Top Spotlights for Boaters

Five spotlights that can help boaters safely navigate at night.
Streamlight Waypoint spotlights
Using a spotlight can help you boat safer at night. Courtesy Streamlight

Testing spotlights and flashlights is tricky, especially now that all the best offerings are LED.

Each LED emits an amount of light measured in lumens. You’d think 3,000 lumens would be brighter than 1,000 lumens and would illuminate more at a greater distance. Our tests proved that hypothesis wrong. Lumens matter, but the geometry of the light bezel and dome matter equally. We found that a lower-lumen light could illuminate a target farther away than a higher-lumen light—it was all in the geometry of the bezel and reflector.

Metering Light

First, we illuminated the CM/3 light sensor on our meter. Every light, whether 1,000 or 3,000 lumens, overpowered the meter.

Next, we measured the light emitted onto the sensor from 30 feet away. That data was also inconclusive.

Third, we took the lights out on Charlotte Harbor in Florida and illuminated the inlet markers at Punta Gorda’s Ponce de Leon Park inlet. All the lights produced a bright reflection from the farthest marker more than one-quarter mile away.

Fourth, we secured the boat 1.2 miles away from an Intracoastal Waterway marker and hit it with all the lights, one at a time. All of them produced a reflection of that marker, an attribute we thought made each a useful navigation tool. But—and this is an interesting but—some of our lights illuminated the marker post, and did so clearly. And it wasn’t always those with the most registered lumens.

All the listed spotlights are rechargeable, and all include charging equipment. All but one of the selected lights floated. Though all are advertised as waterproof, we found one that was not.

Streamlight Waypoint 400
Streamlight Waypoint 400 Courtesy Streamlight

Streamlight Waypoint 400

The Waypoint is rugged and feels that way the second you touch it. It’s got an IPX8 rating for shock and is waterproof and floats. High-, medium- and low-light settings conserve batteries when maximum illumination isn’t needed. It is the second-largest light on our roster, which is not surprising considering the shock-resisting capability. $140.67;;

Best: This light had an efficient selector lever to choose high, medium or low illumination without toggling through those settings with the trigger. All the others required the user to toggle through high, medium and low to shut off the light. Also, a stainless-steel ring at the back allows it to hang with a downward-facing beam. A ring at the top allows it to hang as a trouble light, and an adjustable foldout bracket makes it a useful hands-free light for service work.

Worst: It took pliers to close the charge port to waterproof the light—party foul.

Beam Me Up: Lumens don’t tell the whole story. This one lit the marker post from 1.2 miles away in spite of its middling lumens rating. However, it is a pencil beam and required a spot-on aim to illuminate a dock or marker.

Best Case: We liked it for running the inlet with a straight row of markers and for finding distant markers by scanning the horizon from side to side. Frog giggers (you know who you are) will like this light.


  • Maximum Lumens: 1,400
  • Battery Time (Hours): 3.25 on high, 7.5 on medium, 84 on low
  • Weight: 1.5 lb.
  • Dimensions: 6 3/4-by-7 1/3-by-3 2/3-in. diameter
  • Accessories: 120V charge cord, 12V charge cord, wrist lanyard, wall mount
Goodsmann Sirius
Goodsmann Sirius Courtesy Goodsmann

Goodsmann Sirius

This light is rugged, watertight and floats. We selected this model for its high-lumen rating. Because it looks suspiciously like West Marine’s 3,000-lumen rechargeable light, and the specs align, we felt we could knock off two reviews in one product. It has high, medium and low settings, along with an SOS function. It is made of rugged plastic, with rubber armor on the aluminum bezel and handles to protect the device. There are three LED chips to make the total 3,000 lumens. Each is in its own reflective bezel, which creates a wide, bright beam. $79.99;

Best: A watertight cap (secured with a small lanyard) twists off on the back, revealing the charge port. Its battery life is impressive.

Worst: Having to toggle through high beam, medium, low and SOS to turn it off is annoying.

Beam Me Up: Its design advantage is an extremely bright and impressively wide beam that illuminates an arc of roughly 150 degrees, but it doesn’t have the long reach of the Streamlight. While it didn’t illuminate the post at 1.2 miles, it did illuminate the reflective channel marker on it.

Best Case: We liked it for navigating tricky waters with rocks and bars because the wide beam can pick up obstacles outside the periphery of other lights. It’s capable as an underwater dive light. Bully netters will like its wide beam.


  • Maximum Lumens: 1,400
  • Battery Time (Hours): 6.5 to 7.5 on high, 20 on medium, 38 on low
  • Weight: 1.08 lb.
  • Dimensions: 6 7/8-by-4-by-7 7/8 in.
  • Accessories: 120V charge cord, 12V charge cord, wrist lanyard, foldout trouble light stand
Goodsmann Artemis
Goodsmann Artemis Courtesy Goodsmann

Goodsmann Artemis

This light is built tough, with an armored lens bezel and an aluminum bezel mount for durability, longevity and heat dissipation. It’s waterproof and floats. Removing the screw-on base cap at the back of the light requires a strong grip, but it gives access to the recharging port and a USB output port for device charging. We liked its compact, stout feel in the hand. The built-in stand on top folds out for road-hazard work or to prop it up at a campsite. A lanyard is available. It lit our target at 1.2 miles, but not as distinctly as the Streamlight Waypoint. $60;;

Best: It has a trigger lock, so it won’t turn on accidentally, avoiding wasted batteries at best or fire from heat buildup at worst. None of our other test lights could boast such a feature. We liked the phone charger.

Worst: That annoying trigger toggle-through setting to get through high, medium and low to turn it off slows down operation.

Beam Me Up: A great light, plus a USB phone-charging port.

Best Case: This light is compact and powerful, ideal for spotting targets at long range, and it has a broad enough beam at close range to offer some peripheral illumination. We liked its heft.


  • Maximum Lumens: 2,000
  • Battery Time (Hours): 6.5 to 7.5 on high, 20 on medium, 38 on low
  • Weight: 1.97 lb.
  • Dimensions: 5 3/4-by-3-in. diameter
  • Accessories: 120V micro USB charge cable/adapter, wrist lanyard, whistle
Streamlight Stinger
Streamlight Stinger Courtesy Streamlight

Streamlight Stinger 2020

This high-lumen light is designed with a durable, compact, portable aluminum body. Though it is among the highest-lumen lights we tested, its reflector is designed for a broad flood of white light rather than an extremely long beam. It barely reflected from our 1.2-mile target, but its lighting is impressive inside of 100 to 200 yards, and on high it provided ample light to illuminate a half-mile series of navigation reflectors. It fits comfortably in the hand. It has high, medium and low settings. $159;;

Best: Its rechargeable batteries are removable and replaceable, extending its useful life. We loved the rock-solid wall-mountable charger holder.

Worst: It’s water-resistant, not waterproof. However, the battery door and switches appear waterproof. A longer battery life on high would be appreciated, but the low level still lit the waterway for safer navigation. This light does
not float.

Beam Me Up: Mount this light by the helm and use it to spotlight into the boat slip or pick your way through weeds, timber or other obstacles.

Best Case: It is built solid and substantial, like it was milled from bar stock.


  • Maximum Lumens: 2,000
  • Battery Time (Hours): 2 on high, 4 on medium, 24 on low
  • Weight: 12.3 oz.
  • Dimensions: 7 2/3-by-1 2/3 in.
  • Accessories: 120V charger, 12V charger, wall-mount charge bracket

Read Next: 5 Lessons in Night Navigation

Yierblue YB 953 Rechargeable Spotlight
Yierblue YB 953 Rechargeable Spotlight Courtesy Yierblue

Yierblue YB 953 Rechargeable Spotlight

Its Amazon-advertised 160,000 lumens is disputed by package specifications listing 800 lumens. However, it did illuminate our distant target almost as well as the Streamlight. A near-blinding floodlight beam on the side is handy for camping and emergencies, and an included tripod makes it easy to use. There are separate triggers for the spotlight and floodlight. A green LED charge indicator on the back below the silicone door to the charge input port is a cool 5-volt charge output port for phones. $36;

Best: It’s bright, lightweight and can float. Its pencil beam lets users focus on distant objects. The phone charge port is great, making it a good buy at the price. A trouble light on the side is useful for service work.

Worst: Its ABS plastic bezel rim is unarmored and could be fragile. Touted to be waterproof to 1 meter, but ours took on water immediately. Toggling through high, medium and low to shut it off is annoying. The same goes for the trouble light on the side.

Beam Me Up: The USB output port and the 1/4-by-20-inch threaded tripod adapter and tripod add versatility.

Best Case: Yierblue offers a no-questions lifetime guarantee to compensate for an acknowledged reliability issue.


  • Maximum Lumens: 800
  • Battery Time (Hours): 10 on high, 20 on low
  • Weight: 1.7 lb.
  • Dimensions: 7-by-8-by-4 in.
  • Accessories: 120V charger, 12V charger, tripod, wrist lanyard

Light Beams

When looking for a spotlight for your boat, review your priorities. On smaller, familiar waters, you likely won’t need a blinding pencil beam and would benefit from a wider beam to find gear in the boat or dropped overboard. If your light will double as a camping or hunting light, a pencil beam can be helpful and so is a trouble light. We found the built-in light stands extremely useful, and not having one would be a deal breaker for all but standard flashlight designs.

Streamlight and Goodsmann brought the best lights to our test. Streamlight has been a workman’s and sportsman’s brand for decades, and has proven reliable for all those years. Goodsmann manufactures all types of lighting for decor, landscaping and security, as well as a number of spotlights.