Safety Gear - Whats in your PFD?

What do you carry for safety equipment while kayaking?
I primarily do Sea Kayaking in and around the island of Martha’s Vineyard 10 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. I carry a lot of safety equipment to help protect myself should an emergency arise.

I wear a Kokatat MSFit PFD (has lots of pockets) and in colder times a Kokatat Radius Drysuit.

In/On my PFD: Whistle, compact airhorn, signal mirror, luggage tag type photo ID with emergency contact info, sea dye (green), waterproof flashlight with sos flash pattern, ResQlink + PLB (epirb), smoke flare (orange), Marine VHF radio with MMSI distress code (MMSI registered to my kayak), NRS Titanium Pilot rescue knife, sunscreen/chapstick, hand held compass, two glow sticks, Kokatat Tributary Hydration Pack, waterproof strobe light on back lash tab, in the hydration extra pocket I carry two hand held flares. I also wear a rescue throw/tow line (50ft) with a 25ft Sea Rescue Streamer. It sounds like a lot and YES I still float in the water with all the extra equipment.

On my deck: I carry an “Floating Emergency Rescue Dry Bag” to quickly grab if I go in the water under rough conditions with possibility of getting separated from my kayak. This dry bag has a flare gun with 8 additional flares, two glow sticks, spare batteries (for VHF radio, strobe and flashlight) compact emergency blanket, neoprene hat, small 1st aid kit with Zofran for nausea, Motrin, sunblock, chap stick and cell phone in second waterproof pouch, current float plan with spare waterproof chart, multi tool.

I then carry the standard on my deck: Second paddle, hand pump, sponge, paddle float, deck compass, luggage tag type emergency info ID card and marine chart

It may be a little overkill but I do kayak in the ocean with strong winds and currents. I rather have as much as I can vs wishing I had something that I don’t. For those not sure of the Sea Rescue Streamer check it out of the web. I saw it on Shark Tank and knew I needed one of those also.
As far as my skill levels I have good skills and have taken several safety classes and feel comfortable using my equipment and skills to get back into my kayak.
What do you carry to be safe, its always nice to chat with others to see what they carry.

A whistle, rescue knife. I don’t paddle in cold water. Much.

More important, what are your skills? Can you roll? Can you cowboy scramble ? Not sure If i saw paddle float in your list… If you have one can you use it in real conditions? For me I carry a vhf. Plus peanut mm’s in jacket, chap-stick. On camping trips out in no were land also have a PLB in jacket but only on trips. BUT I can roll a dozen different ways including one handed in REAL world conditions like 4 feet or bigger waves, not I can roll in a pool bull. . Can float up into balance brace then come up the rest off the way, no effort. Can reenter and roll. If exhausted re-enter and roll with paddle float, (impossible not too with float). I can cowboy scramble BUT in BIG waves found it not a good choice. Better choices such as re-enter roll. I think skills are way more important than carry a bunch of stuff. Never carried flares and the such.

I paddle mostly rivers, creeks, whitewater, and swamps- on outside of the pfd I have just a whistle. I like a pfd without a lot of stuff to snag on tree branches since I frequently go where there are strainers.

Year around, (basic list) inside the pocket of the pfd I carry two granola bars, two extra drain plugs (different sizes for different boats), two extra bulkhead screws (different sizes), and a 5’’ folding knife.

Dryboxes (for cameras), water, and lunch are all kept in the boat. A very basic pin kit (webbing, prussik, beener) and throw rope go on ww trips.

in winter I add paddling gloves to the pocket of my pfd. The gloves are for a rescue situation that could involve rope and cold water. I wear pogies while paddling so the gloves are strictly a back up. I also take drysuit zipper wax in the winter.
The last couple of trips I took some cough drops.

in summer I take my basic list plus sunscreen.

in remote locations or overnight I add ol’ woodsman fly dope, a tiny flashlight, a lighter with firestarter material (in a naglene bottle in the the boat). Also on Inside the boat I make sure someone in the group has a spare paddle, be it me or someone else. Sometimes I carry a map.

At times I stuff a small video camera between my belly and the spray skirt tunnel so it can be accessible while on the water (risky but haven’t lost it yet)

rarely do I carry money, a cell phone, gps, personal identification, or first aid kit but I have done so when a particular situation dictates- need money for the shuttle person, need to call for a pick up, navigational challenged swamp boating, boat alone, or conducting a formal group paddle or clinic

in a ducky or raft I take a pump and some duct tape

The scary stuff! they are “leftovers”- meaning the extra water bottles (full or empty, had as many as 8 one time! ) stashed behind the rear air bags (left from the last trip.). Occasionally I find a lost throw rope, a rotten apple, or a very slimy, very smelly paddling jacket or a shirt from when I decided to peel a layer and just forgot about it! Not uncommon to find slightly moldy orange peels in the pfd pocket.

That streamer is interesting kit. Would certainly come in handy for MOB situations if the MOB was conscious and could unfurl it. Or if a paddler was far offshore and needed assistance/rescue. It made me think of the Chicago-Mackinac race last year, when an experienced sailor went overboard during a strong storm in the night and was lost at sea.

Have never paddled the ocean. Great Lakes paddler here, daytime touring only so far. As to what safety gear I carry on me, VHS/DSC (MMSI not registered to any particular kayak as I have more than one), PLB, cell phone and the items required by the USCG. Expired driver’s license and chapstick in pocket. Most of the time I’ll wear a tow belt. There’s a USCG “if found” label in each of my boats. I avoid an overstuffed PFD, using a Kokatat Tactic Pack instead…

I prefer a clean deck so the only thing carried there is a spare paddle and Garmin Forerunner. Bilge pump rests on top of my foam footrest, paddle float stashed behind my seat with my hydration bag Sponge squished along the side of my seat. I have forward and aft day hatches for stuff like sunscreen, lunch, snacks, first aid kit, cag, etc. Dry bags with dry clothes, repair kit, etc. go in forward or aft hatch.

Before starting out for the day I’ll do a risk assessment of conditions, weather forecast (the latter having been checked the night before). and wind direction. I usually paddle northern Lake Michigan so wind direction and fetch are important (we have very short wave periods). I trust my instincts and have no problems switching to one of the large inland lakes within a short drive. Radius drysuit which I wear from spring into June or early July.

I don’t have enough experience on Lake Superior to be anything but cautious.

Interesting I like hearing what other have. I have taken several rescue classes at local kayak training facilities with ACA certified instructors and some day hope to earn my ACA instructor certification. Great point made on weather conditions, tides, wind, future forecasts, etc… I try and keep my deck to a minimum also besides the basics as I listed above. I have been stopped by the local coast guard (Menemsha Station - on the vineyard) when I was paddling pretty far out with a buddy and was “boarded” even tho they primarily do not board kayaks. I received great feedback on being prepared and it was documented on the paperwork they gave me for the safety check. They said they usually ALWAYS have issues with unprepared kayakers out in open water… they expected us to fall into the category of being under prepared and were surprised we basically carry “Blue Water” emergency equipment.

I honestly think that anyone kayaking in “open water” or the ocean should be required by law to have more than just a PFD and whistle. I try and educate other kayakers I meet to be sure they are prepared for the worst.

I also feel every kayaker should go through a boater safety program and take some self rescue classes.

Whistle, Mirror, Flashlight, phone, PLB is it for me. Surfskis dont allow for much storage. I always dress for extended immersion and figure if S really hits the fan I’m good for several hours in the water, though likely a rather unpleasant several hours in conditions that would result in impossible remounts or a broken leg leash.

those are some quite extensive emergency kits you guys carry. I’d probably take more with me if I had a day hatch or somewhere to store more though “if its not on you do you really have it?”. Although weight and impairing mobility discourage me from taking more too, so I guess im almost happy with my setup.

The last things I want to get is a marine radio to call harbor partol and a flare set. If i was going far offshore I’d probably load up on more stuff, but rarely go more than 2 miles out (still plenty of distance to get in trouble though)

I also have over 100 linear feet of reflective tape all over my boat and paddles to make myself easy to find at night. The coast guard chopper that partols the coast semi regularly around me shined me momentarily with the spot light a couple nights ago and i must have lit up like a christmas tree! the tape must have caught their eye from the side and shined me to investigate. Good to know I have enough on there to be rather conspicuous with just moonlight

A marine radio is a plus to have. Be sure you spend the little extra money to have DSC (digital selective calling) with GPS and MMSI. MMSI is to register your boat/radio with a specific identifying number. WHen you push the distress button it sends your MMSI number with the GPS coordinates to assist in locating you.

Here is a link and some photos of the “See Rescue Streamer”, $80 on Amazon. The case is very small for a 25ft long streamer. About the size of a 2 D Cell mag light. I keep it attached to the side straps on my PFD. All military pilots carry this as required equipment and now its avail to the public.

Your streamer lead me to the HTI (Hydration Technology Innovations) SeaPack pouch passive desalinatior.

Its no longer available on Amazon and I see it was discontinued. Does anyone know of a passive desalinator like the SeaPack still available? I’d like to have one of these, as I usually dont have enough water on me for extended survival (and its a good insurance policy to have after an earthquake when city water is not flowing)

Oops here is the correct link to see rescue streamer

As far as the Desalinatior they are pricey but a single person one can be found here.

It’s the smallest one person desalination unit on the market for one person.

Water is always a problem for longer trips, we kayaked Moosehead Lake in Maine for a week and camped on the islands around the lake. We used much more water than we expected and although Moosehead Lake is a fresh water lake we were unnerved by filtering the water and drinking so every night we would boil the water after it was filtered, bottle, and then that led to another problem we were running low on fuel. On big trips now I bring more water stored in collapsible bags. If it is calm enough someone can open your hatch and get the jug out to refill everyone.

If you ever get the chance to paddle Moosehead Lake it was an amazing 80+ mile trip.

I carry a folding knife in one of my PFD pockets, a signaling mirror in another pocket,( I don’t know why because I’ll never use it) and a length of line in another pocket. I also carry a whistle,(mainly because many of the races I enter require one).
If I am going off shore, I keep my VHF radio in my under deck bag along with lip balm and my sun glasses.
I keep a pump on my rear deck and my skirt is normally in the front compartment along with our lunch.
I used to keep a spare paddle on the back deck, but stopped carrying one a few years ago. if I should break a paddle, I’ll use one half like a canoe paddle
I monitor three different weather stations and don’t go out if storms or high winds are predicted so i don’t need or want all the yard sale junk.
I used to have a PLB, but don’t any more because my wife who always paddles with me has a SPOT


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I carry a bunch of things. I do carry two VHF radios and my cell phone. One VHF on my deck one on my pfd.

The only thing I carry in my pfd is my radio (for music and news) and my truck keys. Sometimes I carry my little bag in the boat with my cell phone and a few other things. That’s about it.

So, carrying a pack of smokes and a couple beers isn’t enough?

[Definitely sarcasm, if you didn’t already get that]

And if you are prepping for the “big one.”

Right now - nothing. I gave up outside activities when it is 40 ish and wet a long time ago and that has been our winter so far.

Fixed blade knife, strobe light, mirror, whistle. The knife has been handy for peanut butter.

YOU Must NEVER use your knife for anything but saving your life or someone else’s!
Only virgin blades can save you.