Gear in pfd pockets?

I’d like to get an idea what the consensus is for proper gear in pfd pockets.

I’m lucky enough to have three pockets, including a longer radio pocket… and I prefer to keep my VHF in a dry bag made for it. This leaves me with storing the radio in a larger rear pocket if I want to keep it attached to myself. Of course I don’t want to overload to cancel buoyancy. Pockets can become hazardous, I know.

We’re talking day paddles here, off-shore ocean. Don’t much care for deck bags… underdeck tube works better. Have a day hatch also. So I’m trying to narrow the discussion down to essential “on person” gear.

What do you feel is 1) essential, and 2)convenient kit for pfd pockets? Thanks in advance!


In or on my person for a big day near
boston are 1 in pfd: whistle, submersible vhf in a bag princeton tec attitude small flashlight rapidstyle survival hood, compass with mirror cliff bar. Sometimes one two three pencil flares. these are all in the (full) pfd pockets (old style lola) 2.ON the pfd are a very sharp rescue knife with a dull tip (Lagriffe wwr) and a strobe. Around waist is the tow belt. At the back of the PFD is a lotus eft pack wiht a platypus bagwith hose and sometimes a tarp and flares. I try to always have an extra pint in the hydration bag. I could add fire starting equipment and more signalling stuff, but near boston as long as the radio is working, you have correct immersion gear on you know where you are and you are not going to die within the hour, if the storm does not keep the choppers down and the cutters in, the above equipment should prove enough. I have a wise friend who carrys small swim fins in his pfd rear pocket.

Intergal PFD pockets are literally filled with heavy stuff for the USCG testing. Yours will not be filled up worse unless you try, Put what you want in them, make sure you can do your rescues and paddle. the add on rear poccket is more of an issue, swim with your gear and you will know.

I only keep two things in mine…
My whistle, and my eye glass croakies, (if it gets rough I want to get them on quick).

I don’t even keep the strobe light in it. It is too uncomfortable.

The strobe stays in my front compartment, with a few other things, (like duct tape) that I don’t leave home without.

When we were in Ak. or if we are doing long crossings, we pin our stobes to our upper shoulder of the PFD.

I don’t carry a knife except when camping.

I have seen some people with so much junk hanging off them I wonder how the PFD would hold them up.



Pocket Contents
I have two pockets on my PFD and keep the following items in them:

***5-way survival whistle on a 18" lanyard(whistle, signal mirror, compass, waterproof match holder, match flint/striker)

***36" length of webbing already made-up to use for a sling for two-boat paddle rescue

***Small waterproof flashlight

***GPS (when it is not attached to the deck)

***Two small boxes of raisins or other quick energy snacks

***And, attached to the outside but high up on a shoulder is a quick-release knife.

Stay safe on the water,

NC Cal

all sorts of things…
I have many small things tucked away in my pfd. I have a Kokatat pfd with two pockets in front and one large pocket on back.

Up front, I have

1- whistle

2- safety reflective mirror

3- one caribiner (attached the shoulder strap)

4- 8 ft section of nylon cord

5- snacks (nuts, energy bars, etc)

6- noise plugs (just so when I go to the pool I don’t have to search for them)

7- stainless toothpick (from camping supply store)

8- reflective straps on shoulder straps

9- dive knife

In rear pocket

1- Icom MC-188 VHF radio in drybag (drybag has lanyard that I attach to my shoulder strap, this provides easy access to the radio from back pocket)

2- Hydration system (32 oz size bladder). This is optional. If I play in big surf, wind, waves, etc. I do not put the water in the back.

3- safety strobe attached to left shoulder

If pictures tell a thousand words, then you might be interested in this photos (of me)…


Whistle and some form of laminated ID
Figuring I have to drive to and from and wasn’t going to leave the license or registration in the ranger I slip em into a plastic holder and zip that into the one pocket. Whistle (on cord) is in another…along with the elcheapo one time camera…Oh yeah, my keys to my ranger are in the same zippered pfd pocket with the ID.

For day paddles in populated areas
Whistle, C-Light (double duty - serves as marker light and flashlight), and knife on vest (not in pocket - still evaluation knife options - may move to pocket). These thinks are always there - don’t have to think about them much.

In pockets: Small first aid kit (little ziplock pouch type, signal mirror (more for it’s first aid uses than for signaling), flat duct tape (to fix boat OR me), aquapac wallet with keys, ID, and usually some cash & bank card (alone - several miles from home, you never know…), sometimes a food bar or two. All this stuff is small and flat and takes up little room - all but the wallet and food stay in the pockets all the time.

Optional: Tow set up on PFD.

In/on boat: Hydration pack & spare paddle, pump, sponge (those always, the rest optional), VHF (if less than benign I may move this to PFD), Cell phone, GPS, paddle leash (used more to tie off boat, etc. Seems to come in handy for odd things so it stays on the foredeck), and occasionally my LED running lights if going late afternoon (and obviously at night) and another small aquapac with spare AAs.