The Power of Color: Exploring the Benefits of Red, Green, and Blue Light for Hikers

November 7, 2023

Whether you’re a day hiker, weekend backpacker, or thru-hiker, you likely have items in your pack you could do without (we’re looking at you, summit beers). But if there’s one thing you should always have with you when out on the trail—it’s your headlamp. It’s your line of sight. Your most critical tool to navigate your area when the sun goes down. 

And while you’re probably familiar with the bright white light that emits from headlamps, it may not always be the most efficient setting for the task at hand. In this article, we’re diving into what the red, green, and blue lights are for on your headlamp and how you can use each mode to get the most out of your headlamp and your adventure.

When To Use Red Light When Hiking

Let’s start with the science. Red light carries lower energy than white, green, or blue light. It’s the least likely to trigger the light-sensitive cells in our eyes and disturb our night vision. So, if preserving your night vision is the main priority, red light reigns supreme.

Since red light is less likely to disturb those around you, it’s ideal for navigating your camp, hiking back to your car after sunset, or refilling your water before heading to bed. You can perform your most common tasks on the trail or around camp with a red light setting. Using red light in groups also helps all members interact without temporarily blinding each other—preserving the night vision everybody worked so hard for. 

When To Use Green Light When Hiking

Falling near the center of the visibility spectrum, green light gives you an advantage when both contrast and clarity are needed for tasks. If you’re looking to get some extra mileage by hiking past sunset, green light gives you increased sharpness to navigate unfamiliar trails. By making it easier to pick up finite details, this is the setting you’ll want to use when reading topo maps or instruments. 

Green light’s increased visibility makes it easier for other hikers to spot while out on the trail. But in terms of safety, don’t mistake green’s increased visibility for red light’s universal distress signal. If you or someone in your party is injured, the red light strobe is always the most effective way to alert for help. 

When To Use Blue Light When Hiking

With the shortest wavelength and closest similarity to white light, blue light is the least effective at preserving your night vision. While most commonly used by hunters to track blood trails, hikers can also find practical uses for their blue light setting.

You’ll find plenty of use for this mode when navigating maritime environments or deep valleys well before sunrise. And for those who prefer the clarity of white light while out on the trail, blue light is the most efficient alternative. This gets you the most natural view of your surroundings without completely compromising your night vision. 

When The Sun Goes Down, Your Princeton Tec Gear Comes Out

For over 45 years, Princeton Tec has pushed the limits of possibility with reliable, durable lights that shine bright in every situation. For the full RGB spectrum, we have two headlamps in our lineup that are built to perform in any environment. 

Remix RGB

Using the highest quality LED available, Remix boasts red, green, and blue light clusters for maximum versatility. Lightweight, simple to use, and featuring a large push button switch, this headlamp will help you make the most of even the darkest hours.

Vizz 550 RGB

With the reliability of a heavy-duty waterproof headlamp and the versatility of a specialty-colored light, Vizz is fit for endless tasks when out on the trail. Even in pitch black, this headlamp’s remarkable 550 lumens and estimated 75-hour burn time make it possible to cover more ground, find your way, and enjoy the destination once you get there.