BoatingLAB Tests: Spotlights | Boating Magazine

BoatingLAB Tests: Spotlights

Which light is best for boaters? Hand-held spotlights are put to the test to find out.

Even with today’s superior GPS displays and pinpoint-accurate radar overlays, nothing beats seeing obstacles with your own eyes. But which light is best for boaters?

How We Tested
ATON Illumination
To simulate reflective aids to navigation, we built 10 red-and-white reflective targets, 2 by 5 inches each. We positioned these 100 to 200 yards from our lights at 10-yard intervals. Every spotlight returned a reflection of all 10 markers. The more powerful lights had a brighter return, but we did not measure the difference in return brightness.

Obstacle Illumination
To test how well these spots would illuminate nonreflective objects, we used international orange targets — mini footballs — and arranged them at 10-yard intervals from 100 to 200 yards away. Then we lit them up and had two sharp-eyed teenagers count the visible targets.

Beam Width
To measure how wide the useful beam was, we set our targets out 50 yards away and spread them at five-yard intervals from left to right. We aimed the brightest point of the beam at the center target and counted how many reflective and nonreflective targets we could spot with the beam’s peripheral illumination. The widest width topped 80 yards.

West Marine Waterproof, Rechargeable LED Spotlight
$100; westmarine.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 180 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 80 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 20 yards

The Mac Daddy of West Marine’s waterproof rechargeables offers the same functions as its sibling but with three brighter LEDs and the same long battery life. It scored high and offers rubber-armored construction.

Special Features: Its SOS feature will run 24 hours. Like the smaller version’s, its lens is shatterproof polycarbonate.

Downside: The threaded charger port is without a keeper to prevent loss.

Warranty: 1 year

Specs
Maximum Lumens: 700
Powered By: Rechargeable alkaline batteries with 120-volt AC and 12-volt DC chargers
Burn Time On High: 6 hours
Burn Time On Low: 7 hours
Water Protection: Waterproof

Coleman CPX 6 LED Spotlight
$35; coleman.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 110 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 80+ yards
Nonreflective Targets: 10 yards

The handle collapses for compact storage. It isn’t rubber-armored, but the nonskid surface of its case proved grippy during our testing. One LED is brilliant and burns an impressive 51 hours on four D-cells.

Special Features: Battery pod can be removed and plugged into many other Coleman accessories such as lanterns.

Downside: The advertised built-in utility hook wasn’t so useful.

Warranty: 1 year

Specs
Maximum Lumens: 275
Powered By: Four D-cell batteries or an optional rechargeable Coleman CPX 6 battery pack
Burn Time On High: 51 hours
Burn Time On Low: N/A
Water Protection: Water-resistant

Coleman 12-Volt LED Spotlight
$70; coleman.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 200 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 80+ yards
Nonreflective Targets: 10 yards

Its coiled power cord stretches to 10 feet, giving mariners plenty of onboard flexibility to use this light forward, aft or over the side. A handy trigger lock prevents accidental discharge. It was extremely bright and comfortably priced.

Special Features: A red LED on the handle lights when the 12-volt connection is secure.

Downside: It’s corded, tethering you to a 12-volt outlet.

Warranty: 3 years

Specs
Maximum Lumens: 560
Powered By: 12-volt power cord
Burn Time On High: Indefinite
Burn Time On Low: N/A
Water Protection: Water-resistant

Cyclops Sirius LED Rechargeable Spotlight
$70; cyclopssolutions.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 130 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 70 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 10 yards

Its tough rubber-armored housing is spray-proof for one minute from any direction. Three focused LED beams reach out on high. For close work, six LEDs give wide, bright illumination. A trigger guard and trigger lock prevent accidental discharge.

Special Features: It has a red lens for softer illumination that won’t diminish night vision.

Downside: There’s no wrist lanyard but there is a spot for it. It appeared waterproof but wasn’t.

Warranty: 90 days

Specs
Maximum Lumens: 300
Powered By: Lithium-ion batteries recharged by a 120- or 12-volt DC charger
Burn Time On High: 5 hours
Burn Time On Low: 40 hours
Water Protection: Water-resistant

Optronics BlueEye Beam
$45; basspro.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 180 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 80 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 20 yards

This sealed-beam, 12-volt USA-made marine light produced an intensely focused beam during our battery of tests and also delivered good peripheral light. It’s one of the longest-selling, most successful lights marketed.

Special Features: A silk-screened blue haze screen on the bulb face dramatically reduces glare for our clearest view.

Downside: Its durable 12-volt cord reaches only about 5 feet.

Warranty: 3 years

Specs
Candlepower: 400,000
Powered By: 12-volt power cord
Burn Time On High: Indefinite
Burn Time On Low: N/A
Water Protection: Water-resistant

Stanley FatMax Waterproof LED Spotlight
$45; walmart.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 180 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 60 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 20 yards

It’s rubber-armored at the bezel, handle and butt of the light. An O-ring seals the threaded charge port cover and a small lanyard keeps it with the light. An on/off dial-knob can’t accidentally engage. A dimmer lever adjusts for infinite settings.

Special Features: The light floats, beam up.

Downside: It sports a wrist-lanyard hole in the handle but lacks a lanyard.

Warranty: 1 year

Specs
Maximum Lumens: 520
Powered By: Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with 120- and 12-volt chargers
Burn Time on High: 2 hours
Burn Time on Low: 10 hours
Water Protection: Waterproof

Stanley FatMax 10 Watt LED Spotlight
$45; walmart.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 200 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 60 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 10 yards

It boasts 2,000 lumens and lights up the treetops like the sun. Its rubber-armored bezel protects the lens from impact should it be dropped on deck, and cooling fins chill the batteries.

Special Features: A foldaway stand assists in roadside use.

Downside: It’s not weather- or splash-proof and could use a wrist lanyard. Its battery life on “high” could also be a weakness for boaters.

Warranty: 1 year

Specs
Maximum Lumens: 2,000
Powered By: Lithium-ion ­batteries recharged by a 120- or 12-volt DC charger
Burn Time On High: 1 hour
Burn Time On Low: 7 hours
Water Protection: None

Stanley FatMax HID Spotlight
$69; amazon.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 200 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 80+ yards
Nonreflective Targets: 10 yards

At 2,400 lumens, this is one bright light once it warms up. It has a rubber-armored bezel for protection against rugged conditions and a trigger lock to prevent accidental discharge.

Special Features: The HID bulb relies on a plasma gas arc to make it blaze a trail.

Downside: This light’s 30-minute operating time will require boaters to conserve battery power and pack the 12-volt cord.

Warranty: 1 year

Specs
Maximum Lumens: 2,400
Powered By: Lithium-ion batteries recharged by a 120- or 12-volt DC charger
Burn Time On High: 30 minutes
Burn Time On Low: N/A
Water Protection: None

West Marine Waterproof, Rechargeable LED Spotlight
$70; westmarine.com

Reflective ATON Distance: 200 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 170 yards

Beam Width at 50 Yards
Reflective Targets: 80 yards
Nonreflective Targets: 20 yards

Featuring a rubber-armored bezel, handle and butt, like the FatMax, this marine light’s screw-in charge port is O-ring sealed. An on/off dial-knob can’t easily accidentally engage, and a dimmer lever controls the beam for infinite settings.

Special Features: The light floats, beam up.

Downside: The threaded charger port is without a keeper to prevent loss.

Warranty: 1 year

Specs
Maximum Lumens: 350
Powered By: Rechargeable alkaline batteries with 120- and 12-volt DC chargers
Burn Time On High: 6 hours
Burn Time On Low: 10 hours
Water Protection: Waterproof

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