Navigation lights and deck lights are one thing but you can’t beat a good old fashioned flashlight for easily pinpointing what you want to look at when you’re out on the water at night, as well as helping with mooring and finding your way through a poorly lit boatyard.
In short a flashlight is indispensable!
There are a whole range of flashlights on the market, but when it comes to boating you should choose something exceptionally bright; ideally by taking advantage of super bright LED technology. Besides this, ruggedness and resilience to a marine environment are essential if the flashlight is to last and be reliable.
Of course whether you want a flashlight that fits in your pocket or a 15 million candle power behemoth will depend largely on your individual circumstances, but thankfully there are no shortage of possibilities available, some of which I’ve taken a look at here.
Maglite ML300L 6-Cell D LED Flashlight
Let’s start with the big guns first! It might be an obvious choice, but Maglites aren’t known as the world’s finest flashlights without good reason. Over engineered? Maybe. Expensive? Certainly, but they’re worth the expense if nothing else because they’re so reliable.
I’ve personally owned a Mini Maglite for about the last 20 years, and it still shines as brightly now as it did when I first got it.
This beast is the largest of the Maglite range and as such offers the maximum range of features available, as well as the brightest and most intense amount of emitted light.
Perhaps the most critical thing to know about the Maglite ML300L is that it has an effective beam distance of 1361 feet (415 meters), so you should be able to get eyes on any suspected markers or obstructions well in advance of reaching them with this to hand.
Being the 6 celled (6 D size batteries) variant of the standard Maglite means this model has a continuous run time of 71 hours on ‘high’ intensity mode! To me that length of run time more than justifies the cost of a new set of batteries when it comes to replacing them, but in fact there is also a ‘low’ power mode that allows the flashlight to run for 73 hours and an ‘eco’ mode that allows for a whopping 177 hours of run time!
In terms of meeting the requirements for a marine environment, Maglites are constructed primarily from 6061 aluminum, which although not quite up to the same spec as 6082-T6 aluminum in terms of marine suitability, is still often used to construct small workboats, and as such is more than suitable for a marine environment.
Better still Maglites are splash proof (but not submersion proof!) so any light spray or rain won’t be an issue thanks to the rubber gasket seals at both ends.
The only real downside to this flashlight is that it is pretty big and hefty, at nearly 19” (48cm)long and 50 oz (1.4kg) it isn’t subtle by any means, so you’ll need a dedicated space on board to stow it
Marine Beam Flashlights
When it comes to flashlights that are specially designed for marine use Marine Beam are expertly qualified for the job, having developed marine LED lighting products since their inception. They proudly boast knowledge of LED lighting and boat electrical systems which they claim gives them an edge over almost every other manufacturer.
So is this expertise evident in their flashlights?
Well if we look at the example of their Marinebeam Ultra Long Range LED Illuminator Flashlight, we can see it offers a lot of the same functionality as the Mag-Lite, with a few notable exceptions:
- This flashlight is completely waterproof
- It has an effective viewing distance of 2296 feet (700 meters), which is pretty stupendous, and offers full searchlight functionality from the palm of your hand
- It makes use of a clever principle dubbed ‘Recycled Light Technology’, which essentially means more useful light is outputted into the beam rather than wasted. This is a pretty significant development that not only improves the strength of the output beam but also makes the flashlight more energy efficient. Interestingly this technology was originally developed for visual ‘stun’ weapons, designed to temporarily dazzle and disorientate. Don’t worry though, it is toned down in this case, but it would still be wise to avoid looking directly at the beam!
Just like the Maglite, the Marinebeam Ultra is constructed from marine grade aluminum and uses D-Cell batteries, although because it only uses 3, the maximum full runtime is 12 hours. Like the Maglite it also features an emergency strobe function, particularly useful for attracting the attention of rescue vessels.
NoCry24 Waterproof Rechargeable Flashlight
Despite the argument for aluminum bodied flashlights, there are many who argue that no metal flashlight will truly stand up to being kept within a marine environment, certainly not for years at a time anyway. It is true that corrosion will set in eventually, and even a slight breach in a waterproof seal could render the flashlight useless in no time.
So if you don’t trust a metal bodied flashlight, the alternative is a plastic bodied one, and if you want something that’s guaranteed to be waterproof then the best way to be sure is to buy a flashlight designed to be submerged.
NoCry are a well known brand in the health and safety world, and their NoCry24 model is one of the brightest submersible flashlights available, utilising ultra bright LED technology to output a whopping 1000 lumens (nearly 3 times brighter than a standard domestic LED light bulb). When you think this thing is designed to shine even through murky, silty water, it’s certain to perform exceptionally well above the surface.
Unlike the models described above, the NoCry24 is designed with a pistol grip to meet the demands of anyone venturing into shallow water, but it’s also ergonomically more comfortable for flashlights in general. The only downside is that it makes the unit a slightly bulkier, more awkward shape for storage, but otherwise it’s a vast improvement on the traditional cylindrical design.
The run time is relatively short lived compared to the models above, with a high power duration of 6 hours, or 20 hours in low power mode. However on the plus side, this flashlight does plug into a standard electrical outlet or a car cigarette lighter style 12 volt socket, so keeping it topped up shouldn’t be a problem.
Oh and if you happen to drop this thing into the sea, all will not be lost given that it is specially designed to float!
FENIX LR40R Flashlight
Fenix are an all American brand that rival Maglite in terms of the pride they hold in their products. I picked out the LR40R in particular as it’s an ultra bright model, but unlike the equivalent Maglite or Marine Beam models, this thing is pretty damn small at only 6.1” (154mm) in length, making it more or less ‘pocket sized’. The secret to this seems to be the rechargeable battery pack, or 4x 18650 batteries for emergency use. The latter are slightly larger than AA batteries and have a superior capacity and discharge rate, and thus suited to this kind of application. Better still, said rechargeable battery offers a maximum of 92 hours of runtime, again, very impressive!
The most impressive thing about the LR40R is its maximum beam length – at 2536 feet (773 meters) this is going on for double what the biggest Maglite will produce, and is made all the more impressive by the fact this thing is so small.
If you’re thinking there must be a catch to all this, you’d be right, and unsurprisingly it comes in the form of the price tag. At over $260 this is certainly an investment. Long lasting though it is, (50,000 hours of life in the LEDs anyone?!) if I were to take one boating I think I’d be tempted not to leave it aboard to ensure it did last as long as possible!