Gear for nighttime paddles?

My father asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I thought it would be nice to have a setup for a nightime paddle. I’ve been searching and I’ve found some lights etc… but I’m not sure what is needed. Can you outfit me for the occasional nighttime paddle? I’m not looking for anything too expensive. I just want to be seen at night.

PS. The night paddles will be with a group of people so I wont be alone (just thought I’d throw that in).

they make kits for add on
lights boat ready. I like to use a headlamp as I paddle rivers. Check your local laws to see what is required. Probably a white light visible 360 degrees.

Beyond legal
Besides what may be mandated locally, if you have a fiberglass hull, try 2 flashlights, one pointing to the bow, the other aft. My translucent fiberglass boats light up like Luke Skywalkers light sabre this way. Depending on your boats color and make up, it would be quite visible 360 degrees.

here in

florida all you need is a flashlight and its up to you to make sure your are seen, I use a headlamp and glow sticks on the back of the canoe, also I hav a laturn just in case.

What is your envoronment like
and what are you like? A good waterprof petzl healamp would do it for me and I’d leave it off most of the time. Then again ina busy harbor…

On our club night trips
We have everyone bring a good flaslight and we provide lightsticks one hung over the bow out of the paddlers line of sight and one tied high on the back of the PFD. You have markings front and back and both boat and boater are marked. Hanging the front one out of sight helps preserve night vision too.

You’ll really enjoy night paddling it’s a completely different world.

Good luck


night time…
is a blast…but bring some obstacles we don’t face in the light of day.

besides being in a group, besides knowing the area you are in and having a chart, besides having a radio and flares, besides leaving a float plan so folks know what you’re up to and then contacting a point person so that you have someone responsible knowing what you’re doing, when and where you’re going and what time to expect you back…

you can’t see or be seen at night. CG reg’s require us to have a light sufficient to avoid collission…so that doesn’t mean you need your headlamp “on” all the time, just handy in case you need it to signal a vessel (but for god sake stay clear of channels, yeah?)…besides, pretty much any light you have is going to be insufficient to illuminate much past your bow if you intend to use a headlamp to “see” and on top of that, if you try to protect your night vision by keeping the light off as much as possible, you can see pretty well.

seeing the compass? yup, that’s a toughie…if you have a fixed compass, try moving a portable (one of the models that rig to the deck lines ideally, not a hand held…) closer than the fixed one…if not, no biggie, just a little tougher to read at night…you’ll have to put that headlamp on briefly to get a compass bearing and take a look at your chart…

what we’ve done is hang a glowstick from the stern and then hang one on a longer piece of line from your shoulder…the line should be long enough that you can grab it, and then swing the stick in a circle over your head…it’s really pretty visible…the eye is attracted to light and movement so it’s a two-fer. and for these same 2 reasons avoid putting a glowstick on the bow…the light on the boat is so that others in your group will be able to see the boat…the light on you is so that folks might be able to see you if you and the boat become separated.

also, group count…a lot! …so if there are 5 folks in the group, then everyone has a #…so if paddler 3 starts the count, then 4 pipes up, 5 pipes up and then 1 through 2. everyone should be in earshot and this way everyone knows that you haven’t dropped someone from the group…if you think about it, if it’s 10 minutes that someone has been separated, that another 10 back, so that’s 20 minutes…is there current, wind? where’s that paddler and boat now in that 20 minutes?

be conservative in your choice of venues, be safe, have fun.

Movement/ Reflective Tape

– Last Updated: Jun-27-05 1:28 AM EST –

All good ideas above. But don't underestimate the value of movement - a bit of reflective tape on each end of your paddle blade and added to the front and back of your PFD if needed is simple and hugely helpful. You can get a pack of the stuff for several dollars at any marine supply store. The nicest part is that reflective tape or material also helps in the fog.

If you use an idea across sports, look for an inexpensive Illumilite vest. You'll find this stuff in catalogues of bike and running gear. Again, it'll help an approaching boater see your movement.

As far as lights that can be seen for 360 degrees, there are both white and red/green lights now that attach to your boat via a suction cup. They are pretty bright. Pull one out of your day hatch as dark approaches, or start out with it mounted, and you will be quite visible. The white light is sufficient for anywhere you are most likely to be paddling, on rivers and within a rational distance of shore on the ocean. Further out from land you'll start seeing recommendations for a green/red light, or maybe in some navigable channels depending on your state's regs. You can find these things in a number of places now, any good marine supply store as well as online.

Regulation lights
After many years of paddling at night and loving it, I picked up a set of suction-cup mounted regulation running lights at West Marine.

The bow light is red-green, and the stern light is white. The units are waterproof, and float if they fall off (Which they don’t seem to if properly attached), and they’re LED, so the batteries last upwards of 100 hours.

Some friends of mine saw me coming in at night from a half mile away with them on. The set was $50.

I also wear a headlamp that I leave off until I see a power boat headed my way. Then, I turn it on, and look at the oncoming boat. Seems to work very well.


Ive been looking around on the net and online and have been unable to find suction cup type running lights in LED. Ill take a look at West Marine.


My Two Cents…
My attitude is only use the one White Light…NOT the red and Green Bow lights…


Another POWER boater, seeing the red and green bow lights, who knows he has the right of way, can mistake you for a boat with the ability to move out of his right of way…

on the other hand, mooring regs say a 360 white light at night, SO, another boater should be more cautious…

Here’s a link to a discussion of Night Kayaking on Lake Meade theat gives some advice…

We’ve had this discussion locally
The two most confusing lighting issues seem to be the proper use of a red/green light and a yellow strobe on a paddle craft. We’ve been around this in our local paddling group, with the strobe issue being clearer since inappropriate use may really annoy another boater who just pulled up to (unnecessarily) rescue you.

I hadn’t thought about the right of way issue - thanks for mentioning it.

Boat traffic?
If you’re in a populated area, the other boaters will really appreciate it if you also look/act like a small boat (which you ARE!). Flashlights and headlamps can be confusing to other boats and actually draw them to you to see if there is trouble.

Do NOT use strobes!

If you go the flashlight only route, keep it off and just stay out of the way. Use the light for emergencies only.

Here’s a useful article:

Here’s pictures of a setup like they recommend on my QCC:

Here’s more product info:

(What I have are the same lights as in their Navlite and Sternlite items - but without the bag and pole (a single LED red and green and a 2 LED white). Just the lights. You have to call to get these. There are also 4 LED versions.)

I’ve been out after dark a couple of times now and did not feel good about having a flashlight. Even though it meets regs I could not help but remember the countless times I’ve been out in the sailboat after dark and the trouble Ive had in identifing other boats without standard running lights.

I followed your links and may look into a set of those. They seem even easier than the suction cup type that I was attempting to track down.


I never did like…
… the idea of taking a hand off my paddle to pick up a flashlight. Then what? Waving it around to warn an oncoming boat? Then expecting the OTHER boat to take action? Geez - wouldn’t time and effort be better spent paddling out of the way? (always carry one at night anyway - never know when you’ll need some light to fix something).

Headlamp? Maybe on some backwater creek where you need it to find your way through brush - but for visibility to others?

Whatever is used - take care it doesn’t impede your night vision.

a system approach
I use a strap on style compass that has a red waterproof LED module under the housing. It illuminates the dial really well. I keep the compass on my foredeck so I don’t have to look at it all the time, only when I check bearings. The one on my foredeck would make me sick if I had to watch that bouncy thing glowing so close to the horizon.

I have an LED headlamp that is waterproof. I use the LED glow sticks as they are waterproof and usable over and over. I make sure to carry a couple chemical glow sticks in case someone forgets or loses on. It helps to have a lanyard to keep it attached to the pfd. Having an assortment of colors is good because if John is wearing a blue marker and I have a red one then that must be Suzy over there with the orange one. Sometimes belting out “sound off: 1…2…3…4” disturbs the allure of the night

Rick S mentioned counting off; good idea. Also, navigate at night. Get to know the markers and buoys, radio towers, glow of the city, close at hand or far away. Mark your chart or map with hydro features such as tide rips, eddies, or land features that funnel wind.

Rob G

yeah L
I use NVGs, and a Laser pointer if I NEED to designate a target!!

USCG regs, single white light

– Last Updated: Jun-27-05 4:45 PM EST –

must be visible 360 degrees, canoes and kayaks are not required to have "running" lights.
Only needs to be turned on in time to prevent a collision.

Now that you have the lighting requirements down how are you going to power them?..

I of COURSE, have the answer;-)…

A few suction cups for legs, and voila! (Sure a bit noisy, but think of the visability with 350 watts of available power!)

Just Kidding…LOL