You purchased your hi-vis rainwear, safety vest, T-shirt or sweatshirt and you believe that you are now highly visible (that is, after all, what hi-vis means, right?). You may be surprised, however to discover that you aren’t as visible as you think. Why? Because not all reflective tape is created equal.
There are primarily two types of reflective tape:
Glass Bead Reflective Material
Glass Bead reflective tape is made up of thousands of microscopic glass beads (hence the name) “glued” to the tape material. When light is aimed at the tape the tiny glass beads reflect the light back making the wearer “light up”.
The nature of the glass bead tape makes it highly flexible and lightweight.
a. The big problem with glass bead tape is that it loses it’s reflective quality when it gets wet. Many people who are wearing a reflective garment with glass bead tape do not realize how much of their reflectivity is lost when the garment is wet, putting them at risk when working outside in the rain at night.
b. Glass bead tape does not resist abrasion well.
Prismatic Reflective Material
Prismatic reflective material is made up of thousands of “micro-prisms” that are covered with a transparent film.
a. The prismatic material is waterproof and does not lose it’s reflective quality when wet.
b. It is much more abrasion resistant than glass bead material
Prismatic reflective material is not as flexible or lightweight as glass bead material making it feel somewhat restrictive at times.
Although glass bead material is more flexible (able to bend easily with the garment) it is not stretchable (neither is prismatic material) and because of that it can break. In order to address that problem manufacturers are now able to lay the reflective glass bead tape in strips, allowing the garment to stretch without tearing the reflective tape (see image below).
If you are purchasing a T-shirt, a sweatshirt or any other garment that stretches, consider purchasing one with this type of reflective tape.