Py­rotech­nic flares were once the only res­cue flares ap­proved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Not any­more. Rec­og­niz­ing the in­her­ent risk of burn­ing flares, par­tic­u­larly on small, crowded in­flat­able rafts, and not­ing the short burn time, the Coast Guard wisely adopted stan­dards for ap­proved elec­tronic flares. Some have shelf lives of decades, not months, and pro­vide an im­por­tant cost sav­ings and an ex­tra mar­gin of safety over burn­ing flares. But so far, only one LED flare meets Coast Guard stan­dards for res­cue equip­ment.

The Coasties re­quire these flares to be vis­i­ble for 7 miles. We wanted to see how they com­pared to each other and set up a spe­cial test by set­ting re­flec­tive tar­gets at in­ter­vals on a 210-yard golf fair­way and not­ing the dis­tance at which we saw the res­cue lights’ il­lu­mi­na­tion re­flected in the tar­gets. These were our top con­tenders.

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