An outdoor guide to hi-vis

Staying safe in dark evenings

Conor Lyons By Conor Lyons

Now the clocks have gone back, more people will be spending time outdoors in the dark .One of the key ways of staying safe, especially near traffic, is hi-vis clothing.

Whether you’re out walking, jogging or cycling, it is important to keep yourself safe. When outdoors anywhere there may be traffic, it is vital to make sure that other road users can see you – particularly at night. One very effective method is to wear hi-vis (or high visibility) clothing – such as a jackets or armbands. Some dog walkers even choose to put a hi-vis collar on their dogs so that they can be seen too.

Hi-vis clothing is designed to protect the wearer by increasing visibility. This can prevent being hit by passing traffic, as the the wearer would be more visible to drivers, and from a longer distance.

How does high visibility work?

Hi-vis technology works by reflecting back the light that shines onto the garment. This process is called 'retro reflection', and allows for light rays to bounce back towards their original direction. This is particularly helpful for drivers, as the light projected from car headlights is bounced back towards the direction of the driver when the headlights shine on a hi-vis garment. This can help a driver identify pedestrians much more easily, especially when other lighting is poor.

When should hi-vis be worn?

High visibility clothing originally came from industry, where health & safety suggests it should be worn in any environment where visibility is reduced to a potentially unsafe level. Hi-vis clothing is most commonly worn in dark or dangerous environments where people on foot are at risk, especially from vehicles or heavy machinery. It is commonly seen on building sites, or near or on the roadside.

Industrial h-vis clothing is now being redeveloped to suit the needs of walkers, joggers, cyclists and even animals. There are many different styles of hi-vis garments available, such as jackets, t-shirts and sweatshirts. Cyclists often choose to wear full high visibility clothing sets, where as a walker may only wear a gilet due to the lower risk.

For occasional use, arm and wrist bands are a useful option, as they can be used quickly and take up little room in a bag or pocket.

What are the levels of visibiliuty protection available?

The specification for high visibility clothing is enforced under EU law. This EU standard is known as EN20471, which is broken down into three classes of specification.


The lowest class of hi-vis specification is generally found in smaller accessories. To reach the lowest tier of protection, the fabric must meet certain requirements and must contain at least two 5cm bands of high visibility features.

Class 2

Class two high visibility protection is an intermediate standard, which requires two 5cm bands of fluorescent material and two bands of 13cm retro reflective material. This is a common standard, which can be found on hi-vis garments such as vests and gilets. The fluorescent material increases visibility even when there is no light source shining diretly on the fabric.

Class 3

Class three is the highest level of protection available. The requirements for class three states that the garment must contain two bands of fluorescent material. This fluorescent material should measure to at least 8cm. It should also feature two bands of retro reflective material, which are required to be of at least 2cm. The class three standard can be seen on overalls, jackets and a lot of hi-vis clothing designed for work or industrial use.

If you are spending a lot of time near roadways, Class 3 gives you the maximum visibility.

What hi-vis is needed for different activities?

For walking, class 2 protection is generally suitable, so a gilet or jacket with built in hi-vis areas. However, class 3 is recommended for extended routes near or along the roadside.

Specialist hi-vis garments are available for cyclists, as are flashing LED lights to further increase visibility. These often include include backpacks, hats, jackets and vests.

Remember that if you are carrying a rucksack, backpack or hydration pack your jacket will be much less visible from behind. Add a hi-vis cover, or choose a pack with hi-vis elements built in.

For road users, it is recommended they carry a hi-vis road safety vest or jacket in case you have to stop and get out. Carrying a hi-vis jacket is mandatory to carry when driving in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain or Croatia.

For dog walkers, there are options available to protect both the walker and the dog. Some retailers provide specialist Hi Vis garments for dogs of all sizes. These usually come in the form of a harness or jacket to increase visibility. This is particularly helpful when out in the dark or near a roadside.

If you have any queries or additional questions regarding high visability clothing, you can contact Site King for more information.

Conor Lyons By Conor Lyons


Conor works for Site King, who are a supplier of industrial clothing and accessories. He tries very hard not to be hit by cars.