We have tested a number of night snorkeling lights, and share our favorites here. You will also learn what is important to look for in lumen power, beam angle, size, batteries and what to use if you are taking pictures and videos. Because a night snorkel can be fun with a good snorkeling flashlight (torch), and a little scary with a bad one.
We use the Tovatec Fusion 530 for our night snorkeling light. We like it because it can zoom from a 12 degree beam angle out to 100 degrees. You can also remove the focus head for 140 degrees. 530 lumens is perfect for how we use it for taking pictures and videos. Plus you can adjust the power from 30%, 50% to 100% and an emergency strobe setting. It can use either 3 x AAA regular batteries or the included CR18650 lithium-ion rechargeable battery (it comes with the charger also). It has a pressure relief value in case of battery malfunction. It's not the smallest light, but it is very versatile. It is also the top choice of a recent test by scubadiving.com. Tovatec also makes a 1,000 lumen version.
If you are not using your light to take pictures, and you prefer more of a medium spot light, then the most popular 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 a good amount of lumens for a spot light.
The GoBe 850 Wide Beam is a cool night snorkeling light, if a bit expensive, and slightly low on battery run time. What is cool about them is they feel great in your hand, have integrated batteries with USB charging, multiple power levels, and interchangeable heads. This version comes with a wide beam 80 degree head, perfect for pictures and videos. But you can also change the head for a narrow 8 degree spot.
If you love night snorkeling and taking pictures/videos, consider the Sola Dive 800. It is a high end, compact, technical light best used on the included wrist strap, setting your hands free. It has both an 800 lumen 60 degree wide setting, and a 500 lumen 12 degree spot, with multiple power levels on each. It's also available in a 1200 lumen and a blindingly bright 2500 lumen version. It's a great light for anyone who does photography and or video at night. The downsides are the price and not the best battery life.
Before our zoom lights we used these BigBlue AL450 lights. They are small, lightweight, affordable and use easily available AAA batteries. BigBlue is a good company that makes lots of dive lights. We used the 40 degree wide beam version, and they also make an 8 degree spot. The wide beam has a wonderful even light, but we found it slightly under powered. But the 8 degree spot would be very bright.
If you have a GoPro camera, the Sidekick Duo by Light & Motion is a small night snorkeling light made to mount beside your camera. It has two light options, either a 600 lumen 90 degree wide angle beam, or a 400 lumen 23 degree spot. But, being such a tiny light, the battery life is not amazing.
So now let's take a look different things you should consider before buying your night snorkeling light.
The higher the lumen value of the night snorkeling light the brighter it is. But brighter is not always better when snorkeling, depending on the water conditions, the beam angle of your light, and if you are going to use it to take pictures and videos.
A narrow beam torch can have a lower lumen value and still appear very bright because it is not lighting up as much area, like the relatively low lumen Dorcy II. For a narrow beam light, (8-12 degrees) 220 lumens is the minimum we suggest.
For a wider beam light, (60-100 degrees) 500 seems about the minimum we would use. Brighter can be nice, but if you get a much brighter light, get one that has settings to reduce its output. Brighter lights also cost more and are generally bigger and weigh more in your luggage.
Night snorkeling lights come in different beam angles, that are measured in degrees. A spot light has a narrow tight beam, in the 8-20 degree range, that will shine farther in murky water, but will not illuminate your surroundings as much. A wide beam, in the 40-100 degree range, takes more power, shows more of your surroundings, but may not cut through murky water as far as a spot. How to decide?
Are You Going To Take Pictures & Videos? Go Wide Beam!
This is the first question to answer when selecting a night snorkeling light. A very bright light, with a narrow beam, can easily be too bright and uneven in its light spread for good pictures. See the picture at the right of the lobster? Notice the bright white spot that is so bright you can't see the details? In this case I had a narrow beam light that was very bright and I had to carefully shine it beside the lobster to be able to get any usable picture of it. If I had pointed it right at the lobster you would not be able to see it, or the surroundings would be so dark you would not see those. This is the problem with using a narrow beam spot light that is very bright for photography/video. So if you are going to do photography, look for a wide beam light.
Not Doing Photography? Want To See Farther? Go Spot Beam! The problem with a wide beam light is that if the water is not super clear, it will reflect off all the particles, making it actually hard to see very far. So if you are not doing photography, a narrow spot beam can be better because it cuts through murky water, allowing you to see farther. To see farther, go for a narrow beam light.
A wide beam is nice for showing more of your surroundings, which makes some people more comfortable, being able to see more around them. Some people get more comfort by being able to shine that light out farther.
Really, there are times when you need both, which is why we like lights that either have a zoom function, like our Tovatec Fusion 530 lights, or that have separate wide and spot lights build in. They can work for photography and illuminating more of the area when the water is clear. And they can be narrowed down into a spot beam for situations where you want to see farther.
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 the airplane, and less bulk to push through the water is important.
But don't go overboard like we have going too small. We have used tiny lights with only 80 lumens that ran of two AA batteries, and there was just not enough light to feel comfortable in the water at night.
We recommend you try and keep your night snorkeling light small and lightweight, but make sure it puts out enough lumens and the battery will last for at least two hours.
Rated For Diving - Lots of flashlights are waterproof but are not suitable for snorkeling. But make sure you get one that is rated for diving for your safety.
Bulb Type - Pretty much all the lights available now use energy efficient and bright LED bulbs. Cree is one popular manufacturer of bulbs, as is Seoul Semi Conductors. We would not get a snorkeling light that uses Halogen or Tungsten anymore.
Get A Wrist Lanyard - Most lights come with one, but make sure you have a wrist strap, because these lights don't float.
Battery Types - Consider what type of batteries you want to use before you purchase your light. Some run off regular easily available batteries like C, AA or AAA. Rechargeable lights are nice since you don't have to throw them away. But think about how often you will use the light and if the rechargeable batteries will last if they are not regularly used and charged.
Battery Length - A very bright light that is small may not even last a full hour at full power. That is too short for safety in our opinion. Try and get a light that will last at least 2-4 hours on one charge.
Backup Lights? - Divers nearly always carry a small 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.