TL;DR: Wearing the same amount of blaze orange as required by hunters is wise. Hunters will not shoot at “anything that moves,” but instead they will not shoot at all if a person is in their firing area. Wearing blaze orange is good for safety, the hunters appreciate it, and wearing blaze orange is a respectful way of sharing the outdoors among all users.
What this meant is that the taking of blaze orange (also called hunter orange) for our trip was an excellent idea.
Oddly enough, the wearing of blaze orange is not required for non-hunters in Colorado. But, we thought it would still be a good idea for our safety and the hunters’ peace of mind.
With that recent experience in mind, here are some ideas for the wearing of blaze orange beyond a simple vest.
What are the dates and rules for hunting season?
The most obvious step is to find out what date the various hunting seasons start in your state (or province if hiking in nearby Canada). Note that “hunting season” is a broad term. Hunting season is split into different types of hunting, areas, and even weapon types. Big game? Fowl? Deer? Elk? Bow hunting? Muzzle? Rifle? The specific location and unit? You get the idea.
Different seasons and areas have different rules. *GENERALLY* rifle season requires blaze orange; strictly bow hunting season does not. But, again, find out the dates and regulations for the specific area first. The various sites I found for all the states had many outdated links. Better to Google, for example, “Hunting season dates in Colorado” More specific and up-to-date.
After that, find out the blaze orange regulations. How much is required and where it must be worn. Google is again your friend for specific rules. The IHEA site appears to be updated for that type of info.
In Colorado, 500 square inches must be worn and visible. That means visible both above the waist and on the head.
As you can see from some of the older photos, as hikers we did not 100% follow the hunting regulations during that weekend. As my awareness increased over the seasons, I changed my clothing for rifle season in particular.
As mentioned, Colorado only requires blaze orange for hunters. In my home state of Rhode Island, wearing blaze orange is required of all users of the DEM lands.
Regardless of the specific regulations concerning who is required to wear blaze orange, all outdoor users really should wear blaze orange during this time of the year.
When we were out hiking that weekend, the hunters expressed appreciation that we wore blaze orange. We are sharing the woods, and all users want a good experience for everyone.
Wearing blaze orange is needed for safety, the vests and headgear are inexpensive and wearing the blaze orange gear are easy to do.
Though hiker accidents are rare during hunting season (esp. compared to the number of people using the outdoors for recreation), any accidents that do happen are typical because no blaze orange is being worn.
According to this article from a hunting-focused website:
In 2010, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that in the past 20 years, 81 percent of victims in vision-related hunting incidents were not wearing hunter orange clothing.
So, no reason to not wear blaze orange clothing.
- The first and most obvious place is the vest for the core area. Avoid the plastic vests and get better polyester vests. These vests are perhaps $10 or less. I like mine sized larger for putting over my other clothes including insulation layers. At this time of the year, many big box stores, local hardware stores/outfitters and XYZMarts tend to have the blaze orange. I like to KISS with my vest. I don’t need the pockets and a zipped up vest can snag on my other clothing. If it is cold, I have a blaze orange thermal top that works well and provides much visibility. Crew tops avail, too that are 100% synthetic, light, and inexpensive.
- If you are looking for lightweight vests that breathe and dry quickly, check out the Orange Aglow products. About 2.2 oz for a vest with mesh that ventilates well and has excellent coverage. The designer of the gear hunts avidly in varied conditions and has thru-hiked the PCT in addition to a good chunk of the CDT. He also sells panels suitable for attaching to a pack or your dog’s harness. UPDATE OCT 2019: Joan and I started using these vests after the owner gave us two to try. Very effective and only $15.
- Note: I would not wear construction vests. From what I read on hunting forums, the reflective white stripes can mimic, at a quick glance, a certain animal being hunted. :O
- Since you are hiking, you need to have your pack with blaze orange visible as well. Though pack covers are sold, they are generally sized for larger, non-cottage gear, packs and tend to be made of heavier material. I did find a small, silnylon pack cover I’ve since switched to for hunting season. Easy on/easy off and not much weight penalty. Similar to this one. Other cottage manufacturers have ones for sale as well.
- The head is the last part that needs to be visible. In the past, I used a bright orange bandanna covering the hat. It worked OK but not ideal as the color of the bandana is faded. I attempted to use some tape this time around, but that did not work. You can buy blaze orange ball caps, boonie hats, and warm hats. However, I do not necessarily want another set of headgear. I found this neat piece of gear online that covers my existing hats. Works for both the wide-brimmed hats I favor and quickly goes over my warm hat too. No need to buy an extra set of headgear for hunting season. At ~$5 , very reasonable in price as well. If you wear a ball cap/visor as your headgear, a ball cap cover option could work.
For a small monetary investment, you have a safe, versatile and not at all heavy (concerning ounces) coverage for hunting season.
Canine companions and blaze orange
On our recent trip, I was a bit surprised to see a trail runner out with no blaze orange clothing. Even more surprising, to see his dog with no blaze orange on. A brown dog with white spots…..Yikes!
Safety for your pooch is just as important. Perhaps even more so in a sense they are on four legs and running.
At the very least, get a blaze orange bandanna to attach to your dog’s collar.
Better yet, a vest or harness is going to give more coverage and visibility. And if you want something more durable, Ruff Wear sells a more robust harness if needed.
Already have a harness and don’t wish to buy additional gear? Orange Aglow sells safety panels that could easily attach to an existing harness.
At dawn and dusk
As noted by Colter in the comments, visibility is very low at dawn and dusk. The time when many hunters are out and about, too. Wearing a LED light of some sort is advisable. Many headlamps have a low light, blinking mode that work well for longer distance visibility.
In the end…
There is no reason NOT to wear blaze orange when hiking. For the hiker, and outdoors people in general, the wearing of blaze orange will keep you safe, put the hunters at ease knowing you are helping with general safety and will make for a more pleasant experience for everyone sharing the woods. It is not that “hunters are shooting at everything“. Most are responsible. The wearing of blaze orange helps hunters so they can see you are nearby before they take their shot.
The clothing and gear are reasonable in price and the weight penalty is slight.
Just do it.