Lights at night

I am planning on doing a moon light paddle tomorrow & understand that I need lights at night.

Can anyone recommened what kind of lights to use?


Robert G

where are you paddling?

I generally use an LED headlamp.
The idea is you want something bright enough that the other guy will see you, but not bright enough to compromise your night vision. When I paddle at night, I generally leave the light off unless there are other boats about that may not be aware of my presence.

I have a
light pole, stands about 2 1/2 ft high which I mount on the back of my kayak in a bracket. Needed to drill a hole in the boat for the mount though.

It is made by Carlisle (?) and has a single white light powered by 2 D cells.

I have seen here where others have just purchased a small light that hangs off their neck and they use it.

You might want to check on the local regulations.

A couple of chem-lights one tied on the bow and one tied on the stern can be seen at a pretty fair distance and are not so bright as to mess with your night vision.

A group of us went out Saturday night. We attached glowsticks to our paddles - I used duck tape and dollar store sticks. Someone else used elastic bands and Home Depot glow sticks. Putting a glowstick on a plastic water bottle on the bow looked good. I used a PFD light I bought from an outfitter, others used a dollar flashlight. The headlight was a bit too bright.

head lamp
A head lamp and a “distress signal” of some kind is all you need in New York State apparently. But there is some confusion as to what constitutes an “acceptable distress signal.” We keep getting pulled over by the cops and they keep telling us we need flares to go along with our headlamps. Our headlamps have a flash setting, which, depending on the guy you talk to, is acceptable as your “distress signal.”

White light

– Last Updated: Aug-28-07 10:30 AM EST –

Varies a bit by state as to what is required, also need to be attentive to whether the state or the feds are the enforcing agent on a particular stretch of water. But most states have a white light requirement for non-motored boats under a certain length (in NY it is 18 ft, I've also seen 20 ft). After that, they require front and back red/green lights as a motorboat would have.

Problem is, that's the color that most attracts bugs. So while I have a headlamp, when I get seriously concerned about boats needing to see me I'd rather pull out something that I can stick onto the deck an arm's length away. West Marine and other places have lights that come with suction cup mounts and will accomplish the job, if you want to get fancy there is one around that has red and green and flashing light settings as well. I find that it is incredibly fussy and goes thru batteries fast, but it is good when it works right.

On the PFD you should have something - a small yellow C light is a constant companion. Can get them in any marine store. You can also get PFD mounted lights with flasher settings, but be aware that in many states that is supposed to indicate that you need help. It'd be awkward to get run over by a diligent motor boat racing to save you...

Glow sticks and reflective taping on the paddle shaft also help and have their place, it's just that if you get pulled over they don't replace most states' light requirements.

As to flares in NY - motor boats are definately required to carry them. I am not sure what the paddle boat rule is in NY - but those cheapo one-use flares that only last a year and fit in your PFD would prbably satisfy most. I have a laser flare in my PFD pocket now - more compact and would probably work better at night. But any flare has a huge advantage that can't be replaced by a flashing strobe - it can be used to be seen at a height over distance in water. The normal strobe lights only work if a motor boat is fairly close and doesn't have to see over waves or a horizon.

some choices

Chemical glow sticks work well if carried by each member of the group to see each other. They don’t interfere with night vision, and you can easily see each other. They are not, however, bright enough to satisfy the CG light requirement. I carry a bright white light with me to use in case there are other boats in the area that need to see me. I also carry a strobe, and a number of pistol flares. These seem to work well, and they are pretty compact. I was at a symposium where I shot off some old expired (for at least three years) pistol flares, and 3 out of 3 worked. The small pencil flares are much less reliable. When I needed to use them once, all three were duds.

works great. I got one of those el-cheapo kind (Dollar two ninety-eight) at Wally World. Works great for moonlighting (am leading group of 12+ this evening in Pamlico County) as well as freeing my hands to get to my snacks and drink at the break. Also ideal for those who camp and need that extra hand in the “john.”

Any day on the water is a great day,


what was the story
with the ones that failed? Had they undergone emersion, or had they never been wet? I have three and am trying to figure out the common denominator to what makes them fail.

Pencil Flares
They have been submerged before. Probably the best thing to do is put them in a zip lock bag, and the put that in a dry bag, and connect the dry bag to yourself, in case you get separated from your boat. Also, I tested the laser flare, and it worked really well. It could be seen from a couple of miles out.

Last night
I was paddling last night. Went out about 8 or so. As the sun was setting, but still very much “light dusk”, a ski boat came past me doing about 100 miles to nothing, pulling a skier. Although the lake is a good half mile wide, they thought that more like 100 feet away would be appropriate! As they passed, somebody yelled “Hey, you need a light!” I yelled back “Great idea. Where’s yours??” Of course, they didn’t have navigation lights, running lights, white lights, nothing, while hauling butt past me. And had the gumption to yell at me! (BTW, mine was already bungeed to the front deck, I just hadn’t turned it on yet. Heck, I had barely taken my sunglasses off after paddling towards the setting sun!)


– Last Updated: Aug-29-07 7:21 PM EST –

they might not be as able to see you so you're willing to try the Braille method of navigation?

Paddling around at 3mph where boats could go 30mph isn't a good place to rely on "a white torch to shine in time as needed to prevent collision".

A white light has no repulsive capabilities on other boats. If that power boat is going 44ft/sec or 30mph 100' away, on a collision course they will be on you in a little over two seconds. When would you inform them of your location? Two seconds away, five seconds away, ten? If they have a skier behind them where does the skier go?

This is where actual running lights make a difference, if they can see you 1000' away they have lots of time to fix your position as they go through 200' arcs. Coming up with arguments and rejoinders doesn't solve the problem and is more likely to make them remember to turn their lights on. Which will be appreciated by other speedboats going 30mph.

this is a running light that can be seen better than most 12v setups on motorboats. You can fold the nylon cover over the lens so it doesn't shine in your eyes but projects forward.

Read it again
There was PLENTY of light out. Not a single boat on the lake had nav lights (or any lights) on yet.

And if it was dark enough that we should be displaying lights anyway, maybe it was too dark to be pulling a skier.

Pick whichever scenario you want, and I think you’ll see my point.

running lights
"A white light has no repulsive capabilities on other boats…

This is where actual running lights make a difference,…"

So you’re saying that I should have my kayak outfitted with full running lights?

For balance, should I put the deep cycle battery in the forward or aft hatch? :wink:

Running lights are great
We have 2 sets of suction-cup mount LED running lights from West Marine. Whenever we paddle after dark, power boaters rave about how visible they make us, and thank us for using them. You can get them in incandescent, too, which are brighter. I’ve found the LED’s to be plenty bright, and they run a long time on a set of batteries. I use a headlamp along with them, just to be sure.

They stay on after a roll, too :slight_smile:


– Last Updated: Aug-29-07 8:42 PM EST –

the guy's a prick and he could see you with no problem. I was taking his statement as an honest communication "you need a light" and your comment "I hadn't turned mine on yet" reflecting the possibility that at 30mph towing a skier he might have been surprised by your presence at dusk.

He could have said. "kiss my wake sucker!" or "great night",,or "Eat at Joes!",,I figure if he says you need a light it might have something to do with your visibility or his ability to see you.

maybe it was too dark for HIM to be towing a skier,,hopefully the skier knows this.

three AA batteries in two lights
It’s brighter than what I’ve seen on motor driven inflatables. Read the specs.

This is simple. If a fast boat is able to see you from a distance they don’t have to respond at the last minute to avoid you. You appear to be saying there’s no problem, it was light, so what’s this putz’s problem?

When I had close calls from power boats it was a wake up call. Maybe that’s what this is but it has nothing to do with lighting, maybe you just got introduced to one of the locals and this is the territory.