Emergency gear

Couple recent threads have mentioned marine accidents where the outcome may have been different with the presence of a throw bag at the scene, and quite a lot of discussion ensued about how everyone carries one in their boats and/or cars. Well, in past years, I haven’t. Heck, the only safety gear I’ve taken in my boat are float bags and my PFD. This year, I’m outfitting the boat a little better since I’ll actually be on larger lakes where a swim to shore would be a bigger challenge. So far, I’ve purchased a pealess emergency whistle, pelican boxes for cellphone and GPS, and a drybag for gear storage. Always carry about 50 ft of rope coiled, tied to the security bar and tucked right behind the seat (no spray skirt yet)

Since I look to be venturing onto larger water, I’m thinking I need to upgrade the emergency gear to include throw bag, tow rope, tape, and basic first aid gear. Any other items I need to consider?

Also, been tinkering with the idea of home-building a combination throw bag/tow rope/storage bag to conserve space, etc. Not 100% sure how I’d do it just yet, but rolling some ideas around. Any thoughts?

Hope bnystrom is watching
Brian modified a NorthWater rescue/tow bag to suit sea kayaking more closely. It’s worn at the waist, so you’ve always got it.

I’m paranoid
But when I go I take a first aid kit in a tupperware case (one normal and one non-latex for my kid), a throw bag, floating seat cushion, PFD, whistle, mirror, knife, xtra painters, lots of water, extra paddle.

Since I do lake and river and cannot be lost in Arizona I leave the cell-phone and gps at home. Not that they’d work in our mt canyons.

But everyone is different and I am always changing what I take.

For example, a speedboat just ran over and killed a kayaker in a local lake so I added a bicycle flag to my kayaks.

I think it all boils down to three things:

  1. What do people recommend
  2. What conditions are you going to experience (open sea, sharks, snakes, winding rivers, rain storms, etc)
  3. Do YOU feel safe with what you are taking? If so, have fun, if not, change it until you do feel safe.

    But remember that great kayaker, Murphy who teaches us that no matter what you plan for, something completly nexpected will probably happen.

    Like the time I was in the middle of a lake and found a rubber raft filled with kids adrift. they had lost their only paddle so I gave them my 2 back-up paddles to get them to shore.

Safety Gear
Recommended Equipment

· PFD (CG approved) and spray skirt

· Flotation in both ends of boat

· Warm change of clothes (polypro type preferred)

· Basic outdoor items (whistle, matches or lighter, flashlight, sunglasses, sunscreen, knife)

· Bailing device (Pump Prefered)

· Fresh water

· Rain gear

· Hat

Highly Recommended for longer trips

· Paddle leash

· Paddle float

· Compass

· Charts of area

· First aid kit

· Tow line (50’)

· Spare Paddle

I sometimes forget about some of this stuff. Things I have had to use on trips in the past on this list are change of clothes, flashlight, compass, tow rope, suntan lotion, hat, paddle, fresh water. My first aid kit has many of these items now packed with it. I take it hiking, skiing and kayaking.

Here’s a link to the photos

Although I have seen one particularly spectacular throw made from a kayak, in general, throw bags have limited use. This is especially true in rough conditions where you can’t take all day to wind up and throw. Worst case, I can remove my belt rig, clip one end of the rope to the deck and fling the rest.

Flags on kayaks are a bad idea
This was recently proposed in MA and there are several reasons why it shouldn’t be done. Here’s a letter I wrote to the people who proposed the legislation:


Dear Sir,

It is my understanding that you have sponsored a proposal - at the behest of the Ipswich Police Department - to require kayaks traveling in coastal waters to have an elevated flag on them to increase their visibility to other boaters. While this may seem logical, it does not not take into consideration the unique characteristics of kayaks and it would actually create greater dangers that it seeks to alleviate. It is important to understand that kayaks are not like other water craft; you cannot simply stick an appendage on one without affecting the performance and handling of the craft. Adding an elevated flag would have serious negative effects, such as:

  • Reduced stability. Adding anything that creates wind resistance and leverage against the kayak will make it more likely to capsize in crosswinds.

  • The extra wind resistance of a stern mounted flag will cause the kayak to turn into the wind, perhaps uncontrollably in high wind conditions. “Weathercocking” as it’s called, severely compromises the kayaker’s ability to navigate and control the kayak.

  • Such a flag would make it difficult or even impossible to perform an “eskimo roll”, which is a standard form of capsize recovery for kayakers. Without the ability to eskimo roll, the paddler would be forced to exit the boat in the event of a capsize. This creates a dangerous situation by exposing the kayaker to the risk of hypothermia (a leading killer of boaters in our cold waters) and forcing the kayaker to attempt a strenuous and potentially ineffective self-rescue.

  • Anything sticking up on the deck of a kayak would interfere with standard self-rescue and assisted rescue techniques.

  • Kayaks frequently launch and land through surf, where capsizes are common. If the flag staff were to break off, it would create a potential impalement hazard in surf.

    The state will be liable in the event that this mandated ‘safety device’ causes or contributes to the injury or death of a kayaker.

    Additionally, this will create an enormous enforcement burden, diverting resources from much more serious problems, such as apprehending intoxicated boaters and those who flagrantly violate marine regulations. How would enforcement agencies deal with kayakers who paddle into Massachusetts waters from New Hampshire or Rhode Island?

    This proposal is actually circumventing the real issue, which in not the relative visibility of kayakers, but the inattention of other boaters. As a kayaker, I see this all the time. Boaters need to be aware that there are a variety of small craft on coastal waters and they need to be vigilant. Kayaks bear a responsibility, too. They must travel in a predictable manner and avoid confrontations with other boaters.

    I understand and appreciate your concern for making kayaking and boating safer. However, sticking flags on kayaks is not the best way to do so. It would be far more effective to promote safety education than to try to legislate safety into the activity. I’m a member of a kayaking club that is very active in promoting safe kayaking. If you are interested in learning more or assisting us in this endeavor, please reply to this email.


    Brian Nystrom


    I realize that you added flags to your boats voluntarily, but the reasons against it still apply.

I carry a stirrup rope also

VHF, weather radio etc
Big water means the possibility of bigger sudden storms, more chance of having to hang out soemwhere waiting for it to be safe to get into the water and continue home. My husband and I spend time each summer in Maine, with colder waters, and carry the following other stuff:

VHF radio (one between the two of us) - cell phone towers aren’t always where you need them - ours functions as a weather radio as well. The other boat carries the older weather radio.

Space blanket/sac - one per boat

Roll-Aid Backup device - one each boat - haven’t had to use it in an emergency but it is a great tool for anyone who has a partial roll. I can wet re-enter and roll with its support, even though I am not able to pull off a reliable roll with the paddle yet.

Some kind of dry wear - Goretex if fancy, treated nylon pants and shell - something that you can pull on rather than wet clothes if needed.

CD disk - works as a signal mirror

Always a spare set of paddles. And we always use the Voyager paddle leash on open water.