On my last shoulder season backpacking trip (attempt!), Swami and I started the first day of rifle season for elk hunting.
What this meant is that the taking of blaze orange for our trip was a very good 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 Big game? Fowl? Deer? Elk? Bow hunting? Muzzle? Rifle? The location? 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 rules 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 The various sites I found for all the states had many outdated links.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. This site, however, does give a good general overview.
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 regulations. 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 the photos, as hikers we did not 100% follow the hunting regulations. More info on that below).
As mentioned, Colorado only requires it 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 in terms of who is required to wear blaze orange, all outdoor users really should really wear blaze orange during this time of the year.
When we were out hiking this past 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 head gear are inexpensive and wearing the blaze orange gear is easy to do.
According to this article from a hunting focused web site, “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. I don’t need the pockets and a zipped up vest can possibly snag on my other clothing. 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. Plus it can be a pain to take a pack cover off when you want to get something. And, in my opinion, all pack covers have the problem of collecting water when it rains (which is why I prefer a pack liner). Another option favored by some, is to use blaze orange tape festooned on the pack. An easy option from a backpacker/hiking standpoint is to simply use another vest wrapped around the pack and Velcroed as appropriate. The vests are inexpensive and can also be used if you have a friend from Australia you are taking out hiking/bushwhacking. 😉 If you can find some pack covers sized smaller, that would work, too.
- 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 esp since it is now faded in color. 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 head gear. I found this neat piece of gear online. Works for both the wide-brimmed hats I favor and easily goes over my warm hat too. No need to buy an extra set of head gear for hunting season. At ~$10, very reasonable in price as well. If you wear a ball cap/visor as your head gear, a ball cap cover option could work.
So, for perhaps $15-$20 in total investment, you can have a safe, versatile and not at all heavy (in terms of 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 the 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 is going to give more coverage and visibility. And if you want something more durable, Ruff Wear sells a more robust harness if needed.
At the end….
There is no reason to NOT 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 when they are taking their shot.
The clothing and gear is reasonable in price and the weight penalty is slight.
Just do it.