What's in my PFD?
Yeah I know... It's a pretty bog standard paddling Blog post, but in all honesty I think I've picked up more tips and tricks from these types of posts then anything else.
Straight off the bat I'll be brutally honest and say I'm pretty messy, that's why I don't really care for a totally "snag free" PFD. I've got a watch wrapped around one shoulder strap, a whistle around the other, my NRS Co-Pilot clipped to the front and my Sling is stored in the stuff pocket with the 'biner end attached to the front QR... I'm not a snag free paddler.
Also, before I get asked what PFD is it? It's actually a Black NRS Zen that's usually not available in the European market but *insert really bad Xzibit impression* My boys in the US hit me up with this Pimping PFD to stand out from the crowd... safe.
So lets get into what I carry and the reasons why...
1. NRS Co-Pilot River Knife
This is probably my favourite bit of kit that I carry on me... I'm personally a massive fan of of the Co-Pilot, it's just the right size and the blade durability is pretty great. In all honesty it's been used more for opening *totally non alcoholic beverages* and buttering sausage sarnis in the morning after a night camping next to the river then it has for rescues, I'd like it to stay that way... But the one time I did need to use this knife in a pinch, cutting a friend of mine out of a tree it worked like a dream and I couldn't have sighed a happier sigh if I tried.
It's always good to know what time it is out on the river, it helps you work out if you'll make it to the take out before dark and in general is just a good bit of kit to have on you. That's why a waterproof and glow in the dark or backlit watch is the best bet. Yes I know I could just wrap it around my wrist rather then my PFD for that snag free PFD but I'd never remember todo that and I understand the risks.
3. Fox 40 Whistle
This is a pretty obvious one, if I need help personally or if pulling someone out of a bad situation and need help a good whistle gets other peoples attention. That's why myself and many other paddlers chose the Fox 40, it's as loud as hell!
Fun fact: Seals decks actually all come with a intergrated whistle in the clip meaning you'll be carrying two excellent whistle if you paddle with a Seals deck.
4. DMM 11mm Dyneema 240cm Sling
I personally love the fact that this sling is a looped style sling meaning it's just one big circle of material. Like I've previously said, this sling lives in the Stuff pocket behind the Zen's hand warmer the simple reason for that is that the 11mm Dyneema folds away so compact that I honestly never realise it's there and with me having a 'biner attached to it at all times I can quickly deploy the sling for a tow by just feeding the exess out the stuff pocket, throwing the excess over one shoulder and clipping to the swimmers boat. Job's a good'un.
5. DMM Phantom Screwgate
In/on my PFD I only carry 2 carabiners, 1 DMM Phantom Screwgate and 1 Whetman Paddle Carabiner (we'll get onto that next) and the reason being is I hate a fully filled PFD... The least kit I can carry I will. So this Carabiner being ultra small and ultra light is actually a great choice for me... It's still full rated to 24kn so is perfect if the worst comes to worst and a live bate is quickly needed, has a gate wide enough to get all manufacturers security handles in and also allows me to quite easily carry quite a few in my pin kit to set up pulleys etc.
6. Whetman Equipment Paddle Carabiner & Krab Stick
So instead of having a bog standard wire/snap gate carabiner in my PFD I opted for the extra wide wire gate carabiner that is the Whetman Equipment Paddle Carabiner. It's opening is wide enought to fit basically every paddle shaft in it (either cranked or straight) and is perfect for retrieving a swimmers paddle. Attached to it is the Orange Whetman Equipment Krab Stick, this essentially allows the carabiner to be used as a hook by proping the gate open until you pull on it, knocking the Krabstick out the way and locking the gate since getting my hands on the Krab sticks at the beginning of the year, you'd be surprised quite how many times I've used the Krab Sticks and quite how useful they are.
7. Macks Ear Seals
It's as simple as this... I like to be able to hear things. Not to mention it makes running bigger things so much more comfortable as you're not worried about loosing your hearing if you take a swim. for the sake of £4.95 get yourself some and save yourself and your hearing a huge hassle.
8. Spare Nose Clip
I'm essentially a broken man, if you paddle with me you already know that... along side a whole list of things wrong with me I've got a wonderful thing called SPD (Sensory Perception Disorder or Sensory Processing Disorder) basically my body has trouble understanding sensory inputs from my environment and although my everyday life is normal this has a major impact on my paddling life. For example when the River Allen tore my rotary cuff muscle all I felt was a slight ache and I kept on paddling to the take out and felt completely fine until I realised something wasn't quite right 2 days later when I couldn't lift my arm, yet, water up my nose physically hurts... like really hurts me so the less water I get up there the better, so if I somehow lose or break a nose clip I like to keep a spare one in my PFD just incase we get to some interesting stuff where I'd usually use a nose clip.
On another note, as someone who uses nose clips on every large rapid they paddle I think the stigma with nose clips should really be forgotten about. They has been many time when things have been said and people don't realise why I wear it, I once got told that I'm not setting a good impression as a river leader due to the simple fact that at the start of a G4+ rapid I donned a nose clip. Don't get me wrong I understand it can make people who don't know the river nervous if their leader is putting a clip on but at the same time I need to be comfortable myself. anyway, lets get back to the main topic!
9.Spare Drain Bung
If you've got friends like me you need to carry a spare bung... Either they've taken yours out at the top of a rapid and it's been lost and you need a replacement to get you down the rest of the river in comfort, or, they've some how managed to misplace it while draining their boat.
10. Snack Bar (not shown)
It's pretty important to keep your energy levels up that's why I'll always carry a snack bar on me, even if I know I'll only be on the river for an hour at most. My usual choice is either a Flapjack Bar or a Cliff Bar, depending what I can get a hold of that week. If these don't do it for you you'll want something that's high in energy and is pretty quick at releasing that energy. they is nothing worse then getting to the main event and being starving and just not feeling it.
11. Keys + Aquapac Keymaster
It's pretty simple, I like to be able to get home at the end of the day and the fact that they're safely on me at all times being put in a Aquapac Keymaster makes things much easier if I do have a swim and my boat decides to nope out on me.
12. Phone + Aquapac Medium Phone Case
So this I don't actually carry in/on my PFD, I actually carry it in my Cags pocket. I know... I'm a liar. If you're ever going to be out for a long time the first thing you do is tell people where you're going right? and if you're late what is the first thing they're going to do, give you a call ofcourse. I know not all rivers especially ones in deep gorges will have signal but a phone is more then just a phone. you've got apps like Grid Referance which allows you to get your GPS location down to 10 didgets and OS map which allows you to download the official Ordnance Survey map that with use of Grid Referance can really get you out of a lot of trouble if it happens.
So that's me... That's what I carry with me at all times when paddling, ofcourse things change and other things get carried etc but you can be guaranteed that this is what I'll have on me at all times. If you've got any questions, want to share what you paddle with or just want to get involved leave a comment below!
Sam Elliott, Company Director