Paddling in the dark can be both exhilarating and a little scary. This article will share the best kayak lights for night paddling. If you plan on paddling under the stars, we’ve got you covered.
Some folks paddle before the sun rises to get to their favorite fishing spot at daybreak. Anglers also know that certain fish are more active at night. Once you have a fish on, you will need some light to reel your catch.
Other people enjoy paddling under cover of darkness just for fun. Or, maybe your day on the water went a little longer than expected. Sometimes it’s a good idea to have a light, even during the day, depending on the lighting conditions.
Whatever the reason, kayak lights will serve you well. Kayak light requirements differ by region, but you will generally need some light if you are kayaking in the dark.
In a hurry? Here are the top picks:
Best Kayak Lights for Night Paddling
Next, we will look at the features and benefits of different kayak lights. There are a lot of kayak lights to choose from, and we have selected the best options. There are different ways to mount lights on your kayak too.
Don’t worry. We’ll cover all of this now!
#1 Kayalu Kayalite Kayak Light
- High-performance portable navigation light, for kayak, SOT, SUP, canoe, dinghy,...
- Bright White 2-LED with white titanium-infused diffusion lens, 100 hours on 3 AA...
- Buoyant, deep water submersible (IPX8 rated), waterproof to 1000 feet (300 m).
- Steel clip and nylon-coated bungee tensioning cable attach to any eyelet or pad eye...
- No eyelet on deck? Look for our $9.95 Kayalu Gear Stainless Steel Eyebolt Kit or...
- Waterproof to 1,000 feet
- Bright white
- IPX8 rated
- Uses 3 AA batteries
Kayalu is a leader in the industry when it comes to kayak lights. The bright white light has two LEDs with a titanium-infused diffusion lens. This light is designed to burn for up to 100 hours on three AAA batteries. You can paddle in the dark for a long time before replacing the batteries.
At 18 inches tall, the light is easy to see and is made for the water. It’s submersible and is IXP8 rated. The light is rated to be waterproof to a whopping 1,000 feet. Here’s to hoping you never have to go that deep to retrieve it.
It comes with a steel clip and a bungee cable. So Kayalu is easy to use and clips onto any existing eyelet or pad eye on your kayak deck. You can also clip it to your kayak deck rigging or carrying handle.
This is one of the best kayak lights for hardshell and inflatables alike. Kayalu Kayalite meets the US Coast Guard Rule 25 regulation.
Easy to use and install
Submersible to 1,000 feet
Not as bright as some lights
If you don’t have an eyelet, you will need to install one
#2 RAILBLAZA Visibility Kit
- The RAILBLAZA Visibility kit II is a must-have safety item in the kit of any kayak...
- In one convenient, value-for-money pack you get everything you need for your kayak or...
- RAILBLAZA Visibility Kit II includes i360 kayak stern light, daytime orange flag,...
- With 3 modes the i360 kayak light (high, medium, and blink) requires 3 AA batteries...
- Designed and made in New Zealand using high quality materials, and the latest LED...
- Three operation modes
- Waterproof to 1 meter
- Uses 3 AAA batteries
The RAILBLAZA Visibility Kit is specifically designed for kayaks. This kit is a must-have for a recreational paddler. The Visibility Kit gives you everything you need to be seen on the water day or night.
The RAILBLAZA Visibility Kit includes the StarPort HD mount, with fastenings, a 3-piece pole, i360 light, and a fluorescent orange flag (for added daytime visibility). This all-inclusive kit is easy to set up. The StarPort HD mount can be used with other mounting ports, but you must order separately.
One of the impressive features of this kayak light is the 3-piece pole. You can adjust the height of the light by adding or removing different sections. This is a nice feature when you need the light to be higher for certain water conditions.
The RAILBLAZA Visibility Kit also has three operation modes.
- Full brightness up to 25 hours of battery life
- Low up to 160 hours of battery life
- Flashing 200+ hours of battery life
Before we forget, the light kit is also waterproof to 1 meter and floats without the pole attached, making it one of the best kayak navigation lights.
Highly visible (360 visibility)
Comes with everything you need
Three pole heights
You might need to drill holes in your kayak
More expensive than other models
#3 YakAttack VISIpole
- Includes Orange Flag
- Attaches to Kayak Track
- Made in the USA
- LEDs burn 100 hours on 3 AA batteries (included); 10,000+ hours lamp life
- Light on 3/8" Fiberglass mast
- Fiberglass mast with a floating base
- 360-degree visibility
- Uses 3 AAA batteries
The YakAttack VISIpole comes complete with a fiberglass mast and a floating base. The mast’s full height is 4’6”, meaning you will be visible from 360 degrees. If you don’t need 360-degree visibility, you can use the flag to dilute the light, keeping bugs at bay.
The YakAttack VISIpole is designed to fit the GearTrac, which is YakAttack’s track mounting system. If you are set up for this, attaching the light anywhere on the track that works best for you is easy. The VISIpole is compatible with other track systems, although it may require an adapter.
The light is easy to use. Simply twist the light to turn it on and off. It does not have a flashing or strobe setting. Rest assured, the kayak light is waterproof to 1,000 feet.
If you ever need to retrieve it from the bottom of the lake, it should still work! The light takes 3 AA batteries, and the LEDs burn for about 100 hours. That’s a decent amount of time on the water before replacing the batteries.
Highly visible at 4’6” tall
Easy to use
Easy to install on the right track system
Comes with a flag
Depending on your mounting setup, this might not work for you
Some users say the light is not as bright as they thought
#4 Attwood Deck Mount LED Navigation Light Kit
- Ideal for small boats without 12V electrical systems (kayak, canoe, paddleboard),...
- Kit includes: red/green LED bow light, white LED stern light, mounts, telescoping...
- 2 convenient mounting options: screw down or use included adhesive pad
- Sealed electronics in a shock-proof housing and a shatter-proof polycarbonate lens....
- Over 150 hours of run time on 3 AAA batteries (purchase separately)
- Red/Green/White combo
- Mounting hardware included
- Adhesive mount option
- Uses 3 AAA batteries
If you are looking for a kayak light combo kit, look at this model from Attwood. The kayak light kit comes with a red and green LED bow light and white stern light. This combination kayak light kit comes with two sets of lights, which may help meet regulations in your area.
This is a truly all-in-one kayak light kit. Everything you need is included, the mounts, stern light pole, and hardware. The light is water-resistant.
There are two options for mounting the lights. First, you can screw the lights in place or use the included adhesive pad. The adhesive option is great if you are uncomfortable or don’t want to drill holes in your kayak.
The adhesive is good for smooth surfaces but not so great on porous or textured areas. Most users recommend using the screws that come with the kit when attaching the light to your kayak for better stability.
The stern light pole comes in sections and stands about 24” tall so it can be seen well at night.
Mounting hardware included
Includes a white stern light and a red/green bow light
All in one light kit
Up to 150 hours of run time on 3 AAA batteries
The adhesive is not great for porous or textured surfaces
There is no stop to prevent pulling the sections apart
#5 Innovative Lighting Inc. Led Stern Light
- Molded One Piece White Body Construction
- Uses 90% Less Energy than Incandescent
- Sealed Heavy Duty On/Off Switch
- Uses one LED rated at 100,000 hours service life
- Requires 4 "AA" Batteries (Not Included)
- Suction cup mount
- Uses 4 AA batteries
- No drilling required
This super simple white light is easy to install with a suction cup. You can stick it wherever you want it. This is a great option for folks who don’t want to drill holes in their kayak or don’t have DIY skills.
The kayak light has a sealed on/off switch and a spot to attach a lanyard or carabiner. The light body screws onto the base. It requires 4 AA batteries, which is more than other lights. Many users have reported the light has great rubber suction.
If you are in the market for an affordable white stern light, this one is worth a look. The downside is the light is not tall and may not be seen from all directions. On a positive note, it’s easy to install. As with any suction cup mount, make sure it will stick to the surface of your kayak.
The light is bright enough to be seen but not overpowering for the paddler.
Suction cup mount
Not very tall
Suction cups may not stick to all surfaces
#6 Attwood Clamp Mount Kayak Light
- Kit includes: red/green LED bow light, white LED stern light, quick-release mounts,...
- C-clamp mounting permits fast addition or removal as needed
- Sealed electronics in a shock-proof housing and shatter-proof polycarbonate lens
- Over 150 hours of run time on 3 AAA batteries (purchase separately)
- Attwood products are both compatible and reliable, engineered and built with a...
- Red/Green Bow light
- White stern light
- C-clamp mount
- Uses 3 AAA batteries
Be safe and be seen. The Attwood Clamp Mount Kayak Light gives you everything you need to hit the water at night. A bow red/green light and a white stern light are included. The lights are easy to install and are very sturdy.
The biggest drawback to this light kit is that you need a place to mount the C-clamp. This can be challenging on a kayak, but once you install them, they are solid. The lights are bright and very visible when you are on the water at night. These are solid options if you can make them work on your vessel.
The stern light pole is about 24 inches tall, making it very visible. Both lights use three AAA batteries (not included) and will last up to 150 hours. The lights are water-resistant, and the electronics are sealed in a shock-proof housing.
Red/Green/White lights included
C-clamps give you a secure install
Runs about 150 hours on three AAA batteries
You may not have a place to install the C-clamps
Other Handheld Options
If you have space on your kayak, you might want to look at the GearLight Waterproof LED Spotlight. Not only can this light help you see where you are going, but you can shine it at any oncoming vessel to quickly let them know you are there. It’s waterproof and really packs a punch.
- Performance on Demand: The powerful Watchman sweeps an ultra bright beam over the...
- Waterproof & Floating: Featuring an IP67 rating, this flashlight can be submerged in...
- Lasting Durability: Built with a rubberized ABS and Polycarbonate housing, this...
- 3 Hands-free Light Modes: Powerful High, Energy-saving Low, or Get-help SOS. The...
- Package Contents: 1x GearLight Watchman AA Spotlight Flashlight, 1x AA Battery...
Another great little light that will fit on your life jacket is the UST See-Me 1.0 Waterproof LED Light. This is a small handheld light that can come in very handy on your kayak.
- DIMENSIONS: 20 Lumen Steady-On - 4.95” L x 1.0” W and weighs 1.8 oz. with (2) AAA...
- RELIABLE: Unbreakable LED bulb provides light for up to 17 hours and never needs to...
- DURABLE: Waterproof IPX7 which protects against water immersion up to 1 meter
- BE PREPARED: With an easy twist ON/OFF cap this light is visible up to 3.4 miles on a...
- VERSATILITY: Lanyard cord and hook and loop to ensure for a secure carry
Why do you need a light for your kayak?
Local regulations vary, but chances are you will need a light on your kayak if you are out after dark. It’s a good idea to keep a kayak light with you when you are paddling. A good light will make you much more visible on the water.
As we mentioned, if your day on the water goes longer than expected, you could paddle back in the dark. It’s best for your safety and the safety of others around you to have a light on your kayak. Even if that means you keep one in your bag or secured in a hatch until you need it.
If you have a light on your kayak, you will also be easier to locate in emergencies. Environments vary so do the individual needs of paddlers. It doesn’t have to be dark to use a kayak light.
If you are kayaking in foggy or low-light conditions, it’s easy to get disoriented. A kayak light can help your buddies spot you if you paddle with a group. It’s better to have a kayak light and not need it than to need a light and not have one.
How to Choose a Kayak Navigation Light
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all kayak light configuration. Different lights can require unique placement on a kayak. For instance, if you paddle a sit-inside kayak, you should consider whether a pole-mounted light on the deck would be in the way of re-entry if you capsize in the dark.
You will need to select a kayak light that can fit your specific kayak, which may require drilling and a few DIY skills. There are other things to consider when you purchase a light for your kayak, so let’s get into that next.
Handheld Kayak Lights
Handheld flashlights serve many purposes and are useful in a pinch. A handheld light is a necessary item to keep with you if you are kayaking at night. A flashlight can help you navigate the dark waters you are paddling and signal other watercraft to let them know where you are.
Handhelds are great, but try to buy a waterproof handheld. You don’t want a wet flashlight to stop working when you paddle in the dark.
It’s a good idea to tether the handheld flashlight to your life jacket or kayak. That way, if you drop it, you will still be able to retrieve it. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a waterproof flashlight. Even if it falls in the water, you can reel it in and use it.
As you might suspect, the deck-mounted kayak lights are mounted to the deck. There are various deck mounting options, with different ways to mount the lights.
You attach a light to the deck so other boats can see you, which helps keep you safe when you are paddling at night. It’s important to pick the right spot to mount a light on the kayak deck.
You don’t want the light to be in the way of your stroke or shine brightly in your eyes as you paddle. An excellent place to attach the light is to the rear (stern) of the boat.
Mounting the light behind you allows for 360 degrees of visibility. A rear, deck-mounted light is a great option compared to a handheld flashlight. You are sure to be seen from all directions, whereas you must manually point a flashlight in a specific direction.
It’s not an absolute must to have a waterproof kayak light, and there are varying degrees of waterproof. A waterproof light would be ideal, but it doesn’t have to be.
Most of the kayak lights out there are waterproof to a certain depth. If rain starts falling, or if you drop your light overboard, a waterproof light will serve you well.
You will probably not be retrieving your kayak light from the ocean’s depths. Having a light that can withstand some water is a good idea.
How to Mount Kayak Lights
There are different types of kayak lights, and they can be mounted in different ways. We will talk about the different types of mounts for your specific application. Make sure to choose a kayak light that will work with your kayak.
Ideally, you want to have a red light on the boat’s left side (port), a green light for the right side (starboard), and a white light on the stern. Let’s talk about different ways to mount these lights on your kayak.
Suction cup kayak light mounts are easy to use, affordable, and are versatile. They are simple to attach to your kayak. Suction cups are also lightweight, and they can be used on a variety of surfaces.
These mounts are versatile because they can fit pretty much anywhere you have a smooth, flat spot on your kayak. They don’t require you to drill holes in your precious kayak.
The downside of suction cup mounts is that they can lose suction over time and don’t stick well to porous or uneven surfaces. If you can use a suction cup mount, this is an inexpensive and easy way to go.
Clamp-mounted kayak lights are very secure but can be a little bulky. As the name suggests, this type of mount clamps onto the kayak and is very sturdy. As you portage your kayak, you shouldn’t worry about the clamp coming loose and the light falling off.
The downside is that clamps can be heavier and bulkier than other options, like suction cups. They can get in the way when transporting and storing your kayak.
If you have the space for it and are looking for a bellwether option that will stand up well to punishment, a clamp mount kayak light is a great option.
Some kayaks have built-in tracks that are used for mounting different kinds of accessories. You can add mounts for things like a fish finder or other devices to the track. Some kayak lights can attach to the track built into the kayak.
The great thing about a tack-mounted kayak light is that you can take the mount off when you are transporting or storing your kayak. You can also adjust the light on the track to put it where you want it.
If you want to mount a kayak light to your boat permanently, you can use an old reliable option and screw it in. Be careful with drilling into your kayak because you can’t un-drill it once you drill a hole. Also, if you screw a lighting mount to your boat, it’s fixed in that spot.
If you are comfortable drilling holes in your kayak, installing a track on your vessel is a great option. Then you can mount the light to the track.
Some kayaks come with tension cables installed. You can clip a kayak light to the cable with a D-ring or an eyelet. This is a good option since the light will bend over rather than break if you have a collision.
How to Maintain Your Kayak Light
It’s essential to keep your kayak light, in good shape, and ready to go. You need to be able to rely on the light when you need it. To keep your light operating correctly, make sure you do the following:
- Make sure your light is working correctly and you have fresh batteries BEFORE your trip
- Take the batteries out if you plan to store the light for a long time
- Take extra batteries with you and keep them in a waterproof bag
- If you paddle in salt water, rinse your light off before you put it away
Regulations for Night Kayaking
Paddling regulations vary by region, so you need to know your area’s local rules before you head out to kayak at night. You can read more information here. Kayak lights should meet the USCG Rule 25 regulation.
If you are paddling at night, you at least need to have a white light that can be seen in any direction to show your position to other paddlers and boaters. Generally, boats over 16 feet have great requirements than those less than 16 feet.
A white light is also known as a “deck light” or an “anchor light.” This should be a steady-burning light. A white light is often mounted to a kayak’s back (stern) to help you maintain your night vision. It can be hard to see with a bright white light burning on the front of your boat.
Red and green lights are often used in conjunction with the white light. Red is for the left (port) and green for the right (starboard). Red and green may not be required, but they can help your chances of being seen.
Be sure to read the links above or inquire with the local paddling authority for your area’s requirements.
Tips for Kayaking at Night
Kayaking at night is a fun and relaxing experience. To make sure you have a successful trip, keep these tips in mind.
The whole point of this article is to help you comply with local rules and be seen on the water. If there are other boats (motorized or otherwise) out at night, it’s important they can see you. A kayak light is your shout-out to everyone on the water “hey, look at me”!
Make sure your kayak light works before you hit the water. It’s not the best time to test your light after you are already on the water. If you are using a handheld light, give it a few clicks before your trip.
Another vital thing to bring with you is extra batteries. You don’t want to be in the dark when you are padding in the dark.
Make sure you have the right lights and clothing for a night paddle. It’s also important to let someone know where you are headed and when to expect you back.
Check the Weather
Weather can change quickly, and temperatures can drop when the sun goes down. It’s essential to check the weather and make sure you are prepared. You may want to put your night paddle off if bad weather is coming.
Stick To Familiar Territory
Even with lights on your kayak, it’s hard to see obstacles below the water’s surface. Nighttime is not the best time to explore new territory in your kayak.
Stick to waterways and routes you are comfortable with and know well. Even if you are in familiar territory, darkness can be disorienting, so be careful.
It’s important to plan before your night paddle. Ensure your kayak lights are displayed and you follow the other points mentioned above. If you are paddling with powerboats around, be extra cautious.
Do I Need to Have a Kayak Light?
A good kayak light can increase your safety when paddling at night. The more lights you have on your kayak, the easier it will be for others to see you. Check with your local boating authority or the USCG for more information. At a minimum, you should have a white light that is visible in all directions.
How Do I Attach a Light to My Kayak?
Using one of the attachment methods listed above, including suction cup mount, track mount, clamp, or whatever works best for your kayak. Make sure the light is not hindering your stroke or is blinding as you are paddling.
Can Kayak Lights Get Wet?
Many kayak lights are rated waterproof or water-resistant to some degree. Some lights are more submersible than others, but they can still handle a decent amount of water.
There is a pretty good possibility that your kayak light will be exposed to some moisture. Whether it’s rain, splashing from your paddle, or you capsize, make sure that your kayak light can handle some water.
What Size Batteries Does a Kayak Light Need?
Most kayak lights are powered by AA or AAA batteries, but that can vary depending on the model. Be sure to take extra batteries with you on your trip!
Where Does My Kayak Light Need to Be Mounted?
An ideal location for a white light is on the back of the boat. This way, the light can be seen from all directions, and it’s not in your field of view. Red and green lights should be placed on the port (red) and starboard (green).
Can I Use a Headlamp?
A headlamp can come in very handy when kayaking at night. You don’t need to have the headlamp on all the time, but have it on your head, ready to go. You can use your headlamp to shine at another vessel to make sure they see you. You can also use a headlamp for navigation indicators like buoys or channel markers.
There are a lot of options when it comes to finding the best kayak light. You need to find the light that will fit your kayak and is easy to set up. Look for a quality light that will shine bright for a long time.
Our top picks are:
- The Kayalu Kayalite because it’s waterproof, easy to install, and is visible 360 degrees
- RAILBLAZA Visibility Kit due to its height, and ease of install
- YakAttack VISIpole for its 360-degree visibility, height, and it’s waterproof
Hopefully, you were able to find a suitable kayak light today. Please let us know if you have any questions. We are happy to help.
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.