Best flares for kayaking?

What do you all find to be the best flares for carrying on your pfd? (I’m paddling Lake Superior, mostly along the south coast with some 2-4 mile crossings in the Apostle Islands). I haven’t been carrying flares (I carry a small airhorn and flashlight), but now I’m thinking it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have them in my safety kit (plus my own VHF radio; I’ve been relying on my friend’s VHF, but it also sounds as if it wouldn’t hurt to have more than one VHF per group).

The comments at the West Marine website make it sound as if many of the small Orion flares that fit into pfd pockets don’t work well when needed. Any experiences, good or bad, with specific brands and models?

Here are the Orion flares I was considering:

Orion Skyblazer XLT

Orion Handheld Marine signal flares

Orion pocket rocket

Orion red handheld flare solas

Orion 25 mm red meteor

I carry the 3-pack of skyblazers. They don’t last as long or go as high as a parashoot flare which is the best in terms of visability. The size and cost of the skyblazers make them a better choise for me.

The 12 gage and 25mm pistol launchers are just too big for me to carry, even though they offer better visabllity as compared to the skyblazers.


Parachute Flares

– Last Updated: Jun-21-06 6:31 PM EST –

Parachute flares have an average height of 1000-1200ft. The burn time is 30-40 seconds. With a rapid rise and slow descent.

Meteor flares average height is 250-400ft with a rapid rise and descent and a burn time of 5.5 seconds.

Hand-held flares burn steady at about 10ft for 50-120 seconds.

Flares are good at night

– Last Updated: Jun-21-06 4:38 PM EST –

I think Orange smoke flares would be better suited for being spotted in the daylight. They would also be very good at conveying distress if there was a problem with the VHF. Smoke will burn for about 60 seconds, make a big cloud and hang around for a few minutes.

Smoke flares
In the USK safety and rescue video they do a demonstration of all of the common types of flares. They showed what they looked like from the beach. It was pretty shocking.

During the day the small ones were practically invisible. Smoke flares were far and away the best.

I would definitely go with the orange though b/c the white just looks like somethings on fire.

And the pistol-types
certainly appeared to be easier to fire than the pencil-style. Less chance of burning your fingers.


With all these options, you’ve got to consider how easy they’d be to use in the conditions that you’d need them: Tired and scared with numb fingers, and getting beaten up by waves. Reloading a pistol might be too fussy under those conditions.