Long distance paddling trips are the ultimate kayak adventure, but you need the right gear to be safe. And few items are more important than your kayak light. Choosing the best kayak lights however, will depend largely on your trip, your kayak and the unique needs of your trip. We’ll break down the best kayak lights for you and the situations they handle best.
When You Need to Shed Light on the Situation
Long distance paddling is a ton of fun, but there are a number of hazardous situations a light can help prevent from capsizing you and ruining your trip. In addition to the added visibility kayak lights provide, they also serve as an invaluable navigation tool. A kayak light enables you to spot – and avoid – other boats, obstacles and wildlife. They can help you find your way in unfamiliar waters and ensure you’ll be seen by other vessels far away.
Types of Kayak Lights
Kayak lights come in a number of different forms and the one you use will depend on your needs for your specific long distance paddling trip. Choices include everything from handheld flashlights, and headlamps to deck lights, navigation lights, strobe lights, and even underwater lights.
Handheld flashlights are simple to use, affordable and easy to come by. But, since they need to be held (hence the name), they’re not well suited to trips where you’ll need a light for long stints or after dark.
Headlamps are extremely popular with kayakers because they’re hands-free, which enables continued paddling, while providing a large, forward-facing beam of light.
Lightweight and compact, carrying them often means slipping the headlamp into a pocket or the kayak’s storage compartment. Still, you should remember they can become a bit uncomfortable after a long stint and are limited to the life of their battery.
Deck lights, which attach to the kayak itself, are another hands-free solution. They provide great visibility for the surrounding water and the kayak’s cockpit, but they can also be on the bulkier side and obstruct your view.
Navigation lights are less of an “option” per se since they’re required by law. More for safety than illumination, they ensure other boats can see you and what direction you’re traveling. Kayak navigation lights come in a range of colors, including red and green, and can be mounted on the kayak’s bow or stern. When choosing a navigation light, it’s important to consider the additional weight they add as well as what kind of power source they’ll need.
Strobe lights are effective but best used for short periods. These high-intensity lights flash rapidly, making your kayak highly visible to other boats. Unlike navigation lights, they’re compact and lightweight and can be attached to your kayak’s deck or personal floatation device (PFD). As a safety tool, especially in crowded waters, they are a must. However, they’re a bit too bright for close-quarters navigation and may distract other boaters.
Underwater lights are for kayakers who want to witness marine life. The beautiful, intricate lights displays are designed to attract fish and other marine life. If you’re a casual marine biologist, the extra bulk of these lights is ultimately well worth it.
How to Choose the Right Kayak Light
To choose the right kayak light for your long distance paddling trip, you’ll need to prioritize the features you believe you’ll need the most.
Some good aspects of a light to consider include its brightness, battery life, water resistance, size and weight, and mounting options. Each feature offers specific advantages that may outweigh the detriments of it . If you know you’ll be in dark and foggy situations, for example, the visibility offered by a kayak’s light brightness may outweigh it being bulkier or heavier.
On the other hand, if you’re going to be navigating whitecaps, water resistance will be extremely important and may become more a deciding factor than battery life. Mounting options are also crucial to consider since that will determine how secure or accessible the lights are.
Top 5 BEST Kayak Lights for Long Distance Paddling
YakAttack VISICarbon Pro Light
The YakAttack VISICarbon Pro Light is both versatile and durable. The lightweight, compact light provides 360-degree visibility, making it ideal for long distance kayaking. Best of all, it’s rechargeable battery has a long life, so you get peace of mind during especially long lighted stints.
Lumiz Nocqua Adventure Gear Sport Edition
The Nocqua Adventure Gear Sport Edition is easy to install and has a long battery life. Extremely practical, it’s also waterproof and durable, making it ideal for both placid and choppy waters.
Navisafe Navi Light 360°
As the name says, the Navisafe Navi Light 360° provides 360-degree visibility. There’s a lot to love about this kayak light, like its long battery life, how easy it is to mount, and its durability. This is another waterproof kayak light, meaning you don’t need to be worried about gathering storm clouds.
Pelican 7100 Tactical Flashlight
The Pelican 7100 Tactical Flashlight’s long battery life makes it an ideal choice for a long distance paddling trip. In addition to being waterproof, it’s also shock proof with a durable, high-quality casing. No matter what situation you find yourself in, this kayak light offers a lot of peace of mind.
For both safety and sheer practicality, a quality kayak light is not optional when it comes to long distance paddling trips. Remember to carefully consider what specific features you need most and always keep the safety of added visibility in mind. We hope this list of the top 5 kayak lights helps light the way to a great decision so you’re fully prepared for your next kayak adventure.
So, don’t take your kayak out for a spin without a proper set of lights. Otherwise, you’ll be like a clown in the dark without his big red nose – completely invisible and a little bit ridiculous.
Are kayak lights required by law?
Yes, navigation lights are required by law when kayaking at night. They’re designed to make your kayak visible to other boats and provide a clear indication of your direction of travel.
Can I use a regular flashlight as a kayak light?
While it’s possible to use a regular flashlight as a kayak light, it’s not recommended. Most flashlights are not designed for water use and they take up a paddling hand. Also, they may not provide enough visibility for long distance kayaking.
Can I attach kayak lights to my PFD?
Yes, some lights, like strobe lights, can be attached to your PFD for maximum visibility. Be sure to ensure the kayak light is securely attached and doesn’t interfere with your paddling.
How long do kayak lights last?
The battery life of kayak lights varies depending on the type of light and its brightness settings. However, most kayak lights have a battery life of several hours to a few days.
Can I use underwater lights for long distance kayaking?
Underwater lights are a fun kayak accessory but aren’t the best choice for long distance paddling. In addition to requiring a power source, they can add unnecessary weight to your kayak.