If you want to feel like you’re the only person on the water, a night paddle is the answer! It’s one of the few times that you can have some of the country’s most popular recreational lakes all to yourself.
Kayakers almost always need to make sure that they are visible to other boaters. This is true whether you’re heading out for a paddle during the day or at night.
If you’re an avid kayak angler, you probably know that certain fish species are more active at night than they are during the day. But once you have a fish on, you’ll need a little extra light to handle the next steps.
Whether you’re a recreational kayaker or an experienced angler, a kayak light is an essential addition to your gear arsenal. For starters, it’ll make it much easier to paddle more during low light conditions.
But when it comes to your safety, kayakers are legally required to have some form of light on their watercraft when paddling at night. These regulations differ from state-to-state, but you’ll definitely need some form of kayak light for night paddles, regardless of where you live.
In this article, we’re going to highlight the features of the 10 best kayak lights for night paddling and fishing. We’ll also provide brief definitions of the most common kayak light “jargon” and let you know the most important considerations for finding a kayak light that fits your activity preferences!
Table of Contents
- 1 Jargon Buster
- 2 Buying Guide
- 3 Best Kayak Lights Reviews
- 3.1 1. YakAttack VISICarbon Pro 360
- 3.2 2. Kayalu Kayalite
- 3.3 3. Innovative Lighting Portable LED Bow Light
- 3.4 4. UST See-Me 1.0
- 3.5 5. Shoreline Marine Portable LED
- 3.6 6. Kayalu WaterTorch 360
- 3.7 7. Attwood Clamp-On Portable Marine Boat Navigation Light Kit
- 3.8 8. Kayalu R25
- 3.9 9. YakAttack VISIpole II
- 3.10 10. UST See-Me 2.0 Strobe Light
- 4 Our Pick –
Honestly, kayak lights are pretty simple. But there are several important terms you’re going to run into in the rest of this article that we’d like to take a few moments to define here!
LED stands for ‘light-emitting diode’. Originally, these lights were very expensive when they first started being used in the 1960s.
Over the years, however, technology has advanced and LED lights have become much more affordable. They are also one of the more efficient lighting sources out there, which is why kayak lights employ them almost exclusively.
A diffusion lens scatters light while also making it softer. This type of lens is often used in kayak lights because it makes the LED light more visible and also helps to avoid blinding any approaching watercraft by softening the light.
Clamp mounts are one method for securing a light to your kayak. They are usually designed to be placed over the gunwales of your kayak and then screw or otherwise tighten in place.
Port and Starboard
Port and starboard refer to the sides of a watercraft. While the sides of a kayak are called the ‘gunwales’, port and starboard are used to signal which side you’re referring to.
They are used more on large aircraft carriers and naval ships to avoid confusion because not all crew members will be facing the bow (front) of the ship when directions are given.
Port and starboard always refer to the same side of the ship and don’t change based on which direction you’re facing and there’s actually a short and interesting story of how port and starboard got their names!
You’ll see these terms used with some kayak lights to help you decide where to mount them. When you’re facing the bow of your kayak, the port side is to your left and the starboard side is to your right.
One way to remember this and keep it straight is to remember that “port” and “left” contain the same number of letters. By process of elimination, the starboard side is then the opposite!
Fortunately, kayak lights aren’t as feature-heavy as some other kayak accessories. Nevertheless, we’ll use this section to dive into the most important considerations when you’re choosing a kayak light.
Kayak lights can largely be broken down into two types. There are handheld kayak lights and lights that are designed to be mounted to the deck of your kayak (i.e. deck mounted lights).
Handheld kayak lights are much smaller than their deck-mounted counterparts, on average. Despite their name, most of them come with some form of cord or clip that allows you to attach it to your kayak or PFD.
The main advantage of a handheld kayak light is its weight and compact design. This type of light is easy to attach to your desired location and it won’t get in your way as you paddle.
Deck mounted kayak lights attach to the deck of your kayak using a variety of mechanisms. Some come with clamp mounts and others utilize suction cup technology to secure in place.
The major advantage of a deck-mounted kayak light is that it can provide 360-degree visibility. This is an ability that most handheld kayak lights simply cannot match.
As we just mentioned, most kayak lights either mount to your vessel using suction cup technology or clamp mounts. But some are compatible with a GearTrac or mounting accessory.
Suction mounting kayak lights are lightweight and easy to use. Many suction-mounted kayak lights are also among the most affordable kayak light options available.
The downside of suction mounted kayak lights, however, is their tendency to lose their suction over time. Many suction mounted kayak lights also have trouble with porous, uneven, or dirty surfaces.
Clamp mounted kayak lights offer the best grip strength of all types of mounting systems. They’re most likely to remain in place, regardless of the conditions that you encounter on the water (or while dragging your kayak up onto the shore).
But on the other hand, clamp mounted kayak lights tend to be heavier and bulkier than their suction mounted brethren. This makes them less-than-ideal for long-distance paddling trips.
The GearTrac option provides far more versatility than suction mounted and clamp mounted varieties. This is the best option for anyone who wants the ultimate freedom to customize their kayak light setup.
The downside of a GearTrac, however, is that it requires a screw-in mounting plate to secure in place. Only the most experienced kayakers will feel comfortable drilling into their kayak to install a GearTrac because you must be sure to reseal those holes once the GearTrac is installed.
Is It Waterproof?
It should be pretty obvious that a light made for kayaking should be waterproof. But there are, of course, varying degrees of waterproofing and not all kayak lights are created equal on this front.
For starters, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a kayak light that’s not rated to withstand submersions of at least one meter in depth. However, there are many kayak lights out there that are capable of withstanding submersions down to some very extreme depths.
While you might not worry about retrieving a kayak light that gets lost in more than 100 feet of water, there are certainly some that can withstand such submersions. And if you live in a particularly rainy area, this degree of waterproofing can be essential to keeping your kayak light functional.
Before you browse through the kayak light options below, take some time to familiarize yourself with the IP Waterproof Rating System. This is a widely-used standard for rating the degree of ‘Ingress Protection’ for waterproof phone cases, dry bags, and other items that you might rely on to stay dry!
Best Kayak Lights Reviews
The YakAttack VISICarbon Pro 360 is both a flag and an LED light all-in-one. This is a great solution to attach to your kayak and improve your visibility, both during the day and at night.
This kayak light is equipped with SilentSlip foam on the handle. This allows it to fit seamlessly into most flush-mount and tubular fishing rod holders.
The flagpole on this light extends to 48” and collapses to just 14” when you don’t need it. It is also compatible with YakAttack MightyMount and GearTrac technology, although those accessories aren’t included in the package.
The light on the VISICarbon Pro 360 is an LED that uses AAA batteries. It will last up to 100 hours on a single set of batteries and the light itself has a life up to 10,000 hours.
The Kayalu Kayalite is equipped with a bright white LED light that has a titanium-infused diffusion lens. This light will last up to 100 hours on three AA alkaline batteries.
This kayak light is made entirely of marine-grade components. It is a buoyant light that can withstand the pressure of being submerged up to 1000 feet.
The Kayalite can attach to your kayak in multiple ways. You can use the light’s steel clip and nylon-coated tensioning cable to attach it to an eyelet or pad eye on the deck of your kayak.
If your kayak doesn’t have an eyelet handy where you want your light, the Kayalite can be paired with Kayalu’s Stainless Steel Eyebolt Kit or Kayalite/Eyebolt combo pack. This will allow you to secure it to your kayak for your next nighttime outing.
The Portable LED Bow Light from Innovative Lighting can mount to the bow of your kayak to help you navigate and improve your visibility on the water. This light uses suction-cup technology to secure to the deck of your kayak.
This kayak light features molded, one-piece construction that reduces the number of parts that can wear or break down over time. It is also equipped with shock-proof neoprene accents that improve this light’s overall durability.
The multi-colored LED bulb used in this light is rated to last up to 100,000 hours. The light itself runs on four AA batteries, which are not included in the package.
The Portable LED Bow Light is designed to use 90% less energy than similar incandescent lights. The neoprene accents on this light also make it waterproof!
The UST See-Me 1.0 is a handheld kayak light that is best to attach to your PFD or the handle of your kayak. At less than five inches long and one inch wide, it’s one of the most compact kayak lights on our list.
This kayak light is equipped with a 20-lumen LED bulb that runs on two AAA batteries. The casing that protects the light’s LED bulb is rated to be waterproof for submersions up to 1 meter.
The entire bulb and its casing weigh a total of just 1.8 ounces. This light easily secures to your desired location using a lanyard cord with hook-and-loop closure.
The UST See-Me 1.0 is outfitted with an “unbreakable” casing and the bulb itself will last up to 17 hours. The light easily turns on and off with a twist-on cap and the light is bright enough to remain visible at distances up to 3.4 miles on a clear night.
The Portable LED light from Shoreline Marine features great craftsmanship. This is a clamp-on style of kayak light that comes with all the hardware you need to attach the clamp mounts to your kayak.
Because it comes with dual clamp mounts, this kayak light can be attached either to the bow or stern of your kayak. It actually comes with two lights (red and white) so that you can mark both ends of your watercraft.
Both of the lights run on three AAA batteries that are not included. The LED bulbs draw a very low amperage so that they boast an exceptionally long battery life.
The Shoreline Marine Portable kayak light makes it easy to add a permanent light to your small watercraft. The craftsmanship will help this light have a long life and it can also be a great gift for a loved one!
The Kayalu WaterTorch 360 emits light in a 360-degree radius so that your kayak remains visible from all angles at night. It is equipped with a white Lexan diffusion lens that protects the bulb and further improves overall visibility.
The LED bulb in this kayak light runs on three removable AA alkaline batteries. The light can last up to 100 hours on a single set of batteries and has an overall battery life of up to 10,000 hours.
The body and lens housing of this kayak light are both essentially crush-proof. This light can handle being dropped or bumped against the rocks as you launch and land your kayak.
The WaterTorch 360 is made entirely of marine-grade components. This makes it waterproof and capable of handling submersions up to 1000 feet.
While it’s labeled as a “portable” kayak light, the Attwood Clamp-On Light Kit is a great solution for a more permanent kayak light installation. It comes with two C-clamp mounts that make it easy to install these lights on the bow and stern of your kayak.
This lighting kit actually comes with a red/green LED bow light and a white LED stern light. Both of the lights will last up to 150 hours on three AAA batteries that aren’t included in the package.
The bulbs are secured in shock-proof housings and further protected by shatter-proof polycarbonate lenses. The pole for the stern light is approximately 12 inches tall and the C-clamps measure about eight inches in width.
8. Kayalu R25
The Kayalu R25 kayak light is a Tektite Mark III LED light in a compact, handheld casing. It’s a great light if you’re a kayaker who likes to consistently change where you secure your light to the deck of your vessel for night paddles.
This kayak light provides 360-degree visibility and works exceptionally well in fog, rain, sleet, snow, and other low-visibility conditions. The light runs up to 100 hours on a single set of batteries and has an overall battery life of up to 10,000 hours.
The light itself is housed in an impact-resistant, durable casing. This casing is constructed of rugged composite polymer and polycarbonate.
The R25 is also waterproof up to 1000 feet. It features a twist-on/twist-off operation and a double-gasket seal that protects the three AA alkaline batteries it runs on.
The YakAttack VISIpole II is another great mounted kayak light and flagpole option. This option is great for improving your kayak’s visibility in both daylight and nighttime conditions.
The pole is ⅜-inch fiberglass that extends up to a total height of 48 inches when fully extended. The pole collapses all the way down to just six inches tall and the orange flag on top keeps you visible both day and night.
The LED bulbs in this kayak light will last up to 100 hours on three AA batteries. The bulbs actually boast an overall battery life of up to 10,000 hours.
The UST See-Me 2.0 is the slightly beefed-up version of the See-Me 1.0. This features a strobe light option that is great for emergencies on the water and drastically improves your kayak’s overall visibility.
This kayak light is powered by two AA batteries and boasts a 60-lumen LED bulb. This bulb can flash 60 times per minute for up to 120 hours and still not need to be replaced!
The LED bulb and its casing measure 5.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. The entire kayak light weighs just four ounces and is waterproof for submersions up to 1 meter deep.
The See-Me 2.0 automatically activates when it is submerged in water. It also boasts a manual activation through the use of its easy-to-operate twist-on/twist-off cap.
This kayak light can attach to your desired location with its lanyard cord and hook and loop system. It also has a clip that makes it easy to secure directly to your PFD, if you so choose!
Our Pick – YakAttack VISICarbon Pro 360
The YakAttack VISICarbon Pro 360 is our pick for the best kayak light for night paddling and fishing. It gets our nod because it is one of the few kayak lights on our list that fits directly into the existing flush-mount rod holder on many fishing and recreational kayaks.
This kayak light also boasts an extremely long battery life. Unlike many of the best kayak lights, the VISICarbon Pro actually includes batteries when you buy the whole package.
The major benefit of this kayak light is that it can improve your kayak’s visibility in all conditions. This is even true during the day when the light on top might not be as visible as it is during the night.
The bright orange flag atop this kayak light will help to alert fellow motorized boaters to your presence on the water. While you’ll obviously be less visible during night paddles, making sure other boaters can see you during the day can be equally important.
Kayaks simply can’t perform evasive maneuvers as quickly as motorized vessels. Because of this, high visibility is critical for avid kayakers.
This is the reason that many kayaks themselves are bright colors! But having a bright orange flag on the stern or bow of your kayak is another great way to increase your visibility.
We also like this kayak light because it actually collapses down and the entire pole actually slides into a hidden flap on the flag. This makes it really compact to store when you’re not employing it on your kayak!