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Old 06-22-2005   #1
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The Ranch, Colorado
Paddling Since: 04
Join Date: May 2005
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Safety/Rescue Gear - what should I have?

I'm a brand new kayaker, and seeing all of these issues of drownings has made me want to be sure I can do my best for my ability to prevent such a tragedy. In a kayak, I'm probably not much good to anyone in water that would be difficult to swim in, but I could certainly get out of my boat and help from shore.

I'm taking a CPR class this week.
But I'm wondering what kinds of gear should I, as a very new kayaker, carry with me to help people?
I've heard of throw ropes, but I have no training in them. I've heard of whistles. I've heard of carabiners. Maybe my cell phone in a waterproof container in case EMT needs called?

I'm not the kind of person who could sit and do nothing, though I am smart enough to recognize that putting my own life in jeapordy isn't going to help someone already in jeapordy. Assuming I can help from shore, what should I carry. I'd like to make sure I have the gear.

And if I shouldn't carry certain things (like maybe a throw rope without training), what should I avoid carrying, either because it subverts my own kayaking ability or is too complicated to use?

I've taken a water lifesaving class in my past, as a boy scout, and believe it or not, the lessons are still very much with me, so I think I can confidently help someone without endangering myself in a lot of situations.

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Old 06-22-2005   #2
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Technology Partner, Littleton, Colorado
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Rescue vest
belt-worn throw bag
bigger throwbag you can stash inside your boat
whistle that'll clip to your vest
Gerber River knife that clips to your vest
pencil strobe
extra ear plugs and nose clips
water proof first aid kit to stash in the boat
Z-drag kit
tow leash (short one)
paddle biner
duct tape

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Old 06-22-2005   #3
Join Date: Mar 2004
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A basic swift water rescue/saftey class.

Everything else will follow.
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Old 06-22-2005   #4
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
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I second Merry Prankster's comment

A basic swiftwater rescue class will teach you how to safely use the rescue equipment (throw bags, z-drags, etc.), and will set up some simple exercises to help you deal with some common situations.

While some of the rescue stuff is common sense, there are some things that one should be aware of before just wailing a throw bag at someone.

For example:

What's going to happen to you when that throw bag rope comes tight? Are you in a good position so that you will not be pulled into the water yourself?

Are you going to put the swimmer into a more dangerous position as they "swing" around on the end of the throw bag? Are you pulling them into a situation that if they let go they could end up in a strainer or in an undercut?

You've set up the z-drag, and the small diameter line that you are using breaks, have you taken the proper percautions to prevent someone getting flailed
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Old 06-22-2005   #5
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Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
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Brains is the most important thing to bring. This would include some training (1st Aid, Swiftwater Rescue, CPR, Boating Skills, etc). Common sense goes a long way, especially when deciding if something is over your head or not.

Buddies are good to have too. The more experienced, the better.

Once you have that, like the others said, you will know what gear to bring. What I carry may depend on a bunch of things, difficulty of the section, number of people on the trip, raft or kayak, etc. For example, I carry a throw bag with me when I kayak, but I never have less than 2 throwbags when I bring my raft. Any time there is a rope, there needs to be a knife or two to cut tangled rope in an emergency...

Another good point for the one about knowing how to use the equipment. Most people don't expect the amount of pulling force you'll get with 150lb person floating 10mph on the end of your rope. Think about if you were fishing and caught a 150lb shark. Fish On! Swiftwater training will let you practice this kind of thing.

Check out Mather has his e-mail address on there. He is the local jedi guru of river rescue. He does classes all over, and sets up some suprisingly realistic hands-on rescue scenarios. I would e-mail him and ask for his class schedule, and any other questions you have.
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Old 06-22-2005   #6
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Eagle County, Colorado
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Also, I would recommend a rescue vest only if you have your swiftwater rescue class nailed down, or someone experienced to train you. It is a tool that requires a little instruction and practice to use properly.
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Old 06-22-2005   #7
Eagle, Colorado
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everything everyone has mentioned is important, i just wanted to add/re-iterate some of it....none of this does any good if you don't know how to use it. pfd and helmet are obvious. (head trip helmets are awesome!) as for additional a whistle (fox 40 is good)!!!! if for nothing else to notify others when you are in over your head, etc. cpr classes are good, as are first aid classes (i am teaching on this friday in eagle, if interested). being an assistant instructor for swr and a wilderness fa inst, i tend to lead toward the minimum equip carried everyday, depending on what i am doing. when i am creeking or safety kayaking, for example, i carry a whistle, 2 throwbags (one on waiste, one in boat), knife (when around rope, always have a knife!), 3 locking and 2 oval caribeaners, 2 prusik loops, 1 daisy chain webbing around waiste, pulley's, latex gloves, zip loc baggie, a couple of 4x4's and band aids, little bit of tape. this provides enough for just about any rescue situation/3-1 mech adv/basic first aid needs. all of this fits on my person, in my pfd, and in a small dry bag in my stern. i like to carry a lot of it in my pfd or on my person in the case that i am seperated from my boat. none of this eqip does any good if you do not know hoe to use it and in some cases can do more harm than good if not properly trained. is a good place to get in touch with an excellent resource for swr questions or answers. i assist mike with some of his classes and they are top notch. the site is just starting and is only a front page right now, but mike's email address is listed and he is an excellent instructor and resource. if you are interested in a fa/cpr class this week, please contact me at

i hope this helps.

matt solomon
Alpine Arms
Team Dagger
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Old 06-22-2005   #8
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 787
MOST IMPORTANT is that as a new kayaker you shouldn't be in places where you will likely need to perform complex and harrowing rescues. Granted the knowledge and gear is good to have BUT those are NOTHING without experience. Paddle class 1-2 this year. 2-3
next year. Class 4 after that if you are feeling good. Keep with an appropriate progression and allow your skills to correspond with your experience. DONT rush it!! Its great to have the experience and knowledge to be able to effectively help your boating partners when needed, so right on, A for effort!

WAY TOO MANY people have been dying lately and its tragic. I believe its because too many people are taking on river sections that supersede their ability and experience levels. Many deaths have been flukes involving highly experieced boaters, thats just the nature of whitewater sometimes, but many could also have been averted if everyone wasn't out there trying to run the shit when they shouldn't be.

One great piece of gear to carry in your drybag is a headlamp. A breakdown paddle is good to have and fine for a paddler of any ability to have stashed in their boat. All the other stuff listed is great, but much of it is probably superfluous for you at this point if youre just learning. Practicing with a throw bag is a good idea.... you can do it in your front yard, and even go to a meelow section of water with your friends and practice bagging em.

Hope this helps.
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Old 06-22-2005   #9
pnw, Washington
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Helio, I think the club is trying to set up a group SWR class.
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Old 06-22-2005   #10
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The Ranch, Colorado
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Hey, Meng,

I'm definitely not going to push myself to go places I don't have skills for (unless you count class 2 learning, because technically I really am learning to develop skills there).

I was just thinking about what I read for the Arkansas, which yes, is above my ability. But if I were somewhere and someone needed help, I need to know the minimum I can safely (for myself and the swimmer) do. I just couldn't live with myself if I didn't try to assist.

Maybe right now that means being a shore coach, telling people how to exit the water. I understand that if I don't have the knowledge and proper abilities, I could end up drowning myself and the swimmer. That was one of those things they drilled into our heads in that boy scout summer camp... 22 years ago, and I still remember it.

But I'll look into taking SWR *IF* the instructor believes I should at my level of ability. Even if the only part I can participate in is learning how to help from shore, that's better than nothing, and I'd repeat the class when I can paddle better.

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