I hate headlamps.
Headlamps — while useful — give me headaches and ruin my depth perception because the light source is too close to my eyes.
But the worst part about headlamps? The bugs. There’s nothing that makes a nighttime slog more miserable than inhaling the tiny gnats that insist on flying toward the light.
Solution? GoMotion’s Reactor light vest. It keeps the light away from your eyes and the bugs away from your mouth so you can run/walk/hike at night without the headache, frustration and extra protein.
The whole kit weighs less than a pound (14.1 ounces) and includes two pockets, a back bungee cord stash space and a 100-lumen CREE LED light and two rear red LED safety lights.
The light has three brightness settings, 110-degrees of beam-angle options and an adjustment knob to change the beam width from narrow to wide.
Battery: GoMotion advertises the battery life as 8 hours on high, 18 hours for medium and 54 hours on low. I’ve gotten way more than that.
I recently ran an all-nighter pacing a friend at the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-miler. I started with fresh batteries and ran with the vest on the high setting from 8:30 p.m. to almost 6 a.m. without noticeable dimming. I’ve since run, on the same batteries, for 2 more hour-long night runs and still haven’t gotten a low battery alert. With lights this bright, I’d worried I’d have to swap the batteries during the night, but I’m glad to say these have been lasting all night.
Fit: This will fit average-sized guys just fine, but this vest isn’t made for small women — and I’m not that small. I’m 5’6″ and 130 pounds and have the adjustable straps just about as tight as they’ll go. This keeps the vest from bouncing, but does cause the front to bunch up due to the so-tight sternum strap. Otherwise it’s fairly comfortable. The back of the sternum strap is padded for comfort and the the whole kit is made from breathable hex mesh.
Cons: Because the light is on your sternum it will not always be pointing in the same direction you’re looking — turn your head quickly the light will not follow. This also causes issues on steep downhills. The light will fall off in front of you, instead of pointing down toward the trail. I got around this by adjusting the whole light to point closer to my feet, and then readjust it back to level at the bottom of the hill.
During the all-night hike we spent a fair amount — probably 90 percent — of the time walking. When walking and hiking this light is great. But during a recent race, I spent two hours running in the dark. When I run, the light shifts from left to right as my upper body twists. I fixed this by carrying a small flashlight to spotlight the whole beam of the Light Vest. When running on the road or familiar trails, this shifty-twisty light bounce doesn’t bother me, but on unfamiliar trails and when severely sleep-deprived I found I need a extra help.
The back pocket that holds the battery pack seems like a good place to store small items. But I worry anything too small will fall out through the opening that allows the rear flashing lights to show through. I was able to easily pull my keys through this opening. Plus, put in anything too big, like a bandana, and you’ll cover the safety lights.
The main back pocket is big enough to hold my iPhone (Version 5), but if it were an inch deeper I wouldn’t worry so much that my phone fall out. I’m constantly feeling back to make sure whatever I stashed in that pocket is still there. I will only trust it if I’ve stashed a jacket or spare shirt in the bungee cords, but this makes the back pocket practically inaccessible.
The on/off button and the brightness setting button are located on the top of the light. These are extremely difficult to feel — even without gloves on. I usually have to slow down and look for the buttons, instead of just reaching up and changing the setting.
Verdict: For slightly more than a mid-range headlamp, you get two pockets, bungee cord stash space and reflective trim. All that — even with the cons — is sure worth $30 to me.
If you’re not interested in the vest, you can purchase just the Sternum Light Kit for $59.95 to use on your hydration pack or backpack.
Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and our resident women’s gear destroyer. She’s now on a bug-free diet.