Paddlers have various names for the collection of safety goodies they keep with them at all times, in case they flip in the rapids or capsize crossing a big lake: hip pack, fanny pack, bum bag, butt pack, belt pack, ditch kit, survival pack…

No matter what you call it, it’s a darn good idea to have it strapped to your body somewhere in case you get separated from your canoe or kayak, and the rest of your gear.

photoKevin Callan

Here’s what I have in mine:

Insect Repellent: A small container of repellent is mandatory. Whatever contains DEET is best. I prefer Ben’s. You might consider throwing in a container of Afterbite and even some tick repellent.

First-aid Kit: I have a main first-aid kit in my pack, but I also keep a small lightweight/waterproof one on me. 

Water Purifier: Water tablets are small and compact, but you need a water container to use them. That’s why I started taking the Rapid Pure Pioneer System. You can use a container or just simply stick it in the water and suck on it. 

Compass with a Mirror: This an important tool to help you navigate... but only if you remember how to use it. Practice makes perfect. The mirror is used for signalling.

Whistle: You should actually have one strapped on your PFD (and you should be wearing your PFD). But just in case, throw in an extra.

Spare Eye Glasses: I’m basically blind without my glasses. That’s why it’s important I carry a second pair on me at all times.

Lighter: Fire is everything out there. It gives your warmth, comfort, stove and can be used to signal rescuers. Throw in an extra BIC or Zippo lighter and some type of fire starter as well.

Waterproof Matches: Just in case the lighters you packed don’t work.


Ferro Rod/Firesteel: Just in case the lighters and the waterproof matches don’t work.


Paracord: It’s a must to help construct a shelter and has dozens of other uses. 100’ of 550 paracord is my choice.

Headlamp and extra batteries: You don’t want to spend a night or two in the woods without seeing what’s around you. Bonus: it works for signalling as well.

SOL Escape Bivy: Light weight, inexpensive and very effective to stay warm and dry. 

Folding knife: You most likely will have a knife strapped to your hip belt, but it’s always nice to carry a spare.

Two-way Communication Device: There’s a couple of brands and designs out there. I prefer the new SPOT X or SPOT Gen 3. The satellite locator (and communicator) is indispensable. 


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