Night kayaking

I’ve done some twilight kayaking in the little cove by my house, but never done any true night kayaking out in the bay. What are some recommended lighting systems, and how much do they cost?

go for it
it’s a trip.

If you’re not in any chance of interacting with boats,affecting their course or worried about getting run over then a flashlight on your boat, a flashlight on your pfd and a strobe on your pfd is sufficient. Basically paddling next to shore where no boats will go. None of them should be turned on and left on as running lights. It’ll satisfy regs. Basically if you’re about to be run over you’re hoping the bright flashlight and strobe will generate enough photonic pressure to move the 20,000lb cruiser going 15mph to one side, if not hopefully the strobe and light will help folks find the parts.

Here’s a couple of favorites,Princeton Tec Attitude 4AAA 3LED flashlight, will burn for 150hrs and can fit anywhere on a pfd. It’s the best little camp flashlight. A flashlight to actually signal with or “a white torch to signal and prevent collision” is the Princeton tec Impact with 4AA batteries and one high output LED. I forget how long it’ll burn but I think it’s around 40hrs. Any of the incandescent lights only burn about 3-10hrs which will occur in the middle of your third night paddle,at which point it’s a romantic yellow bulb. My favorite bright flashlight is the Priceton tec 4AA halogen bulb but the batteries get sucked dry so fast that I’d rather trade a 1watt LED for a 2-4watt Halogen and always have batteries.

After that if you think you’re going to be paddling where other boats need to know of your presence then spend the big bucks for a Tectite red/green running light. It’s $60 in it’s own fabric case. 3AA 2LED flashlights and BRIGHT,with the case folded over the ends of the lens you won’t have any direct light in your face,just a red/green on the deck of your kayak,it doesn’t affect night vision. I’m unclear on the stern light,I think it’s either a 360white or lesser coverage but for it to be most effective it’ll need to be on a post. I’m of the mind that any light needs to handle rolling so I wonder how well the suction cup stands hold up. I’ve got one of the little white princeton tecs pointing straight back.

Another thing worth looking at is reflective line or better yet SOLAS tape. A continuous 1" strip of SOLAS tape below the sheer tape or 4"x4" reflective patches stand out VERY WELL when another boat shines a light in your direction. When a boat shines it’s bright 35watt searchlight in your direction the reflective tape will light up 100X more effectively than one lone ACR 2AA incandescent light that’s 1/2way through the batteries.

night paddling
i love night paddling. my buddies and i often run the st. louis river at night after closing down the bar. we used to attach glow sticks to see each other, but now just go without. it’s great with a full moon for visibility, although clouds and fog makes for an interesting experience with paddling by feel. granted, we’re guides on the river so we are super comfortable with the run, having been down it a few thousand times. i would be much more conservative on a run that i’ve done less. on a lake, i would only worry about lights for other watercraft. even an extremely powerful headlamp will reflect away on the water, so it won’t help your visibility much, but will help other boats see you.

have fun, its a beautiful way to experience the water.

Try This;

I read somewhere
that a strobe light is considered a distress signal. Not the message I’d want to be giving on a peaceful night paddle. :o)

strobe is only for distress,NOT for any other purpose except “save me”. Besides a bright flash isn’t as useful as a steady red/green/white for determining range and direction.


– Last Updated: Sep-17-05 9:23 AM EST –

I've paddled out many times at night, to York (Apostle Islands) or from one of the many river mouths on the south shore of Lake Superior. I have found that a Petzle Zoom is handy, not as a running light, but in order to find the landing. At night , even in full moon, a river mouth dissapears. A strong powerfull , dirrected beam is necessary, and even them, landings can be difficult to discern.

try this one
most bright dive lights can’t be burned out of the water but this one can. Very tight spot beam.

Night Kayaking

My wife and I have been using Guardian lights from We use a red and a green on the bow and two white lights, one on each side behind the cockpit (where they won’t interfere with night vision). As I recall, I paid approximately $12 each for these lights. People on fishing boats have told us that they had no difficulty seeing us at 500 yards on a moonlit night (on a really dark night we probably would be visible at a greater distance). These are really small lights that we clip onto our perimeter lines. Hope this information is useful.


Glow stick on back of PFD

– Last Updated: Sep-20-05 5:42 PM EST –

and carry or wear a white headlamp. White light will reek havoc with your night vision. We just put a yellow. green, or orange glow stick on the back of our PDD or tied to your stern. You only need to turn the white headlight on when you hear or see another vessel you want to alert. Our night paddles are usually in the Columbia River in Portland OR. There is quite a bit of commercial and recreational traffic, even at night. If there are shipping lanes where you paddle, know how to identify their boundaries and only cross them at as close to 90 degrees as you can. Full moon paddles are the best. If you need to keep track of your location with a chart, a red light protects your night vision.
Have fun

Guardian lights
Thanks for the heads up on this product!

I picked up a red, green, and two whites to position them just as you mentioned and they have sturdy clips that grip my decklines on my SOF just fine.

Yup - $12 each with battery. Just note that the battery cost may be high to replace though.

Now that running lights are taken care of – what is the best option for a directional light? I had an Aurora LED headlamp but now can’t find it. Is this still one of the better LED headlamps to use?

For paddling, my current favorite is the Princeton Tec Matrix II. It’s one of the few that’s actually waterproof. The new EOS also looks good.

For all-around use, I like my Yukon HL. The low power gives a very broad beam and the high is very directional.

Matrix II
We use a Matrix II (if I remember correctly). Although it isn’t mentioned strongly, a red lens cap is available for this headlamp. That should help the night vision problem.

Red/Green for urban paddlers.
These lights identify you as a boat. White lights can blend into the shore lights and become invisible. The Tektite Navlite system is completely waterproof and highly visible.


We run a fair number of “sunset” paddles on the Hudson River which has a fair amount of commercial traffic. The various red/green lights to satisfy regs is good but instead of the old flashlight standby, use the EOS headlamp from Princeton Tec. 1 watt light 3AAA batteries, which we use rechargables works great worn on the back of your head so you can take in the night time in front of you or quickly pivoted around to give the heads up to a cabin cruiser. Definitely better than tossing a glow stick into the landfill, ugly stuff in those tubes.

Remember that while we may have right of way over many craft on the water we still loose to the Squish Factor.

See you on the water,


Great advice from everyone.
As for right of way vs squish factor, I’ve always obeyed the law of superior tonnage. No matter whether or not I have the right of way, I’m always going to give way to an idiot in a cigarette hull.