Responsible river runners usually take some formal swiftwater rescue training. At the end of the course they then purchase rescue gear to carry on the river. Most commonly, I see paddlers carrying around a pin kit for rescuing wrapped boats.

While this kit is valuable, it shouldn’t be the only emergency gear paddlers carry on the river. In addition to essentials like a PFD and spare paddle, there are a few other basic and often forgotten items every whitewater paddler should carry for safer boating.

1. Gloves and mask

In addition to a small first aid kit that may be carried in your dry bag, carrying barrier protection helps protect the rescuer if someone else gets hurt. Dealing with severe bleeding can quickly and safely be rectified with well-aimed direct pressure from a gloved hand.

2. Food

Having a snack to give you or your friends some extra energy may be just what you need to go the distance in your rescue efforts. It is particularly invaluable if you have a long walk out or get stuck overnight.

3. Watch

Paddlers need to be aware of time during a rescue effort. Critical timing includes: How long someone has been underwater, how long the group has been trying to evacuate the river, how long since we last saw them, how long since we called for help, and how long until it’s dark. All are best determined with a watch rather than guesstimating under pressure.

4. Glow stick

A glow stick gives you a better chance at being spotted by separated friends or rescuers.

Safety essential #8: good friends. PHOTO: DEAN TREML
Safety essential #8:
good friends.| PHOTO: DEAN TREML

5. Phone

With the advent of reliable waterproof cases, there are few reasons to leave your phone at home. It may be used as a communication device, GPS, reference manual and camera.

6. Waterproofed lighter

You never know when your trip may be curtailed with a lost boat, a rise in water levels or an injury requiring a long walk or evacuation. If that walk out turns into an overnight mission, the ability to light a fire and keep warm could be the difference between adventure and disaster.

7. Duct tape

It’s often the difference between fixing a cracked boat and paddling out or taking a hike. Dry the surface, tape it and then hold a lighter to the tape while in place. Wrap a bunch of layers of duct tape around your water bottle to always have some with you.

Swiftwater rescue guru Jim Coffey has been guiding rivers for more than 30 years. 



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