What a beautiful day here in VT. But I want to paddle at night. So I guess I need a light. My local store has no lights in sight. I’ve run out of rhyming words that make sense. Can someone help me out with lighting suggestions.



check local watercraft laws
in MI a handheld white light is only requirement. I use a headlamp to see when needed. Some have thoughts on full red/green and white. Seems otyher boaters mistake ya for a faster moving craft.

We use light sticks
It seems to work best to tie one to the bow on a loop long enough so it hangs in front of the boat out of your line of sight (to protct your night vision). Put another on the back of you PFD or back of you hat the idea is to get it as high as possible, plus if you come out of the boat you and it are marked. I guess if you wanted you could hang red and green from the bungees behind you but I think the last post had a good observation about being mistaken for a power boat.

Good Luck


Looking like a boat
I’d prefer to be taken for a boat. What’s your other option? Bouy? Land feature. Firefly?

A kayak IS a boat. Best to be seen as one. That way it’s clear you are on the wter and probably moving.

Coast Guard only requires you have a white light you can signal with (flashlight). Any good 360 degree white light as high as you can get it is better (hand free). Mounted on hat is easiest, short mast pretty simple top rig too. No flashing lights - and other colors are not a good idea except as follows.

If you have a lot of boat traffic at night, you can pretty easily set up full running lights:

I also have a “C-Light” on back of my FFD. Good product - reasonable, durable. Might be all you need.

Lights ruin night vision.
I also plan on doing a lot of night cruising.

I have found that lights ruin your night vision. Pick up a 300,000 candlepower Q-Beam and shine it on the power boats approaching.

If you want a light make sure you have something under it so it does not shine on your boat.

I know strobes are illegal except for emergencies but I would rather get a warning than get dead. Many power boats go so fast, are so drunk, or other stuff that they are not going to see a dim light anyway.

For a flashlight for looking at things in your boat use a red light as it affects night vision much less. Magnalight has small pocket sized lights that are waterproof and come with red, white, and yellow lenses.

neo from SC

“Head” lights
I like the idea of light sticks tied to the bow and stern. I don’t do many moonlight paddles, but when I do I use headlights; a flashlight designed to be worn on your head like a miners helmet. As you move your head around the light moves too and you look like something human and alive, something to be cautious not to hit. On a lake it wouldn’t do much for seeing anything. My night paddles are on a small, quiet river and at least we can see the river’s edge and each other. A coleman lantern would do if you could attach it to the boat somehow without it falling off. Fishermen use them to fish at night and attract fish, and the fishermen don’t run into each other either.

Maglites and the ocean
forget it! No good. weld shut. Due to galvanic current and stainless and aluminum perhaps. Probably OK in fresh water.

Check Archives
I vividly remember this being a hot topic last season and someone came up with what lighting was coast guard approved and what wasn’t and why. Don’t know if it’s still available but it answerd all the questions you’ve posed.

U.S. Coast Guard Approved

– Last Updated: Jun-05-04 11:25 PM EST –

Here are links to info on USCG requirements. Kayaks and canoes are considered "vessels under oars":

And here's the link to Ralph Diaz's famous report on light visibility:

You will note that there is a difference between what is legal and what actually works. I use and recommend a 360º white light as high as possible and the red and green bow lights. This is not strictly regulation for a kayak, but it's close. But please, everyone, DO NOT use strobes or non-complying colored lights.

Individual states are free to impose differing rules on non-federal inland waters. Yes, that's bizarre, but check your local (state) rules.

Marker lights can be found at the dive shops or online usually in Red/Amber/or white. I have a pair of amber and Red for each boat and may or may not use them depending on other boat traffic etc. A good waterproof headlamp for each person finishes it off. My Aurora has been immersed more times than I can count and works better than a timex but there are many brands out there to choose from. I find the headlamp very handy around camp etc. When enjoying night paddling, I dont neccesarily have all the lights on (or any of them) but they are there if I need them for what ever reason. On a solo night paddle the marker lights seeem to reasure my family a bit g, they can track my progress for a nice distance. Have fun and paddle safe…Kim

Thanks Everyone
Good stuff and good ideas, I appreciate you all taking the time to provide such complete answers.




– Last Updated: Jun-11-04 4:19 PM EST –

If you come across the river, NH requires a 360-degree white light for paddlecraft.

We ended up buying battery powered navigation lights(Cabelas & West Marine carry them), and adapting the inflatable mounts to our kayaks. We use red & green bow lights and white stern lights on the kayaks, and a white light on a pole for the canoe.

Reflective tape on your paddle blades and hull also helps.

Really long…but relevant…

Human Powered Boat Group


From: Ralph Diaz

Subject: Results of Lighting Test for Paddlers/Rowers

Date: June 14, 2001

As we were finishing up our testing of a number of flashlight systems that would make paddlers and rowers most visible in NY Harbor, Jim Wetteroth of the Downtown Boathouse came up to me and said “The Coast Guard was right all along.” What he was referring to was the standard lighting requirement for small vessels such as outboard motor boats, i.e. a red/green combo light at the bow and an 360 degree white light up on a stem toward the stern. Jim went on to say, “The more we look like other boats, the more we will be recognized as one by other things out there.” And he is right based on what we were able to see.

The red/green running light concept gets rid of one of the problem facing an urban paddler at night: How to avoid his/her white light being lost in the confusion of bright lights of a city? The US Coast Guard requirement that small human-powered vessels have a white light ready to turn on when approached by oncoming traffic is totally inadequate except on some small lake somewhere. Paddlers in the Big Apple know this and have been using different lighting schemes that have at their base some light that is steadily on and not meant to be intermittently shined for approaching traffic.

The task of the Human Powered Boating Group (HPBG) was to size up what lighting systems seemed to work the best. Earlier there had been discussions of having some special color of flashing light set up here in NYC harbor for use by paddlers. There were problems with the idea. Finding a light color that was distinctive; lots of flashing lights are already taken and have a special purpose such as a flashing blue one for law enforcement boats. Strobe white lights are out since they are, in effect, emergency beacons for some one in distress possibly in the water already. Every vessel spotting a strobe is legally and morally obliged to stop what it is doing and come to the aid of those sending off the strobe distress signal or to radio an alert to the Coast Guard. If they don’t, the penalties are severe including loss of captain’s license, fines, jail time. Flashing lights are taken that seriously. It might be possible to designate some flashing color for paddlers and agree to this in the harbor, but what about visitors; would they be confused and come to the aid of a flashing light? Or would flashing lights be confused with navigational aid lights warning of obstacles in the water and along the shore? Maybe it will happen some day but the wheels of regulatory change, especially ones that go against well-known habits and protocols, grind too slowly to wait.

So the HPBG decided to operate within existing parameters and existing light schemes. We tested seven different systems or variations of systems last night. The systems were on different kayaks operating within the Downtown Boathouse embayment and its immediate outer edge bordering the river proper. To check their effectiveness, the kayaks were viewed from the DTBH pier looking outward to the river and from a small motorboat out on the river looking back. This allowed us to test them against both city lights and more open water. The kayaks moved back and forth (like shooting gallery ducks :-)) so we could see them from both sides. They also came at the Pier and out toward the motorboat to see them from the front and from the back. As an added test, the kayaks moved along the dark background of the derelict Pier 32. Here are the results:

A) First of all, what DOESN’T work:

  1. Headlamps. Our finding from both the pier and the motorboat underscores what the NY Waterways ferry captain advised us about last week from his viewpoint high up on the bridge of his vessel; “Those miner lamps don’t work. I can’t always see them as the guy’s head bobs up and down or he turns his head. They aren’t steady enough and I just don’t really see them.” Amen. Headlamps with a straight focus beam were visible only now and then. They may be great for spotting your campsite after a moonlight cruise out in the wilds but they are not good as navigation lights to make you visible in city waters.
  2. Headlamps with red/green lens. To my knowledge these don’t exist but did seem a good idea to try. To test this, Jim Wetteroth tried an experiment of jury-rigging a red/green light to a headlamp. It also proved as useless as a focused white headlamp. Any movement of the head throws its port/starboard indications off. A headlamp would only work in one configuration explained further down.
  3. Chemsticks or chemlights. Many paddlers believe these work because they crack the vial, shake it and it seems to give lots of light. Another paddler 50 feet away who has one seems to be visible. But it is an illusion brought on by closeness. At any distance they don’t show up at all. We saw that on a kayak in the embayment not all that far from the pier.
  4. Anything with AAA battery power. We didn’t test this last night, but such a lighting system, from past observation, is minimally visible. More importantly, AAA flashlights with cones such as from Princeton-Tec, die in a little over an hour of constant use. At most consider these as a bare minimum just-in-case light if you get caught out at the end of the day in encroaching darkness. If you have such a light, you may want to upgrade your just-in-case system now to the AA version for more power and longer burning time.

    B) What DOES seem to work:

    The best system seems to be the following: First, have a red/green light system on you bow deck in front of you no farther than you can reach to turn on and off or replace batteries if you have to. Next have a white light with cone high on your head, connected to a headband or to the back of baseball cap. Lastly, have a cone white light behind you on your stern deck, raised a bit if possible.

    This system has a lot of advantages. It gives you that red/green configuration that makes you definitely identifiable as a boat to others on the water. By having the cone light high on your head, you have a constant 360-degree white light showing. The cone light on your rear deck sets a pattern of two white lights in conjunction with the cone light on your head. The more there is a pattern, whatever it is, of a series of white lights, the more they stand out.

    Some of us, including me, have questioned the use of red/green lights. Our concern is based on not wanting to be confused by the captain of a large vessel with small motorboats that can move a lot faster than paddlers or rowers. However, small motorboats are often moving slowly or even in a trolling mode, i.e. not faster than a kayak. So, I don’t think a large vessel captain would necessarily expect that a red/green bow light meant 30-knot speed. And, the benefit of being considered a boat is of utmost importance to us in the long run.

    You can achieve this lighting combination for as little as $50 retail (not counting batteries) using incandescent bulbs with better versions of this using LED lights going up to over twice as much as that as an initial cost. Neither is a lot and anything less won’t get you really noticed at night as a boat.
  5. The less expensive version of this involves the following.

    A split red/greens 4 AA light from West Marine that runs $19.99. Look for the version to put on inflatables. It will require some playing around with it to fit under bungees, possibly creating or buying a plate to put it on; or just use foam. It has the advantage of lots of power, brightness, a degree of waterproofness and it will float.

    For the cone lights use either Princeton-Tec models or the Mark III from Tek-Tite (these cone lights retail for around $13 to $15 each. For full effectiveness the Princeton-Tec models require some doctoring. The normal cone light powered by 2 AA batteries and sold as the Aqua Flare lacks slots through which to attach a Velcro or other type strap to secure it to your headband or hat. What I have done is to buy the Princeton-Tec Aqua Flash, which does have those slots, and swapped out the flashing light bulb. In contrast, the Tek-Tite Mark III already has the slots for straps, runs on 3 AA batteries for greater brightness and longer burning time. The cones for the two brands differ. The Tek-Tite Mark III is taller and clear with a white plastic strip inside that reflects the light coming up from the bulb. The Princeton cones are shorter but broader and translucent. I think the edge might be with the Tek-Tite cone as, being taller, it stands up higher.
  6. The more expensive version involves the following:

    For the cone lights, put in LED light modules, preferably a 2 or 4 LED light one. Such modules cost around $20 but they have the advantage of staying brighter for longer and having much greater burning time with your batteries than do incandescent bulbs. LEDs ordinarily have a disadvantage in that their beam does not project far, BUT this doesn’t matter in a cone light when all it is doing is lighting the cone up or reflecting across a plastic strip in the cone. So there is absolutely no disadvantage of LEDs in cones.

    I am not certain if Princeton-Tec has a provision for this but Tek-Tite does. You actually buy the basic cone light with either 2 LED or 4 LED. The models are called Mark III 2 LED ($34.95 suggested retail price) and Mark III 4 LED ($44.95 suggested price). The Tek-Tite has an advantage in that it is based on a 3-cell battery system, the ideal one for LED lights. In a 2-cell battery system you will get less power out of an LED (a 4-cell system is too much and you have to have a 3-cell with one dummy cell to operate a LED). BTW, the 4 LED is noticeably brighter than the 2 LED.

    The only LED green/red system on the market is a product from Tek-Tite called the Navlite. It has two Mark III bodies, one with red cone, the other with a green one placed in a special pouch that has a grommet and other ways of tying to deck D-rings and bungees. It sells for $55.95 with a 2 LED bulb in each. Its advantages over the incandescent West Marine basic split green/red light are greater waterproofness (really submersible) and longer battery life and continued brightness as well as being unbreakable and bulb life measured in the many thousands of hours. The disadvantage is the initial cost outlay.

    C) Other Lighting Systems and Thoughts:
  7. One system that did not have a split green/red light component but that worked extra well was one we cooked up based on the Princeton-Tec Solo Headlamp. We placed a Princeton-Tec cone over the light, giving the paddler (Jim B., a good sport) a silly Unicorn look. At the back of the headband we strapped a Tek-Tite Mark III 4 LED. Two cone lights so high up on the head made the setup quite visible. Plus, it created a pattern of lights that was constant and being so close together seemed to give them even greater visibility. If you can stand having two lights on your head, you will have a distinct visibility advantage.
  8. Deck lights do help give you more of a distinct profile. This is especially true if you can pre-arrange a light at the very end of the bow and the stern as well as have some on your head or PFD. Just an added note here: If you plan to use a red/green light navigation on the bow deck in front of you, dispense with a white light way up at the bow end. It confuses and diffuses things.
  9. Cheaper lights do show up nicely. There is a cheap Everready yellow light that retails for under $10 in places like EMS. It really doesn’t have a cone but rather a raised glass portion. These show pretty nicely. The problem with them is they are not that well made and can fail. They also don’t have much burn time.
  10. Anything at the back of your PFD, unless high up on the shoulder, is very limited in how much it can be seen. But, again, it is something that can fool you as you may see another paddler in your group and believe he would be visible from far away when he isn’t.
  11. Deck color helps in being seen. Lighter colors reflect back deck lights and even lights on your head to a degree.

    D) Sources For Lights:

    Princeton-Tec’s are ubiquitous although you won’t always find the Aqua Flare or the Aqua Flash, with its better body because of the strap slots. Try a dive shop since both lights are big with divers. A good one, with good prices, is Leisure-Pro on West 18th St in Manhattan. Leisure-Pro would also be a good source for the Tek-Tites, although the Mark III LED versions do not appear in the catalog or website. Call them and say that Tek-Tite has these other lights (and the Navlite setup), state the list price and they will likely discount by a nice percentage. You can also purchase direct from Tek Tite.

    E) Thank You’s:

    The test was under the auspices of the Human-Powered Boating Group. We used the Downtown Boathouse and volunteers. I would like to thank Jim W. and Tom for manning the motor boat and make observations from there. Also to thank Andrew for helping me on the pier. Bonnie, from the Manhattan Kayak Company and co-chair of the HPBG, who acted as field general on the water. And to volunteers, Richard, Scott, Harry, Jim and Susan.

    For more info on the NY Harbor Human Powered Boat Group,

    contact Ralph Diaz, Chair, Human-Powered Boating Group

    and another:

    As a former Coast Guardsman I just wanted to note that there is something that has not been noted in this topic. There is another reason to have a red/green bow light AND a 360 degree WHITE light on the centerline of the vessel. Besides the safety purpose of 360 degree visibility these lights also allow other vessels to know your direction of travel and do play a role in the “right of way” in night time navigation. I can clarify that rule if anyone wishes… Without the red/green bow light (just a sole 360 degree light) other vessels cannot tell your direction of travel at night. And per the assupmtion of the “Coast Guardsmans Manual” if a sole 360 degree white light is visible you are to assume you are looking at the stern of the vessel (as the port/starboard (green/red) lights are not visible). As you can see, not running all three lights can cause a problem for somebody who knows the rules of navigation. However, most people on the water have no clue and disregard the “Rules of the Road” anyhow. For my two cents anyobody on the water should have (and especially a small craft)a red/green light on the bow and a 360 degree WHITE light on the centerline of the boat.

solar yard lights

Is what I am going to do sooner or later.

You can buy them in sets of 8 for like $25 …

I plan on using two … one on each hatch lid.

(front and back)

… attach a ring to the top of each light … run a bungee cord thru the ring … to the deck rigging on each side.

… then attach a velcro pad to the bottom of the light … and more velcro to the hatch lid.

So you can quick remove them … but they are secured two ways … (velcro and bungee)

Then … make a shield (90 degree?) for each light so it doesn’t shine in my face - and mess up night vision.

So I’ll have one in front and one in back … at least one will be visible from anywhere … both will be visible from a large area …

… they will both be white … but thats all thats really needed by law for small unpowered boats in MOST states.

Wanna buy the other 6 after I do my two ?

(of eight)

: )

(and this has been asked about 50 times)
before - search the archives

That article is why I have what I have
See my post above for pictures.

I’d rethink that plan
too complicated with teh strings and all, and those lights are not durable or made for on water use.

Buy decent submersible 100% watertight LED lights. Light are for safety - and overkill is good when it’s for reliability.

you re-think it all you want

… no … its dead easy … you stick the (outdoor - WATERPROOF - light) onto the Velcro pad and hook a hook onto each side of the deck rigging … It’ll take all of about 5 seconds apiece …

… and you can do the opposite and quick remove them and toss them anywhere for the next time.

As peter_K says:
Anything works on a pond. Maybe also on a Barge?

Do what you want. My problem with it isn’t technical - it’s legal/political. Stuff rigged up like this - that was not made for on water visibility - just contributes to paddle craft not being taken seriously. I include glow sticks as another bad idea - except maybe to keep a group together in non-motor areas.

Call me over the top - but it’s this sort of thing that makes it so we are not taken seriously by other boaters and more importantly: law enforcement personnel.

I prefer to play it their way - and even go a bit over and above the bare minimum requirement. Local boaters seem to appreciate me having the same light pattern and colors they do.

I’d like to be able to continue to have full access to the waterways - day AND night! Don’t like it when I see people give them ANY slight reason to consider bans on us. People unable to obey rules of the road, wear PFDs, rig decent lights, whatever. Lots of bureaucrats waiting for an excuse to regulate something - anything…

You probaly don’t deal with a 10% of the boat traffic I do - and will think the above silly. Whatever.

One Million Candle Power Rechargeable Sp
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