LED running vest to keep you safe when you run in the dark or low-light conditions, buy this vest. It is well worth the money.
In Ohio where I live, if you want to run outside between October and late March before or after work, you will need to wear reflective clothing and headlamps in order to be seen.
Because Noxgear is affordable, easy to take on and off, and is recommended by so many runners, I feel it is the best piece of gear out there for night-time running.
This video shows you what it looks like.
So before I jump into the Tracer360 review, here is a crazy statistic.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average over a two year period, nearly one million runners, walkers, and cyclists are hit by motorists. In a 2010 report, 69% of pedestrian fatalities occurred at night with the most dangerous hours between 6 p.m and 9 p.m.
One of the things that I like about Noxgear is that their LED lighted vest goes above and beyond just general reflectivity. Reflectivity works great, but only if direct lighting is shining on you. If you are crossing an intersection and a car is turning, the driver may not see you until they have already turned and the lights hit the reflective elements on your clothes. With Noxgear, you can be seen from any angle or direction.
The other thing I did not realize is that there is a visual science behind Noxgear that identifies what color lights make you the most visible in different conditions. For example, depending on whether or not a driver's eyes are adjusted to the dark, not adjusted to the dark, or viewing you from their peripheral vision fields, different color lights have an increasing or decreasing impact on what see. More information can be found on Noxgear's website, in their article titled, Visual Science that Runners and Cyclists Should Know About. The science is fascinating and I had no idea how our eyes react to certain colors.
360 Degree Illumination
So the biggest feature in my mind is the 360 Degree Illumination. With reflective clothing, you may only be visible from certain angles. With this vest, you will look like a Christmas tree running down the street. I kid you not, I was running one night just before Christmas and the neighbor kid rolls down the window and started singing 'O Christmas Tree'. There is no way someone is not going to see you with this vest on.
Multicolor and flashing modes
So in addition to being seen everywhere, this vest can be operated in multi-color mode as well as flashing. It works very well, my only advice is to turn the flashing off if you are running with a group of people as it can get annoying and bother your eyes. With several people lit up, I don't think the flashing is as important because each runner's movement will create enough motion to be seen.
Battery life is approximately 40 hours according to Noxgear's own specifications. That sounds about right. I managed to run the entire Winter without having to change the battery. I don't run every day but I have run at least 40+ runs and the battery is still going strong. There is a status notification when the batteries need changed and they will trigger before the vest goes dark.
There are two things I like about this vest in regards to battery besides the long life. The vest does not dim as the battery life fades, and it uses 3 AAA batteries. AAA batteries are cheap, and can be readily found unlike some other vests that use different battery types or are hard to swap out.
Another thing I like about the Tracer 360 is it's lightweight design. It weighs around 7 ounces, and is designed to fit over your running gear. I purchased a large and I was able to adjust. While the design is lightweight, I did find the fit awkward at first. If you adjust it too loose the parts that go over the shoulder can slip off when running. If too tight, the reflective chest/abdominal strap wants to ride up a bit. This made it awkward for the first few runs until I got it adjusted just right.
One tip is to put it on and have someone adjust the vest for you. It adjusts using these beaded-stoppers (not sure what they are called) that you press down on to loosen the adjustment point and then release when you want the adjustment to hold in place. The whole process takes about 30 seconds.
The vest is completely weather proof. I have run in heavy to moderate rain as well as temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit without any issues. At first I was concerned if the batteries would hold up to the extreme temperatures. I did not have any issues.
My guess is that the vest pulls such a small amount of current to light the LEDs that the batteries could still power it even if cold. They are protected inside a plastic shield-looking case which probably does not protect the batteries that much against cold, but all Winter, I was fine.
Having said that, I probably did not have any runs longer than an hour, but it did perform well the entire time I was out.
Overall, I am pleased with my vest. The design and functionality has been able to hold up to whatever I throw at it. It is the only lighted runnning vest I recommend and many inside our Facebook group, have loved theirs as well. I actually bought this as a result of their reviews.
Noxgear, is not super expensive. You may be tempted to final a cheaper alternative out there. But, I strongly discourage you from doing so.
Whenever you have something that works well, others want to copy it. Because of that, there are many Noxgear alternatives and fakes out there. If you decide to by some Noxgear, make sure it is from the official brand. While the cheap knockoffs look tempting, they most likely will not last. I bought an off brand once and it was absolute garbage. I did not expect it to last long since it was about half the price, but I certainly did not expect it to go out on me, mid-run after about 3 weeks.
Half the LEDs stopped flashing. It lasted long enough for me to get home (with half the lights) but no matter what I tried, I could not get the full vest to work again, so I returned it.
Stick with Noxgear and you won't regret it. And if something does happen, they are based here in the U.S. (Ohio actually) and you can get support from them should you need it.