Building a Whitewater Rescue Kit

A high percentage of boaters today will go their entire boating career without ever seeing or being included in a serious rescue scenario. But this fact should not deter you from being ready for such an occasion. This blog will be more kayak specific, but many, if not all of these pieces of gear would be beneficial to a rafter, canoeist or anyone else out there running whitewater rivers.

Throw Bags


This item is going to be the most used and important piece of your Rescue Kit. This will be your first line of defense when your buddy is in need of rescue. Throw bags are one of the most diverse tools in your arsenal, used for everything from retrieving a swimmer to rappelling down into a canyon. Depending on the type of craft you are paddling will decide the type of bag you use. But the two main differences are the type of rope your bag consists of.


Polypropylene rope:  has a breaking strength half that of a Spectra core line, is less expensive and therefore ideal for throw bags that will be used primarily for setting safety, bagging swimmers or use as tow lines.

Polypropylene Stats:  5/16” 1,000 lb capacity, 3/8” 2,000 lb capacity.

Spectra Rope: When strength is a necessity for heavy lifting and moving big loads it is double the strength of polypropylene rope of similar diameter.  The Spectra throw bags carry heightened insurance coverage for boaters who in a pinch might recruit their bags to be used as haul lines (removing a pinned kayak) or hanging oneself over the edge of rock at rivers edge.

Spectra Stats:  5/16” 2,500 lb capacity, 3/8” 3,500 lb capacity.

Rescue Hardware



Whistles: Extremely useful when you need to communicate with somebody who is within sight but out of audible range. Or to let people know you may need assistance.

Carabiners: Another piece that no boater can go without. These are extremely multifaceted pieces of equipment. Carry them to secure your boat to a line while scouting or use it for a z-drag or other rescue scenarios. An average of three locking carabiners is carried at all times.




Pulleys: A must have for almost every serious pin or z-drag scenario. With the proper use of pulleys, you can reduce the number of people needed to have a fully submerged craft. Usually, 2 pulleys are enough, but some scenarios require more creative ideas involving more pulleys.


Rescue Soft Goods

Webbing: (One-inch tubular webbing) Most boaters carry a webbing loop of about 15’ on them. Often this is worn around the waist with a locking carabiner for quick access. This “webbing belt” can be used for anchors, harness’, tow lines and many other practical uses.



Prusik Cord: 4’ of 5mm cord is most common. These small prusik loops are extremely helpful in technical rope work for anchors and rope brakes among many other uses.



It seems that everyone has their own preferences or reasons why they like their particular style of knife. But the simple fact is, you need one. Knives are most commonly used for cutting food while on your lunch break. But they also come in handy when its time for a rescue scenario. Whether you have chalked your rope in a dangerous place and need to free it, or worst case scenario, you have to cut yourself out of a bad situation. It is another mandatory additive to your Rescue Kit. There are fixed blades with either blunt and pointed tips or folding knives. All of which have their pros and cons and can be mounted on the exterior of your PFD or stowed away in an easy to reach pocket.

Post Rescue Emergency Kit

The Post Rescue Emergency Kit covers the gear you may need if the minor incident turns to a full-blown emergency. But no one knows when these kinds of accidents will occur. So make it a habit to carry all the necessary equipment and just hope that you will never have to use it!


First Aid:

After you have successfully rescued your partner from the river, there is a good chance they will need at least a small amount of medical attention. A small but thoughtfully packed first aid kit could be the answer. Adventure Medical Kits has many different small waterproof options for whitewater enthusiasts, but it is still good to put in a few extra pieces like a lighter, duct tape and a few other odds and ends.

Emergency Blanket:

After spending a significant time in even “warm” rivers, hypothermia is still a huge danger. Getting somebody’s core temperature back to an acceptable temp will take priority. These reflective blankets are basically unnoticeable in your kit because of their lightweight and easy compact ability.


Emergency Mirror:

If the situation has escalated to a true emergency and there is no road nearby, then you may need a way to signal for help. Many popular runs are in desolate wilderness areas and hiking out might take too long. A signal mirror could be your way to get the attention of a low flying plane or help the coming helicopter find your location.


Now that you have an idea of what you will need for your basic Rescue Kit, the time is NOW to learn how to use it safely and efficiently. Contact Current Adventures to sign up for a Swift Water Rescue Course and learn how to put your gear into action. 530-333-9115 or check out their website at Also, check out The River Store for tips and advice as well as the newest and most reliable rescue gear on the market. 530-626-3435 or

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