As well as making sure I have all the necessary safety kit (PFD, helmet, throw line, whistle, pin kit) I like to have a range of kit with me that can be used in emergency situations. If a trip were to turn into an epic it is possible that someone may have been injured and/or we could be stuck out in the middle of nowhere.
Therefore my kit centres around three key elements/purposes:
I like to carry a range of kit that will help keep me and/or my paddling buddies warm and offer a little shelter.
If someone gets injured I’d like to go someway to help patch him or her up.
I’d like to ensure that morale stays high.
I have to weigh all of these needs against what is practically possible and the weight I can actually carry in my boat or on my person. My PFD will only hold so much. Regardless this kit needs to be carried in my boat or on my person and needs to be kept dry. I am currently using an Exped Cloudburst dry sack for the bulk of the emergency kit that I carry. It has held up well over the years and has handled being pulled in and out of various boats hundreds/thousands of times. The Cloudburst is based around a traditional roll top dry bag but it has straps so that it can be used as a rucksack. It has a volume of 15 litres which means it is big enough to hold the essentials but will still fit in the back of my kayak.
What you choose to carry will be dependent on the area your paddle in. I spend most of my time paddling in the UK where help isn’t too far away. I have therefore selected kit that would cope with most eventualities including being stuck out in the wilds over night.
Here’s the kit that is in the Cloudburst. From top left – 2 x thermals, Terra Nova Bothy Bag, a small waterproof first aid kit (Adventure Medical Kit), a hat, a Montane Pertex top (which packs super small), a buff, and a few Cyalume sticks. Out of shot is also a small 180 lumen waterproof torch, a pack of waterproof matches and a pair of wool gloves. I’m now also carrying a Exotac FireStarter after having issues with match failure. I have also added some 550lb Paracord and a few Zip Ties for general repairs and the inner core can be used kindling if required.
A Bothy (Bothie) Bag can be best described as a large ripstop nylon box with the bottom missing. They can be picked up fairly cheaply online and from most good outdoor shops. It allows several people to take shelter together. Back in the day the big orange survival bag may have been the preferred option but this can only really provide shelter for one/two people. In situations where someone is injured or the group can’t move on there is a great danger of other members of the group taking ill with, for example, hypothermia if they are not protected and under cover. Having said all of that a big orange survival bag is better than nothing at all, they take up very little room and weigh little.
Keeping warm burns up valuable energy even when standing still so I also like to carry a few snacks (these are placed in my PFD). If out with a larger group I would substitute the two man bothy for a four man version.
I’m planning to move all of my gear over to a Watershed Occoee Dry bag. I’ve been using the same bag for my photo gear when in the boat so I know it’s super waterproof.
So what do you carry? what should I add or remove from my setup?