Monday, January 30, 2012

What we carry in our PFDs

Our last post about PFDs resulted in a number of queries via Facebook and email: "So what do you carry in your PFDs?

What's inside each of our pockets: Sharon (left) and Alec (right).
As we mentioned, this is a topic we recently researched through interviews with a number of notable sea kayak coaches and expeditioners. We had begun paring down on our kit, and we wondered what other paddlers were doing.

You can read about what they told us in the Summer/Fall 2011 issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine. What we carry depends considerably on where we are going and what we are doing. But here's what we nearly always carry in and on our PFDs. (We might add items in certain situations.)
  • VHF radio
  • waterproof camera
  • whistle
  • compass
  • white light
  • strobe
  • knife
  • snack
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • grease pencil
  • very small first aid kit
  • very small boat repair kit
  • watch
And some personal things:
Alec: back-up reading glasses, hair ties.
Sharon: nose clips.

View number two, with everything spread out.
Some people carry a hydration pack, which is a convenience but adds considerable weight and bulk. That can put strain on your back and shoulders.

We were curious what our kit weighed, so we put it on a scale.

Alec's kit weighs two pounds (32 oz.), without the plate.
Our philosophy for whether something belongs in/on our PFDs or in a day hatch is this: If we are likely to need it while we're on the water, and if it isn't a burden, it's in our PFDs. But if we can reasonably expect to stop and get something from a day hatch, it can stay there.

Carrying more kit does make a PFD heavier and bulkier, which is hard on your body, diminishes flexibility, weighs you down and makes it harder to self-rescue. Those are safety considerations. But needing something you can't access is also problematic.

Like everything else, there aren't any cut-and-dried answers. It's a judgment call. But it's a good idea to reconsider what you're carrying each time you go out and adjust it for the expected situation.

So what do you carry in and on your PFD?


Anonymous said...

I always carry a signal mirror (except at night) and a 3-pack of flares. But I don't wear some things you do (white light, first aid, boat repair).

Bill Burton

Mark Pecot said...

Great post!

Like most things in kayaking, what to carry is a series of trade-offs.

I wear a Ronin Pro, which doesn't have a huge amount of storage space, so I try to strike a balance betwen what I need to have on me, and what I can keep in my day hatch.

Of course, that varies depending on the conditions, as well. My VHF might well stay in my boat on a clear, calm day, or I might have it on my PFD in a high traffic area.

I typically don't carry lights on or in my PFD until they are needed...otherwise they stay in my boat in a dry box. While that increases the risk that I'll not have fast access to one when I need it, I think that risk is significantly less than the risk that, by wearing a strobe or white light 24/7, I'll end up damaging it (e.g., getting water in the seal; salt corrosion; accidentally turning it on in my gear bag and draining the battery, etc.), in which case I'd have access to them but they may not actually work!

One thing I always carry is a very small, very flat first aid kit in a LokSak dry bag. And one thing I always have in that first aid kit are individual packets of baby aspirin. If anyone has chest pains on the water, getting 88mg of aspirin on board can be a life saver.

I also carry a water bladder. I've had it forever...Platypus used to make it, and it's a neoprene sleeve that holds a 1 liter bladder on the inside of the PFD. This keeps the profile very low. I'm a big believer in having handsfree hydration in rougher water and when can keep fatigue and cramping at bay.

Other items in my PFD:
* Dermatone sunscreen/lip balm combo
* snack bar
* rescue hook
* small knife
* extra line and a small 'biner (in side pocket of the Ronin).
* backpacker's compass (getting caught in a fog once without a compass was enough to make sure this is always in my kit).
* whistle
* extra drain plug (for ww outings)
* small hex tool for RDFs

Peter Bisset said...

I would add a means of making fire, a couple of squares of bicycle inner tube and a small lighter or waxed red matches, tied into a plastic bag, tied into a plastic bag.

Also a couple of cable ties for instantly and firmly attaching anything to anything.