Some states have made it law that hikers wear bright orange in certain seasons, even though the color may not suit them all. So, why should hikers wear orange?
For those of you who do not have experience in hiking, this might seem like quite a strange law. After all, orange is not the most popular color for your wardrobe choice.
However, you must wear plenty of orange clothing when hiking during the hunting season, which typically starts from September to December. The color is very visible and can let hunters know there are people nearby, which can prevent nasty accidents.
In this guide, we will learn why hikers should wear orange in the hunting seasons and what sort of clothing they should wear. You will also learn what colors not to wear and whether it is a good idea to cover your animal companions with orange as well.
As an avid hiker, I always take care to wear orange during the fall for my own safety and protection. Since I was asked this question by many beginner hikers, I have decided to write down a guide explaining why this is important.
Why Should You Wear Orange When Hiking?
Hunters are required to wear blazing orange, also known as hunter's orange or safety orange, during the hiking season. In fact, all hunters are required to wear this color as well.
The reason is obvious enough.
Blazing orange is a very bright color and is easily visible, particularly as your days start to get darker. Wearing the color will allow hunters to see you clearly and not mistake you for a deer or any other animal.
As such, the color can save your life. Hunters will not shoot at anything that moves; however, when they definitely know it is a person, they will not shoot at all.
According to the government of Massachusetts, the use of blazing orange has helped to significantly reduce hunting-related accidents during the fall season. All hunters and hikers are required to wear this color as a precaution, even though it may not be your color, as a respectful way to share the outdoors with others.
What are the Dates When You Should Wear Orange When Hiking?
Hunting season can be categorized according to the different types of game, hunting, and weapons used. Different hunting seasons have different rules for what you should and should not wear.
In general, it is the rifle season that requires you to wear blazing orange; strictly speaking, in bow hunting season, you do not need to wear the color.
The first thing you need to do if you are thinking of hiking is to find the dates of when the various hunting seasons in your state start. Once you have accurately determined that, you need to check out your state’s specific orange clothing rule, how much of it you need to wear, and in which areas you need to wear it.
In some states, only hunters are required to wear blazing orange, while non-hunters are not. However, it is my humble opinion, that regardless of the specific rules of that area about who is required to wear orange, all outdoor users should really consider wearing this color for safety purposes.
Even if the state does not make it mandatory for hikers to wear blazing orange, you can be sure that hunters will appreciate the fact. We should be considerate of everyone using the outdoors and help them get a good experience.
Blazing orange gear is not expensive and it is easy to don, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t wear it.
What Orange Gear Should You Wear
It is important that you wear orange all over the various parts of your body, especially the chest, and the head. Let’s take a look at some of the safety clothing you should invest in.
A Lightweight Vest
The most obvious place to wear orange is your core area. It is important that you look for a lightweight vest that may protect your important organs. It is much better for you to get a polyester vest and avoid plastic vests.
You can easily buy a polyester vest for $10. Try to get one size larger so that it can easily fit over your other clothes and any insulation garments that you may be wearing. You may also opt for a vest with mesh that not just ventilates nicely but also offers good coverage.
A lightweight vest will allow you to breathe easily and will dry quickly, making for a more comfortable hiking experience.
Some people think that they can wear construction vests to hike. Although they also have a bright and fluorescent color, they also contain reflective white stripes which can be an issue in certain light conditions since they can seem like the tail or another part of a hunted animal.
So it is best to be safe and to invest in full-orange vests.
A fall hike can be quite chilly so it is a good idea to wear a blazing orange thermal shirt that offers you excellent protection from the cold as well as works well with the vest and improves visibility. You can also buy blazing orange crew neck tops made of light, synthetic, and affordable material.
Caps and Hats
It is equally important to make your head visible during hiking in the hunting season. If you have a dark or neutral shade cap, you can wrap a blazing orange bandana around it to cover it up. However, make sure that the bandana does not shake loose. It is much easier to simply go and buy blazing orange baseball caps, beanies, boonie caps, sun hats, and visors.
If you already have plenty of hats and do not want to buy an orange one just for the hunting season, you can always invest in cheap hat covers in blaze orange. These covers can fit hats of all sizes, are easily removable, very visible, and are sold at just a few dollars.
Since you will be hiking, it stands to reason that you will have a backpack with you for keeping the necessary supplies. Chances are your backpack is a neutral color, like most packs out there, so it is important that you make it blaze orange as well so that it becomes visible in dim conditions.
You can find many blazing orange pack covers online that are one-size-fits-all and can fit packs of varying sizes. Keep in mind that some covers are made of heavier material, so if you do not relish the idea of carrying even more weight, you need to buy covers that are made of lighter fabric and can go on and come off easily.
Gear for Canine Companions
The safety of your dog is just as important. It can be very dangerous to take out your dog, particularly those that share the same colors as a game animal like deer (brown or tan with white patches), to go hiking without making them wear safety gear.
Every time I see a trail runner with a dog wearing no blaze orange gear, I am shocked and pray for their safety. Always remember that your pooch is more in danger of being mistaken for a wild animal or game animal since it has fur and runs on four legs.
It is important that you invest in a blaze orange vest or harness that can give your dog more visibility and coverage. If you don’t want to do that, at the very least you should consider getting a blaze orange bandana and tying it to your dog’s collar.
Gear for Equine Companions
The same safety is necessary for horses as well. If you are riding a horse out on the trail, it is important that hunters easily distinguish the animal from a deer.
Make sure to put a blaze orange vest on your horse as well as cover its head with a helmet cover. Alternatively, you can also use a hunter orange rump sheet instead of a vest on your horse.
With just a small amount of investment, you can have versatile, heavy, and lightweight protective coverage for the hunting season.
What About Blaze Pink Color?
If you are seeking an alternative to blaze orange color, some states now also allow blaze pink color as well. This is a fairly new alternative but be warned that there are no standards defined of what constitutes blaze pink color. In addition, there are not as many non-cotton gear available in blaze pink colors like hats, thermals, or backpack covers.
Make sure you check your local and state regulations to find out if this color is allowed in your jurisdiction. If you do wear blaze pink as an alternative to blaze orange color, my personal recommendation is to wear a high-visibility fluorescent pink that can be seen easily in dim light conditions.
What About Other High-Visibility Colors?
Not all states require non-hunters, such as hikers, to wear blaze orange gear. If you already have a collection of gear that consists of high-vis green-yellow vests that are sold for running or construction, they can work well too.
However, in my opinion, if you are looking to buy some high-vis clothing, then go for blaze orange gear since it is a much safer choice.
Generally, hunters will keep an eye out for blaze orange jackets or caps rather than other high-vis colors so it is a better choice. In addition, you can find all kinds of gear and clothing in blaze orange color and it comes in a wider range of non-cotton materials, which can allow you to choose the gear that you prefer.
What About White or Neutral Colors?
It is not a good idea to wear white, or tan colors during the hunting season. A glimpse of white or tan color in between foliage by a hunter can easily be mistaken for the tail or hide of a deer. This can be deadly for a hiker.
So whether your state mandates that you wear blaze orange clothing during the deer or bear hunting season, common sense and your sense of self-preservation should make wearing it a very obvious choice.
Why Should Hikers Wear Orange?
In the end, there is no reason why hikers should not wear orange gear. The color may not be a favorite of all hikers, but it can offer you a lot of benefits by keeping you safe, giving hunters peace of mind that you are contributing to your general safety, and will create a more pleasant and enjoyable outdoor experience for both hikers and hunters.
Most hunters are responsible and they will not take a shot at every tan or white object, or everything that moves. However, mistakes can always happen, particularly during low visibility conditions.
It is rare for a hiker to get injured because they were mistaken for an animal. However, most of the time, this type of incident happens to people who have not been wearing blaze orange gear.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks