If you walk, cycle, or ride during the hours of dark, being seen by others – particularly drivers – can be critical to survival. For most of my career, I have been involved with products which enhance visibility in the dark, particularly retro-reflective tape applied to lifejackets and other survival aids.
Indeed, when I went to the Antarctic on an expedition back in the mid 1980s, I realised that good supplies of retro-reflective tape were essential for us during the long dark winter there. I inadvertently took the whole of the supply of such tape for the Royal Navy for the year, but at least we were able to see bamboo wands and the like.
Many years ago some textiles became available which incorporated tiny glass beads, and were quite highly retro-reflective. Sadly they did not become popular, but reflective tapes have flourished and have seen wide use. I am delighted to report that there are new products which appear to make almost any surface, including bike helmets, clothing, and even animal fur, highly retro-reflective. (And in case you ask, this does not look like an April Fool!)
These are spray paints from Albedo100 in the UK, the US, or Sweden, also selling as Volvo Life Paint. They are based on tiny reflective beads, presented in a range of different carrier media appropriate to the product.
They offer four different products:
- For more permanent use on surfaces such as metal, wood, plastic, etc., there is a clear lacquer branded Light Metallic;
- For non-permanent use on textiles such as clothing, Invisible Bright is a clear spray lasting about a week, or until the garment is next washed;
- A non-permanent use on textiles such as clothing, Sparkling Grey is a light grey colour in the light, and again lasts about a week or until the next wash;
- For non-permanent use on horses and animals, Horse and Pets is a semi-clear spray lasting about a week.
At present these are fairly expensive, working out around £0.13 per ml, and only available in 100 or 200 ml spray cans. They are also not yet widely stocked – online cycling and running retailer Wiggle, for instance, does not yet offer them, and amazon.co.uk only offers Horse and Pets.
I will be trying some out, although there is an irony that they have come onto the market just as the evenings are getting much lighter in the northern hemisphere.