For kayakers who enjoy night paddling for either getting in their pre-dawn position for the start of a fishing tourney, or experiencing the tranquility of being on the water at night, being seen is a key safety concern.
Kayak lighting has come to benefit from the R & D efforts of LED lighting in the emergency equipment/safety industry and applications primarily by marine and land-based law enforcement and rescue units. The integrity of those units to work effectively in harsh elements of nature make them perfectly adaptable for recreational on-water use as well.
The USCG only requires that small, non-motorized vessels have a light (a simple head lamp or even a flashlight) on board that can be used to attract the attention of others. Interestingly enough, early “kayak lights” were basically lights designed to be clipped to life jackets. Because they were waterproof, kayakers began attaching those small lights to other equipment as well, including their decks in order to be seen by others at night.
Larger units with spotlight capabilities created lights with more options to see as well as be seen. Red/Green bow lights could be affixed as a kayak’s running lights, and units with multiple light patterns provided mounting options for placement in different positions on different boat designs and configurations. Mounted as bow lights, attached to a strap on your life jacket or centered on a high point on your aft deck, LED units raise the bar on kayak safety.
As cross-over gear, at least one kayak light, the Guardian Angel has modified it’s marine design for back-country use – with light patterns and sequences that aid in the wearer being seen and projecting light outward on the trail, surroundings and in camp. These rugged land-based lights take the same weather beating as their on-water cousins, and offer many of the same options for mounting.
Today’s kayak lighting is designed to be easier on your eyes for optimum night vision, make you more visible from greater distances on the water, and now, give you the flexibility to take a light from you kayak and bring it ashore for myriad land-based uses.
Like most gear, if you can extend its use into other arenas, the more valuable it becomes as part of your outdoor gear inventory.