The first time I ever swam at night was a Sandycove night swim in 2008, organised by SISC member John Conroy. Everyone had to have their own chemical lightsticks for safety and identification.
Chemical lightsticks are plastic tubes with a mix of chemicals inside, available in red/orange, blue, green. You bend or snap the plastic to mix the chemicals and activate the phosphorescence. There are downsides to lights sticks. They are single use only so if you are doing a short night swim for 30 minutes, and though cheap for one use they can become expensive if using many. They are also difficult to dispose of safely. From our point of view the illumination is not great, it’s really just a dull glow.
For the Channel relay in 2008, I picked up a then-new Adventure Lights Lazer-Stik in Varne Ridge in Dover, and three years and once successful solo, one failed solo and a few other shorter night swims, it’s only had the batteries changed once and is still going strong.
Prior to the Solo, I bought one of Adventure Lights Guardian lights, which fits perfectly and easily onto google straps. It’s brighter than the Lazer Stik and very versatile, as you can see from the image, you can easily slide it onto goggle straps with the clip, or thread it onto the goggles, or attach it to an ankle or wrist strap or togs. I bought each in green as I decided this is the colour least-likely to be replicated by any other light source.
Both of these lights can be seen from a kilometre away, and while you would not plan to be that far away from your pilot during a Channel swim, there is a comfort in that and it’s very useful on a night-swim without a boat.
Each Adventure Light type has two modes, flashing and steady, selectable by flipping around the battery polarity. With the advent of “white” LEDs the range has increased to clear lights and the colours have increased. But a warning, I luckily bought green lights in both.
Each is easily switched on and off by just twisting the light.
Some Channel pilots do NOT like you to use blue, red or clear lights as they could be confused with other lights. If you are buying them for serious swimming, get green. Also rather than buying two Guardians, I recommend one of each, as the longer Lazer-Stik is quite distinctive when attached to the back of togs.
There is something about owning such a specialist piece of equipment for such a specific role. Speaking for myself, just buying something like this made me feel like I was a serious marathon swimmer, (if all the sea metres hadn’t made that obvious). How many swimmers need to buys lights for night-swimming?
And you can always wearing them while dancing at your annual swimming party.