A properly attired hiker: Blaze orange in hunting season

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  The various sites I found for all the states had many outdated links.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 ColoradoMore 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 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.

There may be blow downs..but at least I am visible in them! From thehikinglife.com

What to wear?

  • 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
  • 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 headgear.  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 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. 
Someone modeling the latest in backpacker fashion for the hunting season. She is on record as saying her posing for this photo is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

So, for perhaps $30  in total investment , you have a safe, versatile and not at all heavy (in terms of ounces) coverage for hunting season.

October 2015 while off-trail in the Lost Creek Wilderness. Note the hat/pack cover/vest combo. The setup is what I use currently.

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.

Photo from Ruff Wear blog

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 before they  take their shot.

The clothing and gear are reasonable in price and the weight penalty is slight.

Just do it.

Courtesy of thehikinglife.com


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8 Replies to “A properly attired hiker: Blaze orange in hunting season”

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been hesitant to hike during hunting season. Wearing more visible clothing will help me feel safer!

  2. I just finished a 4-day trip in Ansel Adams, ending on day 2 of deer season. I met 3 hunters on the trail, all carrying loaded rifles. We chatted, trading experiences, and continued. I’m also a firearms owner, so I know their rifles were loaded with the safety on. I didn’t worry about my safety because I was staying on the trail, and because I have a blue backpack. Hunters are not going to squeeze off a round at anything that moves – they’re looking for fur and antlers. But, if you are bushwacking through a thicket, you may want to sing while you are walking.

  3. Normally, I like wearing muted colors in the backcountry. The color of my clothing and gear are typically tans, browns, and greens so I often blend into the background and other people don’t notice me if I’m not moving. As an example, while taking a break next to the trail in Yosemite NP, a backcounty ranger walked right by me and then stopped another hiker coming along 20 yards down the trail to ask him for his permit and bear can.

    But, during hunting season or when doing paved road walks, I wear a bright orange wind jacket (Montbell Tachyon Jacket at 1.8oz in size L). It’s light enough that I don’t mind carrying it. I also have a orange pack cover that I often use as well.

    In late September, I hiked up the Tahoe Yosemite Trail and run into several hunters with rifles in the area near Hwy 108 (some were nice enough to drive me down to Kennedy Meadows north. As I heard rifle fire in the distance several times as I hiked, I was glad I had something that mad me stand out.

  4. we came from S. Africa where there is no such thing as public hunting, wandered into Three Sisters Wilderness on the first week of deer season. Quite apart from the season of which we were blissfully ignorant, it never occurred to me there would be hunters in a wilderness area. The grey flysheet was hanging in a tree drying in the breeze as we ate breakfast. Someone shot it. At that point I wasn’t many years removed from the experience of being shot at in a war zone, so there was a lot of yelling and obscenity.. never did find the hunter.
    I still have the blaze orange caps and vests we bought at the first gas station on the way out.

  5. How about wearing a yellow reflective construction vest instead of hunter orange? Mainly because I already own the construction vest. Any thoughts?

    • 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

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