By now regular readers will know I spend a substantial amount of time paddling at night.
Therefore I was more than intrigued to pick up some buzz about a new product to the market – the Kayalu Gear Kayalite – a removable, deck mounting kayak light system.
Over the last few months I have experimented with a range of cheap and not so cheap LED torches, head-torches and light sticks in a effort to create a simple, robust system for lighting my kayak at night.
To date, the most cost effective and reliable system for showing a white light at the rear of the kayak was a simple LED pencil torch lifted from the deck by a rolled up paddle float and held fast under the deck lines.
This provides a continuous white light from the rear of the kayak, however has two main issues. The torch is swamped with water in rougher seas and is prone to failure after a few weeks. Secondly, it sits low down and is single directional – pointing only out the the stern.
Enter the Kayalu Gear Kayalite, a high-visibility LED stern light.
The Kayalite features a Tektite Mark III light built into an 18″ mast with a large round base. The base of the unit has foam padding, with 2 grooves cut through it.
The mast has a cleat on one side and running though the hollow mast is a length of bungee cord. This exits at the base where it is attached to a clip and at the side of the mast where it can be fastened around the cleat.
To fix the Kayalite to your kayak you attach the clip to any suitable point (eyelet, deck loop, pad eye, topside drain plug or other fixed point of attachment) then pull the bungee tight fastening it off on the cleat.
The tension causes the light to sit firmly on the deck, with the foam base padding adapting to the contours of the deck. Kayalu provide a eyelet bolt should you wish to fit a permanent fixing location.
The kayalite is switched on/off by rotating the top of the light.
Switching the Kayalite on provides a 360 degree bright white LED light which is designed to run for 200 hours on one set of batteries.
The Kayalite arrived fully assembled so all I was required to do was fit it to the kayak.
I paddle a P&H Cetus and decided to utilise deck lines where they fit through a centrally mounted point just in front of my rear oval hatch. Although an ideal location, attaching to deck lines is does mean that I am attaching bungee to bungee which will reduce the sturdiness of the attachment.
However I was able to create a solid attachment, with only minor ‘wobble’. I have no qualms that attaching to a more secure point would allow you to create a very stable attachment with virtually no movement in the Kayalite. Whether I would be prepared to permanently attach an eyelet to the Cetus needs further thought.
The build quality of the unit seems very robust. The black, textured ABS that makes up the bulk of the mast is chunky and substantial and does not give the impression it would snap or break if manhandled.
The use of marine grade stainless steel on the small but sturdy clip is a reassuring sign of careful design.
Switching the light on and off is simple, as is removing the top of the light to replace batteries/bulbs if required.
Once positioned on the rear deck of the kayak, your ability to operate the light single handed will rely on the mounting position you have chosen.
I experimented before setting out on my first trip and ascertained I could switch the light on and off with a bit of effort – I’m not the most flexible paddler so others will find this easier than I did however I was happy that with my chosen mounting location this would not be a ‘set it and forget it’ piece of kit.
Out on the water, the Kayalite instantly proved worth it’s weight in gold. The height of the unit has been carefully chosen to strike a good balance between visibility and not impairing your night vision. I found my body/head shielded the front of the kayak from the majority of the light thrown out by the Kayalite.
However, it does throw some light out to the sides and under your arms which took a little getting used to – most notably realising that dark shape in the water was actually my own shadow and not something ominous under the surface!
During my first paddle I switched between my old method of lighting (a torch tucked under the bungees on the rear of the kayak) and the Kayalite and found that whilst there was no loss of night vision with the torch, there was a very small amount from the kayalite. However, this was minimal and the incredible visibility offered by the kayalite vs the torch make this a vastly preferable system.
I see a few fishermen regularly on one of my night time routes and sought their opinion by paddling a couple of hundred metres out, firstly with the torch, then the kayalite. Their verdict was unanimously in favour of the kayalite – with comments mainly centred on the 360 degree light and extra height. As one quipped, the difference is:
Chalk and cheese, or should I say dark and light!
One aspect to consider should be stowage – the round base is not removable. On one hand this offers a more sturdy design, however if you were using this on a multi-day/night trip it would not quite as easy to stow than if it had a removable base.
The final test for the Kayalite came at the end of the paddle, when I rolled several times with the unit in place. I found that my chosen mounting location mean’t that the Kayalite did not impede my roll. It was also not displaced, despite being attached to the deck lines rather than a fixed eyelet. Each time I came up and the light was still shining brightly.
To be honest, I fell in love with the kayalite on the first paddle. The Solent is a very busy section of the UK coastline with an amazing amount of traffic at all times of the year and all times of the night. Lights are a must even if only switched on when required. Combined with an LED head torch for the front light (which I switch on when I need to be seen), the Kayalite offers incredible visibility and therefore safety.
The unit has so far proven to be very durable and well made. I will continue to evaluate it’s build quality and battery/bulb lifetime over the coming months and update this review with my findings.
I guess the ultimate question should be ‘Would I paddle at night without one now?’ The answer is a very definite no! And if they were to consider producing a shorter, shielded red/green for the bow, I’d be first in line.
From The Manufacturer
Mast Material: ABS black, textured
Base Cushion Material: EVA foam
Fastener: plated steel breech clip
Mast Hardware: marine-grade stainless steel
Bungee Cable: saltwater-resistant nylon coated
Bungee Rings: marine-grade stainless steel
Locking Mechanism: jam cleat
U.S. Patents Pending
Tektite Mark III (included)
Switch: Twist On/Off
Depth Rating: 1,000 feet (300 m)
Lamp: 1 LED
Lamp Life: 10,000+ hours
Burn Time: 200+ hours
Batteries: 3 AA Alkaline (included)
Materials: ABS and LEXAN
U.S. Patent #6,168,288
Height: 18 in. (45.72 cm)
Weight: 10 oz. (285 g)