I've been wandering the streets of my neighborhood at night this past week wearing black, but I have not been hard to see. No, it's not a tease from the Riddler, it's reflective clothing from IllumiNITE.
There's nothing new about reflective clothing of course. Highway workers have donned it for decades and every night I see someone jogging around with some kind of reflective orange vest on. This line of clothing is different though: it actually looks good. There are no random stripes of tape or big logos that might as well say "Look at me, I'm a runner!"
This clothing is cool because the designers looked at things from a different angle. The reflective parts are around the outside of your body instead of the middle of your chest and back, so everyone behind the wheel can recognize that you are a moving human and not a road sign. Plus the reflective part is built into the design instead of being an obvious add-on. There are solid sections that look normal by day but act like a collection of tiny mirrors at night, or dots that just appear to be normal design elements until the headlights hit them. You may feel like a superhero getting ready to save the world when you put on one of these pieces, but you won't feel like a dork.
I've been trying out a illumiNITE thermaGARD Early Riser fleece (pictured here). It performs as it should and then some. Nice locking zippers, a comfy fleece liner, a good fit, and a sleeve pocket for a (small) MP3 player. It's lightweight, breathable, wicking, and downright cozy.
When I've not been wondering what's wrong with the caps lock on the keyboards in their marketing department, I've been thinking of how useful this would be as the go-to fleece on a long trip. It may, for example, reduce the number of times you are almost run over by a tuk-tuk in Thailand or an auto rickshaw in India. It would be good for nighttime walking along the street in Latin American cities, where the sidewalks are only about as wide as your two shoes. It would be good for one of those "we will leave camp at 3 a.m." hiking trips where you're trying to keep track of each other with voices and flashlights.
So, while this stuff is mainly marketed to cyclists and runners, it might make you safer as you travel the world as well -- while still keeping you looking good. They make waterproof jackets, caps, t-shirts, and much more. You can get the background and specs on the illuminate.com website, but considering they have "See our 2007 collection" on the front page and it's mid-October of '08 as I write this, you should go elsewhere to buy the latest models.
Click on that women's jacket to the left or here to go to REI, where there's a big selection in lots of colors and styles.
Or you can find this line in a lot of good retail shops catering to cyclists.