Where do you store your safety gear?

Total newbie, and I’m wondering where on your kayak you store the following;

  • paddle float
  • bilge pump
  • sponge

    I’ve got all of the above, and not sure where on my kayak they should go. Should they be readily accessible, or is in a closed storage hatch ok (forward or aft?).

    Also, my kayak is a bit older, and does not have a holder for a water bottle. What’s the most convenient way to attach one? Don’t want it rolling around the cockpit.

    Thank you!

Not in hatches

– Last Updated: Apr-04-15 11:35 AM EST –

Bad idea for when you are having an out of boat experience.

Stow position depends if I'm solo or guiding.

Solo - Sea to Summit inflatable paddle float clipped in behind seat, pump velcro'd to floor or under deck (depends on which kayak from the Fleet I'm in), sponge under deck rigging behind me

Group - 2 floats stored forward on deck, pump/sponge under deck rigging behind me

Water bottle = Kokatat Tactic Pack with hydration bladder.

See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY

Safety gear storage
Thanks, Marshall. So… where do you store them?

As mentioned…
Not in hatches.

I keep my bilge pump behind me on the deck near the day hatch. Some friends like it in front on the deck but with my water bottle it gets crowded. Paddle float just rolled up somewhere in front but if I’m not alone I’ll be honest, I don’t bring one. Sponge I keep in my cockpit behind my seat back.

My solution
After many years and thousands of miles of paddling, I’ve only had the need for a pump one time, so I store my pump at home. I’ve never had a need for a paddle float, so I don’t think I’ve got one. I don’t use a sponge, but I do always have my trusty Sham-Wow, or the equivalent under a bungee in front of the cockpit. I keep my water bottle next to the seat, if I remember to get it out of my kit.

Most behind seat

– Last Updated: Apr-04-15 11:31 AM EST –

For my sponge I smoosh it down and stuff it from behind the seat into the side part of the seat hanger. My seat is hung from the coaming so there is a space in there that a sponge will jam into that way it cant float out and same thing for my paddle float on other side of seat hanger. If I carry a manual hand pump as my kayaks have electric built in bilge pumps but if I carry a backup manual its under the deck rigging with a little clip attached to keep it from coming loose in surf. But I only take it if on a camping trip or if too many others don't have there own pump. Here is my pump setup, that's my now sold Greenlander Pro kayak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V42KTxThlpM

Bow, stern and Tactic Pack
My paddle float is stashed flat under the rigging behind the cockpit; sponge and bilge pump in front. For a couple hours on home waters, a neoprene bottle sleeve with a clip to attach to the rigging. For longer trips, I plan to carry a Camelback in my stern hatch and run the tubing forward. Have yet to do that since it’s still ice here.

I was stymied where to stash sunblock, camera/phone, snacks, etc. until I saw that Tactic Pack Marshall mentioned. http://hudsonriverpaddler.org/2015/02/26/kokatat-tactic-pack-overview-2/

Bought one and tested it in my kayak during pool practice. Great gear that works exactly as shown.

fundamental rules
1. The gear should be accessible when you need it.

2. You should know how to use it in realistic conditions.

3. It’s nice to have companions who can participate in your rescue. But in a worst case scenario, they will be in trouble too - so carry your own safety gear.


You’ll get many answers here, but viable answers should fit the above rules. I’ll give my own protocol here.

I carry my paddle float well secured but easily retrievable on my back deck. Note that I’ll be in the water when I need it - holding onto my kayak and paddle. Many folks want nothing on the back deck, but if my roll fails (it’s not a layback) then I’ll do a paddle float reentry. My compromised lower back and age make a cowboy reentry impossible.

I carry my manual bilge pump on my front deck well secured. It is easily retrievable when I am sitting in the cockpit.

I stow my sponge behind the seat.

My VHF radio is in a pfd pocket and secured.

And there’s more, but an important recommendation is to take lessons on self rescue and assisted rescues … and practice every season.

Some in the boat, some out
I keep the following on the top of the boat under the bungies (either in front or behind the cockpit). I keep everything low to the boat so that nothing sticks up higher than the hand pump.

Hand pump under front bungees. I’ve tried other locations and found this works best. I keep it low to the right side of the boat because I do most of my re-entries from that side and it is easy to access, use, and replace. I keep it to the side as that leaves the front bungees free for lower profile gear.

Paddle float under front bungees in front of cockpit. I also keep a spare behind my seat.

Rope/throw rope under rear bungees, strapped down and coiled nicely. I ensure that nothing is loose back there.

Small safety items (whistle, signalling equipment, any safety electronics, water, and light are on my PFD or person. All tightly contained. Larger such devices are in a dry back behind my seat taking up all remaining space and clipped in the boat so that they won’t float away in a capsize.

Spare flares in pouch under front bungees.

Dive flashlight behind seat. Never used it for safety, but if you need a bright light, you won’t find a better, more compact flashlight anywhere.

Spare rope behind seat along with spare float. Yes, I’ve been called Sam Gangee by more than one person.

Spare paddle beneath the rear straps/bungees.

Float bags fore and aft (if one must abandon the boat, don’t forget to extract these - they can be a lifesaver - literally). I carry these even if there is no room to inflate them. Deflated, they take up almost no space and can be used to fill any places that open up as gear (food, mainly) is depleted over time.

I’ve used almost none of this stuff (other than the rope), but when it comes to loading/unloading, it is pretty easy to put it where it belongs and find it when I need it. It is always best to have a set location for safety equipment because if you need it, you need it quickly and don’t want to be fumbling around through a mess of gear to find it.

Also, in cold water, the additional burden of trying to recall where something is could well be sufficient for hypothermia to progress to the point where physical/mental skills are dangerously compromised. Put it where it belongs, keep it there, and you reach the point where you access these items without having to thing about where they are.

Exceptions cause problems. Avoid them, if possible.


True but ultimately unhelpful answer
Water bottle: I use collapsible Nalgene water bottles (Platypus), which won’t roll around on the bottom of a hull.

Pump: I have bungee loops epoxied to the inside of the cockpit next to my hip that custom fit the pump.

Paddle float: Behind the seat.

Sponge: When I bring one, I can jam it under the front of my seat.

The entire kayak: Permanently stored under my back deck while I now always use my much more enjoyable open canoes. I have no illusion of self-rescuing in the canoes, so I don’t bring a pump or float. Collapsible water bottle goes on the bottom tied to a thwart as does the sponge.

Do you have bungie or perimeter lines?

– Last Updated: Apr-04-15 10:28 PM EST –

Most of the of the deck answers will be from people who have touring boats with bungies and perimeter lines (you can put things to hold stuff on the boat by anchoring to perimeter lines).

If you have a rec boat that lacks these features, your solutions will be different. Except for the behind the seat option, that is where my paddle float usually has lived.

I have a feeling from what you wrote that you are in more of a rec than a touring boat.

on deck
When I’m paddling with others, the float and hand pump go on my aft deck right behind me. Tow belt is on. That stuff i for anyone else as much as for me.

Alone, I don’t rely on a hand pump (I have a bilge pump built-in) so it gets nestled in the cockpit under the side of the seat. The float bag folded up takes so little deck space I keep it on the aft deck.

I find the sponge invariably when cleaning up my boat in spring. It emerges from all sorts of funny places.

Always inside the boat

– Last Updated: Apr-05-15 10:00 AM EST –

In my experience, anything carried on the deck is subject to loss in rough conditions unless it's very well secured, which doesn't mean that it's just tucked under deck bungees. I've witnessed enough "yard sales" when other paddlers got pounded to know how pathetic bungees are at securing anything.

My paddle float is rolled up and tucked into bungee loops that I add to the back of the backbands in my boats. Most of my boats have cheekplates that create storage places beside the seat. The sponge is stored behind the left cheek plate and the pump is on the right.

The only things I carry on-deck (foredeck only) are a chart case, a spare paddle (Greenland "storm" paddle) and a coiled contact tow, which are all secured under deck lines equipped with sliders, that hold items much more securely than bungee cord. In-fact, I only have one strand of bungee on the foredeck and I only use it to hold small items that I may not need, such as a hood or gloves, and only in calm conditions.

As others have mentioned, I prefer to carry water in a pack attached to my PFD. I made a very simple one from neoprene that has been working well for years. I find that with the hydration pack, drinking is much more convenient, so I tend to stay better hydrated than I did with water bottles, especially in rough conditions. There's also no issues with how to secure it.

Thank you all so much!
Thanks for all the great ideas. You’ve all got me thinking and planning. I didn’t mention it in the original post, but I have a Necky Zoar Sport 140 that I use for touring. Mostly mountain lakes in the Sierras.

Really appreciate the input. Thanks agian!

what is a
deck lines equipped with sliders ?

rec boat ?
use a cut gallon poly jug for bailer.

tie all to 1/8th" shock cords kept to one side…best

on your not rolling side.

I wondered, too
Then found this (third photo)


I keep it safely stored on land
that stuff is expensive, I don’t want to risk getting it wet or lost.

Lots of room
It sounds like you aren’t paddling in rough conditions but there’s no reason to clutter the deck with an infrequently used item. My $.02 is to make an under deck mount for the pump and tether it with 2’ bungie w clip on end. Sponge can go anywhere, behind seat or jammed between hip brace and hull or under seat if there’s room. Paddle float can be rolled up and placed under foredeck, next to hips or behind seat. I like things secured so that if you fall out everything stays where you put it or you can put the kayak on the roof rack and all that stuff in the cockpit can’t fall out. Basically those items are part of the kayak.