Night snorkeling can be great fun, if have a good night snorkeling light, sometimes called a torch. Here we tell you our recommended snorkeling flashlights, and also what is important as far as size, batteries, lumen power, and more.
Our most highly recommended night snorkeling light is the Dorcy Dive II, 220 lumen light, seen at right. It uses a Cree Q4 LED bulb, six AAA batteries, and will run for eight hours. It is an ideal mix of fairly compact size, good build quality, and the perfect amount of lumens. It's beam angle is a medium spot.
If you prefer a light that has a wide angle beam, then the next best thing is the Tovatec Mini Torch, seen at right. It also has 220 lumens, CREE bulb and will operate for up to ten hours on two CR123 batteries. These are lithium batteries, that may not be commonly available, so keep this in mind, and travel with extras.
If you prefer a lighter weight, smaller light, and don't mind it not being as bright, then the Tovatec Compact Torch is an excellent choice. It offers 130 lumens, lasts for six hours on three AAA batteries, and has a nice spot beam.
If you don't mind something that is physically larger that weighs more, but offers more light, then the Princeton Tec Miniwave LED is a great choice. There are a couple different versions of this. Make sure you are getting the newer 390 Lumen model, that uses LED bulbs. This light has a handle, and uses four C cell batteries, that will last you ten hours on low, and four hours on high. Not only does it provide more light than the Dorcy Dive II we recommend above, it is also a wider beam. This may or may not be what you want (read below about beam angle).
So now let's take a look at all your options for night snorkeling lights, and different things you should consider.
It may seem obvious, but your night snorkeling light needs to be waterproof. But don't buy just any flashlight that says it is waterproof at your hardware store. Your life may depend on this light. You need a light that is designed for diving, and is tested to be waterproof to at least 50 meters. Not that as a snorkeler you will ever test those limits.
Yes, it matters. As snorkelers we like to keep the size and weight of our equipment down as much as possible. Having less to pack, less to haul onto a plane, and less bulk to push through the water is important.
But we have gone overboard in the past, using too small a night snorkeling light, that does not put out enough light, just to save a bit of weight. The other light in the picture above is an example of too small. It was an 80 lumen light, that ran off of two AA batteries. Very compact, but it was not bright enough. You want a nice bright light just for the sense of comfort it provides.
The size and weight of the light is directly connected to two things. The amount of lumens the light puts out (how bright it is), and how long the batteries will last while doing that.
So this is what we recommend. Get the smallest light that will put out the most lumens, for a reasonable length of time (battery life).
Make sure your light has a good lanyard (wrist strap), with a way to tighten it quickly around your wrist.
This is a term that basically tells you how bright the night snorkeling light will be. But take the manufacturer lumens numbers with a grain of salt. Often they exaggerate, and other factors influence how bright a light appears, like how wide the angle of the beam is and what type of bulb is used.
How many lumens is enough for a night snorkeling light? Well, you don't have to go crazy. In fact, you can have a light so bright that it is not really enjoyable. You don't go night snorkeling to burn the retinas out of the critters you find.
We recommend you have a minimum of 150 lumens. We have tried lights that are 80 lumens, and 50 lumens, and it was not enough to feel comfortable.
We think the ideal range for a night snorkeling light is around 220 lumens. 220 lumens offers a nice blend of enough light, without having to be a huge light. We have used lights that were 400 lumens that were pretty nice also (the Princeton Tec Miniwave LED above). But it was a bit bulky.
Beam Angle - Wide vs. Spot
This is actually a very important consideration. A wide beam will illuminate a broader area, which can be very comforting. But there are a couple of drawbacks to a wide angle beam. The first is that if the water is not super clear, the beam will reflect off all the particles, and it can actually reduce your visibility forward. A wide angle beam in unclear water can effectively blind you to seeing forward. A tight spot beam will cut through particles in the water better, allowing you to see farther forward. But in clear water, a spot beam can feel less comforting, because you can't see what is around you easily without moving the light rapidly around.
Overall, we prefer a medium spot beam, over a wide angle beam. And a good option for two people who snorkel together may be to buy one light that has a wide beam, and one that is a spot.
We really like the new line of LED bulbs. They are bright, have good color, and most important they extend your battery life. And the added cost is not as great as it used to be. So go with LED over Halogen or Tungsten.
You may see different bulb watts advertised, like 1w or 3w. This essentially refers to how much juice is required to power the bulb. So long as you get the lumen power you need, this number is really not that important.
As you shop you may here the word Cree. It is just a popular manufacturer of good quality LED bulbs. Seoul Semi Conductors is another.
There are a variety of options when it comes to night snorkeling lights as far as batteries are concerned.
Rechargeable vs. Disposable Batteries
You can get lights that use rechargeable lithium ion batteries. We like the idea of these...but...if you only go snorkeling once or twice a year then rechargeable batteries are not a great idea, because they will sit unused most of the year. This does not work great. Your batteries will likely die. So it is not worth the expense. If you live next to the water and go many times a year, then rechargeable is clearly the best way to go.
But, one of our site visitors shared that if you buy the right type of rechargeable batteries they work great. Read that suggestion here.
Disposable Battery Types
You can get a night snorkeling light that uses C, AA, or AAA batteries. Since all of these batteries are easily available in many places around the world, it does really not matter what you get. Generally speaking, the lights that use C batteries are big and bulky, and not our preference. Be careful because some lights use unusual, harder to find lithium batteries.
How long do you want your batteries to last? Longer lasting may mean a bigger flashlight, with bigger batteries, or a low lumen light. For snorkelers, how long the batteries last may be a little less important than for a diver. We would prefer to have a smaller light that only lasts six hours, than a huge light that lasts twelve hours.
We think the minimum battery life should be four hours for a night snorkeling light. But double that is better. Shoot for getting a light that will last for six to eight hours on one set of batteries. This will get you through three to four, one hour night snorkels, during one trip, with room for safety.
Some lights that only use two AA batteries and have over a hundred lumens may only last a couple of hours. We feel that does not provide enough of a safety margin.
Divers nearly always carry a backup light, in case their main light dies. We don't feel this is as important for a snorkeler, so long as you are snorkeling with someone else who has a good light. You are on the surface, and so the risks are less. But if you are going by yourself (not recommended), then definitely have a backup light. A backup light can be very low power, and lightweight. It is just to get you back to shore in case your main light fails. Something like the Princeton Tec 40, is cheap and good.