Out in front of Timberline Lodge last August, at the start line of the Hood to Coast Relay, I was looking around the merchandise tents for some logoed swag to bring home. I certainly don't need any more t-shirts or running jackets; gear from different races has given me much more of those than I could ever use. Hats, though - I'm always on the lookout for a new running hat. For some reason I can never find one that fits quite right. I didn't like the look of any of the regular hats they had, but there were some lighted hats for sale, which could be used in place of a headlamp for the nighttime running portions of the race. That sounded like a good deal for me, and since I tend to run in the early morning at home anyway, I figured I'd get some good use out of it. About $30 later, I had myself a Panther Vision LED Lighted Performance running hat.
It performed very well during the race. There are three LED lights, two pointing down in front of you and one pointing forward off the front of the bill. There's a fairly unobtrusive battery pack along the side, and a button incorporated along the side of the brim. One click on the button turns on the two downward-facing lights, a second click turns those off and the forward light on, and a third click lights all of them up. Fourth click takes you back to the off position. I wear glasses, and found that the forward-facing light gave me a little too much glare, so I usually just went with the two downward lights. Depending on the angle you wear your hat, that projects far enough forward to see most anything coming.
Getting back home, I used the hat a few times on my early morning runs around the neighborhood. I'm used to running many of the streets around town without lighting, and there are quite a few streetlights, so it didn't seem totally necessary. On occasions that I got into unfamiliar areas, though, or places without lights (North McCarran) the extra light and visibility did give me some peace of mind.
Nighttime trail running is a different bast, one I don't have much experience with. I'm not sure this hat would give you quite enough light while, say, in the middle of a 100 miler when your concentration is slipping anyway. Probably best to go with a really bright, dedicated headlamp system in a case like that. This is fine for around town, in between streetlights and stuff.
Another good use of a hat like this is camping. My family only really got out once this year, out to the Reese River Valley near Austin, NV, but I wore this hat in the evenings and it worked great. Better than fumbling for a headlamp or flashlight, turning a ballcap backwards to get the headlamp on, not having free hands with a flashlight...
I did have an issue with the hat not long after that camping trip, though - the two downward facing lights stopped working. After doing all the troubleshooting I could, taking batteries out and putting them back in, checking connections, etc., I looked up warranty info on the manufacturer's website. The basic warranty was to send them the hat with $4.95 shipping and handling included and they would replace it. There was also a customer service email, so I asked if that was the best thing to do (mentioning I was a running blogger) and got a response back to call a specific person at the company. I did, explained my situation, and whoever I was referred to seemed a bit baffled as to why I was talking to her. She advised sending it in as outlined in the warranty FAQ. I did, and a few weeks later, got a replacement (sadly, unlogoed) hat in the mail.
The new hat has worked fine, although I've been using it a lot less during the winter months when I've worn a warmer knit hat instead. I'm sure I'll use it again in the spring and summer next year, though.
So, I like the hat pretty well, as long as it's working. I'm still a little miffed about having to pay them to ship a working hat back to me, and kind of curious about the weirdly unprofessional emails from their customer service. I think the company isn't really customer service oriented, more manufacturing. But they do make decent product, and it fits well into my menagerie of running gear.