Welcome to the first is a series of specifics dealing with LED Light bars. First up a look at boats, and unlike my previous light bar article I won’t be able to present cheap options. If you want a light bar for a boat you have to shell out top dollar, no only for a bright bar with a good IP rating, but also one whose build quality is high enough to prevent long term erosion. When you go off-roading your bar is subjected to the elements, true, but not to the extent that a boats bar is. The added effect of salt water makes cheap light bars last less long, fall to pieces, and become a fundamentally bad investment.
As I mentioned above, using a bar on a boat will require some particular traits. The Bar must be IP rated 68 or above. 69K is the best option available, but that is a rare thing to find. A 68 rating is tested to withstand long term submersion in excess of 1m, and if you have your light bar under the water for longer than a few minutes, and at a greater depth than 1m, then you might be sinking. In which case, it doesn’t matter how good a light bar you have, and you’d best focus on swimming to shore.
In addition, you will want a combo beam. When on the open water it is imperative that you can shine a spot and a flood light, depending on your needs. So that rules out any specialized bars and, sadly, even the cheaper Rigid Radiance series. It is possible to make do with a pair of lights, each specializing, but you may end up spending more doing that.
Lastly, while you might be tempted by Halogens and HIDs, I must impress upon you the importance of buying an LED light bar. The last thing you want is to be out on the ocean at night, driving blind due to a burnt out bulb, and the longevity of LED bars far outstrips that of any other light bar solution. Another thing to take into account regarding the longevity of the bar is the amp draw. You want it nice and low, to maximize the life of your battery.
So, with all that said, let’s take a look down a few marine LED light bar options that work well.
Best Light Bars for Boats
Auxbeam 42″ 120W Marine LED Light Bar
I’m not sure what to make of this. It is one of the cheapest options around, $136.50, and the site claims that it is good for marine use, but I don’t know. The IP rating is 67, and a 7 means that it will work up after up to 1m of submersion. In a boating environment that does not sound like enough to me. I can only go by what Auxbeam claim here. I love their other products, their 50″ curved bar is blindingly awesome and IP 67 is more than enough for off-roading, this is what I call a risky buy. It has 30 degrees of spot and 60 degrees of flood combo lighting in, and the output lumen is an impressive 12,000lm. It also comes in a variety of sizes, so be sure to look for the right size to suit your needs. In optimum conditions expect an Auxbeam to last 30,000+ hours. Remember you have 30 days to return it for a money back guarantee, and a years warranty. It says on this thing that it is suitable for boating, so if it breaks during you are entitled to a full refund.
Size: 43.7inch*2.56inch*3.1inch including bracket.
Tuff Stuff 31″ Single Row Led Light Bar
The next cheapest I found was the Tuff Stuff, and again this one comes in a variety of sizes, always a good sign. This is a bit of an anomaly to be honest. It is IP rated at 69K, that is the highest durability rating, and considering it costs a mere $239 it is a bargain. Looking into it a little deeper I found that it is using OSRAM rather than Cree LEDs, and the downside here is the power draw. While it might not sound like much, an extra amp or two can mean the difference between sailing blind and coasting home safely. This bar outputs 12,600LM, which is pretty good, and uses a combo of spot and flood lights of different colors for different weather conditions. It’s a nice touch, and not one seen on many other bars. Tuff Stuff seem pretty sire of their build quality, their site is laden with superlatives, and they offer a lifetime warranty. That endears them to me quite a bit. They also guarantee 50,000 hours of continual use, which is an impressive claim. Overall, this seems like a good bet, and too good a price to pass up.
Size: 33.25inch*3.125inch*2.625inch including bracket.
Vision X Solstice Solo Work Lights
This is a little different. Instead of a light bar, I’ll be talking about Vision X’s marine work lights. Less for navigation and more of night fishing, this product line is highly sought after, very high quality and as a result, expensive. A single boat light will cost you around $100, and a four inch spot/flood will cost $400. All of the products in this line are IP 68 rated, so you don’t have to worry about the durability, and the smallest 2″ lamps can output 800LM at a 0.75 amp draw. Powerful little things these. You’ll need a handful of them though, which is where the expense comes in. Expect each one to last 50,000+ hours. The larger 4″ spot/floods can output 3200LM, and considering the size that is impressive. They all come with a limited one year warranty. Honestly, I would prefer a combination of lights. If you want to go for these then pair them with a cheap 30″+ light bar and you should be fine.
Size: Varies, think small.
Rigid RDS And Marine Dually Series
Big fan of Rigid light bars, and for marine bars they are unmatched. They take great pride in their bespoke work, and the build quality on display here is unmatched, as is the variety of light bar solutions on offer. I’ve decided to limit this run down to just the marine RDS series long bars and the marine Dually series square spot/flood lights, because if I listed all their marine compatible products we would be here all day. The RDS series is expensive, but you get what you pay for. The 30″ bar will set you back $1312.50, hefty enough price. Raw output sits at 15,690LM on a 16.3 amp draw, which is astounding. You could run the thing indefinitely if you wanted to, and you wouldn’t have to worry about your battery. Well, you would eventually, but near enough. It’s IP rated at 68+, and the whole thing is coated in Alodine, making it impervious to the harsh salt spray of the sea. It is limited to spot light only though, so if I were you I would pair it with a good flood, or go with a pair of Duallys.
The Dually XL. This option is similar to the tiny ones offered by Vision X, but better, slighter cheaper per light too. They come in flood and spot, and I would suggest you buy in pairs. Price wise they are $230.99 each on the Rigid site, but I have seen them go for as little as $219 elsewhere. Max output is 2736LM, always good to see the specific number, shows they actually tested the thing. They are marine rated, and nigh indestructible. The thing to remember with Rigid is they offer probably the best customer service on the market. You have your standard 30 day money back guarantee, but on top of that is a life time warranty. If it breaks, they replace it. That peace of mind is hard to find, and worth the added price. Overall, they are a great buy if you have the cash for them.
At the end of the day you will buy the best Light bar that you can afford. Whether it’s a nice cheap Auxbeam to tide you over until the big purchase, or some hand crafted Rigid bars, you’ll be able to cut through the darkness with ease. Just remember that no matter what you choose you will need a nice high IP number, and a good warranty. You get what you pay for.