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Our Guide to Kayak Lights For Safe Night Kayaking

A kayak light quickly becomes an important part of your gear if you love kayaking at night or early in the morning before the sun comes up. The benefit of having a kayak light is obvious as you get illumination on your vessel to see where all your stuff is. Also, kayak lights will ensure your safety when paddling in low-light situations, as you’ll be more visible to larger vessels. And should there ever be an emergency, people will be able to locate you easily.

Having a light on your kayak when paddling is already a legal requirement in many countries. So whether you just love being alone on the water at night or early in the morning or are looking to catch species of fish that are active at night, you are going to need a kayak light.

Choosing a kayak light should be easy, right? One would think it’s as simple as getting any light and mounting it on your vessel. But you see, you have to put some thought into choosing a kayak light since all kayak lights aren’t made equal.

Here, you’ll learn all you need to know about kayak lights and be able to make informed decisions when buying one. Continue reading to know more about these lights.

Why Do You Need Kayak Lights?

There is a need for paddlers to make themselves visible to other paddlers or boaters, especially at night. Paddling before sunrise or after sunset is a common occurrence, and there are a number of reasons for this.

Some people love the quiet of the night or early morning, while some just love being alone. For others, it’s about fishing, as some fish species may be more active at night.

Kayak lights will provide illumination inside and around your vessel, making it easier for you to paddle and locate stuff on your yak with ease. You are also visible to other people on the water. And should there ever be an emergency, people will find it easier to locate you and bring help.

In many places, having a light on your kayak before sunrise and after sunset is a legal requirement. Laws about kayak lights may vary from place to place but one thing common to all is that you need to have a light on your vessel in the dark.

Night Kayaking: Rules and Regulations

In the United States, the US Coast Guard is responsible for providing regulations on federally controlled waters which includes coastal waters and the Great Lakes. Each of the 50 States in the United States has its own Boating Regulatory Agencies and Departments. For example, in Alabama, the Department of Conservation and Natural resources provide and enforce boating regulations.

You’ll have to find out about the local regulations of night kayaking in your state as regulations typically vary from state to state. However, if you are on federally controlled waters, you are required to have a white light on board if you are paddling before sunrise and after sunset.

Something as simple as a flashlight is enough to meet the US Coast Guard regulations but buying kayak lights makes more sense since they are designed specifically for yaks and are brighter and more durable.

Most States adopt the US Coast Guard regulations so you are probably going to be required by law to use lights when paddling at night. Even if your area doesn’t require you to carry lights when paddling at night or early in the morning, you should always go with light. It never hurts to make yourself visible to other water users and have illumination to carry out your tasks better.

What is LED?

LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode and is a semiconductor device that produces visible light when an electric current is passed through it. LED lights are all the rage in the lighting industry nowadays due to the several benefits they offer.

For one, they require very low voltage to work, and that’s why the LED lights on this list are powered by simple AA batteries. Also, they are very energy efficient, work well in both cold and hot temperatures, are very durable, safe, produce zero UV emission, have dimming capacity, offer tremendous design flexibility, and many more.

Want to know more about LED lights? A simple Google search would suffice.

What Are the Different Types of Kayak Lights?

Flag and Light Combo Kits

As the name implies, this type of kayak light is made up of a flag and light. They sit higher than your head when placed in your yak and make you more visible.

It’s a great option for people that paddle frequently at night and during the day as the flag will help improve your visibility and consequently, your safety. You can use the flag alone during the day and combine it with light at night or use them together at all times. It’s up to you.

Installing flag and light combo kits is easy, as you just have to mount them on existing mounts on your kayak such as a rod holder. Some manufacturers include mounts in the package.

Having an adjustable pole can come in handy, as you can always adjust the height of the flag and the light.

Deck Lights

You install this type of kayak lights on the deck (bow or stern) of your yak as their name implies. Some manufacturers may include a suction cup mount in the package to make it easier for you to install them on your vessel.

The main benefit of deck lights is that they can be easily removed and mounted. So if you’ll be removing your light regularly, you should take a look at this yak. Also, the position of the light on the deck can be easily adjusted. Note that not all deck lights come with suction cup mounts in which case you may have to mount the light directly on your yak.

Handheld Lights

This type of light is small, portable, and easy to mount. Usually, they come with a clip you can use to attach them to your vessel. There are even some handheld lights you can attach to your Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs).

The main purpose of handheld lights is to light your part so you can see where you are going. Their light weight is a big plus, as it makes them easy to transport, store, and ensure they don’t get in your way as you paddle.

Waterproof Rating

It only makes sense for kayak lights to have some degree of water resistance, right? Kayak light manufacturers share the same thought, and that’s why quality kayak lights are water-resistant. They are also buoyant to prevent them from sinking should they fall into the water.

The degree of waterproofing of a kayak light is determined by the IP rating which is an international standard that rates the degree of protection provided by mechanical casings and electronic enclosures against water, dust, intrusion, and accidental contact. We are interested in water when it comes to kayak lights.

The second digit of IP number determines its water resistance and is rated from 0 to 8 with the water resistance increasing as the second digit increases. The first digit is usually about solid particle resistance and is usually denoted as ‘X’ for kayak lights since they are not rated for this.

So you can expect the IP rating of a kayak light to be something like IPX7, IPX6, and so on.

Mounting Options

Suction Cup Mounts: They are lightweight, affordable, and easy to set up. However, there is the drawback of them losing their suction over time and not being as secure as they used to be.

Clamp Mounts: They are very secure and very difficult to knock off. However, their solid construction means they are very heavy. If you don’t mind the extra weight, go for them.

Tension Cables: Sole kayak lights come with cables that can be attached to the eyelets of your yak. They have the advantage of being very secure, but they are also prone to breaking at the same time, especially when you collide with an obstacle on the water.

Track Mounts: Track mounts can be found on higher-end kayaks and their purpose is for the paddler to attach gear. Some kayak light manufacturers may produce lights that are compatible with these mounts.

Final Thoughts

From all I’ve discussed in this article, you can see how important kayak lights are when paddling in low-light situations. They are simple and inexpensive pieces of gear, but they help keep you and other paddlers or water users safe.

Paddle to your heart’s content at night or in the early morning, and never forget to take a kayak light with you!

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