Throw Bags, Accessories and WorkShops "Gear For Life"


                                                                                                                               -- Jim Simmons

This is a brief overview concerning equipment and gear commonly used in whitewater and river paddling. It will be useful for participants preparing for an upcoming rescue workshop.

In our classes the module on equipment and gear for whitewater and river paddling is an important topic. We seek to assist participants to understand the strengths and limitations of various gear and equipment choices that are available relative to cost, effectiveness and durability. A secondary objective is about making good choices in paddling gear used in different seasons, or in different situations such as in playboating when paddlers 'play' at one spot rather than moving along downriver.

Often new paddlers tend to purchase items based on trends, how 'sexy' it seems, or what other paddling friends might be using. Consumer Report type gear/equipment reviews have not typically been conducted with whitewater gear and equipment, although a good place to begin gaining first-hand information is with paddling message boards around the country. Our group of ACA instructors has conducted gear reviews of rescue lifevests, helmets, knives, throw bags and prusick slippage testing with common haul rope types. *Go to the links on the left to view these.

Gear/equipment priorities can be summarized three ways: a) gear that protects from the environment, especially in cool or cold weather; b) gear that protects from both rocks and water, and finally c) technical rescue gear. As examples, thermal clothing and apparel worn by boater protects from weather and cold temperatures while the helmet, lifevest and suitable footwear protect from the rocks and being in a rugged river environment. A personal lifevest must fit well and provide sufficient flotation for potential self-rescue in a whitewater river. Technical rescue gear items are carried on one's person and in the boat; plus, an organized group may choose to carry extra gear especially if boating in isolated backcountry situations where handling emergencies would be more critical.

Personal Gear--
Thermal protection used in cold weather includes synthetic, quick dry fabrics and usually either a drysuit, or a wetsuit and paddling top and pants. A helmet, suitable for the rigors of whitewater, must offer good head protection and fit well. A rescue lifevest is recommended (but training is required). Footwear should be durable enough in the event a paddler has to walk on rocky terrain if working on a rescue. Other important personal items: a trusty throwbag, whistle, knife, first aid kit, fire starter and technical rescue gear.

Additional things might include a small folding saw, extra dry garments, survival/bivouac capability, extra food and water, and other personal choices.
In our workshops the latest types and trends in gear and equipment choices will be covered. Also, Tim Jones is a dealer for Sterling Rope Company (rope, webbing, prusicks, etc) and can provide those along with carabiners and other equipment and gear. Check with him.

Minimum Personal Equipment Required for an ACA Swiftwater Rescue workshop (16-18 hrs) --
Lifevest and helmet, both suitable for whitewater use; protective clothing suitable for extended swimming in cold water, protective footwear, your boat of choice, paddle, whistle, throw rope, 15+ feet of one inch tubular nylon webbing, 2 locking carabiners, and 2 prusick loops.

A Word About Boat Outfitting--
A properly outfitted boat is essential for reducing paddling risks. *Refer to the American Whitewater Affiliation guidelines for details about boat outfitting requirements. Essentially, your boat should be outfitted well: a) in the event that it swims all gear will remain stowed properly and in place without floating away, b) to reduce risks of becoming entrapped in boat outfitting materials, cord and straps, and c) in order to properly stow personal and rescue gear items. Smaller kayaks must be balanced properly so the items stowed will not affect the paddling performance of the boat. For example, boats can be loaded to heavily to either the bow or stern, or on one side. This also applies to smaller open canoes. Carrying space in modern small craft is limited so you have to be creative. In our workshops we will explore various ideas for properly stowing your gear so the boat is balanced.

Jim Simmons -- 6/2011
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