Virtually every time we go on the water we should carry some basic items of safety equipment. Unfortunately, I am basically a disorganised person and finding small items of equipment from the chaos of the kayaking boxes was virtually an insurmountable problem. So the solution was to put together a small emergency bag with all the essential items of kit. It took about 3 months to source all of the things that I needed and it is true to stay that it still isn’t complete. I still search diligently in yacht chandlers and outdoor shops for that elusive item of equipment, which may provide the final piece of the jigsaw.
The following items of equipment are contained within my waterproof bag:
Signal Mirror: A small item, which could prove to be useful if you have an accident on a sunny day. I found mine in a small French yacht chandlers. It only cost 3.00 €, so it is worth the small financial outlay.
Spare Hatches: I carry the Reed hatch covers and have used them twice so they weren’t a waste of money.
Bungee Cords: Just one set and you never know when they will be needed. Ideally for keeping some of the items in the bag wrapped up.
Multi-purpose Tool: There is the Leatherman and then there are cheaper ones. For this emergency bag I have selected a cheaper one, as there is every chance that it will damaged by the seawater. I paid 7€ for mine at a French DIY store.
Woollen Hat: I might swap this for a sun hat during the warmer summer months.
Plastic Sheet: Cut from a sparkling water bottle. The thin plastic is ideal for helping to repair a relatively large hole in the kayak.
Repair Tape: Spinnaker tape, electrician’s tape and duck tape. A selection, which should be able to sort out most needs, including repair kayaks, spray decks and tents.
Epoxy Resin: I use a French variety, partly for the challenge of translation, and partly because it is effective. It will set under water and will repair most materials.
Whistle: I have the loudest one that I could find. The literature makes numerous extravagant claims about decibels etc, all I know is that if I blow it my ears hurt!
Lighter: More like a blowtorch than a lighter. An effective heat source and according to the publicity material it can’t be blown out by the wind. Useful for a number of reasons. Just in case the gas runs out I also have a box of waterproof matches. (I also remove this from the bag before I fly anywhere)
Fire Lighters: Just a couple in case it is necessary to light a fire.
Poncho: A small poncho, which is ideal if people are cold at lunchtime.
Exposure Bag: I don’t have the traditional orange exposure bag but one, which is made of the same material as the well-known space blanket. The advantage is that it packs up very small.
Spare Food: Just a small amount. I don’t plan on getting stranded for several days in the heart of what is in effect an urban area. I normally take food, which I am not that keen on so I am not tempted to eat it.
Money: Just a small amount, stored in the inevitable film container that is if you can still find one. Useful for telephones, cafes etc.
Spare Batteries: These are for both the GPS and the VHF radio. A selection of cheaper batteries is better than the more expensive variety; they only have to last a couple of hours.
Strobe: Ideal for drawing attention to yourself at night.
Wet Wipes: Ideal for all sorts of uses.
First Aid Kit: Just a few small items. Triangular bandage, skin closures, assorted plasters, wound dressing and safety pins.When I open up the waterproof waist pack it always amazes me that all of the above fits inside such a relatively small container. What it has enabled me to do is to always carry a basic level of safety equipment. It can be customized to meet individual needs and because I am always on the look out for another useful item it remains a work in progress.
I was fortunate enough to spend nearly 3 weeks in India with a group of school students a couple of years ago, which included an 8 day trek up to 4,000 metres in Himachal Pradesh. Prior to departure there were several visits to the doctor for the inevitable innoculations, but what he spoke about most frequently was the inevitable upset stomach. It seemed everybody I spoke to had stories of the unavoidable “Delhi belly.”
Now I am probably not the most hygienic camper so I thought I needed to be a bit more pro-active. So I was ruthless in my use of hand sanitizer and purchased a “Water-to-Go” water bottle, which I used throughout my time in the country. Success, I managed to leave India without the slightest hint of an upset stomach whilst other members of the group were not so fortunate.
I could write plenty about the science behind the Water-to-Go bottles and filters, a 3-in-1 system constructed using nano technology and how they reduce the contaminants in water by over 99.9% but if you are interested in this sort of thing I would recommend you pay their website a visit.
What you really need to know is that they make water bottles in 2 sizes, 75cl which filters 200 litres of water and lasts 3 months and the 50cl bottle which will filter 130 litres and last 2 months. Effectively this means that they will last for the duration of most paddlers sea kayaking holidays.
A heavily used “Water to Go” bottle against a background of useful kayaking books.
I can honestly say that I have taken this bottle with me on every trip since. Ensuring that I can drink safely from mountain streams or in some countries from the hotel taps. It should be the end of plastic water bottles on your travels. In our own way, also helping to reduce the awful proliferation of plastic pollution. My only slight grumble is that at times I like to add fruit juice to my water and that adding juices etc to the water can result in the filters becoming inefficient, but that is a small price to pay for stable insides.
If you are looking for one really item of essential kit that won’t break the bank this could be it.
Looking down on our high camp. We were spending the night in the huts, which were used by the shepherds during the summer months. We retreated from here due to an approaching storm. Water at this camp was from a nearby stream.
Observing some of the local birds in flight. At this camp site a number of the group were hit by stomach problems.
In conditions like this you need a simple solution to your water needs. I would have no problem recommending water bottles from Water-to-Go, they worked for me.