The Best Kayak Navigation Lights For Night Paddling
Lights are usually required on your kayak if you paddle at night. In some areas it can be a legal safety requirement, as lights can help other water users see you and can help to prevent a collision.
We have put together this guide to some of the best kayak lights so you can check out the features and types that might suit your needs the most.
(these links take you to REI & Amazon)
Top 7 Best Lights For Kayaks
1: Railblaza Visibility Kit (best nav light kit)
The Railblaza Visibility Kit is built specifically for kayaks and comes complete with a Railblaza StarPort HD mount so you can attach it to the best spot on your kayak.
One of the great features of this kit is that it comes with a three piece pole. This means you can adjust the height of your light by adding or removing sections of the pole. Using one section of the pole will give you a height of 15 inches, two sections will give you 27 inches and three sections will give you 38.5 inches.
This can make it ideal for a range of conditions and when you may want your light a little higher for safety, particularly on open water. The kit also comes with an orange flag for increased visibility during the day.
The 360 degree light is designed to float and is waterproof up to 3 feet. It takes 3 AA batteries (not included) and is built to last up to 25 hours at full brightness for navigation and up to 160 hours at low brightness. It also has an emergency flashing mode which uses less power.
2: Hobie Safety Flag/Light Combo (best light/flag combo)
The Hobie Safety Flag/Light Combo can be an excellent choice if you’re looking for a compact complete safety light kit for your kayak for day and night use. It can be collapsed down to just 14 inches long, making it easy to fit in your gear bag or store on your kayak.
The kit comes with an orange nylon flag and an LED light. The whole kit can be packed and stored inside the orange flag.
A useful benefit of this kit is that the foam base can be easily mounted into the existing rod holders on your kayak. It can also be mounted onto Hobie’s H-track systems.
The LED light is energy efficient and can run for up to 100 hours on maximum brightness. It requires 3 AA batteries, which are included with the kit and it is built to float.
The adjustable pole is made from carbon fiber, which gives it its lightweight feel while keeping it durable and it can be extended up to 48 inches.
3: Paddlers Supply Company LED Kayak Deck Light (best deck light)
This Paddlers Supply Company Kayak Deck Light can be ideal if you’re looking for a kayak light with a suction cup base. This can mean it’s easier to mount, as it doesn’t require any drilling and you can easily remove it for storage and to mount it on another boat.
It’s designed to attach securely to composite kayaks but can also be used on some polyethylene kayaks.
A good feature of this light is that it comes with a lanyard and hook so that you can clip it to your kayak for an extra level of security. The deck light is 11 inches long and is corrosion resistant and waterproof up to 1000 feet.
It comes with 3 AA batteries included and can power the LED light for up to 100 hours.
4: Attwood Water-Resistant Deck Mount LED Navigation Light
The Attwood Water-Resistant Deck Mount LED Light is a complete kit that comes with both a white LED stern light and a red and green bow light, giving you additional visibility while on the water at night.
Both lights can be mounted on the deck of your kayak, with a choice of two ways to install them. You can either screw the bases into the deck of your kayak or you can mount them using the adhesive pads, which are included with the lights.
The white LED light has a telescoping pole so that you can adjust the height to suit your environment. The casing of both the white light and the red and green light is a camouflage design, which may suit some fishing or hunting kayaks if you keep your lights mounted during the day.
The lights are sealed to prevent water from getting into the electronics and they are also built to be corrosion resistant. The run time is 150 hours and the 3 AAA batteries needed are not included.
5: Energizer High Powered LED Headlamp (best headlamp)
This Energizer High Powered LED Headlamp can be a good light if you’re looking to illuminate your route for navigation. Because it’s designed to be worn on your head it can also be useful on land during camping trips.
The LED light comes with seven modes so you can adjust the brightness to better suit your conditions. It is designed to last up to 50 hours on the lowest light setting and comes with 3 AAA batteries included.
The headlamp features an adjustable strap for a secure fit around your head and is water resistant for splashes and rain, which can be useful on a kayak. It also features a shatterproof lens that is designed to withstand drops from 3 feet.
6: Nextorch Cap Lights Clip On Headlamp Flashlight (best hand/headlamp combo)
The Nextorch Clip On Headlamp Flashlight combines the benefits of a flashlight with the convenience of a headlamp. This can make it more versatile rather than just being for night paddling or kayak fishing.
One of the main features of this light is that it features a stainless steel clip so that you can attach it to the brim of your cap or another piece of clothing or equipment for hands free operation.
It is a pocket-sized and lightweight flashlight, measuring just over 3 inches in length. This can be a great size to fit into your backpack or keep it stored on your boat.
The flashlight has three settings of low, medium and high light modes, which is useful for different activities and visibility requirements. It is water resistant up to 3 feet and is designed to be impact resistant.
It takes one AA battery (not included) and has a run time of up to 14 hours.
7: 12V LED Submersible Night Fishing Light (best for anglers)
This 12V LED Submersible Fishing Light is designed to be less of a navigation light and more of a fish luring light. The light is designed to be used underwater. It displays a green light that is intended to attract fish by luring insects and plankton followed by baitfish and then larger fish.
The light is waterproof and weighted so that it can sit under the water without the need for additional weights. It is a 14 watt light that can run on a 12 volt battery. It comes with battery connector clips so that you can attach it directly to a 12 volt battery.
It also features a 16 foot cable, so you can position the light in the water in the most suitable spot without being limited to keeping it close to your battery. The light has a five sided design for 360 degrees of visibility.
Do I Need Lights On My Kayak At Night?
If you plan to kayak at night it can be a good idea for your own safety and the safety of other boaters to have a light on your kayak. In many places it is a legal requirement to display a white light on your kayak if you’re on the water after sunset or before sunrise.
The US Coast Guard is in charge of enforcing the laws and regulations on federally controlled waters. This includes coastal waters and the Great Lakes. This means that the laws for kayaking in these waters can sometimes be different from the laws of the state you’re paddling in.
All kayaks are required to have on board a white light while operating in federally controlled waters between sunset and sunrise. To meet the regulations, this can be a flashlight or an all-around white light.
The light needs to be displayed quickly in order to prevent a collision but it is not a legal requirement that the light be displayed at all times. However, if you are anchored away from a designated docking area you are required to display a 360 degree white light.
Some states and even certain bodies of water adopt these US Coast Guard regulations for kayaking at night, so it can be worth carrying a light with you.
You may also see kayaks with red and green lights. These lights can meet regulations for kayaks when used in conjunction with an all-around white stern light. A red light is to indicate the port (left) side of the vessel and a green light is to indicate the starboard (right) side.
Red and green lights are generally for larger vessels that can more easily accommodate these lights and they are not legally required on kayaks or small sailboats.
Visual Distress Signals
If you’re kayaking at night on federally controlled waters then you will also need to carry visual distress signals for night use. Visual distress signals are required by law on coastal waters and the Great Lakes. They are generally not required on state waters, but this can vary by state and even by body of water.
To meet the US Coast Guard regulations you can carry a US Coast Guard approved electric distress light. These lights are designed to automatically flash an SOS signal and can be ideal to carry on a kayak.
You can also carry pyrotechnic distress signals, such as handheld red flares. However, to meet the regulations you need to carry at least three of them.
Different Types Of Kayak Lights
Flag And Light Combo Kits
If you frequently paddle both during the day and at night then a flag and light combo kit can be an ideal solution for added safety and visibility. This gives you the option of using both the flag and the light together or using the flag during the day and the light at night.
Usually, these kits can be mounted directly to a mounting point on your boat, such as a rod holder or existing mount. Some of them may come with mounts included.
An adjustable pole can be a good feature to look for, as this can let you alter the height of your light and/or flag depending on the conditions or the type of water you’re paddling in.
These types of lights are usually designed to sit higher on your vessel than your head, so that you can be more likely to be seen by other vessels.
Deck lights are usually designed to be mounted to the deck of your kayak, either at the bow or at the stern. Some deck lights feature a suction cup mount so that you can attach it to the deck of your boat more easily.
This can be ideal if you’re looking for a light that you can easily remove to mount onto another kayak or if you want to move its position on the deck. However, not all deck lights will feature a suction cup mount and may need to be attached to gear tracks or mounted directly to your vessel.
A headlamp can be an ideal alternative to a flashlight because you can still have both hands free to paddle. You may find that a headlamp also comes in handy while kayak fishing, for the same reason: that you have your hands free.
However, with some headlamps you may find that your vision is impaired if the light is too bright. Opting for a headlamp that has different brightness settings can be a good idea. This way you can adjust the level of light, so you can see what you’re doing whether you’re tying a lure to a line or making sure the route ahead is clear.
A flashlight can be an essential item to carry with you at night on your kayak. Even if you have another light on your boat you may find a flashlight is useful for navigation or, for example, if you drop your fishing hook or lure in your boat.
A flashlight can also be used for added safety to alert another craft to your existence if you don’t think they can see you.
Fish Attracting Lights
Fish attracting lights can be useful if you’re kayak fishing at night. These types of lights can come in a range of colors that are generally designed to attract insects and lure baitfish, meaning the bigger fish shouldn’t be far behind.
Video: How To Attract Bait Fish With A Light
Some of these lights are designed to be displayed under the water. This means they are not meant to be navigation lights and they won’t meet US Coast Guard requirements for boating at night. If you use a fish attracting light you will still need to carry and display a white light to meet regulations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need To Use Waterproof Lights?
You don’t particularly need to use waterproof lights as long as the light can be displayed when required. If there’s a risk that your light could fail after being in contact with water, you may want to have a backup with you.
Are Navigation Lights Easy To Attach?
Some may be easier than others. Some can be mounted into existing mounts or rod holders, but others may require you to install a mount to your kayak before attaching the light. It’s also possible to get lights that are mounted with suction cups that can be easy to install and remove.
Can I Use Any Kind of Light?
If you need to meet US Coast Guard requirements you will need to have a white light that can be displayed quickly. This can be a flashlight or an all-around white light that is mounted to your kayak.
The Railblaza Visibility Kit can be the best option if you’re looking for increased visibility for kayaking at night and during the day. The adjustable pole can let you change the height and it comes with a mount that can also be used with other compatible accessories.
Another great choice is the Hobie Safety Flag Combo because it can be neatly stored away inside the included flag. It also has a good battery life and can be attached easily into a rod holder.
However, if you don’t want a flag the Paddlers Supply Light can be a good runner up. This light can be easily installed and removed using the suction cup base and it also has a long run time with batteries included.
Remember, if you’re paddling at night on coastal waters or on the Great Lakes you must have a light on your kayak, as well as night use visual distress signals. If you plan to paddle on state waters at night it can be worth checking your local laws.