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Rescue Equipment - What's in My Kit?

Jim and I unpinning a raft on the Dryway
Jim and I unpinning a raft on the Dryway

When out on the river there are many pieces of gear that I carry in case something goes wrong.  The amount and type of gear depends on several factors.  I will consider the difficulty of the river, the strength of the group, the remoteness of the river, the type of river and what problems we are likely to encounter.  These factors, in addition to my role in the group (instructor/guide or just another paddler), help me decide what equipment to carry.  For a play river with a strong group of paddlers, I might only carry a throwbag, knife, a few carabiners, and a small first aid kit.  On more technical rivers, more remote rivers or when guiding/instructing, I often carry more equipment.  When gearing up for the creeks, I start by wearing a rescue vest.  My rescue vest is outfitted with a tether that uses an autolocking carabiner.  In the front pocket of my rescue vest, I carry a knife, 2 prussic loops that are girth hitched together, 2 locking carabiners, a small pulley, a cpr shield and a pair of gloves.  Whenever I am out of my boat, scouting a rapid, setting safety or watching boaters run a rapid, I also have a throwbag on me.  By having all of this equipment on my body, it is always with me and quickly accessible. Having the gear on my body, means I don’t have to worry about getting separated from my boat, or spending a lot of time pulling equipment out of the boat.  This is especially important if someone gets into a situation where I need to get out of my boat quickly to provide assistance.

In addition to the equipment I carry on my body, I also carry some equipment in my boat.  I keep a throwbag ready for quick access.  For this bag I prefer a full length bag (70-75’) but because I want a smaller bag that is easier to pack and throw I use a ¼” or 5/16” spectra rope.  While this rope isn’t as strong and doesn’t work as well with prussic as a 3/8” bag, it packs a lot smaller and is easier to throw.  I keep this bag mounted on the front pillar of the kayak or in the water bottle holder in front of the seat.  This bag leaves the boat every time I do.  In addition to my quick access throwbag, I usually have a large (70-75’ of 3/8” spectra rope) in the back of my kayak.  This rope is ideal for setting up haul systems and works well with prussics. Both of my throwbags are full length bags measuring 70-75' in length.  This is really important to me.  I have used shorter bags in the past and they always seem to land 5+ feet short and with the thinner 1/4" or 5/16" rope they are still fairly compact and easy to throw.  I also carry a watershed drybag in the back of my kayak.  In this drybag, I carry a well stocked first aid kit and several pieces of webbing, another 3-5 carabiners, a few pulleys and some additional prussic loops.

After every rescue course, rescue scenario or incident on a river, I take a few minutes to reevaluate everything I carry.  I try to consider if there is other gear that could do the job more effectively, if there are things in my kit that are unnecessary or if there is gear that I am missing.  It is important that you know what is in your kit and how it is organized so you can get to it quickly or tell someone else to get it if it is ever needed.  Hope to see you out on a river soon.


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