Lighting and Visibility for kayaks at night

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Kayaks are required to have emergency lights and lights for operation at night. Being visible is a good thing. Here are some options.

Kayaks must have either flares or strobe for emergency signalling at night. Flares can not be carried on airplanes and need to be replaced every year. Strobes can not be used casually but ONLY for emergencies. In my opinion, imminent collision is an emergency use.

In addition to emergency signalling devices, kayaks must also have a white light for use in warning of your presence. It does not have to be on continuously. So technically a flash light is sufficient. This is a minimum requirement. Kayaks can also use standard navigation lights for sailboats of red on the port bow showing 112.5 degrees , green on the starboard bow showing 112.5 dgrees and white showing 135 degrees to the rear.

Finally when paddling at night in a group it is important to have lights that will make you visible to your close by companions without ruining their night vision. These lights should also be able to last a long time

MARK III™ STROBE - Emergency use
The Mark III Strobe (formerly the Strobe 30) is the latest in solid-state strobe technology. Its LED flashes for 300+ hours on 3 AA batteries. In addition the lamp is rated for more than 10,000 hours. Available with your choice of 4 lens colors. A Velcro strap is included.

Not available for sale to European Union at this time, not RoHS compliant.


    • Depth Rating: 1,000 feet (300 m)
    • Lamp: LED strobe
    • Lamp Life: 100,000+ hours
    • Burn Time: 300+ hours
    • Batteries: 3 AA Alkaline
    • Dimensions: 9.75" (25 cm) L x 1.2" (3 cm) Dia.
    • Weight: 0.50 lbs. (0.23 kg)
P/N 3A-7100-4

Greatland Laser Rescue Laser Flare

  • Operates 72 hours
  • Waterproof to 80 feet
  • Rugged machined Delrin® plastic
  • Designed for maritime environment
  • 2 alkaline AA batteries included
  • Weighs 6 oz
  • 5.75” long
  • Can be carried on planes

Great comparative review on capabilities and how to use this product. Click here.
This product requires you to be able to see the rescuers and actively aim the laser fan. Uses the same sighting technique as used for signaling with a mirror.


Available at West Marine

ACR C Strobe Light - Emergency Use

The ACR C-Strobe is a waterproof, corrosion-resistant PFD light that delivers more than eight hours of intense one-second interval flashes on two AA batteries (not included). The ACR CStrobe comes with a Velcro strap and wrist loop and meets USCG regulations. 6''H x 1.6''Dia. 2-mile visibility.


Editors Note: 2009/07/01 My friend Steve has this strobe t has held up well under three years of knocking about. It hasn;t been used in an emergency only tested now and then and fresh batteries inserted.

ACR FireFly Plus Recreational strobe and flashlight - Do NOT Buy
  • Ideal for boaters, hunters, campers, skiers or diver's BC pocket; includes wrist lanyard and velcro strap
  • Omni-directional strobe visible up to 2 miles (3.2 km)
  • Waterproof to 328 ft (100 m); for diving, use non-petroleum based lubricant on O Ring seal to ensure maximum waterproof integrity
  • Floats if dropped overboard
  • Operates on 2 “AA” alkaline or 2 “AA” lithium batteries
  • Operating life - Strobe - 10 hours; flashlight - 2 hours continuous
  • Size: 5.3 x 1.5 in (13.5 x 3.8 cm)
  • Weight: 5.0 oz (142 g)
  • Material: High impact ABS case
  • Color: International orange
  • Operation: Hold light body constant, turn ring to left or right to activate strobe or flashlight
  • Waterproof: Up to 328 ft (100 m)
  • Beam: 6 ft (1.8 m) wide at a distance of 3 ft (.9 m)
  • Strobe: Omni-directional 360°
  • Visibility: High intensity strobe light is visible up to 2 miles (3.2 km)
  • Flash Rate: 40-60 flashes per minute
  • Lamp: Xenon flash tube with Krypton bulb
  • Battery Type: 2 “AA” alkaline or lithium batteries
  • Limited Warranty: 1 year
  • Carton Dimensions: 13.0 x 10.0 x 8.5 in (33.0 x 25.0 x 22.0 cm)
  • Units Per Carton: 12
  • Carton Weight: 4.5 lbs (2.0 kg)
  • Operational Life: Strobe-10 hours; flashlight-2 hours continuous
Editors Note: 2007/03/26 My ACR Firefly Plus flashlight stopped working on the second day I had it. The strobe part still works. Also the switch is very easily turned on by accident. There should be a lock of some type on the switch such as having to push up and then turn in order to activate it As it is now, the switch is easily activated. If it turns to the strobe you will probbly notice it as the flash is bright and the charging electronics makes a distinctive noise. But if it turns to the flashlight, you are unlikely to notice and it will drain the batteries. If that happens, it won't be available should you need it in an emergency.

The two AA betteries are held in a plastic holder that slides into a case that looked as if it were designed for a D cell battery. Electrical contacts on the plastic insert align with contacts on the wall of the case. The battery carrier is hard enough to insert with two hands while on the shore as it requires the alignment of a small plastic ridge into a raised slot on the battery carrier. There is little likelyhood of being able to replace the batteries in anything but flat water conditions.

I called the company and they have generously agreed to let me ship it to them for a free repair. I will report on how that comes out. Hopefully I will get it back in time to take it to Baja where I will give it a thorough test.

Editors Note: 2007/04/18 - Yesterday my light came via UPS. Three week turn around. There was no charge for replacing the reed switch that caused the flashlight portion not to work. But obviuosly, I could not take it to Baja. Will report on this light the next time I have a chance to use it in the field.

Editors Note: 2007/05/27 - Well I took the light on a camping/kayaking trip to the Virginia Sea Isles. While the light worked acceptably as a flashlight and a strobe, that which I feared actually happened. I was storing the flashlight in my deckbag which I had thrown into the corner of the tent. At 3:00 A.M. I was awakened from a sound sleep with a strange feeling that something was wrong. Sure enough as soon as my mind cleared of the sleepy cob webs I noticed a one second pulse of light coming from the heavy nylon deck bag. The strobe was going off. I opened the deck bag reached in and pulled out the strobe. Immediately I was blinded by the next firing of the strobe. As I suspected, the easily switched on selector activation switch for the flashlight./strobe had been accidently turned on during one of my rotations in my sleepingbag. Had this accidental activation been the flashlight instead of the strobe, I would not have noticed the light being on inside the deckbag. The batteries would have drained and the strobe would not have been available in an emergency. Due to this flaw in the design of this switch, i must advise all to not buy this light.

MARK III™ - 1 LED - Long burn visibility light
The Chemical Lightstick Alternative®
The longest lasting marker light available. This version of the Mark III uses a single LED and is designed for situations where higher ambient light requires a high-intensity light.

The Mark III is also well suited for use as a traffic marshalling wand or area light. Available in your choice of four lens colors. A bungee lanyard is included.


    • Depth Rating: 1,000 feet (300 m)
    • Lamp: 1 LED
    • Lamp Life: 10,000+ hours
    • Burn Time: 200+ hours
    • Batteries: 3 AA Alkaline
    • Materials: ABS and LEXAN®
    • Dimensions: 9.75" (25 cm) L x 1.2" (3 cm) Dia.
    • Weight: 0.48 lbs. (0.22 kg)
    • U.S. patent #6,168,288


Essential Gear Guardian - nearby location/chart reading/nav lights
  • Attach it almost anywhere with included clip.
  • Case, clip and lens material made from high impact and scratch resistant thermoplastic.
  • Omni directional light - be seen from all sides.
  • Visible up to one mile from front or 750 ft. from sides.
  • Waterproof up to 300 ft.
  • Twist lens to turn on and off.
  • Works well in cold conditions with lithium batteries.
  • Battery Life: 100 hrs. Flashing 250 hrs.
  • Works From -40° to 50° C (122° F)
  • Runs on two CR-2016 lithium batteries, included
  • Just 1 5/8" x 1 1/2" x 1/4", and weighs less than one ounce!
  • Just flip the batteries to change modes from flashing to steady-on!

    Colors: Yellow, Blue, Green, Red, White.

Editors Note: I got a bunch of these on sale at Campmor for $8.00 each. I gave them to my friends so I can keep track of them on our night paddles. So far I am quite pleased with their functionality. I am taking one to Baja and will see how it holds up after two weeks of coastal kayaking. Will see how it works as an area light for stealth camping. Changiing from steady to flash mode by flipping the batteries is not practical at sea. If you want both flashing capability and steady light buy two and have one set one way and one the other.

Editors Note:2007/04/18: I took this little light to Baja. I kept it in my PFD pocket, exposed to open sea conditions and my extensive rolling practice. It worked marvelously. It is perfect for a location light - keeping track of where your fellow kayakers are. It also worked as a camp light for a subtle getting around in the dark type of light using the focused beam that comes out of the top. It is too weak to work as an area light. Unfortunenately I lost it at the next to last camp when a night time redeployment of my camp direction brought on by a 180 degree shift in the 20 kot winds at night dropped it into the stones covering the beach. The light looks so much like a stone that I did not notice its disappearance. My fault for not securing it the previous night. I plan to get another three. One white, one red, one green. This is a great little light.

TEKTITE MARK-LITE® - red and green navigational lights

The Chemical Lightstick Alternative®
Tired of throwing away chemical light sticks after every use? Our Mark-Lite is The Original battery operated submersible marker light. Use one in the dark in place of a chemical lightstick while scuba diving, camping, jogging or and biking. Every Mark-Lite features a reliable, twist-on switch and use 1 AA battery lasts hours—with an operating cost of less and 20 cents/hr. Save money while helping keep our environment and oceans clean. Available in your choice of four popular lens colors. A bungee lanyard is included.


  • Depth Rating: 1,000 feet (300 m)
  • Bulb: Krypton
  • Bulb Life: 25 hours
  • Burn Time: 3+ hours
  • Batteries: 1 AA Alkaline
  • Materials: ABS and LEXAN®
  • Dimensions: 5.75" (15 cm) L x 1.2" (3 cm) Dia.
  • Weight: 0.38 lbs. (0.17 kg)


Paddlers Supply - Compact Navigation Light

This red/green navigation light unit is small yet the lights provide an excellent level of brightness without blinding other paddlers. Each unit uses two waterproof LED’s with 100 hours of battery life, batteries are included. The tough plastic bracket is mounted on a suction cup base and includes a tether. This product is two Guardian lights mounted on a plastic base.

Suction cup Base


Kayalu Kayalite - 18" Mast light

A compact LED light ( TEKTITE MARK III) with 360° visibIlity is placed on top of a 18" ABS mast. The waterproof (300m) LED light is bright enough to keep track of a group and is located high enough to be seen from multiple vantage points. A unique tethering system is easy to deploy and remove, infallibly attached to the kayak and capable of recovery from serious knocks

Use tape to block 225 degrees if used in conjunction with Navigation Light.


3M Scothlite 3150-A SOLAS Retro Reflective Tape

Marine grade retro-reflective tape is a highly reflective marking system designed specifically for the marine environment and used on all kinds of Life Saving equipment, such as Lifejackets, Lifeboats, Liferafts, Immersion Suits, etc.

It conforms to International Maritime Organization regulation, IMO Res. A.658 (16) and meets U.S. Coast Guard specification 46 CFR Part 164, Subpart 164.018/5/0. It is approved by numerous national authorities around the globe.

This retro-reflective tape is coated with an aggressive, pressure-sensitive adhesive. It applies easily to flexible or rigid surfaces. It's USCG approved and meets SOLAS requirements.

Editors Note: This tape will last longer and is more reflective than the ACR 4x4 patches. Sometimes you can find 3M Scotchlite in patch form. Mine lasted for two years before losing its protective cover. Still functions admirably. Very difficult to remove so be sure you put it where you want it the first time.




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