We pick out 7 of the best boating flashlights and explain why you should always have a torch onboard in case of an emergency.
A good boating flashlight a true essential item. Every boat should carry at least one, and every crew member should consider packing their own if sailing overnight or in poor visibility. From working on deck in the dark to carrying out maintenance and repairs in poorly lit areas of the boat, a good, reliable light source is a key safety item – as well as making life more convenient and comfortable.
There are two types of flashlights that boaters may want to carry: spotlights and flood lights.
A spotlight typically directs a focused beam of light towards a singular focal point, while flood lights illuminate an entire area – albeit to a lesser degree than a good spotlight. Both types of lights are useful for different tasks onboard and boaters will want one of each and likely backup as well.
Typically, handheld spotlights of sufficient power (>1,000 lumens or more) are best for night operations and are useful for checking tell tales and sail trim, locating channel markers or floating debris in the water, and can be an important aid in a night-time search and rescue.
Flood lights are more often used as deck lights while moored or docked and are also especially useful for lighting recessed engine bays or other dark and enclosed compartments at night if repair or maintenance issues need to be addressed in the dark.
There are two main types of flash lights: headlamps and handheld flashlights. Personally, I would never use a handheld flashlight for boating except in the case of a headlamp failure. When working on an engine in the bilge, or on a moving deck, having both hands free while being able to have light in the direction one is looking is invaluable.
Therefore, the best course of action is to have one rechargeable head lamp for all crew members, a powerful handheld spotlight for underway night operations, and a floating waterproof flashlight as a contingency plan if all else fails.
Whichever boating flashlights you choose, make sure all crew members know how to use them to avoid shining blinding or flashing lights into each others faces, and look for red light functions for unobtrusive lighting that doesn’t cause the loss of night vision.
7 of the best boating flashlights
Bushnell PRO Rechargeable 400L Multi-Color Headlamp
This Bushnell headlamp is an example of a quality rechargeable headlamp that boaters should consider having onboard. I recommend rechargeable headlamps as the ones that use normal disposable batteries go through them so quickly that one will spend a small fortune on batteries (not to mention run out of them at the most inopportune time).
While a waterproof headlamp would be better, this Bushnell unit is weather resistant and at 400 lumens with various flood and spotlight modes, packs enough punch and variation in features to be a boater’s primary portable light.
Reasons to buy: Great price, rechargeable
Reasons to avoid: Water resistant not waterproof
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Coast HL8R 800 lm Rechargeable Pure Beam Focusing LED Headlamp
This headlamp made by Coast is king of all head-mounted lamps and is extremely powerful at 800 lumens with a focused beam that can penetrate the darkness at up to 700 feet.
If you are looking for a one-size-fits-all boating flashlight, this lamp may be a good option for you as it also features a flood light setting.
Its drawbacks are its fairly large size profile and lack of weatherproofing. In a pinch, the headlamp can also be run off 4xAAA batteries, in addition to the included rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack.
Reasons to buy: Can be charged or batteries as back-up. extremely powerful, one size fits all
Reasons to avoid: Large, lack of weatherproofing
Browning High Noon Handheld LED Spotlight
This Browning handheld spotlight is a great all-around handheld spotlight for boating because it is adequately bright for all but the darkest of nights at 1,000 lumens.
It is also waterproof, which is always a plus for boating flashlights, especially those that are smaller where boaters are more in tune with the elements.
A downside of this light is the price: buyers will pay a premium for a fully waterproof light and whether that is necessary and worth the added expense is up to the individual boater.
Reasons to buy: Fully waterproof, bright at 1,000 lumens
Reasons to avoid: Premium price
Stanley Fatmax SL10LEDS Rechargeable 2200 Lumen Lithium Ion Spotlight
This Stanley spotlight may be the best bang-for-the-buck boating flashlight as it can emit 2,200 lumens of light in a portable form factor, while being able to run on both DC battery and AC power.
As an added bonus, it can be used as a portable charging station for devices that are charged via USB in a pinch.
The battery life on this unit lasts up to 7 hours on low power which should be enough for most operations.
The only downside is that the unit is not fully waterproof, but it will stand up to light rain and spray from the sea, as long as it is not fully submerged underwater.
Reasons to buy: Compact, powerful with 2,200 lumens, can be used as a portable charger
Reasons to avoid: Not fully waterproof
Lylting 90,000 Lumens Rechargeable Spotlight
This behemoth of a handheld spotlight made Lylting is a bit of a niche product but is an excellent addition to a larger cruising vessel that carries multiple types of boating flashlights.
At 90,000 lumens, this spotlight is an excellent backup to a deck-mounted spotlight or searchlight as it is an excellent aid to navigation and search and rescue.
It is also IPX5 weatherproof, which means that it is not fazed by rain or spray from the sea—although it is still not guaranteed to survive a full submersion.
Reasons to buy: Incredibly powerful, weatheproof
Reasons to avoid: Not fully waterproof, more for mounting than portable
Anhay 1200 Lumens Rechargeable LED Floodlight
This cordless and rechargeable outdoor work light made by Anhay is weather-resistant, impact-resistant, and features a profile that makes it ideal for hanging from an engine compartment latch or something similar.
All boaters and cruisers that do their own maintenance should consider a portable floodlight to use in unison with a rechargeable headlamp in order to light up the dark recesses of a cavernous engine compartment or bilge when doing maintenance after dark.
Reasons to buy: Weather and impact resistant, ideal for mounting/hanging
Reasons to avoid: Not as powerful as larger also portable competitors
Duracell Floating LED Flashlight
Every boater should own at least one of these handheld flashlights made by Duracell as a backup to the other lights mentioned above.
At 200 lumens, this light still packs a punch, while its sleek profile makes it easy to store in something like a Sunbrella pouch or winch-handle holder.
What’s more, this boating flashlight is fully waterproof, floats, and even lights up on its own when water is detected, making it the perfect light to carry in something like a ditch bag in case the unthinkable were to happen.
Reasons to buy: A great backup, fully waterproof and floats
Reasons to avoid: Not the most powerful, more of an accessory
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.