Best type of flash light for kayaking

I need a flashlight for paddling - one that I have on the deck for signaling an approaching boat or occasionally scanning something ahead, etc. My question is what type of light is better? I see the lights with an array of LED lights that give off a nice bright, but broad light. Then there’s the typical lights with a focused narrower spot. It seems to me the array of LED’s would be easier to spot as a signal since it has such a broad area, but I’m wondering if they are effective for scanning a coasline or rocks, etc. What type do find most effective? Not necessarily the make/model, but type of light.



How much money do you want to spend

– Last Updated: May-23-06 9:04 PM EST –

Surefire Nitrolon would be the best bet, for what you want as far as a small incandescent. An Inova T2 would be best for an led IMO, both lights cost about the same and use 123 batteries, the Inova has a much longer run time but is not quite as bright. Chris

$50 or so
Good versions of either type can be had for under $50, but I’ve never used one of these new led versions.

Best Flashlight
By far it is the 4 AA cell Streamlight with the Luxeon LED bulb. This puppy is BRIGHT, last a long time on batteries, is totally waterproof and can take abuse. It was designed for firefighters. It is the 2nd one on this page:

I have this and another that looks like this but has 7 LED’s. Very highly recomended.

If you really
want to see something, or be noticed, don’t look to LED’s. Get a Surefire M-6 Magnumlight, they aren’t cheap but they are awesome (and I don’t use that word lightly)

I second this flashlight
I second this light for brightness, toughness, and size/weight/useability. I bought mine at Costco . . .


Flashlight site
For an education in flashlights, I highly recommend checking out CandlePower Forums ( The “flashaholics” there are as passionate about their flashlights as most here are about their boats.

Personally, I like my Princeton Tech Yukon HL headlamp which has a 1 watt Luxeon LED lamp for “distance” use and 3 5mm LED’s for close-up stuff. Also keep a eternaLight EliteMax handy in my PFD. It’s got 4 5mm LED’s so it’s beam is only useful to about 30 ft. but it’s waterproof, it floats, and has multiple flashing modes including S.O.S. (which can be seen at long distances). It’s brightness level can also be varied to provide hundreds of hours of (reduced level) light if necessary. Also makes a great camp light. More info on this light and other eternaLight models at the Technology Associates site (

Also have a few other lights, mostly Luxeon 1 or 3 watt LED’s at my disposal, but these 2 have been very useful.

light for paddling

– Last Updated: May-23-06 11:33 PM EST –

First off if you're paddling at night you've got a couple decisions. If you're paddling around boats where your paths can intersect you want to be SEEN AT ALL TIMES,,NOT paddling in stealth mode expecting a flickering dim light or instantly bright light to communicate your position that will require a ten ton yacht traveling at 15mph to change course,,don't do it. That means red/green running lights with a stern white light. This may sound geeky but it's like riding a bicycle at night where the white light goes in front and the red light in back. On the water there's a convention that you're required to follow. Flashing disco balls and a rave collection of flashing LEDs with glowsticks doesn't cut it.
Tectite makes a red/green setup that's about $50. VERY bright and long running (50hrs) with three AA batteries per light and two LEDs with red/green lenses. West Marine has another version for dinghies but it requires a bracket. I'm not sure it's submersible like the Tectite light.

Ok,,but IF you're not paddling amongst boats and want a minimum setup for signalling or identifying objects 100' away then it takes WATTS. And WATTS burns up batteries no matter if it's LED or Halogen. If you want WATTS and HOURS of illulmination it'll take BIG batteries, not bunches of AA, more like bunches of Ds or pricier rechargable NiMh,LithIon and the cost is $100-$300. In which case there's nothing wrong with a big heavy 6v floating lantern for $15-$20. It just won't fit on the deck well.

Here's what I'd suggest. A one watt 4AA flashlight on the foredeck only to be used as needed. NOT a running light. If it has to be used as a running light because you don't have anything else you really don't want a four hour four watt flashlight after it's been used a few other times that month,,and you discover in an emergency situation that your four hour flashlight really has to last four hours,,and it's got one hour left on the batteries. Been there, done that,,in the S.F Bay.
If one watt isn't bright enough then look for a 4C cell LED light. If you HAVE to have a BRIGHT 3-5watt 4AA light that will burn out in a few hrs then have a back up flashlight. You don't want to have one dying flashlight. You really don't.

Spend the big bucks and put some Lithium disposable batteries in it. Then put a looped tether on it that could allow you to loop it on your pfd, wrist or deck rigging. With four AA Lithium batteries it'll last over 50hrs and will be adequate when shined on someone or getting a sense of a shoreline from 100' in pitch dark.

There's a couple other Princeton tecs I'd suggest
This little 4AAA three LED light is small and will burn for 150hrs. It's not for illuminating far objects but it's just a backup and can fit in your pfd pocket. Tethered to your whistle and removable if needed.

or this one for tighter beam and 75hr run time.

something worth considering is a strobe,,it's for helping to find your body, otherwise the other lights tethered to you could work and would actually burn longer than a strobe but not as visible from a distance.

This PricetonTec Apex is a special mention, I don't like head lamps on kayaks/boats but for some reason it's 3watt light lasts a long time and is BRIGHT. It's good enough to go bike riding.

Thanks all
This is the info I was looking for. I will be all set for running lights, but needed that light that was on the deck just in case to to scan ahead. All set with camp lighting, headlamps etc. Thanks for the education. This site has been so helpful for learning.

watts/ time
I like the killer bright lights but I hate making a flashlight a maintenance issue with

Get a headlamp instead
You need your hands for paddling, so flashlights are not very useful in a kayak. A headlamps works much better and it points wherever you turn your head.

Just as an additional resource, I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve purchased from

What, LeeG
no link for Tectite? That’s unlike you (hint hint).

Moonlight is the best. Doesn’t ruin your night vision. The problem with using a flashlight, of any kind, is light contrasting with the dark. You will focus only on what the light is shining on. Personally I try to keep the use of lights at night to a minimum.

I seriously doubt you will ever find yourself in a situation where you’ll need a flashlight to scan the shoreline for any safety related reasons. You won’t be able to hold on to one while paddling anyways. Running lights and a small simple headlamp or hand held light should do the trick.


Just this

flashlight reviews

Lots of good information there.

I’ve got a Princeton Tec Yukon HL, which I like for its flood/spot ability, but it’s been replaced by the Apex. The flood mode is good for general use, and the spot is good for picking out bouys or objects on shore.

SabreLite LED. 3-C cells and a forward-mounted LED firing backwards into a reflector. This thing throws a BEAM, but it’s only good for distance as it’s too bright for anything close. Good battery life, but I don’t remember the claimed hours. Waterproof to a ridiculous depth, and approved for use in hazardous locations, for those post-burrito excursions. Has a nice, big, strong clip and a lanyard, too, so it’s easy to secure.

Pete in Atlanta

Petzel Duo 8

– Last Updated: May-24-06 4:46 PM EST –

The Sea Kayaker Dec 2005 Reader's Choice light. I own one, and it is super, with both LED and traditional bulb functions, and use either one or both (thus can optimize for close versus far, battery saving LED versus blinding bulb or deer-stopping both LEd and bulb). Nice fit, and keeps hands free. Very nice for those early morning dark launches. And waterproof (but does not float). Pricey, but hey, buy one rather than four cheapies. Check eBay for some deals. Flip through the link I nave provided to see many Sea Kayker Readers Choices... do you have the best equipment? Check it out.

Another plug for Flashlight Reviews. I’ve bought too many flashlights by reading the package blurbs only to find they didn’t do the job. This site will enable you to compare cold hard facts:

For shore scanning power, the Princeton Tec Rage is great. Very bright, long throw, waterproof. It’s a good blend of lighting power/price/battery life. And it uses AAA batts, available everywhere. It’s smaller brother, the Tec Blast (2-AAA batts) is also great. Here’s the Princeton Tec Rage review:

I don’t think LED’s have quite the illuminating power of incandescent bulbs. But they do excel in long battery life. Here’s some LED info from the flashlight review site: