Ultrarunning Edge Blog
High Intensity Reflectors for Marking Night Trails Print E-mail
Written by Bruce R. Copeland   
Sunday, 06 September 2009 13:06

The 2009 Bear 100 will be using high-intensity reflectors instead of glow sticks to mark the night time part of the course. Ultra trail races have for years used glow sticks to mark the trail at night. While glow sticks do a decent job indicating night time routes, they are abhorrent in many other respects. Glow sticks are expensive; they generate complaints from other trail users; they are environmentally unsatisfactory; and they require a special trip over the course for placement (because of their short life time). Here at the Bear 100, we have been searching for a good alternative to glow sticks, and we think we have found it in the form of high-intensity reflective film or tape.

reflectorsThere are actually quite a variety of high-intensity reflective materials available. The material we are using is 3M Scotchlite Diamond Grade 983 reflective tape. A great deal of optical engineering has gone into this and related products, yielding a very high reflectivity even at low light levels (RA ~ 800 cd/lux/m2 at optimal angles) and good reflectivity at low angles from the reflective surface (RA ~ 300 cd/lux/m2 at 45 degrees). This material is also highly durable (seven to ten year life), meaning we should be able to reuse these reflectors for quite a few races.

We will be deploying reflectors as 1/2 in. x 3 in. strips attached to standard plastic flagging. This shape is similar to a glow stick and will hopefully make it easier for runners to make the transition from glow sticks to reflectors. The linear shape should also increase the likelihood that reflectors will still be visible when partially obscured by foliage. These strips cost roughly 13 - 14 cents apiece. In testing, these reflectors are easily visible at 100 yards—similar to glow sticks (see 2_reflectors_at_100_yards).