Kayak fishing is safer than it looks. Our boats are big and wide, and everyone’s wearing life jackets. But it’s not enough. To improve chances for a successful rescue, anglers should carry signalling and communication devices. We dumped out our ditch kit full of essential kayak safety equipment every angler should take to the water.
Frē Waterproof Case
$89 | lifeproof.com
Serving as a communication, navigation and weather forecasting device, a smartphone is a powerful tool on the water. For the best performance, a phone should be housed in a waterproof, dust- and impact-resistant case. We’ve been using various versions of Lifeproof’s cases since the iPhone 5. Even though our new iPhone is water resistant, Frē offers protection from a six-foot drop and submersion at six feet underwater for one hour. It also protects power port and speakers without affecting performance. The open screen allows unencumbered access to the touch screen and the phone remains waterproof.
HX40 VHF Radio
$119 | standardhorizon.com
In the age of smartphones and wireless networks, nothing can replace the trusty VHF radio. Impervious to water and dirt and small enough to fit in a pocket, Standard Horizon’s HX40 is half the size of a regular handheld radio but big enough to carry the most important features. The pint-sized radio packs six watts of broadcast power with a loud, clear speaker to hear over wind and rain. The easy-to-interpret display and simple buttons makes it easy to switch functions from weather band to channel scan or emergency channels. Our favorite feature is the FM radio to rock between bites.
e+LITE Rescue Headlamp
$29 | petzl.com
In addition to a personal flotation device, the paddling safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard includes a white light and sound-producing device. As a supplement to our main headlamp, we carry the tiny e+LITE as a back up. With an output of 50 lumens and weighing just 26 grams, the e+LITE folds to fit into a case the size of a pack of matches. The lamp runs on a watch battery so it’s always ready. The white light can be adjusted through three settings with a red light to preserve night vision. Killing two birds with one stone, the head strap incorporates a pealess whistle.
$59–69 | nrs.com
One of the most dangerous situations is becoming tangled in fishing line or anchor rope. The Co-Pilot rescue knife from NRS has cut many anglers, paddlers and divers out of tight spots. The blunt tip and one-sided blade assure you cut the tangle and not yourself. The full tang blade is mounted in a tough and light rubberized handle. We’ve used this knife as a pry bar and screwdriver, but never use it to cut bait so it stays sharp for when it’s really needed. A quick-release sheath attaches to your PFD for reliable access in an emergency. Saltwater anglers should choose the NRS Titanium Co-Pilot.
$324 | acrartex.com
Peace of mind comes in a pocket-size lifesaver. Push a button on ACR’s ResQlink buoyant personal locator beacon and rescue services are immediately alerted to your location. The beacon sends out a GPS signal accurate to within a few feet and a signal strobe to bring help in close. We’ve carried ResQlink on every trip for the past 10 years, and are always glad to have it and not need it.
Bluewater Roll Top Dry Bag
$29 | mustangsurvival.com
For quick access in an emergency, keep safety essentials in a ditch bag. Mustang Survival’s Bluewater Roll Top is overbuilt with welded seams and TPC coating for reliable waterproofing. Fully packed, the bag is square to easily pack into tight spaces. A clear window makes it easy to label the bag. Roll the top to trap air so the bag floats and protects the gear. When the shit hits the fan, transfer the contents to your life jacket.
Firefly Pro Solas Strobe Light
$69 | acrartex.com
The safety essential we use most often is ACR’s Firefly Pro Solas strobe light. In foggy conditions, the flash of a strobe light is more effective at getting boaters’ attention than a white navigation light. The Firefly Pro Solas is flat to fit in small pockets. The wide-angle, 40 candelas LED lamp is visible for three miles. Two AA batteries will power the strobe for 56 hours. The light is programmed to flash in three patterns, including Morse code for SOS.
The coolest kayak safety equipment you’ll hopefully never need to use. | Feature photo: Ric Burnley