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5 Best Distress Flare Lights 2018

Breaking down or getting stuck out to sea can be scary and its vital that you get the attention of anyone nearby. For this, you will need a SOS distress light or flare that can be visible for many miles and will give you the best opportunity of being found.

The best distress Flare light is the Weems & Plath SOS Distress LED, which is not your traditional flare but a more improved electronic version that is visible up to 10 miles.

The traditional flare has been used in SOS circumstances for many years but the more modern LED light is becoming popular and is the only alternative to the flare.

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Best Marine SOS Warning Lights

SOS Flare LightTypeVisibility
Weems & PlathLED10 Miles
NASS EF-20A-1LED14 Miles
UST See-MeLED3.4 Miles
Orion LocateFlare5 Miles

Distress flares have been used for many years and are still popular today but the modern era of LED lights is slowly taking over. The main drawback of the traditional flare is that they have an expiration date and once they have been used, they cannot be used again unlike a flare light.

The more modern LED light on the other hand will simply run from batteries and can be reused multiple times along with other features. Of course, it is personal preference and both do the exact same thing, which is to grab the attention of others.

Safety on the waters is paramount and you should always be prepared for the worst because trouble is never far around the corner. Below is a list of the best distress flare lights that will get you noticed on your boat by others.

SOS DISTRESS LED Electronic Flare Light

This SOS distress light is USCG compliant and can be used safely in both the day and night. It is not the traditional flare but the LED light is visible from up to 10 nautical miles where the patented lens shines light beams both horizontally and vertically.

Unlike a flare, it can be used multiple times and will flash for up to 60 hours on C-Cell batteries. There are many electronic flares that do not meet the US coast guard requirements but this model does and is safe to operate with no danger to both person or vessel.

Overall, the Weems & Plath SOS Distress LED is the best electronic distress flare you can buy and is a one time purchase because it never expires. Flares you will be replacing regularly but this will only require a fresh batch of batteries.

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NASS Electronic Distress Signal

The North American Survival System electronic flare is visible up to 14 nautical miles during the night and 1 mile during the day. It is USCG approved and is another electronic alternative compared with the traditional flare.

Unlike many of the other cheap examples found online, this model is waterproof and tested to a depth of 50 feet. This is made possible through the anodized aluminum case and excellent build quality of the distress flare light.

It is an LED strobe light that can be easily connected to your inflatable life vest or simply stored in your pocket. The flashing strobe is 5 times brighter than the standard and it is the best waterproof flare to use in the ocean.

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SIRIUS LED Strobe Light

The smallest distress flare light in this article is the Sirius strobe light, which is constructed of high-strength ABS plastic. It is US Coast Guard Approved and performs just as well as the larger units with visibility of 3.5 miles and 60 flashes per minute.

All this LED flare requires is two AA batteries and its ready for use. This device is fully waterproof with an O ring protecting the batteries from becoming flooded and the ABS plastic providing corrosion free strength.

Overall, it is the best small boat flare light and offers excellent performance from such a small device.

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UST See-Me Waterproof LED Light

The UST See-Me LED light is waterproof and provides 20 Lumens of all round light that is visible up to 3.4 miles at night and is USCG approved. It is capable of providing light for up to 17 hours via 2 AAA batteries and the bulb inside this device will never need replacing.

The LED flare light has a waterproofing rating of IPX7 and can withstand being submerged in water for up to 30 minutes at 1 meter.

For those on a budget that want a durable and reliable LED flare torch, the UST See-Me will do exactly that and it is very reasonably priced.

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Orion Locate Handheld Signal Pack

The traditional Orion flares provides a 3 minute burn time, which can be visible from up to 5 miles. It is USCG (US Coast Guard) approved for both day and night usage where it outputs a bright red locator flame from the flare.

The traditional flare is a preferred option compared to the electronic modern alternative by many older boat owners. Ensuring you keep track of the expiration date (usually 3 to 4 years), they are still just as good as the more expensive electronic flare and provide a solid locator flame in order to get noticed.

Orion provide a range of marine safety products and you can rest assure these flares will not let you down. They are the best distress flares of the traditional style and will be an excellent addition to your boat safety gear.

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Distress Flare Buying Guide

In the unfortunate even that you would need to use a distress flare, it is crucial that it functions correctly when you need it most. This is the issue with the traditional flare because many come with an expiration date, which means it may not work as it is designed to do.

Many people only know of flares as the older traditional ones that have been round for many years. However, the modern era is taking over with the improved LED technology that could see the end of the traditional flare.

Traditional v LED

The traditional flare has and will still be used by boat owners but as with everything, as the years go by, something better will be produced. This is where LED flare lights come in and the benefits include:

  • No expiration date of the light (only batteries)
  • Stronger and more visible light
  • Safer to operate
  • Reusable
  • Easier to store

Many of the older generation boat owners will continue to use the traditional flares and there is nothing wrong with that. Electronic flares using strong LED bulbs will see big growth in the next few years.

Visibility of the Flare

If you are using a distress flare, you will want to be seen by anyone day or night. Both electric and traditional flares come with two visibility rating for day and night, with the latter having a further distance of visible light.

A distance of over 5 miles is deemed as a highly rated flare and many of the electronic flares exceed this by a large margin.


When setting off for a trip along the river or out to sea, the last thing you probably think of is whether your flare is working or not. The majority of boat owners will check that their marine VHF radio is working and begin their trip.

Upgrading to an electronic flare is highly beneficial and will be more reliable than the traditional flare. The Weems & Plath SOS Distress LED is leading the way in terms of the electronic flare light and is USCG approved as well as performing with top marks across the board.

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5 Best Distress Flare Lights 2018


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