Kayak running lights ?

Running Lights

I respect a difference of opinion but think you may have misunderstood the recommendation on our site.

We manufacture an array of lights for paddlers. We are also an OEM for Tektite and RAM Mounts components which we integrate into the lights we don’t manufacture. Our production facility is capable of manufacturing running lights, but we have opted not to manufacture or recommend red/green running lights for our paddlesports customers. I can assure you we didn’t craft our recommendations because we were unable to produce running lights.

Our decision was based on experience, research, and testing. I operate a powerboat with lobster and fishing licenses for Boston Harbor, possibly one of the most heavily trafficked waterways in the USA. And this is also where we conduct most of our paddlesports product tests.

You took issue with the statement:

“Running lights mounted at a single point on a kayak bow can not be displayed with sufficient suitable color separation between red and green to signal meaningful intent.”

This point of view has nothing to do with the physical characteristics of a red/green running light. We are suggesting that, unlike a boat, a kayak is generally unable to maintain a steady heading even while tracking a straight course. In this regard, the motion of a kayak over water is quite different than a powerboat. Facing a kayak head-on, it is not atypical to see intermittent displays of red, then green, then red. This is confusing and possibly hazardous in waterways shared with boaters attempting to make course corrections based on what they see. Also, the height above the waterline is an issue for visibility over the horizon, especially if you understand that ANY running lights on a boat must be installed according to USCG regs for distance.

Anyhow, this is just a snippet. We have tried to provide a more in-depth view in our recommendations for navigation lights. I’m sure people can vary in viewpoints, but I can assure you that our recommendations were drafted from research, discussions with USCG personnel, paddlers of all skill levels, boaters, and an array of tests in varying conditions.


Steve H


'bout ten years ago or so
kayak club up in NY/Connecticut did a bunch of tests with different lights on kayaks and the general conclusion was that lights that made kayaks look like other vessels on the water, ie. red/green/white stern, registered as a vessel on the water, not some floaty blinky, flickering thing. When I first paddled through the mooring field at night with my tek-tite navlights I had other boaters complimenting me on it and asking where to get one because the typical incandescent suction mount light they got from WestMarine was crap in comparison.

my light bulb moment
was 15yrs ago with a club paddle in the SF bay that started at Pt. Richmond Marina. A charter fishing boat was coming back and he gave us holy hell for being nearly invisible with inadequate running lights. And most folks were using those old incandescent ACR lights.

The whole bit about “have a white torch in time to prevent collision” made no sense when around other boats and you want them to know of your position.

float plan
leave a float plan

Fair enough

– Last Updated: Sep-22-11 2:27 AM EST –

I didn't figure out that you were concerned strictly about the head-on view of the bow lights, and I still don't see the point about needing spacial separation between red and green as that wouldn't change anything. Besides, since the 360-degree stern light would be seen above the red/green lights in that case, it should be obvious to an observer that other boat is approaching, even during times when just one color is showing. Even if were as confusing as you say, it seems like a trivial issue that would not outweigh the advantage of being recognized as a boat in busy waters where the average motorboater isn't going to presume that a white light marks a boat. I've noticed that even motorboats waver quite a lot in their heading when making way while diagonally oriented on rolling waves, so even in that case, a head-on view would show alternation between red and green, but when one sees that it's pretty easy to interpret since there's only one possible explanation - the boat is pointed roughly in your direction. That seems like the main situation where a sea kayak's heading would waver very much as well. I paddle canoes which track a whole lot more loosely than any sea kayak made, yet when covering any kind of distance I "peg" the stem of the boat on a distant landmark and keep it there with not much conscious effort. You describe kayaks as "unable to maintain a steady heading", but in normal paddling conditions, any kayaker CAN hold an even straighter course than the average canoer, and with a whole lot less effort, so I don't think it's a matter of capability at all, and I don't think blanket statements about ability to hold course are reason to avoid having additional lights.

Like I said in other posts, I'm not in favor of strict use of red/green/white lights in all situations, but it seems like in high-traffic areas it would have certain advantages, and the 360-degree stern light will always do what it's supposed to do whether the red/green lights are perfectly visible 100-percent of the time or not.

Congratulations on Everglades challe
Jack, you have done many things. Dad taught us to have a sense of accomplishment and achievement, to live anough in one live for many lives.

Stern Light
I was told you only need a white stern light for a non-motorized boat in North Carolina. I ended up using this:


I have the flange mount.

Combo Kayak Run lights and Headlamp
Great conversation and many good points. I use a new product on the market from Illumarine that is both headlamp AND a kayak lighting system. It’s a headlamp that has a detachable light that mounts on the bow of your boat. You can use the red/green setting or white only. The stern light / all around is integrated into the top strap of the headband. It also has a safety whistle sewn into the headband. LED lights burn for hours and hours. It’s awesome for catfishing and moonlight paddles.