First, of critical importance: If you don’t have your emergency kit/gear on you, you DON’T have it! Carry your own emergency gear at all times - it’s vital to being safe on the water.
“Ditch Kit”, “Bail Out Bag” or simply your survival pack - emergency gear consists of basic survival tools, some of which are typically stowed on your PFD: knife, whistle, compass/PLB, flashlight. These and other small items will be with you should you become separated from your boat.
Additional items: compact emergency shelter, water supply, first aid kit, etc. can be stowed in the compartments of a hydration system pack worn while paddling. Using a fanny pack as an emergency bag has inherent issues (worn in back-conflicts with seating; worn in front-may restrict re-entry; elsewhere in cockpit-entrapment concerns; stowed on deck- it’s not on YOU, so you don’t have it!).
An emergency ditch kit must contain everything needed to survive until rescued, and contents based upon the environment in which you’ll be paddling (cold north country vs. tropical or arid climates).
As in any survival situation, prioritization of gear ranks as follows:
- Injuries/First Aid - stop bleeding/stabilize wounds; injuries
- Shelter (emergency blanket/bivy bag) & Fire -waterproof matches, flint/steel) - ward off hypothermia;
- Water - find sources, purify (treatment tablets);
- Food - energy bars, quick snacks/meals;
Other important gear includes signaling/communicating via VHF/PLB or visual signs (flares, mirror, fires). Many of the items included in an emergency ditch kit are often used during any trip. However, it’s critical to restock spent items as soon as possible.
Also consider a mini ditch kit - a change of under-layers, snack and water - kept in a waterproof bag, stowed in the bow or behind your seat - makes for a comforting change after a non-threatening, un-eventful capsize.
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