I used to do a lot of early morning runs when I was training for half marathons. Once, I was staying with my parents, and my mother ran into me as I was headed out while it was still dark. She looked over my reflective gear and the headlamp I had over my hat and remarked, “Be safe, you look like a lost miner.”
All parental teasing aside, it’s far better to look like you lost your mining crew than it is to not be seen. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style, as the Nova LED Jacket ably demonstrates.
Nova’s goal is twofold: it wants to be an excellent, comfortable running jacket, and it wants to incorporate important safety features like LED lights and reflective materials. So we’ll be looking at Nova from each of those metrics, as well as how they work together as one package.
Let’s start with Nova as a jacket. Note that I wasn’t able to take the Nova for a run, as it ran a little snug for me, but I’ve used enough running jackets to assess comfort level with clothing even without logging a ton of miles. The material is very comfortable, and it reminds me of my favorite Brooks running jacket (this is high praise!) It has some flex to it, but still breathes well, which I look for in any running jackets. This is key, because then you can use it with shirts layered underneath, or with just a t-shirt underneath, and remain equally comfortable. As I said, it was a bit too snug for me, but I was able to wear it enough to get a feel for the jacket, and I would imagine this would also be reasonably comfortable to run in both zipped and unzipped.
There are a few touches that raise the bar on the quality of the jacket itself. For one, there are thumb holes, which are always welcome in an athletic jacket. For those who don’t use them often, thumb holes come in handy (no pun intended) as a way to keep your hands warmer without gloves, plus if it’s very bitter cold they help create a barrier beneath gloves so cold air doesn’t sneak in past your wrists and up your arms. There are two slash pockets, both with zippers, and a zipped pocket on the left arm. Zipper pockets are non-negotiable for me when it comes to a running jacket-I don’t want to stress about something falling out mid-run. The arm pocket is a little small for a phablet, but it’s the perfect size to stash a credit card, license, cash, and/or a house key. Finally, there’s a hood that is zipped into the collar, so if it starts raining during a run you aren’t stuck looking like you’re training for a triathlon but didn’t change out of your running clothes for the swim.
The Nova jacket itself is made from wind and water-resistant material, so it should withstand the elements and keep you warm and dry. There is a hole in the jacket if you want to wire in your headphones, but if you’re running with headphones, PLEASE skip the in-ear buds and get a set of bone conduction headphones like Trekz Airs. Don’t go to the trouble of wearing a lit safety jacket only to ignore being able to hear around you.
Then there’s the LED aspect. There are LED strips on the front and back of the jacket, and they light up bright green when the battery is tucked into its pocket compartment and connected to the jacket contacts. You can unsnap the battery from the contacts when you don’t need the lights to save juice, and in practicing it I found I could easily turn the lights on/off using one hand without looking once I used it a few times. It did take me a few tries to get used to lining up the contacts by feel, but once I did it was fairly easy.
The LEDs are extremely bright, as you can see from this photo:
I took that in a dark room with no flash, so you can see how even on a pitch black road, a motorist will be able to see large moving swaths of light even before they see you. In addition, the LED strips as well as the zipper covers seem to be somewhat reflective, as you can see from this photo taken in a dark room with the flash on…
The LEDs are sewn into the jacket and are nearly invisible to the wearer. I’ve worn LED jackets in the past where you could feel the mass of electronics beneath the lining, but these are no thicker than the usual reflective strips in running gear. Best of all, the Nova is machine washable, so you won’t have to worry about people smelling you coming.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take steps to be safe when you’re out running. Reflective gear is non-negotiable; it is far better to be seen clearly than it is to look cool. There’s a number of reasons to be aware and visible. Yes, there are bad people out there, but there are also oblivious people out there, and they can be just as, if not more, dangerous.
If you’re running at dawn or at twilight, you can’t assume drivers are adjusted to the low light; they might not see you clearly, but they will see LED strips. Someone out walking their pet might be lost in their thoughts, but seeing lights coming out them will make them more aware, and maybe save you the trouble of being chased by an overeager Fido.
Wearing LED or other bright lights isn’t any different from driving with your headlights on; it makes you and everyone around you a lot safer. By combining a comfortable jacket with LEDs, Nova is making it as simple as possible to be safe. If your safety gear is woven into your clothes, you aren’t going to forget it in your car or in your gym bag. 8 hours of battery life means you have plenty of time to remember to charge it between runs, plus it charges over regular old USB with a microUSB cable, so there’s no proprietary charging unit needed. The battery itself is lightweight, small and discreet, exactly what you need with a jacket like this.
Nova is still being funded via IndieGoGo, and you can back it for only $109, a 39% discount off the MSRP of $179. That’s an excellent price for a quality jacket with safety features, so jump on it while you can!
Source: Manufacturer provided review sample
What I Liked: LEDs are very bright when on, discreet when off; jacket is high quality and very comfortable material; lots of little touches like thumb holes show it was designed for runners; wind and water-resistant material makes it a multiseason jacket; LED battery is long-lasting
What Needs Improvement: Fits snugly; helps to fiddle with the battery a few times before trying it on the run