I've added a few items to my night travels; a cree based LED flash light, which si pocket sized throwing a 280 lumen beam of (spot) light; and a 3rd generation night vision goggle fully waterproof with head mounting. I think out of the two, the flash light has been much more useful.
For anyone living in a cave, the past few nights hardly required either of these items and I took it as a nice chance to make a moon lit stroll along the banks of the Hudson River last night. I had a few options, paddle with night vision strapped to my head, paddle with the flash light on as a head light, or paddle with none of the above (just the required lights).
The most enjoyable for me was to just paddle 'covertly' with no visual aids, seeing the light reflecting off the water and casting shadows from the trees was quite the sight. The night air was cool and humidity free, there was a nice slight breeze coming for the south. The night vision was largely overkill as it was putting a pressure on my forehead from the headmount and added 1.5 lbs to my head; in addition it was adding unnecessary visual information for the most part. The flash light was nice, I used it as I went along a rocky section of the shore line giving me a heads up of any ducks or other creatures lurking and waiting to spring out and startle me.
Unaided, I could make out the shore-lines but nothing within the blackness of the shaded trees. This is where more paranoid side of us takes over and makes some assumptions about what is lurking in the blackness and at times I was somewhat on edge. With the night vision on, I could make out everything but it was largely a waste of time, it was sort of Avatar "like" beautiful to stare at monochrome trees and see into the shadows but again unnecessary as long as your mind wasn't asking you where the wild things are.
The flash light was great and could be used to spot on something a fairly good distance away. I'd say @ 100' you could still spot well, under 200' you would probably still provide good light coverage, and being 1/2 a mile away one would shine at other people like a torch. I'm sure this could also be seen a good mile+ away as well on a good night. On top of that, using a 3000 MaH 18650 battery, this thing has lasted me over 2 hours at the highest setting without recharging. In fact, I've yet seen it run out on me!
As a test, I turned on a conventional incendescent long black 4 C celled "police" spotlight and set it to spot. Then I turned on my LED as an overlay which completely buried the light from the other police flashlight, it was like it wasn't even on.
For Kayaking, generally NVDs (night vision) is certainly overkill. The differences in the generations of NVDs are exponential in ability and price as well. Given the night I was using them, any version of night vision probably would have done well. Generation 0 is active, meaning it's requiring outside sources of IR to gather light, and I recommend that you stay away from that gen model. Generation 1 is good (and most popular), but does not have the additional amplification of the passing through electrons via a microchannel plate (MCP). Generation 2-4 (technically there is no generation 4) are the better models available but are largely cost prohibitive to most people as they cost potentially 1000s more than generation 1/1+.
The limitations to NVDs I've noticed so far are that the light and shadows aren't always made clearer. For example, if you were to look at a house with it's lights off, you could make out every tile and architectual detail but you STILL would be unable to see into the window. Something which I'm sure is unnerving in urban warfare, perhaps not so much when kayaking. Another thing, bright light sources destroys the image, I was looking a marina which had say 6-8 large lights and it was clearer to look at it without any night vision at all. Also, the night vision is cumbersome to some degree and can cause eye strain. However, if you really want to be fully prepared for things, I would suspect you would want some generation of NVD on hand. I guess further testing is needed!
Fenix TK285 Cree LED Flashlight
(3 Watts, with a 18650 3000Mah Lith-Io batt)
(waterproof IPX standards)
ATN PSV 3Generation Night vision
(near military grade but blemished model)
(water proof 30 min. @ 3 meters)