If you’re brave enough to go out on the water in the winter, kudos to you. Just remember to always take some survival gear with you. Whether you have an accident and can’t get home, get lost and have to put to shore somewhere unfamiliar, or get stuck out in some bad weather that wasn’t supposed to be there, keeping these items around will help make sure you get home safe and sound.
A Dry Suit
There’s a lot of debate in the paddling world about whether wetsuits or dry suits are better. When it comes to survival, though, I’m on the side of the dry suit every time. Not only does it keep you from getting wet, but you can pack on the layers underneath it. This means that, should you get caught in a storm and have to land, you can use it as another layer, and one that will keep the dampness of the snow and ice away from you.
A Winter Survival Kit
You can make one of your own, but it’s usually easier to buy a survival kit from a reputable dealer. These usually contain modern fire starters, a folding stove, a whistle, and even some freeze dried food to help you get through until help arrives. Buy one that comes in a dry bag or put it in one of your own, and you’ll have what you need to make it through even the worst situations.
Extra Clothes in a Dry Bag
Having a change of clothes in a dry bag means you won’t be trying to survive while soaking wet. Even if you wear a drysuit, expect the unexpected. Make sure you have plenty of wool socks, thermal underwear, hand and head protection, and layers. This might be bulky to carry with you out on the water, but it will be worth it for that one day when you really, really need it.
A Reflective Blanket
If you choose not to get a winter emergency kit, at least get a reflective blanket. These are lightweight and look like tin foil on one side. If you get into a bad spot, curl up in your blanket, with the reflective side toward you. It will reflect your body heat back to you, making and keeping you warm. If you need to, you can stay inside of this until help comes. Make sure that your blanket is big enough for your whole body to fit inside, so you don’t have to pick and choose what stays warm.
Common with skiers and snowshoers, these little packets could save you from frostbite. They are usually inexpensive and individually wrapped in plastic. When you need them, you take them out. The exposure to air causes a chemical reaction that produces heat. Most of them last from 3 – 12 hours. You can put them in your gloves, inside your socks or boots, and even under your hat. They can keep your extremities warm even in significant cold weather.
Lighters aren’t just good for starting fires, they can also keep you warmer than you would otherwise have been. You can also use them to light stoves, make torches, and more when there’s an emergency. Make sure your lighter has plenty of fluid and is working well before you start on your trip.
A multi-tool is often handy when you’re out on the water, and they’re great in emergencies as well. Make sure yours has a knife, a small saw blade, and scissors. Some even come with a built-in flashlight. If you end up in the woods somewhere trying to survive, you will likely find yourself using this tool at least a few times!
A First-Aid Kit
While you don’t want to bring the massive first-aid kit you might keep in a classroom, make sure you at least have antibiotic ointment, plenty of gauze, medical tape, and medication for pain. This small first-aid kit will allow you to treat some basic injuries and may help you rest more comfortably if you get injured somewhere and can’t get home right away.
No one wants to be stumbling around in a cold, dark place that’s not familiar. Bring along a small-but-powerful flashlight so you can see what you’re doing. You may even want to bring some replacement batteries, just in case! Check your light before every trip so you can be sure that it’s working when you need it most. Your light could also help you signal for rescue or let searchers know where you are.
No one likes to imagine the worst happening when they’re out on the water, but it can happen and sometimes does. It’s better to be prepared and never have to use any of this gear than to find that you need something that you don’t have.