Have you ever tried sailing at night? The experience is so intimate and is significantly different from sailing during the day. If you ever plan to take at least one more sea-based trip in the dark, then we highly recommend that you get one of the best boat spotlights available.
However, with how saturated the spotlight market is nowadays, how exactly do you know which ones are considered good and which ones should be avoided at all costs? Well, luckily for you, we have created a comprehensive guide to walk you through the necessary steps and thinking processes to secure the spotlight that is the most ideal for your situation.
What is a Boat Spotlight and How Does it Work?
A boat spotlight (alternatively known as a marine spotlight or a spotlight for boat operators), is a navigational tool that releases a beam of light via a halogen bulb, or LED lights that can be as bright as 6000 lumens or as dim as 1000 lumens.
Back in the day, a spotlight for boating was typically big, bulky, and extremely hard to operate or maneuver. These days, innovations and upgrades in spotlight technology have provided us with better and brighter options, such as:
- Remote control spotlight for boat operators
- Rechargeable spotlight devices
- Hand held spotlight devices
- Completely waterproof spotlights for boats
- Replaceable and rechargeable battery packs for spotlights (typically lithium-ion batteries)
- Hands-free spotlight
- Low mode and high mode spotlights (two brightness configurations)
- Night vision spotlights
Benefits of Having a Boat Spotlight (Marine Spotlight)
There are several notable functions or benefits when it comes to utilizing marine spotlights, most especially in the dark, namely:
Identify Objects in the Vicinity
Sometimes, an object can unintentionally go overboard. A spotlight can definitely help you shine a light in the right places in order to find whatever you are looking for.
Finding Important Landmarks
Natural light is not present all the time, which is why it is very important to bring your own form of light to find landmarks such as buoys, small landmasses, or light houses to find your destination or route.
Boating and Fishing
Operating at night without light during fishing can be a pain. A powerful enough spotlight can help determine the ideal or prime locations to camp in to engage in some late-night (or early morning) fishing expeditions.
Alerting Others of Your Presence
At night, especially in areas with severe light pollution, there is no natural light to alert or notify others of your presence. Having a good LED spotlight can help others know that you are in the area so that sea traffic can be managed efficiently and effectively.
Finding Other Boats in the Area
Conversely, it is also important to be able to identify traveling boats in your area in the absence of natural light. Take advantage of the light provided by your spotlight to tag or spot nearby boats to avoid any untoward accidents or collisions.
Safety Signal or Aid
In times of emergency or distress, a boat spotlight can alert authorities to your exact location after radioing them. A powerful spotlight with high light levels is the most ideal device in this situation in the absence of any form of natural light.
In some cases, the light coming from a spotlight can be used to warn others of perilous circumstances at sea. The light could be used to signal dangerous waters, suspicious weather patterns, or other dangers that other operators might not be aware of right off the bat.
The 8 Best Boat Spotlights to Get
There are several great products in the market right now for your boat. To help guide you in choosing the right spotlight, take a look at our top recommendations below:
The Buysight Rechargeable Spotlight is an action-packed portable spotlight that shines a powerful light using 10000 lumens Cree LED beams.
The design switch and aluminum alloy shell provides it with the needed bulk and comfortable grip for better operation and maneuverability.
When it comes to the best handheld products in the market today, this product is definitely a solid consideration.
Another great entry for the best handheld spotlight is the Bigsun Rechargeable fitted with a 25-watt Cree LED light.
With 3 unique brightness settings, this device can last anywhere from 12 hours to 24 hours.
If you are in need of a light powerhouse that is not too difficult to operate, then definitely check out this product.
If you are in the market for something that is absolutely light and portable, then look no further, the Goodsmann Submersible is the 12V DC Halogen spotlight that is ideal for your needs.
Primarily designed for outdoor use, this product is designed with high-grade ABS plastic. It comes with an 8-foot coiled cord to provide maximum light output in an efficient manner.
If you are looking for an item that does not need large storage space and gets the job done, then this is the product you should go with.
If a halogen bulb does not suit your needs, then check out arguably one of the greatest 12-volt LED spotlights for boats, the Brinkmann Q-Beam.
Fitted with a durable tempered glass lens and a heavy gauge 8-foot coiled cord, the Brinkmann Q-Beam is definitely for budget-conscious boat operators. A great choice particularly for those who operate smaller-sized vessels.
Do you prefer a mounted product that can be operated via remote control? If so, the Marinco 5" should be one of the frontrunners in your shortlist of spotlight candidates.
The remote control operation is done via toggles and joysticks and has a pretty intuitive learning curve.
The stainless steel base and light casing allows for water-resistant and durable use so there should be no worries in braving poor weather and water conditions.
If you are in need of a product that offers everything, from its completely waterproof rating to multiple light settings or light modes, and energy-efficient LED beads to cap it all off, the Glandu Heavy Duty is something worth keeping in mind.
With main light and side light LED configurations, get to experience a variety of different boat light settings from the LED strips found inside.
Not only is this device designed for waterproof fishing trips, but it is also created for hiking, navigation, general exploration, and even hunting at night. A very versatile all-rounder!
If you want another remote control option for your boat's waterproof lighting system, then look no further. The Jabsco 60020 Series is the searchlight for your boat that can provide the needed lighting with a halogen bulb and non-corrosive materials.
This device is fitted with a patented clutch mechanism to ensure that head movement and beam adjustment are not problematic in the long run for your boat.
If you are not a fan of the fancy features of some of the products on our list and would much rather go with practicality and value, then take a look at Yierblue's waterproof spotlight.
This is considered to be a heavy-duty flashlight that can reach up to 2000 lumens of LED light with a focused stream of light that can reportedly hit objects up to 1000 feet away.
The Different Types of Boat Spotlights
Despite the wide variety of spotlight offerings in the market, we can broadly categorize these products into two major categories: handheld spotlights or built-in or mounted spotlights.
Handheld spotlight products are either wired or wireless. These offerings are lightweight, portable, and can be transferred to different areas of the vessel as necessary. They are not exactly known for their power and distance covered at night. But the high-end handheld spotlight products are known to be capable of emitting bright lights with a powerful beam that can reach quite a distance for its size.
Included in this category are heavy-duty flashlights or spotlights that were not typically designed with marine exploration in mind. However, these products are not the best marine options because they may not have the waterproof capability that sea-based gear and equipment should possess.
As a good buying practice, make sure to do your research and check whether or not a spotlight is fit for sea travel.
Built-in or mounted spotlight products refer to the more traditional spotlight offerings of the two categories. They typically have longer battery life and are ideal for boating in larger bodies of water such as the open seas or the ocean. The beam coming from these products are extremely bright and cover a large distance, both in terms of length and width of the beam.
With great power, however, comes great battery consumption. It is best to find a built-in or mounted LED spotlight to be more efficient with energy consumption. Spotlight products fitted with a halogen bulb are not bad, especially if you have a tight upfront budget, but the best marine practice is to go with the high-quality options such as LED or HID, with multiple light settings to toggle between different levels of brightness.
If you are a boat enthusiast, then an LED built-in or mounted device may be better for you (as long as you have the money to spare).
Things to Consider When Buying a Boat Spotlight
The boat spotlight is what we consider to be one of the most overlooked aspects of the overall boat-buying experience. This is precisely why we are here to help you look into the factors that actually matter.
Let's take a closer look at the important things to consider when securing the best spotlight for boating:
Type of Light (Bulb Type)
Much like with trucks and cars, marine spotlight products come with different types of light.
Three of the most standard light classifications are halogen, HID (high-intensity discharge), and LED (light-emitting diode).
Several tests can be found online regarding the quality and color temperature ("whiteness") of the light emitted from these different types of light. We recommend checking those out for the sake of clarity. Here's a great guide comparing the three.
As a general rule of thumb, if you are on a tight budget, going with halogen bulbs is the right spotlight option.
If, however, you are looking for quality spotlights that are bright, clear at night, and typically come with super bright and dim settings (which you would need depending on the distance requirement), then a beam of light from an LED light or HID light would be most beneficial.
Lumens, the scientific designation that measures the brightness of a beam of light, is very important in identifying the best spotlight for your needs. A spotlight comes in a variety of lumens, some going up to 6000 lumens, while others hovering around the 1000 lumens to 2000 lumens range.
It is also important to take note that the higher the brightness of the beam or lumens, the more battery or power the boat spotlight will consume. With an LED spotlight, however, energy management is more efficient regardless of the brightness level as it is a quality spotlight bulb, even at a distance during the night.
We do not advise going for the super bright (or blinding bright) spotlights in most cases. But if you think you would find yourself in need of such a high level of brightness or lumens, then we would recommend finding two-brightness boat spotlights so you can toggle between standard brightness and high brightness power settings.
Battery life is almost as important as the quality of the light primarily because without battery, there would essentially be nothing internal to power your boat spotlight.
There are different types of batteries that have entered the market. The most common and modern battery packs you should see are what are known as lithium-ion battery packs. These batteries can supposedly store more charges overtime with minimum decrease in maximum capacity.
A typical boat spotlight of standard quality would have batteries that offer approximately 10 hours of continuous use. A boat spotlight of high quality, on the other hand, can better the consumption of batteries and go up to as high as 50 hours on low brightness settings.
Whether the marine spotlight is advertised with a duration of 10 hours or 50 hours, we would like you to consider the rechargeable battery packs or rechargeable spotlights that can be powered by an external power source (like another battery or a power bank).
It would be very challenging to carry around extra battery packs (which is the case for non-rechargeable spotlights or non-rechargeable battery packs). This is why it's more practical to invest in rechargeable devices (for smaller spotlights such as a hand held spotlight, even a power bank can top them off).
The tradeoff with rechargeable devices is that the battery will eventually degrade in capacity. Keep this in mind when investing in quality spotlights for boats.
This is a no-brainer kind of factor, but it is still important to take a look at this feature, especially given how varied the product offerings are in this space.
Since you are on a boat, then it should necessarily follow that your spotlight should have a certain degree of water-resistant capability or waterproof capability. We understand that your boat is not submersible or anything like that, but depending on how "active" the waters are, or even the type of weather you are experiencing while sailing the seas (rainy weather or snowy weather), it would be best to go with waterproof spotlights.
It's also important to distinguish a product that has waterproof capabilities from a product that has a certain degree of water resistance.
A waterproof product is typically the better of the two types as it can repel water from penetrating the internal mechanisms regardless of angle of entry or water pressure (given certain limits). Water resistance, on the other hand, is typically measured by how deep underwater the device goes, or in other words, the level of water pressure the product experiences.
Therefore, if possible, go for a product that has waterproof capabilities instead of just water resistance capabilities.
Size, Weight and Dimensions
The chunky and clunky spotlight products of the past are not universal to every type and size of boat. Fortunately, a lot of spotlight products offered these days range from handheld, portable spotlight products to mounted, heavy-duty spotlight devices. Take your pick!
For boats or vessels that are designed for smaller bodies of water such as lakes or rivers, we would recommend purchasing smaller spotlight products for boating at night (potentially with a remote control feature for added flexibility).
If you are boating at night in larger bodies of water such as the open waters or the ocean, then you should opt for the bigger, heavier duty spotlight products.
Mounted or built-in searchlights typically have the greatest variety in sizes and shapes that can cater to all different kinds of boats or vessels. On the other hand, hand held searchlights are usually small in size and stature so they can be carried around by the operator to any area of the boat or direction.
In general, we find the small and portable hand held searchlights to be of more practicality, but this may vary from person to person.
Overall Build (Quality and Durability)
Features and materials such as ABS plastic, hands-free, handheld, shoulder strap, waterproof, stainless steel, impact-resistant, and more are very important. The materials and features attest to the overall quality and durability of your spotlight.
The most important thing when looking at the build is that it is designed for rugged and rough use. It should be able to withstand hard impact, bumping, scratches, dents, and be resistant to the elements. You need a heavy duty spotlight that will last many years.
Keep in mind that most of the cheaper options will be constructed of ABS plastic or aluminum alloy. These aren't necessarily bad, but they are not the most durable materials nor are they the most impact-resistant.
For the most durable and impact resistant materials, look for spotlights that feature polycarbonates and rubbers. It might cost a little more, but it's worth it. Rubber is great for shock absorption, and polycarbonate is shatterproof.
Aside from the light and light settings offered by the spotlight, you also have to take a look at the accessory as a whole. This includes the materials used to construct it up to the quality and power of the beam of light coming out in the night.
Warranty, Replacement, and Service Terms and Conditions
As is the case with virtually every product, it is important to identify the basic terms and conditions surrounding warranty, replacement, and service terms and conditions of the spotlight you are looking to purchase.
Most spotlight manufacturers offer a warranty period of 1 year to 2 years, but there are special cases where spotlight manufacturers offer 3-year warranty periods.
Although it would be good to choose the spotlight product with the longest warranty duration, it would be fine to opt for the standard spotlight that only offers a 1-year warranty. A year will be fine especially if you frequently go out boating and fishing as 1 year should be more than enough to identify if there are any factory defects or concerns with the spotlight.
Care and Maintenance Advice for Boat Spotlights
Here are a few tips to ensure that your spotlight (and the light bulb) will last as long as possible:
- Make sure to wipe down your spotlight and light bulb (carefully) before and after every boating trip. Remove any dust or particles that might disrupt proper spotlight function.
- In replacing a light bulb, make sure to apply the necessary adhesives or sealants to the light fittings to retain the waterproof capacity of the spotlight and the light bulb itself.
- If you do not go out on fishing and boating trips frequently, make sure to have periodic or regular inspections of your spotlight and its light bulb to check if everything is in working order.
- Rust and corrosion are major issues of boats and boat accessories, especially because of their normal frequency of exposure to moist or wet conditions. The spotlight and the light bulb are pretty much the same. Inspect your spotlight device for any signs of rust and corrosion and address the issue as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration.
- If recommended or allowed by the manufacturer, make a habit of dismantling the different components of your spotlight and light to check the individual parts for any problems or concerns.
- Aside from the light bulb, take a look at the battery pack as well. Rechargeable spotlight products typically have detachable lithium-ion batteries that can be inspected for any signs of damage or wear and tear.
- Aside from the spotlight and the light bulb, take a look at the area where you leave or mount your spotlight. Ensure cleanliness and dryness if possible to avoid any complications in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are three of the most frequently asked questions regarding boat spotlight products and features:
What is the best and brightest spotlight?
Not all of the brightest products should be considered the best. To answer this specific question, we would recommend reviewing our list of best spotlight products in the section above to get more detailed information about what can be considered to be the best product offering in the marine market today.
What is the most powerful spotlight?
In terms of power, there are spotlight offerings in the market that can go up to as high as 9000 lumens, which is extremely bright and almost blinding bright. Refer to our list of products in the section above to have a more nuanced understanding of the different levels of brightness and the importance of each at night in boating scenarios.
How many lumens for boat spotlight?
This question is very subjective, but in most circumstances, an LED spotlight with up to 6000 lumens should be good enough to carry out the most frequent marine explorations or voyages that are done at late hours during the darkest portions of the night.
The best boat spotlights may be completely waterproof, built with stainless steel housing, or even have a shoulder strap option as an added convenience feature. Just like everything else, it would always depend on the scenarios you are presented with at sea during the night.
What may be the best for you as a pontoon boat operator may not be beneficial to someone who operates a yacht. This is exactly why we made a guide such as this, to guide everyone to completely understand the important factors to consider in buying and eventually using a boat spotlight. Hopefully, there are a lot of good bits for you to take home.