Kayaking at night can be a magical experience. Being out on the water after the sun goes down gives you a chance to focus on the paddling without all of the visual distractions that come with daytime adventures.
But anyone who wants to paddle at night must come prepared with the right equipment. A kayak light is one of the most essential items to have if you kayak after dark. In fact, these lights are legally required in many jurisdictions because they lower the risk of a collision with other vessels at night.
However, with so many kinds of kayak lights on the market, finding one suitable for your situation isn’t always easy. So we’ve researched and reviewed the best kayak lights in a range of prices and styles.
Our Top Picks
If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks. Or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best Overall: Kayalu Kayalite Portable Bright White Led Kayak Light
- Best Budget: Paddlers Supply Company LED Kayak Deck Light
- Best Bow & Stern Light Set: Attwood Deck Mount LED Navigation Light Kit
- Best Safety Flag Light Combo: YakAttack Pro 360 Degree LED Kayak Flag
- Best Track Mount Light: RAILBLAZA Illuminate IPS Bi-Color Navigation Light
- Best SOS Emergency Light: UST See-Me 2.0 Strobe LED Light
Best Overall: Kayalu Kayalite Portable Bright White Led Kayak Light
Simple yet functional, the Kayalu Kayalite Portable Bright White LED Kayak Light is suitable for a range of paddling adventures.
This kayak light is 18 inches tall and has a single all-around white light suitable for most kayaks. The light’s tall height also helps prevent collisions by making it easier for other boats to see your kayak from further away.
Kayalu also designed the Kayalite with a unique mounting and tensioning system. The light clips onto a single point on your kayak, such as a D-ring or deck rigging. It also comes with a saltwater-resistant bungee cable so you can add enough tension to the light to help it stay upright as you paddle.
Each Kayalite deck light comes equipped with 2 LEDs that can provide more than 100 hours of light on a single set of 3 AA batteries. The light is also IPX8 waterproof rated for submersion in up to 1,000 feet of water.
There are few drawbacks to the Kayalaite, but some paddlers have found it’s not as bright as other models. The light’s mast is also made from a somewhat thin ABS plastic that’s prone to breaking after years of heavy use. But if you want one light that can get the job done for occasional nighttime paddling trips, the Kayalite is worth considering.
Best Budget: Paddlers Supply Company LED Kayak Deck Light
For paddlers on a budget, the Paddlers Supply Company LED Kayak Deck Light is a top performer that doesn’t break the bank.
This 11-inch tall light features an easy-to-use suction cup base that attaches to any hard-sided kayak. It also comes with a backup lanyard that you can connect to your kayak’s deck rigging, just in case you encounter heavy seas during your nighttime paddles.
Paddlers Supply Company built their deck light with a 3-inch large cone outfitted with two removable Tektite LEDs. Combined, these two LEDs provide enough light so that other vessels can see you from up to 2 miles away.
Additionally, this kayak light is enclosed in a waterproof and corrosion-resistant case that can withstand submersions down to 1,000 feet. You can also get up to 100 hours of illumination with this light by using 3 AA batteries.
Notable drawbacks to the Paddlers Supply Company LED Kayak Deck Light include the fact that it’s not great for use with inflatable kayaks. The light’s suction cup attachment system also isn’t overly reliable on kayaks that are covered in sand or grit. However, if affordability is key, this light merits a spot on your gear list.
Best Bow & Stern Light Set: Attwood Deck Mount LED Navigation Light Kit
The Attwood Deck Mount LED Navigation Light Kit is perfect for use in busy maritime locales.
With this kit, you get a white stern light and a red/green bow light so other vessels can see which way you’re paddling on the water. The white stern light also boasts a telescoping pole, so you can adjust its height up to 24 inches for increased visibility in high-traffic areas.
The stern and bow lights are designed to be mounted directly to the deck of your kayak. You can attach them with adhesive pads or the screw-down mounts for a more secure attachment system in inclement weather.
The lights and electronics within the Attwood Deck Mount LED Navigation Light Kit are also sealed inside shock-proof housing cases. Each light is water-resistant, but they’re not designed to stay underwater for extended periods. Additionally, you can get up to 150 hours of runtime with these lights when using 3 AAA batteries.
Overall, these kayak lights from Attwood provide solid value for paddlers that want both a bow and a stern light. One downside to this kit is that the lights don’t come with backup tethers, which would be helpful to stop them from going overboard if the adhesive pads fail. That said, they still perform well in a wide range of paddling conditions.
Best Safety Flag Light Combo: YakAttack 360 Degree LED Kayak Flag
A popular choice amongst kayakers, the YakAttack Pro 360 Degree LED Kayak Flag provides ample visibility during both daytime and nighttime outings.
This unique model comes with a high-visibility flag and an LED light so that others can see you on the water, regardless of the time of day. In addition, the flag that comes with this kit features a bright orange color for increased visibility.
Meanwhile, its carbon fiber pole can extend to 48 inches in length when in use or collapse down to 14 inches for simplified storage.
YakAttack also built this model with a set of rugged LEDs that can run for up to 100 hours on a single set of 3 AA batteries. Setting up the YakAttack VISICarbon Pro is also super straightforward as its SilentSlip foam base fits into most flush mounted and tubular rod holders. Or, you can slide the base of this light into your kayak’s track mount for added versatility.
Even though the YakAttack Pro is a popular choice for kayakers, we should note that the light’s thin carbon fiber mast isn’t ideal in very heavy winds. Additionally, this kit is one of the pricier options available. That said, if you need a flag light combo for your kayak, this model from YakAttack is one of the best on the market.
Best Track Mount Light: RAILBLAZA Illuminate IPS Bi-Color Navigation Light
A popular choice for paddlers with pre-installed track mounts on their kayak, the RAILBLAZA Illuminate IPS Bi-Color Navigation Light is a convenient option for a range of paddling pursuits.
The RAILBLAZA navigation light is a red/green bow light designed to meet US Coast Guard standards. It can also fit into any RAILBLAZA mounting port, so it’s easy to install and remove from your kayak when not in use.
Each navigation light from RAILBLAZA is powered by 3 AA batteries that provide up to 14 hours of run time. The light’s high-quality Osram power LEDs also provide unparalleled visibility in foul weather. Plus, this light kit can float and is rated to IP67 waterproofing for improved performance in rainy locales.
Do note that this light doesn’t include a white stern light, so you’ll need to get one of those separately. As far as drawbacks go, this light’s primary disadvantage is its bulky size and short battery life. Nevertheless, if you want a quality track mount light for your kayak, the RAILBLAZA Illuminate IPS Bi-Color Navigation Light is hard to beat.
Best SOS Emergency Light: UST See-Me 2.0 Strobe LED Light
For kayakers primarily in the market for an SOS emergency light, the UST See-Me 2.0 Strobe LED Light is a solid choice.
UST’s See-Me light is designed for use in emergencies. It boasts a theoretically unbreakable LED that can emit 45 lumens of light in a strobe pattern if you end up in the water at night. With the See-Me, you get an impressive 120 continuous hours of light, too, so other vessels can easily see you if you’re in the water for an extended period.
This waterproof light is also engineered to turn on automatically if it gets submerged in water for added safety as you paddle (but it won’t activate just because of some rain, high humidity, or sea spray). Alternatively, it has a manual on/off switch that you can activate by twisting the top of the light.
As the UST See-Me 2.0 Strobe LED light is for emergencies, it’s not designed for use as your sole navigation light during nighttime paddles. But if you’re looking for an extra piece of safety equipment to have with you on the water, this light is worthy of your consideration.
Kayak Light Buying Advice
Kayak lights are essential pieces of safety equipment for nighttime paddling. Therefore, it’s vital that you get the right lights for your needs. Here are some of the most important things to consider when shopping for your next kayak light.
- What Lights Do I Need on My Kayak at Night?
- Types of Kayak Navigation Lights
- Mounting/Attachment Options
- Mast Height
- Device Waterproofing
- Battery Life
What Lights Do I Need on My Kayak at Night?
Anyone kayaking at night must have the proper lights on their kayak to prevent collisions with other vessels.
Without the correct lights on your kayak, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for another boat to see you on the water. Vessel collisions are very dangerous, so it’s imperative that all boaters—kayakers included—have lights on their boats to prevent such a situation from occurring.
That said, figuring out precisely what lights you need on your kayak at night isn’t easy. The rules and regulations for navigation lights vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. There are also different rules for various kinds of vessels, and some maritime authorities don’t expressly mention kayaks in their regulations.
In the United States, navigation light requirements are dictated by the US Coast Guard’s navigation rules. These rules are similar to what you’d find elsewhere in the world but always double-check the requirements in your paddling area.
Within US waterways, your primary kayak light options while paddling include either:
- Single white all-around light with a 360º beam
- White stern light and red/green bow light (can be a tri-color masthead light)
Technically, kayakers should follow the rules for navigation lights on sailing vessels when paddling between sunset and sunrise. Under these regulations, kayaks should have a white stern light and a red/green bow light. Having these lights is ideal because it makes it easier for other vessels to see your direction of movement.
However, the US Coast Guard makes an exception for vessels under oars (or paddles). Kayakers can use a single white all-around light (with a 360º beam). Another option is to use a white headlight or flashlight, but this isn’t recommended.
Note that the above regulations are for kayaks that are underway (i.e., moving through the water). Technically, vessels over 23 feet in length need to have a single white all-around light when at anchor.
Most kayaks are less than 23 feet long and don’t need to follow this rule. But if you ever need to be at anchor, it’s good practice to have a white all-around anchor light for extra visibility in high-traffic areas.
There are several other rules on how to attach your light to your vessel, especially if you’re using a white stern light and a red/green bow light. Read the US Coast Guard’s navigation rules for complete guidance on what lights you need on your kayak.
Types of Kayak Navigation Lights
Kayakers can use several light configurations when paddling at night in US waters. As a result, there are a few different types of kayak lights that you can choose from as you shop. These include:
- Single All-Around Light – The simplest kayak light option is a single all-around light. This kind of light should be a white light with 360º visibility. It’s typically mounted onto a mast that should be placed toward the stern of your vessel. The downside to single all-around lights is that they don’t give oncoming vessels any indication of your direction of movement. This isn’t necessarily a concern in low-traffic areas. Still, it’s potentially problematic if you’re paddling in a major shipping channel.
- Separate Bow & Stern Lights – For kayakers in high-traffic areas, separate bow and stern lights are generally recommended. In this setup, you’ll have a white stern light and a separate red/green bow light. The green light should be on your kayak’s starboard (right) side, and the red light should be on the port (left) side.
- Tri-Color Lights – Smaller vessels, including kayaks, can also opt for a single tri-color masthead light. These devices emit white light to the stern of the boat, red light to the port side, and green to the starboard side. They’re not as popular on kayaks, but they tend to be easier to install than a separate bow and stern light system.
- Flag & Light Combo – The final type of light system you’ll see on some kayaks is a flag and light combo. Technically, this is just an all-around white stern light with a high-visibility flag. The benefit of the flag is that it provides improved visibility during the daytime. This type of lighting kit is popular among kayak anglers when paddling in fishing spots that are popular among powerboats.
There are other types of lights out there, such as LED light strips for fishing and SOS emergency lights that you might want to have on your kayak. These lights can be a great addition to any gear list, but they technically don’t replace the navigation lights described above for all-purpose use while paddling at night.
As always, be sure to double-check your local regulations to determine what kinds of lights are recommended or required for your kayak.
Once you have a light, you need to find a way to attach it to your kayak. Each kayak light has its own mounting and attachment options, so this is something to consider before buying.
Some kayak light mounting options include:
- Screw mount
- Suction cup
- Track mount
- Adhesive tape
Each mounting option offers different advantages and disadvantages. But as a general rule, what you get in convenience with kayak light mounts, you lose in security and durability.
For example, a screw mount kayak light that requires drilling into the deck of your kayak isn’t convenient to install or remove. However, it’s highly unlikely that your kayak light will fall off if you install the device correctly. On the other hand, Suction cup mounts are really convenient to install, but they come with an increased risk of failure in foul weather.
If you opt for a more convenient installation method, such as a clip-on or suction cup, consider getting a model with a built-in backup tether like the Kayalu Kayalite Kayak Light. It’s best practice to attach this tether to something secure on your boat, such as your deck rigging, just in case your light gets knocked loose while you’re underway.
The height of your kayak light’s mast might not seem important, but it can have a significant impact on your visibility on the water.
To be clear, the “mast” in question here is the mast used to elevate a single all-around white stern light or a tri-color light above your kayak while you paddle. In rare instances, you might have a mast for a red/green bow light, but this isn’t common.
There are two key reasons why paddlers need to consider the height of their kayak light’s mast while on the water:
- On-Water Visibility – The higher the mast of your kayak light, the easier it is for vessels to see you from far away. Shorter objects are more difficult (if not impossible) to see from far away because of the horizon line. This is particularly true when the other vessels in your area are smaller powerboats and sailing vessels positioned low to the waterline. Simply put, a taller mast on your kayak light provides you with increased visibility on the water.
- US Coast Guard Regulations – According to US Coast Guard regulations, your vessel’s lights shouldn’t be obscured for more than a few seconds at a time. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as if an angler is actively casting lines. Still, it’s best practice not to obscure the visibility of your vessel’s lights at any time if you can avoid it. As a result, kayak lights with a taller mast are less likely to be obscured by your own body as you paddle. Other nearby vessels should be able to see your kayak at all times, regardless of where they’re positioned relative to your kayak or your body.
While taller masts are helpful for visibility purposes on the water, they aren’t without their drawbacks. The taller the mast, the more likely it is to get beat up in periods of heavy wind.
Hopefully, you won’t be out paddling at night in a gale, but you don’t want your kayak light’s mast to snap in a modest breeze, either. Therefore, it’s worth considering the thickness and quality of the mast on any given kayak light before making a purchase.
Since kayak lights are designed for use on open water, most models are engineered to high waterproofing standards. But, as is usually the case with paddling gear, not all kayak lights are created equal in this regard.
Many manufacturers will say that their lights are “waterproof.” Still, it’s difficult to gauge what this means without some context or extra information. Therefore, whenever possible, look for kayak lights tested to an IPX8 standard.
IPX8 refers to one of the highest levels of waterproofing as measured by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Kayak lights rated to IPX8 are dust-tight and can be submerged in more than 3 feet of water for extended periods.
Hopefully, you never need to test your kayak light’s waterproofing rating in the real world. But it’s always nice to know that your gear can withstand whatever you throw at it.
Finally, you always want to consider the battery life of any kayak light you buy. Most manufacturers list an estimated battery life for their kayak lights. Still, it’s important to recognize that these numbers are often a bit optimistic.
When a company tests a device’s battery life, they usually do so in ideal conditions. But, cold temperatures can wreak havoc on a device’s battery life, making that 100-hour estimate seem like a slight over-exaggeration.
Therefore, you should consider a kayak light’s estimated battery life as you shop. But it shouldn’t necessarily be the deciding factor between two different models.
Oh, and always test your kayak light before you head outside. Bring spare batteries with you, too, on all your outings. Trust us; you’ll be glad you did.
Anyone who wants to paddle at night needs to have the right kayak lights for their needs. Staying visible on the water is essential after dark, so your kayak must be outfitted with a light kit that meets the maritime regulations in your area.
After reviewing the best kayak lights on the market, it’s clear that the Kayalu Kayalite Portable Bright White LED Kayak Light is one of the top options available. We especially liked that the Kayalite is easy to install and durable enough for use in various weather conditions.
That said, the important thing is that you get the kayak lights that work best for your unique paddling needs. We hope this article helps you understand what options are available, so you’re ready for your next nighttime outing on the water.