Paddling tips, tricks, news and gear reviews from an Unsponsored point of view

Rescue Essentials

Rescue Essentials – The collection of gear and equipment that you carry to aid in a whitewater rescue is pretty crucial. It is a compromise between having enough gear, space available and the weight it involves.


My gear shifts, changes and evolves over time but the basic core of gear always remains.

Within my paddling group there will be several variations of this gear, it is important that the group is not reliant on one persons gear as it may be that person or that person’s boat that is in need of assistance. Do you know what emergency gear your paddling buddies carry? Should you?

It is also important that you know how to use the gear effectively. This is particularly the case with those items that carry an element of risk when used, e.g. ropes. If you are not sure book yourself on a good course.

Breakdown Paddle (Splits):

Two piece or four piece. What ever you choose is should fit in your boat and be capable of handling the types of water that you venture onto. For my money I’d go with a four piece Vertical Element or Werner setup (in that order!). My own personal set up is below.

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For me this is one of the most essential pieces of gear. Something so cheap can saves lives. One of the whistles I have has helped get me out of a couple of tight spots. I always carry mine on the shoulder strap. I am prepared to offset the snagging risk against easy access. When you are in bother even the loudest yell will be drowned out by the sound of whitewater or surf. I’ve been there and I didn’t like it very much! I carry a Fox 40 whistle on my PFDs and my rucksacks when out walking, climbing or mountain biking. They are super loud, are one piece and have no moving parts.

Dry bags:

Some gear that you carry is happy being wet, but some gear needs to be kept dry e.g. spare clothing, food etc. We have used loads of different types of dry bags over the years. The blue one in the images is an old Ortlieb bag that has been doing a great job for the last 30 years!


The Watershed range of dry bags are pretty good but relatively expensive. We have the Ocoee here for camera carrying duties but it would also be ideal for carrying emergency gear.

We have also had great success using the Exped Cloudburst series. They have the added advantage of having a set of rucksack straps.


If something does go wrong and you have all or part of your group hanging around waiting then some form of shelter is a great idea. Bivi bags and bothie bags are well worth the investment. SOL (Adventure Medical) also produce some really fancy gear that also works well. The emergency bivi shown has been used in anger and performs way better than the standard orange plastic bag. Having said that any shelter is better than none.

Bothie bags or shelters allow groups of people to stay together, share body warmth and boost morale.

First aid kit:

Buy one in or build your own? I tend to buy one that is closest to my needs and then customise. My current first aid kit is an Adventure medical one. It is pretty compact and fully waterproof.


Having great gear is superb but knowledge is key. Get some professional training and have a read of the Dirty First Aid series.

Throw bag and Knife:

These two items are listed together for good reasons. If you have a throw bag, line or climbing tape as part of you rescue system you must also have a knife that is capable of cutting it as part of your gear.

By using a throw bag or similar you are intentially introducing a snagging hazard. If it goes wrong you should have the means to try and put it right.

I currently use two different sized throw bags. The first is a HF Weasel Throwbag it has 18m of floating rope. It has a small compact size and throws real well. The second is a HF Alpin 20m. Bigger, thicker rope and more suited to heavier duty hauling compared to the Weasel.

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However we also have one of the new Palm Lightning throwbag. Similar to the Weasel in relative size and length of rope but cleary raises the game.

The knife currently carried is a Spyderco Pacific Salt. Super tough, rust resistant and terrifyingly sharp. The serrated blade makes cutting through a boat or rope super easy.

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Climbing/Rescue tape

Off the reel or bought in (Palm Safety Tape or Palm Snake Rescue Tape) this really is a brilliant addition to the range of gear carried.



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It’s multi functional and relatively cheap and often quicker to deploy than a throw bag.


PFD with harness:


I also like to have a Cow Tail attached to the PFD. The Palm or the HF ones are a pretty good if you can find one.


Prusik Loop:

A super simple and inexpensive pice of gear that can have lutiple uses. But when used as a prusik loop the 5mm cord

2 x 5mm prusik loops (in PFD) They take up little room and have almost no weight.


By default I now use the DMM Boa. They are a large yet lightweight carabiner

I often have a couple of standard snap gate carabiners clipped into my boat that can be called into action if required.

Repair gear:

A few zip ties, a multi-tool, gorilla tape and some spare bolts can go a long way to keeping you going after a malfunction.

Depending on how far away you are from civilisation and the length of your trip you may also wish to consider a means of welding your kayak up whilst river side.


Fire staring gear
Water purification
Spare clothing – hat, Buff, gloves, a few thin thermals
Snack bars
Small waterproof torch

What do you carry? Post a comment to let us know.


  1. robjjackson

    Cheap spare mobile phone (With credit!). Saved me from long walks and dogy situations many times.

  2. iboutdoor

    Pretty similar to you:

    Has changed a little since then. Personal kit for rafting:

    18m Throwline
    4, 3, 2, 1 (4 hms screwgates, 3 pulleys, 2 6mm prusiks, 1 4m tape)
    Fox 40
    Bear claw

    For kayaking with groups, I add:

    Streamlye custom 4 piece split with lendal padlocks – if buying again, i’d been keen to get a 2 piece
    Group shelter
    Rab primaloft jacket
    Head torch
    First aid
    Repair kit – 550 cord, duct tape, wine cork for drain bung

    Most fits in an ocoee or futa float.

  3. Tobias Hamer

    Additional is two DMM revolver carabiners, I have chosen to carry these to replace my pullies for pins ect. Quicker and easier to set up than pullies, they are also smaller and lighter than carrying pullies and the carabiners for them.

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