Ditch bags??

Going on a trip this coming weekend at Georgian Bay.In sea Kayak. One of the guys thinks a ditch bag is something everyone should have. I don’t agree UNLESS it small enough to attach to me.

If its not attached to me that means to get it I have to be able to reach my kayak. If I can get to my kayak iam getting back in re-enter and roll. I can think of ONLY one reason I would abandon my kayak. If it took on so much damage it was sinking. Now white water I could see a pinned kayak as a reason BUT iam talking about big open water kayaking. NO rock gardening involved. Not in my fiberglass kayak.

Any thoughts on another reason a ditch bag would be useful. Plus how big a ditch big could you really attach to one self? I will have a VHF radio and PLB attached to me. Plus emergency blanket and small amount of food and knife, whistle, flares.

On a side note just took a 2 day Greenland clinic with Cheri Perry & Turner Wilson. Now have super reliable roll and even re-enter and roll is a piece of cake now. Boy was I doing it wrong. Highly recommend there class.

Did he mean bear bag?
Sailors out at sea need ditch bags to go onto the life raft when their boat sinks.

Unless you’re really stupid a sea kayak should not sink under normal conditions.

The only " special" bag you need in Georgian Bay is a food/ bear bag to hoist food up in the air so bears can’t get at it.

If it makes you feel better you can bring flares, signal mirror, VHF, etc. and keep it on your kayak. However there are many boaters, marinas, cottages and decent cellphone coverage in most places up and down the coast.

Search the archives
for “ditch bag” or “bail out bag” for suggestions. I have carried one ocassionally when solo in certain areas, but not usually. Although I thought the possibility small, my “just in case” was in the event I was surprised by a boomer and my boat ripped away from me in difficult conditions.

ditch bag is wrong term
I am with you that a ditch bag won’t work for a sea kayaker. I am careful about what I keep on my body so that should I have to abandon ship, I have the basics to keep me alive.

But I do think having an emergency bag could be useful. It isn’t something that you will be able to grab should you abandon ship on the water (or get separated from your boat), but it would have the stuff you might need should you land and be stuck on shore (or in some cases, be able to access on water). Things like extra clothing, food, fire starter, first aid, boat repair stuff, etc.

Couple of thoughts
First, is this person also asking that you have a float bag in the fore and aft bulkheaded compartments? It would make a ditch bag in the boat seem more useful, guarantee that you could get to the stuff even if in the water. Or get a combo float bag/dry bag, use that as ditch bag.

You might also want to confirm exactly what this trip leader thinks should be in a ditch bag. If it is supposed to include a cag and a tarp, for exampl, they are obviously thinking of something that won’t fit into compartments of your PFD.

I can think of scenarios where you could lose your boat and still be gotten safely to land. I don’t know enough about this particular trip to know if that is what the leader has in mind, but if that is the scenario I can see him wanting everyone to have their own supply of bare survival necessities. In any case, if it is someone else’s trip it is their rules.

I’d suggest you go thru the exercise, take it seriously, then evaluate its applicability for your own paddling afterwards.

As the poster above states, I have seen this topic before.

You can use a small fanny pack along with whatever space you have in your PFD.

Good things to have between the two to meet this requirement: flares, radio, lighter, firestarter, maybe a wire saw, an emergency blanket/bivy, some power bars, water container of some sort, flashlight, knife, first aid kit. Maybe a tarp and cord if you have space–probably a cheap plastic emergency type one–orange would be good b/c you can use it for signaling too. A garbage bag is good too.

Not sure all that is truly needed on your body, but some people feel that way and I think those are more than enough to satisfy the requirement.


– Last Updated: Jul-18-13 7:02 AM EST –

I can only carry so much on me. Like my first aid kit is just to big to fit into my pfd with my PLB, VHF, food, emergncy blanket, kife, flares iam pretty much full. Also have Seals tow rig attached to me.I would rather not have stuff hanging off me like a first aid kit and such.

But like I said unless my kayak is sinking, its a NDK greenlander Pro (no float bags) I would NEVER abandon on purpose my kayak. Now with my MUCH improved roll plus many ways to get back in why would I ever abandon unless like I said it was sinking for some reason.Just seems silly to me.

Sure I could always get seperated from the kayak but that brings me rite back to it having to be attached to me. Oh I would never attach VHF or PLB to the kayak, no good unless its attached to me as it will be.

What I was asking is if I missed a reason for carrying a bail out/ditch bag. I dont think I have.

Oh I have a bear bag for food. A ursack one.

I carry one…
…stuffed down in the toe of the cockpit - full change of clothes, 1st aid stuff, fire starter things, plastic sheet.tyvek/rope for wind shelter. Loads with the PFD and other safety gear.

"…stuffed down in the toe of the cockpit - full change of clothes, 1st aid stuff, fire starter things, plastic sheet.tyvek/rope for wind shelter. Loads with the PFD and other safety gear."

Ok so under what circumstances could you use it? I have room there but cant imagine a scenario that I would use it. If I have a hold of my kayak iam getting back in. I sure wouldn’t reach way down into the cockpith pull out this bag and swim for it.Makes no sense to me. If you havent mastered getting back into a capsized kayak then ok. Not a problem for me.Since my class re-entering and roll has become easy.Plus a cowboy scramble or paddle float heel&hook is fast.

on water repairs
I would prepare for on-water “emergencies” that you would need to solve assuming you couldn’t land right away.

Three things I’ve found useful.

Waterproof nylon repair tape for drysuit/top repair.

Waterproof aluminum flashing tape for boat repair. This stuff is super sticky and sticks to wet boats unlike duct tape.

Dramamine- fog can cause people to get sea sick.

If it doesn’t fit in your pfd pockets you don’t need it.

For trips into remote areas…
…I have a ditch bag that I wear using a Kokatat Rear Pocket that snaps on the back of my PFD. It holds my EPIRB, an ultralight first aid kit, a simple emergency bivi, a Probar, and a small waterproof box that holds some fire starter, duct tape, signal mirror, compass and laser signal device. I figure that if I ever need it I would be without a useable boat and in need of extraction. Enough for 24 hours in most physical circumstances.

I personally am not comfortable in depending on a separate bag someplace in or on the boat and really don’t like the idea of having something tethered to me by line. This bag comes out for trips to the BC Coast and that’s all.

rear pocket
That rear pocket looks like a good idea. http://kokatat.com/products/hats-and-accessories/tributary-rear-pocket.html

I wonder if it would attach to other pfd’s? I have a NRS cVest


Well in any case its too late for this trip as I leave this Saturday.

The point of a ditch bag…

– Last Updated: Jul-19-13 10:26 AM EST –

is for problems that you have not or can't anticipate. The hole in the boat that you never thought would happen, the arm or shoulder injury that means your normal remedies for a capsize won't work, the separation from your group that probably could have been avoided but the shit hit the fan and it happened anyway.

I appreciate that you are comfortable and confident in your roll, and that is a good thing. But that is largely about your own pride in your paddling. The ditch bag is about when things go so off the rails that Ma nature or human error trump your skills and pride.

It is also a good way to assure that, should boats get lost due to unforeseen circumstances, you are not totally dependent on the rest of the group for basic resources.

Said ditch bag can be in the boat, even one that may have to be abandoned due to damage, and will remain retrievable as long as the boat is within reach and you have float bags fore and aft. On you is always better, but the reality is that in a group it is likely that even a totally trashed boat can be retrieved long enough to get dry bags out of it as long as the float bags are inflated and intact.

I have known of circumstances where exactly that happened, and I know that no one on that trip ever expected it. Granted that particular trip took off to seek more challenging paddling than you are likely to encounter, but the basic rule was the same. Unanticipated things occurred and it resulted in a boat that was literally brought home secured by float bags and duct tape - lots of duct tape because the bow pretty much broke off. My husband and I saw the actual boat several months after that event. We only got the full story from participants in that trip a couple of years later, when we realized we were paddling with one of that group.

can be a lot of things
but to me (although I don’t find a ditch bag generally necessary for most paddling in reasonable conditions) it is for when you get separated from your boat and in that instance is probably not something that should be in your boat. I also see it more as a solo paddling thing in general for use on an expedition.

For instance if you had to wet exit on a windy day and the wind blew your boat away from you and you could not get back to it. In this instance a ditch bag in the boat would do you no good.

Or if you landed and the tide swept your boat and all your gear away while you were on shore taking a break.

I would think that in most all group conditions with experienced paddlers and in reasonable conditions that a ditch bag is just an extra hindrance. In most group conditions you will have someone there who can rescue you or retrieve your boat if it were swept away, or that would have enough extra gear to help you to survive if your boat were lost.

I would only carry a ditch bag if I were on a solo expedition where conditions could kick up and in those cases it woudl definitely be on my body.

Furthermore, I am not a fan of anything inside my cockpit by my feet.


I think Bowler1 is on a similar thought path to me on this. To me “ditch bag” is a very specific beast - a bag that you would grab with the basic emergency stuff you need when you are abandoning your boat. And as such, not something I think is very useful in a kayak. Other vessels generally go down slowly, so time is available to grab the bag, put on PFD, etc. Not the case for a kayak.

Emergency gear definitely should be carried with a person, but probably not with the plan it is in a bag that you will grab as you ditch. As such, I don’t call my emergency gear a ditch bag. Much of that gear is on my body (this is the stuff I absolutely want with me should I get separated from my boat). Other stuff, like boat repair gear, emergency blanket, etc., is usually inside the boat.

As I thought its only real purpose if its attached to the boat is if the boat becomes so damaged it wont paddle anymore.I never disagreed on that point.Anything is possible.

Then if its attached too one self its good if you lose your boat for what ever reason.Which I could see happening. Boat can really fly in the wind. I did my own test at the beach were I let it go to see if I could catch it by swimming. Nope. I then tried swimming with paddle and JUST caught it.And that was only about 25mph winds that day.

I will look into that kokatat rear bag after my trip. That seems the most useful to me.

if you carry it on you
you could call it a glad bag, it would still serve the intended function.

I’m thinking OVERNIGHT BAG…
I have one that contains a water-filter-in-bottle, a tube tent, change of clothes, esbit stove, blanket, etc.

NOT a Ditch bag but something to keep me alive in case I am trapped on a far shore by weather or get lost longer than expected.

Kayak does not go down fast…
if properly equipped with float bags (inflated before launch) in the front and rear bulkheaded compartments. I am of course talking about a sea kayak, but for the trip being discussed that would be the right boat. Even a boat that literally split in half at the cockpit would still have two floating bits with much of the gear (if also in dry bags) being retrievable.

I use then for day trips on more open water even, because once you inflate them gear is not rolling around in the boat. It is safer as well as quieter. We spent a half a day with a paddler recently who didn’t have them as their water bottle rolled back and forth at every swell.

If you want to know what goes into a …
“ditch bag”, take a look at the Water Tribes site under the rules.

We had to carry enough stuff that would sink us if we capsized.

Jack L