In my last post I reviewed some of the gear that I choose to keep me safe on the creeks and to make my day more enjoyable. That post focused on the five essentials; boats, paddle, helmet, skirt and pfd. In this post, I’ll look at some of the other gear that I use for rescues, to keep myself warm, and to protect my elbows from impacts.
Shred Ready Tsunami Elbow Pads
The Tsunami Elbow Pads do a great job of protecting your elbows when running narrow slots and spending time on rocky low volume creeks. The offer solid protection, but allow you to move naturally. They do a pretty good job of staying in place. They are durable and can really protect your elbows when you are bouncing down something or get thrown off line into a rock.
Kokatat Gore-Tex Meridian Drysuit
Since many of the best creeks only run during the spring and fall when the water is likely to be cold, a good drysuit or drytop is important. After trying a few other models, I settled on the Kokatat Meridian as my drysuit. I have spent many days in this drysuit and always come out dry. It is comfortable and easy to get in and out of. It is possible to get in and out alone but it is often easier with someone to help with the zipper. The Gore-Tex socks help keep your feet toasty and prevent you from having to deal with ankle gaskets. The skirt tunnel helps keep water out of the boat.
In addition to keeping me warm and dry, this drysuit lets me help out in rescue situations. With the proper layers underneath, I can spend a fair amount of time in the water. This would allow me to stand in the water holding another paddlers head out of the water in the event of serious pin or a foot entrapment.
NRS Toaster Mitts and Stohlquist MAW Gloves
Since creeks are often run when the water is cold, having a good set of mitts or gloves can make the day a lot more enjoyable and can help maintain your finger dexterity in case you need it in a rescue. I have spent many days paddling in both the Stohlquist MAW Gloves and the NRS Toaster Mitts. Both are fantastic. The Toaster Mitts are a little warmer but the MAW Gloves offer a little more dexterity. I have also found the Toaster Mitts to be slightly more durable. I prefer to wear gloves when possible because of the extra dexterity they provide for tying knots, working caribiners, and dealing with a rescue situation, but often wear mitts when boating in the heart of winter and on colder spring days, when I need some extra warmth. Both pairs are excellent choices for keeping hands warm.
NRS Wingman Knife
I’m a big fan of always carrying a knife on a river, especially if you are carrying ropes. For a long time I always carried a fixed blade knife on the outside of my pfd. I found that a knife on the outside of my pfd, while quicker to access, was always getting caught on things, or falling out of its sheath, and was generally in the way. A few years ago, I switched to a small folding knife that I keep inside the front pocket of my pfd. It is always clipped into a quick release strap and is positioned to be the first thing exposed when the pocket is opened. This keeps the knife conveniently ready for use but prevents it from getting lost and always being in the way. The wingman has worked great for me. It is easy to open with one hand and has all of the features I need.
Salamander Pop Top Throw Bag
As a rescue instructor, I have been able to try a lot of different throwbags. This throwbag is one of my favorites. It is a full length bag (70-75’) and has a 5/16” spectra core rope. With a 2500 pound breaking strength, this rope is strong enough for pretty much anything you would want to do with this bag. The 5/16” rope keeps the bag nice and small. The rope is a little thin to work well with prussics in a haul system but it will work. I keep this bag in the front of the kayak either in the water bottle holder or mounted on the front pillar of the kayak. It leaves the boat every time I do. It is light weight and easy to throw and very compact. My favorite feature is the pinky loops found at the top of the bag that make restuffing much faster.
NRS Pro Rescue Throw Bag
In addition to the smaller throwbag that I keep in the front of my boat for rapid access, I generally carry the NRS Pro Rescue Throw Bag in the back of my boat. This rope is perfect for complicated rescues where additional rope is needed or for situations that require a haul system. The 75’ of 3/8” spectra core rope found in this bag is thick enough to work well with prussics and other friction hitches. I find the bag a little to big to be constantly pulling it out of the boat and it is definitely a little harder to throw than some of the smaller lighter bags, but as a second rope for bad situations, it is hard to beat.
Watershed Occoe Dry Duffel
I have tried many different drybags over the years. Some were decent, others alright and some were terrible. The only bag that has really stood out was the Watershed Occoe Dry Duffle. This bag is totally dry all of the time. I generally have one in the back of my kayak that contains my first aid kit and spare rescue gear. If I am carrying non-waterproof photo or video gear, they also generally live in my Watershed bag. This is one of the few drybags I have found that I can fill with air and stand on and not have any air leak out. I have been very impressed with these drybags. They have become the only drybag I use for expensive equipment that has to stay dry.