Archive for the ‘Lights’ Category

I have been on a quest to shrink several things in my life.  Yes my waist line has increased.  But this post is about shrinking environmental waste.  Having a five year old son the concept of using rechargeable batteries is an easy sell.  The next best step is moving away from all batteries.

Solar is the logical answer to shrinking both the waist line and environmental waste.  With less weight in my kayak or in the backpack I can travel faster due to a lighter load.  And now I am leaving only footprints; I’m not adding to the landfill and this is all achieved by Luci.

mpowerd-luci-inflatable-solar-lantern-xlLuci is a portable solar LED lantern made by MPOWERD founded in 2012.  MPOWERD Inc., a Benefit Corporation, “develops and manufactures transformative clean energy products to replace and eliminate the dangerous, costly and harmful ways people living and playing off-the-grid are forced to find energy”.

This 4 ounce solar powered waterproof camp light is an awesome task master.  It has a low power, a full power 80 lumen lantern, and a flash setting.   Luci has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery integrated with two solar panels to supply power to ten LED lights that are attached at the top of a collapsible transparent plastic cylinder.

mpowerd-luci-inflatable-solar-lanternI will admit I would have over looked this diamond.  My son and I were at Bill Jackson’s doing a little window shopping when he saw the light.  It was at his eye level.  And at first I thought it was a toy because of where the shop had placed it on their shelves.  The employee told me a little about it and Tyler and I thought that we should give it a try.  And I will admit this little Inflatable Solar Lantern will now  accompany me on all of my off-grid backpacking, camping, and kayaking adventures, it is now also apart of my emergency preparedness hurricane bug-out bag.

luci inflatable solar lantern by mpowerd

So far we have found the Luci lantern easily lights up my Mountain Hardwear  Skylight tent.  I normally use a Black Diamond  Orbit Lantern.  The Orbit at it’s maxim setting emits 45 lumens.  It is also is 3 ounces with 4 AAA batteries.  Luci is an ounce heaver; she does not require batteries and nearly doubles the amount of light.  My son and I found it very easy to share the light reading stories and playing his favorite card game Nuts.  Hands down Luci beats the Orbit.

– Jeff

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To be seen or not to been seen.  Both ideas are to be focused on by a paddler.  I have always impressed on fellow paddlers that they should do everything within their power to be seen as they paddle at night.  And paddle with care assuming that other boaters do not see them.

A lot of captains do take care of their surroundings when driving their boats through the navigational markers.  A small well lit kayak crossing the boat channel can appear to be further away than it actually is.  To help with being seen I have added reflective tape, reflective deck lines, and three lights on my kayak.  I have one white light on my bow, one on my PFD and one on my stern.  The thing about having a light on the stern is that in a low volume boat a paddler should try to position their light as high as possible.  And the higher it is the easier it maybe seen in large swells.

Below is pictured two types of deck lights.

The taller light is made by Kayalu, it is their Kayalite model.  I have had it for almost a year and tested it’s durability on several types of kayaks.  It has taken a beating and it is still shining bright.

Unlike most deck lights this one uses a carabiner (karabiner) and an elastic cord to keep it fixed on to the kayak.  The problem I have found with suction cups is that sometimes they separate from the deck in crashing waves or during rolling.  I also sometimes paddle through mangrove tunnels and have had branches pluck suction cup lights of the deck.

So far the elastic cord has given the light just enough flexibility to remain sturdy in surf, rolling and being smacked around by branches.  My concern was how would the carabiner hold up to saltwater.  I have not washed it with fresh water nor have seen a need to oil it.  It is no longer shiny and the spring is still working.

If you are planing on using it on a fiberglass kayak I would use a small part of a shower mat that has the suction cups.  This would give some protection to your gel coat.  That is the only down side to having this type of locking system.

Otherwise this is a great light.  And I will be using it for many future paddling adventures. – Jeff

lighthouseRetailers lure us in and then try to brainwash us into purchasing their flashy inventory.  The reality is that we do not need a lot of fancy stuff to stay safe on the water.  To think people created the kayak to hunt on some of the deadliest waters known to man.  And they survived.  Their greatest tool was common sense.

Following the assumption that kayaks are nearly invisible on the water, there are still a few things we can do to increase our chances of being seen.  I do not recommend exclusively using chemical light sticks.  Their soft glow does little to light a 17 foot kayak.  And they easily blend into the nighttime clutter of land lights reflecting off the water.

Some LED lights allegedly produce a 360-degree light visible a mile away on a clear night.  I use the “Paddlers Supply Company LED Kayak Deck Light with Suction Cup Base” placed on the stern of my kayak.  And I place a “Princenton Tec Aqua Strobe” on highest point of the back of my PFD.  I have a Princeton Tec Apex Pro LED Headlamp.  My boat has reflective deck lines, and 3M reflective tape.  The backside of my paddles also has reflective tape on it.

Interesting, some blogs maintained by retailers have stated that a person can purchase a headlamp that is visible over a mile away (1609.344 meters). This is a curious claim.  I have compiled a list of four manufactures and their top headlamps.

  • The specification of a headlamp to reach one mile must have a maximum beam distance of 1609.344 meters.
  • Conversion of meters to mile to feet
    • 120 meters equals 0.074564543 of a mile equals 393.70078704 feet
    • 100 meters equals 0.062137119 of a mile equals 328.08398832 feet

It is the law that we paddle with lights on our kayaks.  And the lights do help other boaters see us when they are near us.  Unfortunately, from a fast moving powerboater’s perspective LED lights are a useless means of marking a kayak at night, as it moves in swells, twilight, in fog, and heavy rains.  So, if you still think that powerboats are going to see you and move out of your way then I recommend doing two things.  Kiss your loved ones and take out a good life insurance policy.

Beyond using lights there is the use of reflective tape, clothing, and deck lines.  The drawback to using them is that a light must hit the reflective surface.  Consequently, a powerboat traveling quickly with only their running lights on probably will not cast enough light to make the product visible until they are on top of you.

I always file a Float Plan with my wife and I do not deviate from it.  If I am running late I call her.  And because I carry a SPOT she can keep track of my location.  Nevertheless, my most important piece of common sense gear for paddling at night is paddling with caution.  I am always looking around and keeping track of boat traffic.  When I see a boat, I stop; focus on what it is doing, and how the red and green lights are oriented on it.  If the red light is on the left, the boat is pointed away from me.  If the red light is on the right, the boat is pointed towards me.  And even though I am lit up like a Christmas Tree and my paddles are covered with reflective tape I assume that the driver of the boat does not see me.  It is also difficult to gage distance and the speed of a boat at night.  Consequently, the best way to avoid a nighttime collision is to keep your distance from powerboats.

My friends and I have paddled a lot of the water with in a thirty minute drive of my home.  I know these waters well.  I have paddled them on sunny and rainy days, when the tide is in and out.  And I have to say that they are the most unique and mysterious just after sunset or just before sunrise.

kayaking-at-night-001

Sean in his Atlantis MisT

The Florida county that I live in is over built.  The best way to escape the urban sprawl is to drive to an adjacent county or paddle to an island.  But I usual do not have the time to do so after I have had dinner with my family.  This is how I discovered the magic of dusk and dawn paddling in the mist of an urban area.

Moonrise_pondThe first time my friends and I paddled at night it was unsettling.  The sound of traffic faded and the sounds of nature took over.  The exotic birds, amphibians, and reptiles came out and sang. Through the meandering waterways constricted by human hands I am repeatedly amazed by how much wildlife there is.  It is also humbling to see the glowing eyes of alligators floating nearby  (a detail that I have not told my wife).  And that is what has prompted us to write the next several posts.  Last night Sean and I paddled and saw several cool things

I hope you enjoy the next few posts.  We will hit on some safety stuff.  Show some cool pictures and video.  And how to get on the water faster.

—Jeff