Kayak lights for night paddling

Saw this a few months ago at Gander Mountain.

Duravision Pro 360 Marine Set


  1. Waterproof
  2. Take 1 AAA each I think
  3. Three modes, static on, and two blinking modes

are these the same?
If so, they’re great.


visible and meaningful
are important. My wife likes her combo red and green suction cup bow light operated in steady mode. This meets the USCG definition of “sidelights”. Placement is crucial for visibility to other boaters. It is mounted high and forward and level.

We also favor a 360 degree white light such as these http://www.paddlerscove.com/leddecklights.aspx. It is much more visible to other boaters and like a properly fixed sidelights it does not shine light in paddler’s eyes. Neither is possible to tend to from the cockpit. A reliable flashlight or headlamp is also part of our night gear. Like cold water clothing, test it all to determine how well it really works.

Navilight 360

I have had one of these for a couple of years. It was one of the items in a gift bag of swag that I received for participation in an event. It is definately one of the coolest kayaking lights I’ve ever seen. It has proven to be waterproof, and easily attaches anywhere with the magnetic plate. It is also easy to take off to use in your tent at night if kayak camping.

I second the Paddlerscove link
for that light. Paddlers Supply Co. I have been told we are very noticeable from a far distance. We put on our stern deck (under bungees with suction) Some of our boats have a rough texture so the bungees and clip help secure it.

Around here
the general practice is to have a single white light with 360 degree visibility.

The red and green give the perception that you are under way and have the ability to maneuver like a powerboat would. Essentially, you might as well tell them you are at anchor so they know to go around…


Check with your state DNR
Here is what is needed for Iowa in terms of lighting.

Manually Powered Vessels When Underway

Manually powered vessels are boats that are paddled, poled, or rowed.

If less than 23.0 feet long, these vessels should exhibit a white light visible for 360° around the horizon and visible from a distance of at least one mile away if operating on natural lakes, Corps of Engineers impoundments, border rivers, or impoundments on inland rivers. If this light is partially obscured due to the nature of the vessel, an additional white light must be on hand to be shown in sufficient time to prevent a collision.

Vessel operators should never leave shore without a flashlight. Even if you plan to return before dark, unforeseen developments might delay your return past nightfall.

All Vessels When Not Underway

All vessels are required to display a white light visible for 360° around the horizon whenever they are moored or anchored outside a designated mooring area between sunset and sunrise.

Legal lights for night use
If you are going to paddle at night, use something that other boaters will recognize. The rules are very precise and easy to follow. Go to a marine supply store and purchase a battery powered self contained red/green light for the bow and a white light for the stern.

A simple explanation of the requirements is shown at www.boatsafe.com/nauticalknowhow/sidelights.

The lights recommended earlier in this string of suggestions would be considered illegal, since they red/green sidelights would be visible from about 180 degrees. Legal ones are visible from an arc of 110 degrees. All this is important because when another boater see you, the lights visible to him give him information on your direction. The rules of the road dictate the actions he will take to avoid you.

A good, portable, self contained red/green will probably cost around $20. They come with a suction cup mount, but be sure to add a short lanyard in case it comes off.

Legal lights
All that is legally required in any state is a white flashlight that can be shown when required to show your presence. It doesn’t have to be “on” all the time, just when another boat is approaching. Never shine it in the other guy’s eyes.

Some of us that paddle a lot at night chose to use the portable red/grn and white lights used by larger boats, but all that is required to be legal is the white light. (Coast Guard Rules)

A little about “shining in their eyes”

– Last Updated: Mar-25-10 9:23 PM EST –

In my experience, this aspect is highly over-rated, and if you are using a beam-type light and a boat is headed straight at you, the best thing to do IS shine it right at them, rather than rely on them seeing the much dimmer side-glow. Normally it only takes "a swing or two", rather than a "steady aim" to catch their attention, but go ahead and point it at them for a moment. Why do I say this?

First, us paddlers are not carrying all that much candlepower. I don't care how bright your light may look to you up close, at a distance of a quarter of a mile to half a mile, trust me, it won't blind anybody, and the best chance the pilot of that speedboat has for seeing you is if you aim it right at him. If you are one of those guys who lugs along a 5-pound spotlight, maybe be a bit more judicious than this, but otherwise, "fire away" with no fear.

Second, many powerboats can go 60 mph (or close to it), and if such a boat is half a mile away by the time you shine your light at him, he's only 30 seconds away from running you down if he's headed your way. Make sure he sees you NOW, not later. Again, your light won't be uncomfortable to look at from that distance, so you want to use it to its full advantage in case he's distracted or drunk.

As a fishermen who has used a very small motorboat for 30 years, I've been on both sides of this situation plenty of times. I have had speedboat drivers fail to notice me UNLESS I pointed a bright light right at them, and though they probably would have seen a dimmer 360-degree light or a light aimed a little off-target before it was too late, I don't take chances when about 80 percent of the speedboaters around here drink and drive, and many of the rest take a too-casual approach to watching where they are going. When I myself am under motor power at night, I have YET to be bothered even by spotlights that stationary boats have aimed at me (this is rare, but it's been done occasionally by anchored boaters who "just wanted to make sure" I knew they were there, a mindset I can understand). I also think that the average person is smart enough to do what I do if a light actually IS bright. Don't look right at it. Why would anybody look at a bright light? It's just like when driving on the highway, mis-aligned headlights have no lasting effect on your night vision because you look a little to one side as the offending vehicle approaches (all of you do that, right?), and that's a case of a light that is much brighter AND much closer than anything you'll encounter on the water.

I agree with that

– Last Updated: Mar-25-10 9:20 PM EST –

On this board there are one or two very "vehement" advocates for "looking like a boat" by having lights that are red green and white, but the thing is, even boaters who are unaware of paddlecraft know that a white light is something to avoid, since it can be an anchored boat, a boat that is being overtaken from the rear, or some other obstacle on which someone installed a light. They aren't going to run into you just because your lighting didn't include red and green, and in comparison to the speed they are going, our boats ARE virtually stationary.

Excellent post nm

those are good
I’ve been using this because 3AA lithium cells last a long time and the whole set-up is durable and won’t get knocked off or out of position during rescues. The nylon cover can be aranged to sit on top of the lens to cut out direct light to ones eyes yet still project outwards. I’ve had sailboats and motor boats remark that they could see me a long ways away. Then a put some kind of white light behind the cockpit.


Red/Green with White stern is what I use

– Last Updated: Mar-26-10 4:24 PM EST –

We are discussing this on another forum and I will paste my most recent reply below. A white signaling light is a good idea, but I use it last, not first. Actually what I use last and prepare for if the powerboat keeps coming is the unzipping of my pfd and the pulling of my skirt. My last effort will be a swim straight down. I agree with what Jerry has written, so I guess you can put me on the other side of the fence in this debate.

As a kayaker, and perhaps more importantly, a lifelong powerboater, I would have
a slightly different take on this. I would rather have no light at all, and on
evenings where I am more remote and in less traffic I will shut my lights off.
By signaling a powerboater with a white light you are indicating a possible need
for assistance and more than likely you are not going to be signaled back. You
now will likely have someone coming over to investigate why you shined a light
in his face. The marine rules of the road apply here and this is what
red,green, and white are for, left, right, and stern respectively. Regardless of
whether the vessel approaching appears further off (low on horizon), when you
see both red and green you are on a collision course. Many small fishing boats
have their lights at the same height as a kayak and most power boaters know this
and will adjust their course according to what colors are showing. A white light
on your back will not protect you from an oncoming vessel. Their is nothing
wrong with a white light in your hands to signal an oncoming boat, but then
again you could apply a quick bow rudder and show him your white stern light and
avoid having some drunk come over to you and ask what the prolem is. There is no
good solution to this problem, and everyone can apply whatever safety measures
they feel will work provided they pass the legal requirments. I choose to follow
the method used by all mariners for hundreds of years as it is what is most
ingrained in their brains, or what little of them are working. A white light
could be practically anything, a red/green right next to each other is an
approaching vessel and as such must be reacted to. Most importantly,just be seen. Bill

the rule for “white torch/light to shine in time to prevent collision” fits the technology available before LEDs and lithium/NiMH batteries in a waterproof package. Better regular running lights and a high powered 1-3watt white led light to signal a warning if need be.

The best thing one can do in traffic is to have bright enough running lights so that other boats can have plenty of TIME to get a fix on your position and keep track of you as they continue on their course and avoid a collision. Waiting until the last minute “to prevent collision” requires stopping paddling and shining a light at the colliding vessel. The problem there is the assumption they’re going to see you, as well as all the other boats who didn’t see you.

Gotta say I resent the demeaning
shots at power boaters. Seems they find their way into kayaker posts regularly. I get people pissed here because I speak out against kayaker snobbery and elitism. As a Captian of 15 years, as well as a sponsored paddler of as many years, I say get over the power boat bashing and focus on being a courteous mariner.

Yeah there are jerk powerboaters as there are kayakers who are often incompetent mariners, let alone poorly skilled paddlers. Many kayakers are rescued by power boaters.

Some may think the jabs are minor and not worthy of my reaction. I submit that they perpetuate shallow minded elitist thinking which can lead to poor seamanship, arrogance, and lack of general courtesy.

Be safe, be nice, take the time to learn the regs and adhere to them.

Sorry Salty

– Last Updated: Mar-26-10 5:46 PM EST –

You might not be talking to me, but I did comment about being careful of the ones who are drunk, so I'll explain that. In my region, "power boaters" are recreational boaters, and it is indeed rare for them not to have beer on board, and I've never been on our local lakes when powerboaters where out in good numbers and NOT seen the drivers of several boats with beer in hand. Same goes for distracted driving (conversations, usually). I'm not saying most of them are not safe drivers anyway, that is, safe enough for the demands of what they are doing, but I will never assume that each boater coming my way at night is paying close attention, even if most of them will see me and avoid me quite effectively and politely if all I have is 360-degree lighting or if I give them a quick swing of the beam of a flashlight. This isn't an "us versus them" thing, just an observation that dictates that one be careful. I have a few gripes about a good many of the paddlers I meet too (my most-typical gripe is about the ones who can't figure out how to avoid "hogging" a boat ramp or the ones who paddle right through fishermen's lines when there's ample room to miss them).

Signalling the need for assistance?

– Last Updated: Mar-26-10 5:57 PM EST –

As I stated, I've been fishing at night in my own littel motorboat for 30 years, and for at least 10 years prior to that I did so with my dad. For much of that time, I had no light source which could be left on continuously, so the flashlight beam was the method used for notifying approaching powerboats of my location. In all those years, not a single boater has mistaken a couple of swings of the flashlight for a signal for assistance. In every case, they simply alter course to go around. A signal for assistance would not be so brief, and would be aimed at anybody nearby as much as possible, rather than only at boats on a near-collision course. Speculation about such things ("You now will likely have someone coming over to investigate why you shined a light
in his face") is okay, but 40-plus years of experience shows that boaters are smart enough to figure out the difference between asking for help and a simple notification of your presence.

As far the idea that "white light could be anything", that isn't true if you are in lake country. A white light represents an anchored boat almost 100-percent of the time. If I'm going 4 mph, I don't care if they think I'm anchored, as they'll still miss me be at least 100 yards, on average.

It is also incorrect that simply seeing the red or green of another boat indicates that you are on a collision course, as nothing can be said about that without accounting for the speed of each vessel. There is no justification for expecting a powerboat to give stand-on status to a kayak just because his green light is showing, but of course, the average boater can TELL if he's close to being on a collision course or not and will probabably turn in whichever direction is convenient, rather than altering course accodring to whether he sees red or green in other words, I see nothing "wrong" with having red and green lights. Just don't expect other boaters to give you stand-on status because your lights indicate that you are a "boat").

I am not from lake country, and I am.
what I mean is that Lake St. Clair is one of the busiest waterways in the world. We have more registered boats per capita than any other place in the world that keeps records. Shining a lite to another boat around here usually means you are trying to signal them and is inviting an inquiry of some kind. I do not paddle in smaller water so I don’t know the nuances of how our experiences may differ. In my lake at night there are many offshore racing type boats running at very high speeds. I try to paddle out of the typical boat traffic areas, but when I am in these areas I am using my red/green and white in the stern. I don’t understand your point about the use of red/green. If you are underway and you see red/green lights, you should assume that you are on, or near, a collision course. Please explain how you cannot be. These “rules of the road” are taught to all power squadron students and learned eventually even by the uneducated. I have driven boats in excess of 100mph at night in the same area I paddle in. The use of anything other than red/green is less than ideal in my opinion. “A white light can be anything” is probably taking some leeway with the words, however around here there are many lights near the water and extending into the water on piers and these lights provide reflections. Most power boaters will heed a white light as somethnig they could hit, nearly all will recognize the red/green as a vessel. I disagree with your critique, and fully recognize that it may come from a different set of experiences. I should have prefaced my comments with “if you plan to paddle in Lake St. Clair at night”.

Salty- I too am sorry if you took offense. Not because I don’t think that powerboaters in my area deserve the lions share of the blame for poor behavior on the water, but because you were offended. The near totality of marine fatalities in my area are caused by powered vessels with an alchohol component. I must say that I have seen as many morons in kayaks as I have in power boats, although my last rescue while kayaking was a jet ski at South Bass Island Rendezvous. My last rescue while powerboating was a drunk who swamped his bass boat in the Detroit River. My buddy punched a hole in his kayak when somebody in a 50 foot sportfish violated the no wake zone and brought him down on a coral head three feet below the surface. I think kaykers are aggressive in their characterizations of powerboaters because of the relative size and power of the two craft. The “it is so much easier for them to move than me” attitude. It does not mean that kayakers are not in the wrong. My thoughts. Bill

wow, do I feel lucky now
I rarely see a boat in the daytime doing more than 40kts and at any time I rarely see more than a few boats in sight other than anchored folks fishing. The harbors have more boats, but always going dead slow. And at night (especially weeknights when I paddle at night) I see even fewer boats. I shall count my blessings and likely avoid travel to such dangerous waters.