Help for Boaters to See In The Dark

From handheld scopes to devices with built-in flashlights.

See how night vision compares to infrared vision, and check out our tests of three different jump-starter devices complete with flashlights.

We never expected to find a flashlight that could start a six-cylinder engine, nor a portable battery that could start a 500 hp diesel or a John Deere tractor. And we never thought we could see this well in the dark. But we did, and here’s how these nifty gadgets worked for us.

How We Tested
Jump-Starters - Each device had a flashlight, so we left it on for 15 minutes, then attempted to start an engine within its specified capability. We were, however, unable to secure a diesel test opportunity for the Crankenstein.

Help for Boaters to See In The Dark
SiOnyx Night VisionCourtesy SiOnyx

SiOnyx Night Vision
Waterproof: IP67 water resistant
Weight: 8 oz.
Dimensions: 4.75 by 2.25 in.
Battery Time: 2 hours, continuous
Connectivity: Wi-Fi

It is capable of shooting 720p video and beautiful snapshots in the dark or daylight. Mountable on a 0.25-by-20-thread tripod mount, it will Wi-Fi to your smartphone or tablet so you can watch what it sees in real time or transfer images from its microSD card. An internal GPS, compass and accelerometer allow capture of geotagged images and video.

What It Does
Manually select night vision and its f1.4 aperture to combine ambient and infrared light and internally boost it to render a bright, though eerie, rose-hued image. In the daylight it shoots normal photographs and videos at an f5.6 aperture. In the f2 aperture, or twilight setting, it renders images and videos in extremely accurate detail and color.

In our night testing it gave astonishingly clear images thanks to its 1-inch diagonal sensor, and it is easily focused, even in little light. The camera's infrared sensitivity gave us excellent detailed images in areas that were mostly black to the naked eye. The digital zoom offered four times magnification.

Infrared imaging is limited to ambient infrared light, so in full darkness the range is limited, but you can add an infrared illuminator to the system on a rail or tripod mount to extend the range. It only shoots low-resolution 0.9-megapixel images, but the manufacturer may upgrade that.

Help for Boaters to See In The Dark
FLIR Scion PTM 166Courtesy FLIR

FLIR Scion PTM 166
Waterproof: IP67 water resistant
Weight: 20.2 oz.
Dimensions: 9 by 3 in.
Battery Time: Up to 4.5 hours
Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

FLIR thermal imaging requires no light and captures the scene’s heat signature in total darkness. Its fast 60 Hz refresh rate gives it smooth video rendering. The device uses an internal GPS, compass and accelerometer to capture geotagged images and video, and has a 2GB internal memory and microSD card slot. For first-responder and law-enforcement use there is a TruWitness capability that allows real-time sharing of streamed images, video and sound.

What It Does
Its capture range is nearly unlimited, making it an ideal search-and-rescue tool for air- and sea-rescue parties. A 13.8mm germanium lens transmits infrared light to the 320-by-240 sensor and renders it on a 640-by-512 VGA display. The focus is manual. Its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth system allows both livestreaming and image transfer to other devices, such as the multifunction display at your boat's helm.

Best Applications
It captures the tiniest temperature variance, brightly displaying it against darker-appearing, cooler backdrops. Pinpointing a bobbing head in either a pitch-dark or glare-covered sea is where this device shines. Since it does not require an infrared illuminator, it is invisible to counter surveillance, a feature night vision can't boast.

It isn't designed to render photos or video in full color but does offer different color palettes for optimum clarity in other environments. Additional 25mm models increase range — limited due to resolution — for more demanding search-and-rescue ops.

Help for Boaters to See In The Dark
Scosche PowerUp 400 TorchCourtesy Scosche Industries

Scosche PowerUp 400 Torch
Powered By: Lithium-ion battery with 400-amp peak
Capability: Jump-start vehicles up to six cylinders, 3.5 liters
Amenities: Single 5V USB port
Longevity: 1,000 charge/discharge cycles
Accessories: Includes jump-start cables, car charger and charging cable, and carrying case

We are accustomed to finding a flashlight built into a jump-start battery, but not the other way around. The tactical-style light has an aluminum body for durability, and its lithium-ion battery is quickly charged and will hold the charge in storage for six months.

What It Did
This impressive little jumper started our Mercury Verado 350 hp supercharged engine easily. We left the light on. The flashlight was crazy bright, putting out a flood beam that carried farther than most high-end flashlights. It can repeat the task three times.

Help for Boaters to See In The Dark
Weego CrankentsteinCourtesy Weego

Weego Crankentstein
Powered By: The 9-pound device is powered by a Lithium-iron phosphate battery, 1200-amp cranking (12V model) and 600-amp cranking (24V) Capability: Jump-start auto and marine engines to bulldozers, diesel marine engines, and tractors. Amenities: Dual USB-C input or output port, 5V to 20V, 2.3 to 3A; 2 USB ports, 3.6-15V, 1.5 to 3A Longevity: 2,000-plus charge/discharge cycles
Accessories: Includes jump starter with permanently affixed jump-start cables, USB-C AC/DC charging kit, and storage bag The 1,000-lumen flashlight can be adjusted to a wide beam or a tight spotlight, to intensify lighting over distance. Remove: It could literally be used as a spotlight. It took about six hours to charge using the included USB-C AC/DC charging kit. In addition to USB power outputs, a 12-volt CLAreceptacle and a 12-volt plug with USB and mini-jack outputs are installed. Surprisingly, it is IP65 rated water resistant, but we didn't try to test that feature. The 1,000-lumen flashlight can be dialed out to a wide beam or dialed in to a tight spotlight, to intensify lighting over distance. It could literally be used as a spotlight. It took about six hours to charge using the included USB charging cable. In addition to USB power outputs, a 12-volt receptacle and a 12-volt plug with USB and mini-jack outputs are installed.

What It Did
Ample charge options allowed USB charging and connecting a 12-volt plug for additional charge ports. We couldn't find a dead diesel to test it, and the V-8 gas engine wasn't much of a test for its power. An OLED screen guides the charge process from power on to start up, detecting poor connections and power flow. Keep this on a sport-fisher or cruiser for emergencies.

Help for Boaters to See In The Dark
Scosche PowerUp 700Courtesy Scosche Industries

Scosche PowerUp 700
Powered By: Lithium-ion, 700-amp peak
Capability: Jump-start vehicles up to 10 cylinders
Amenities: Dual 5V (2.1A plus 1.1A) USB ports; 1,000-plus charge/discharge cycles
Accessories: Includes jump-starter, jump-start cables and charging cable

Jump-starters typically need a small current to activate the microprocessor that pushes voltage to the starter, so a boost button supplies that voltage in the case of a fully discharged battery. Its maker claims it is capable of restarting an engine up to 10 cylinders three times. It’s about the size of two playing-card packs.

What It Did Our test battery wasn't fully dead, so we didn't need the boost button — but this is a very handy feature for the marine crowd. The flashlight was ideal for close work, providing ample light for checking oil or changing a tire. We didn't have time to charge more than two phones with it, but it could probably do four. This would be a good device for any traveler.