tips and stories on solo night paddling

Several people have posted lately about solo night trips they have taken, angstrom being the most recent.

Since we’re in the prime season for night paddling, the middle of the summer, I thought I’d ask who has done it, what special safety precautions do you take, and what tips do you have to make it more enjoyable? Or, if you haven’t done it, what fears or inconveniences hold you back?

Also, have you had anything major unexpected happen to you on a night paddle?

mine is on the ocean
near population with lights. So I can easily see the harbor entrance and a rough outline of the coast by lights on buildings, streets, etc. So I just focus on being seen and staying further away from rocks, etc… So first I go in an area I know by heart to know where to avoid. To be seen I mostly use a stern mounted light and some relective tape. I have a headlamp to turn on at will to alert some boat ahead of me, but don’t use it otherwise as it kill my night vision.

Be sure you can very well identify your start/end point. If your area is darker than mine you may need to make special arrangements for shore lights for your starting/ending point.

Full moon makes much of this much easier/safer.


I can’t get enough

– Last Updated: Aug-04-09 7:00 PM EST –

Night paddling is awesome. It can be a bit scary if you are afraid of the dark :) like me, but it is rewarding in that I get to see, hear, and experience stuff that many people will never even consider.
The paranoia that comes with loss of vision is only nerve racking when I am completely lost. Other than that it aint that bad.
I really appreciate the fact that so many creatures are nocturnal. I am amazed at the numbers of animals I run into.
I am equally mesmerized by the changing night sky. Star gazing is something I find myself doing more and more. Just looking up in awe.
This spring I was working a second shift and spent many an evening under the stars. I saw more moose on the shore than I have ever seen before. It was fun to get a look at what goes on when people are not around.
Most of the scenes in these videos were shot between 12-4am. It was serious fun out there.

No bad incidents to relay. In decades of paddling at night I have no horror stories other than one medical emergency with my diabetic brother.
Having a good light and a good back up light is essential. I bring two headlamps and back up batteries. The 3 million candlepower spotlight I bought at walmart kicks serious ass but only for a half an hour of burn time. It'll light up the shoreline 500-600 feet away with a full charge.
Also being able to navigate without being able to see where you are going is mighty helpful, especially when a creepy midnight fog rolls in. A gps with mapping or pre programmed way points is worth its weight in gold when visibility is zero and it is cold and rainy.
I would encourage everybody that paddles to take a moonlit cruise or even better go out on a night with no moon.

Unless you are with a few paddlers
that you know, trust and constantly paddle with, absolutely do not leave the beach with out a pre paddle meeting.

The larger the group is the more important the meeting is.

At that meeting have some ground rules that everyone agrees to abide by, for instance "everyone is to stay together with out splinter groups going off in all different directions, and common sense ones that would apply to “what if scenarios”.

I have been on many night paddles and most have been a delight, but on one particular one with a large group a unpredicted wind came up, which in turn created rough water and if it wasn’t for a lot of luck, we could have had a serious situation on our hands.

I vowed after that trip that I would not go on another one unless the above mentioned “pre trip meeting” was held.



For night solos I stay on a well-known body of water, have at least two lights, wear my PFD(as always), leave a float plan, and err on the side of safety if I have to make any decisions. Most of our boats and gear have reflective tape.

Night Paddling
Quite a few of us did a night paddle on the Silver River. Beautiful, it was afull moon and everything was so nice, then we got to Silver Springs and were attacked by the night security guards, who thought they were being invaded. We had quite a few words with the, they demamned that we leave, right now, i told them it was navigable water and we could paddle when or where we wanted. The called someone and then gave us a stern warning not to ake any kind of landing and we assured them that we had no intention of doing that.

The trip was really beautiful in the full moon.

Another trip was Rainbow River at night, another full moon, and this was really nice. We paddled over the springs. As at Silver River the water is crystal clear and un-disturbed at night.

I have done several but these stand out due to the clarity if the water.

I always prefer to paddle solo…
… than with “buddy” of unknown quality.

Better to trust my own skill and judgement than to have a false sense of security due to numbers that I may not be able to count on.

Agree if there’s a core group of well-known and well-trusted friend, one can afford to push the envelope a bit.

Easy to loose track
I led a CPA moonlighter a few Octobers ago, on a windy night on the Severn river down by Annapolis. We had some good paddlers on that trip. A half mile into the trip we’d gotten strung out and it became very difficult to account for the dozen boats, even though everybody had a light of some sort. Lots of waves, lots of reflected light and a big field. We didn’t have any problem, and we did have an assigned sweep, but it made me nervous not to be able to tell if somebody was missing.

So, I agree with JackL, decide ahead of time how the group will manage itself on the water. If it’s a big group, I’d make sure folks buddied up rather than try and count heads on the water.


n/a - u asked about solo
sorry, lost track of your question.

I paddle solo most of the time, but not much at night. When I do it is mostly on trips I started in light and then watched the sun go down. Very rare for me to start a trip in the dark.

Well, there are those “lark” trips, when I’m camped next to water, and it just looks so inviting I hop in the boat and go out. But they tend to be shorter trips.

One such trip I went out of Shad Landing and paddled upriver for an hour. The weather was benign, the water peaceful, it was late and the end of a long day. Coming back my eyes kept closing and I’d do the head jerk, falling asleep thing. I got scared that’d I’d fall out completely. I assume if I rolled into the water, it would wake me up. I was glad to get back without testing that assumption.


Nav light, strobe, bilge pump, PFD…do I have to continue?..go prepared, go visible, and use your god given common sense…I have an amber battery powered strobe that I put on shore facing the water to help find the takeout upon return, but nothing beats a little common sense…periodically, turn around and study your back track …things will look different on the return.

I turn the lights off, paddle and glide, paddle and glide…when you get still and eliminate the sounds of the paddle, rustle of the pfd and skirt, etc., you will become aware of all that is occuring around you, and there is plenty going on…

For me it’s pretty simple

– Last Updated: Aug-05-09 12:55 AM EST –

I never needed to get accustomed to the idea of paddling at night since I'd been fishing on lakes and ponds "forever". I'm about as likely to paddle (or row) at night as in the daytime, and when long working hours followed by too much "catching-up" on sleep have messed with my daily patterns, I've headed out at two or three in the morning without thinking it unusual.

The neatest thing is just how aware you can be of all the stuff going on around you even though you can't see nearly as well or in the same way as in the daytime. Nighttime is full of sounds, from insect calls to squabbling raccoons. A few paddlers I know could really benefit from night paddling too, assuming that they have any interest in listening to nature, as it might finally give them a reason to stop splashing the paddle. One can really appreciate quiet technique on a still night, when all sounds, both near and distant, seem to be amplified.

I've had a few difficulties and inconveniences at night, but these have been far outweighed by the marvelous sights, sounds, "feelings" (hard-to-quantify things you get from the weather and surroundings, etc.), and other things that can only be experienced at night. Also, my list of nighttime wildlife sightings and "hearings" is getting pretty long.

Oops my bad, I read the OP too quick
and didn’t realize it was all about solo.

Groups might take heed on what I said above though



I paddle frequently at night, but do not
do it alone as I feel open water paddling alone at night is a bad idea. Rivers and smaller lakes are probably fine, but I do not paddle rivers and smaller lakes. I like to watch the freighters at night by sitting on the channel edge and watching their massive hulls slip by in the darkness. I also enjoy the relative solitude, but not alone. I like the video of the cute little Moose along the waters edge. Nothing to worry about there, except maybe that Moose have killed more men in North America than any other animal. Darwinism applies to us all. I guess most enjoyable experiences have their trade offs and risks. Bill

Nothing else like it

– Last Updated: Aug-05-09 9:19 AM EST –

I like paddling solo at night, especially in saltwater estuaries and small bays. The only thing I do different from day is play it more conservative with conditions and extent of the trip, and take it much slower to enjoy the night. There is nothing else like it. It can also be fun, and safer, with a special friend who is also an accomplished paddler though.

One year my girlfriend and I paddled out on a New Moon in a Ches Bay estuary with the tandem to watch July 4th fireworks. There was very little shore development so it was very dark, but we knew the area well. The trip back was even more spectacular, with visions of fireworks still reverberating, and strong phosphoresence in the water that year left trailing galaxies of vortexes in our wake behind.

Group moonlight trips can be fun too. Last December, we did a Christmas carol paddle, boats decorated with lights. The full moon was magnificent, Geminid meteor shower was at peak and provided 6 or 7 big ones even with the full moon. The group of around 20 lighted boats was just amazing gliding through the saltwater creeks and estuary. Folks came out on their docks with hot cider, cookies and fudge for us and sang along. It was even cold enough that by the time we returned to the landing we had hard rime forming on the decks that enhanced the sparkle even more.

One thing I think is important in night paddling is to keep the talking down if with others, and down very low if you need to talk. You depend on your hearing more. Make sure you carry a good whistle in addition to your other safety gear though. It really carries at night. You notice smells from land more too; they can actually help with navigation in some cases (and in a group paddle, nothing kills the experience like a cig sucker! - banned from now on for paddling with me).

I'm leading a small group paddle on the Bay this Sat with the full moon. I hope the weather cooperates.

ayornament-- Saturday paddle
You know the moon won’t rise until 10, right?

If you are anywhere around The Little Choptank stop by James Island and say hi. I will be camping there with a few other folks (it’s private, I got owner’s permission). Suspect there could be some middle of the night “lark” trips. Last year we encountered comb jellies there, the ones that glow when stimulated. Hope they are there again as I loved seeing them light up in the water.


I do a bit

– Last Updated: Aug-05-09 12:15 PM EST –

I use a waterproof electric lantern behind me in the boat, so that I can be seen but my night vision isn't compromised too much. I paddle on West Galveston bay, so all I have to do is turn my boat south and I hit land. Plenty of lights from all the bay houses, so it's easy to find my way home.

I also have a strobe on my pfd that I could activate if I had any problems.

Stay in places you know.
I always leave a float plan with the wife for night paddles. I never go on moving water, you just don’t know what happened since last you were there. Carry at least two lights and extra good batteries.

Kinzua is perfect at night. There are no shore lights except the occassional campfire or moored fishing boat. Even those are rare. On a moonless night is my favorite. I happen to have amazing night vision once acclimated. I will avoid light like a snake unless true danger threatens. Rarely see a motor boat after midnight out there. I keep the GPS on and handy in case I get fogged in out there. You can’t always rely on that solely, hence the reason for staying on known waters. And don’t power paddle at night. Buoys can be really really hard. Nothing like the Milky Way on a moonless night on Kinzua. If I feel like napping, I will switch on a 360 headlamp, put the paddle across the lap and drift away.

Yep. We are planning to camp too. I hope we get some early Perseids.

Thanks for the invite to Little Choptank! We are going to be further south, toward Gwynns Island in VA. If you are down this way any time let me know and we’ll be glad to paddle with you as well.

I love to see those comb jellies under a new moon. I haven’t seen as much biolum this year, a little too much fresh water in our area perhaps?

did they spike the eastern reservoirs?
Geez, what happened, did the terrorists spike all the eastern water reservoirs with nice pills or something? Since when do you have to apologize for expanding a topic on p-net?

Actually, the reason I said solo was I figured there wasn’t much difference on group trips between night and day, but I guess there are some things you might want to plan differently. Good comments from jackl and booz. Everybody else feel free to talk about group trips also.

solo at night
like moparharn, I will do solo on lakes I know well.

Great Lakes, no.

AFA night paddling I favor a small group 3-5, of people who can paddle quietly w. little talk. Silence

is one of the beauties of a night paddle.

One thing I noticed is that some people with good day vision have depth perception probs at night. It can lead to a kind of disorientation when the dark water lines up w. a night sky. Sometimes it is transitory.

In any case people do capsize at night in conditions that are just as easy, or easier, as day conditions.

Something to be aware of.