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Bright or not????
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Cameron Reed
(cameronjreed) - F
Bright or not???? on 06/05/2007 10:26:29 MDT Print View

'm getting ready to make my first backpack. It is going to be an attempt at "ultra-light". I will post pictures when the project is completed.
I will be making a pattern and most likely I will be making a "mock-up" before I have the final product just the way I want it.
My question is on the final product. Which do you prefer...Bright colored gear (reds, greens, yellows, etc) or do you prefer the more subdued colors (browns, black, dark gray, camo, etc)
I am just curious. I am thinking of making my pack yellow with black and dark gray accents, but want to get others thoughts and opinions.

Kevin Stephens
(KyKevin) - F

Locale: Land of Arches
colors on 06/05/2007 22:00:28 MDT Print View

really just personal opion but I think natural colors are the best, and if you do have to stash your pack somewhere it will draw alot less attention if it is more natural colors..........also the blacks and greens and browns and grays and such also are very easy colors to find in most fabric stores

Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
bright or not on 06/05/2007 22:15:56 MDT Print View

The new Minaposa from Gossamer Gear is silver/grey and black and I find this colour scheme absolutely arresting (the new BPL quilts also come to mind). Previously, I thought if I ever made a pack it would be black on black (okay for some stuff, but makes it hard to find, bright is easier to keep track of). One of my packs is bright yellow and black; nice in the snow, but I prefer the more orange and black Go Lite Speed. What I don't appreciate are the colours that are the 'palette of the moment'(REI badged packs come to mind) because they tend to look dated when the trend is over.

Steve Smith
(bardsandwarriors) - F

Locale: Wales
Go natural on 06/06/2007 05:25:57 MDT Print View

I think if you want to feel like a part of nature, you have to blend in. Those bright colours are designed mainly to sell gear as a fashion item (in my opinion), and to allow novices who get lost to be found easily. But they also scare fish, birds etc.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Go natural on 06/06/2007 19:48:24 MDT Print View

I think Kevin makes a good point. For a pack, it is probably best to go with something that will blend in, just so you can stash it (unless of course, you forget exactly where you stashed it). For clothing, I prefer loud and ugly. There are a couple reasons for this. If I'm scrambling with a buddy, sometimes we get in the fog and have to scout out the route. It is best to stay close, but sometimes you get in that "let me check out that ridge" mode. Being bright makes it much easier to be seen. The other instance where I find bright (and ugly) clothing handy is in a well traveled area (again, with friends). If we separate for some reason, I can be recognized from a long ways off.

I also like bright colors for little things (monocular, inline water filter, etc.). I put red duct tape on both my water filter and monocular to lessen the chance that I'll space out and leave it somewhere.

Jeffrey Dunning
(boredomhero) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Go bright on 06/13/2007 14:32:11 MDT Print View

I like a cheery backpack. I made mine out of two shades of orange and a dark gray. I think it livens things up! But then again I wear a bright red shirt with a yellow vest.
P.S. I have no black clothing in my closet :)

peter kvamme
(karacolor) - F

Locale: midwest
Re: Bright or not???? on 06/25/2007 21:19:18 MDT Print View

I am preparing to make my own ultralight gear as well, and have been wondering about the color issues as well.
After a few google searches, I came across a few sites which mention how the color of the fabric affects the light inside the tent. Obvious right, but I had not even considered this aspect once.

I cant re-find the best example I found, but here is one which mentions light:
While colour is a personal preference there are reasons why you may choose one colour over another. Bright colours may be great for search and rescue but hardly appropriate in a natural outdoors setting. The fabric colour also affects the quality of light inside your tent. If your tent is pale green or blue it will filter bright sunlight but on wet or overcast days the light inside could be depressing. These colours blend in well with the bush. In contrast bright yellows and oranges are great in foul weather because they produce a brighter light inside. A light colour tends also to be cooler.
(text taken from

Jason Klass
(jasonklass) - F

Locale: Parker, CO
Pack Color on 06/25/2007 22:21:19 MDT Print View

One word for ya: PLAID! Think about it: you'd be the ONLY hiker out there with a totally plaid backpack! Now, we just have to see if they make plaid silnylon...

Dan Yeruski
(zelph) - MLife

Re: Bright or not???? on 06/26/2007 08:14:36 MDT Print View

Green silnylon is my choice!!!!

Joe Federici
(need2boat) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Bright or not???? on 06/26/2007 08:53:29 MDT Print View

I would agree color is a personal opion but also keep in mind manufactures colors aren't the same. For me I like bright colors in gear but some manufactures colors are florescent but may not be listed as such.

If color is important I'd get swatches from whoever your going to buy from. Any good fabric shop will sell swatches at a fare price. I really like having them when decided and find I use them all the time when designing.


Wayne Teipen
(wamyteipen) - F

Locale: midwest
Not! on 07/08/2007 23:55:52 MDT Print View

I know this is an old thread but thought I would put in my two cents. I like stealth backpacking/hiking/camping so I prefer muted colors that blend into my surrounding. Nothing worse than trying to enjoy a waterfall or something whilst your eyes keep diverting to somones bright yellow tent in the background. That's just my opinion and preference and it's not a hill I'm willing to die on.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Royal Blue?? on 07/26/2007 19:11:52 MDT Print View

Trying to decide on a color for an upcoming Oware Alphamid purchase and wonder if anyone here has personal experience with Oware's royal blue color in a tarp.

Characteristics I am hoping to get with that color are: better shade from the sun than the other available colors (gray or green); dries quicker since it's a darker color, and more visible in snow than either gray or green.

As a final consideration, every tent & tarp I have seems to be green or gray. A little variety would be nice, but I'm not sure if Oware's royal blue "shout outs" when used in a non-snow setting, attracting attention.

Much appreciate any comments.


Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Royal Blue?? on 07/26/2007 22:59:21 MDT Print View

Richard - The sunlight generates about 1,000 watts of energy per m2 when overhead. If your primary objective is more shade (lower temperature under the tarp), blue is generally the better choice of the options you are considering (Mylar covered aluminum is best and bright white is a very close second). The color you see is the sunlight color that is reflected rather than those absorbed like the other colors in the spectrum. Royal Blue is a shorter wave length than green and consequently the tarp will absorb less energy. I said generally better because you can't see the infrared spectrum and rarely some dye pigments can alter the general rule because of their IR absorption.

Blue won't dry quicker than green. Since it absorbs less solar energy it will dry slower.

Grey is a continuum between white and black. Light grey will absorb less sunlight than blue and dark grey will absorb more.


Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: Royal Blue?? on 07/27/2007 00:50:16 MDT Print View

Richard -- Thanks for the analysis. It left me with some more questions, but I did follow your explanation well enough to give the edge to green, a color that appears to be a good compromise to achieve the goals I identified.

Guess that means I'll have yet another green shelter.

Questions I have after reading your reply are partly due to my lack of aptitude for digesting scientific notions, and partly due to my tendency to sometimes assume more complexity exists than is warranted.

For example, I don't understand how to reconcile your statement on the one hand that blue absorbs less energy than green because blue has a shorter wave length with, on the other hand, your diagram that seems to say (at least to me) that a shorter wave length leads to more energy. Since blue is to the right of green, the same direction that is indicated by the diagram for shorter wave lengths and more energy, it seems that the diagram is saying that blue has a shorter wave length and would aborb more energy.

Your analysis also caused me to wonder about the features of gray as described at Oware's website -- specifically Oware's statement that the gray color of its tarps (which is not a dark gray, but relatively light-colored) "lets radient heat through in hot weather (doesn't give very dark shade)". It seems to me that the above statement at Oware is just a more concrete expression of your general scientific statement that "[l]ight grey will absorb less sunlight than blue and dark grey will absorb more".

Am I correct? And, if so, does the fact that a particular color will "absorb less sunlight" mean that more sunlight will pass through that color as light? And also as heat?

By the way, I found no description of features for royal blue at the Oware website, and therefore no comparison of royal blue's features with the features of other colors. That's why I posted my question here.

As I indicated above, I conclude from your analysis that green achieves the best balance for both shade and quick drying than either gray or royal blue, and green will also be a more visible shelter than gray in snow while being a less obtrusive shelter than blue in non-snow conditions.

Maybe my shelter collection of grays and greens reflects an intuitive skill that I must have for picking colors for best all around use. But I did like that royal blue, too.

Thanks again for your information.


Edited by JRScruggs on 07/27/2007 00:52:13 MDT.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: Royal Blue?? on 07/27/2007 11:57:39 MDT Print View

Richard – You are correct that the color blue has more energy than the color green. What I didn’t explain well enough was that if you see a tarp as blue, it means the blue color/energy is being reflected from the tarp rather than being absorbed by it. If a higher energy color is reflected, rather than absorbed, then the tarp is cooler than if a low energy color was reflected because there is less total energy for the tarp to absorb and then emit as longwave IR.

About 43% of the total radiant energy emitted from the sun is in the visible parts of the spectrum. The bulk of the remainder lies in the near and mid-infrared - aka shortwave radiation - (49%) and ultraviolet section (7%). Less than 1% of solar radiation is emitted as x-rays, gamma waves, and radio waves. For simplicity, let’s assume that the fabric’s weave is dense for all tarp colors. When the suns energy hits the tarp it is either absorbed or reflected. Other than the reflected color (the tarp color) the rest of the energy is converted to longwave radiation (heat in the normal ambient temperature range). Resultant longwave radiation in the tarp is then radiated ½ up and ½ down. The longwave radiation will determine how warm you will be under the tarp in sunlight.

On 5/14/06 it was sunny, very light wind, and 81F ambient temp and 86F dirt ground temp. I set up my BD Megalight, my dark brown poncho as ½ a vestibule shade and a white Tyvek ground sheet as the other ½ vestibule shade. I used my kayak paddle as a 7’ tall center pole. After 1 hour, I measured the temperature under my pseudo shade tree. The area under the Megalite’s light grey panels was 103F, under the Megalite’s light purple panels was 107F, under my brown poncho it was 111F and under the white Tyvek it was 86F (the ground’s 86F temp was radiating up to the Tyvek limiting its ability to go lower than this temp). I now just put either my Tyvek ground sheet or a very light Mylar/aluminum sheet over my shelter’s sun exposed side when I am trying to create a pseudo shade tree.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Re: Re: Re: Royal Blue?? on 07/27/2007 12:18:04 MDT Print View

In college (30+ years ago) we did similar experiments in
the central desert of Washington.

If we allowed for a 3' or greater airspace under
the tarps, then the darker colors absorbed more heat and
made a darker shade underneath. In other words the darker
the fabric the cooler the temp if there was enough insulating airspace between the shelter and the thermometer.

The materials we tested, in order of cooler temps starting at the top.

Black construction plastic.
Laminated mylar space blanket.(silver one side, red the other with the silver side up.)

White cotton bed sheet.

Clear construction plastic with water for evaporative
cooling on it.
Rescue type mylar space blanket. (Lets lots of light
Clear construction plastic alone.

All silnylon lets light through as it is very thin.
The darker ones are best if you can allow for air space
between you and the material. Black, brown, olive, navy
give darkest shade. The royal is a bit darker than the green
and the grey is very light.

Combining the reflectivity of mylar on top with a dark
fabric underneath should combine the shade making qualities
of both.

Natural shade is by far the best as it is solid (absorbs
direct sun) and has been at the spot so the ground underneath
shouldn't have heated up earlier that day.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Thanks for the info, David & Richard . . . on 07/27/2007 16:13:42 MDT Print View

Laying a mylar space blanket over a darker tarp to improve heat reflection (shade) is a great idea. And very obvious now that I've learned of it. Multi-tasking at work again!

With a space blanket shade solution, tarp visibility has become the main factor. Blue would appear (pun) to be more visible in both snow and non-snow conditions.

Greatest need for visibility is in snow when I'm wandering around looking for the shelter after a fresh snowfall has obliterated my footprints. Guess a tarp in royal blue can be pitched near a royal blue lake or river to make it, you know, "stand out" less in summer/fall.

And I like blue, too.

Blue has now moved to the head of the class.