Posted by: CANOEDOGS

OVERBOARD VEST - 12/13/07 06:02 PM

ditch vest--overboard vest--survival vest--
lifejacket with stuff in the the pockets..call it what you will...this is what i consider as my main bit of real survival
gear..first a bit of backstory..as you can see from my screen
name and from some of my other posts that i'm a wilderness
canoe tripper..much of the time solo and for at least two
weeks at a time..with lots of experience going back to scouts
in the 1950's i expect that i can handle just about any
unexpected emergency and i know enought to prevent many of
them from even taking place..i.e--i don't wander off into
the woods..stay away from cliff tops..don't run rapids..
THE ONE wilderness emergency that does get my attention is
the loss of my canoe and gear from being swept overboard..
which can happen in a number of ways however how small..
just one example--on a clear sunny day i saw and took photos
of a waterspout form not 100 yards away..it was large enough
that if it passed over my canoe i could have been pulled into
the lake..i had just come off a portage and was still close
to shore and started to paddle to a good solid looking tree
that i would of hung onto..the spout died away..it was very
dramatic--the sound was like a blender running at top speed
and the lake water was pulled hunderds of feet into the air
in a spray that looked like two large horns..the Cree indians
had a name for this--the underwater wildcat---
so--however--out of the canoe..in the water..and lucky
enought to scramble ashore--now what??

well first off a PFD..always have one handy..no i don't
wear it all the time but i know when to put it on and i do.
years ago i just put a few things in the pockets of a
standred fishermans PFD--matches--a few power bars..
over the years more gear was added..foil blanket--flasher.
this is the latest version..with the canoe season over
in Minnesota i took the gear out to inspect and refresh
it for next spring..first a good PFD in a bright color
with a strobe flasher and whistle on the outside..

in the right hand pocket the "food group"..i was hopeing
to find just the right size can with a seal thru ETS..
no luck yet--but i found that the cup from a Swiss army
canteen fit the PFD pocket just right and would hold alot
of food.. the cup is wraped in heavy foil and duct tape
inside two zip lock bags also sealed with tape..on top and
outside the cup for fast access is a Bic lighter and heat
tab..a candle stub went in to fill the last bit of space..

the cup removed from the plastic bags--

all the items removed from the cup.i wraped everthing in
heavy duty foil because i found it kept the items compact
and easy to fit into the cup..

the main food item is this compressed pea soup..not
avalable in the USA because it contains pork.i got
rolls from a friend in Germany..this is the new version
of the "iron ration" given to German troops in WW ONE.
it's very filling and could serve as a base for any kind
of stew i could put together..mostly fish i assume..

now all the items unwraped--from the top down..
the cup for cook hot meals..something i think is %100
nessary to help stave off hypothermia.
Five pellets of soup in one wraping and one by itself--
one fruit-nut bar--three tea bags and sugar packs..razor
blade--back pain meds--cyclobenzaprine..two packs salt..
five tomato soup bullion packs...i instant tea with sugar.
two MRE coffee with sugar packs..spoon--small candles--
and a fire tab...now about these--the soup is the major
part of the food group with the fruit and nut bar next..
i have found that hot drinks really help warm you so i
put in as may as possible..the tea and bullion.the other
items went in as fillers..

on the left side is the shelter pocket..the items
are not as re-wraped as the food..they are from the top.
a signal mirror--WP matches--candle stub--heat tab--
a fishing kit with about 40 feet of 12 pound line..two hooks
and a red and white spoon lure that i know works well in
these waters--it has a metal leader attached..a LED light--
Deet anti bug wipes--a small "cut kit' with bandaids and
iodine wipes --five T3 pain meds..in the plastic bag i have
40 feet of red surveyors cord and a small roll of duct
tape--a foil blanket and foil bag...the weight of all
items in both pockets is about a 1 1/2 pounds..
how would they be used..the plan is to stay in one place,
make a shelter and camp untill found..before i go on
these trips i leave a trip plan with my wife and one other
friend with photos of my tent,shelter and canoe..the
outfitter when i leave my car knows when i should be
back and at the ranger station you are asked about your
possible route when you pick up the camping permit..
if i lost the canoe i would use the cord and foil blanket
to make a shelter--low to the ground and covered with
branches and such to hold in the heat..cook small meals
with the food group..fish and watch the lake for passing
aircraft or other canoe trippers..the signal flashers
would be kept handy..
looking the kit over this year i would replace the razor
blades with the ones that fold into a plastic handle and
keep the first-aid items in one pack..also i will drill
a couple holes in the cup and add a wire bale so it could
be hung over a fire and just not set into one..
looking over Dougs write-ups on PLB i can see that the
investemnt in one would be a good idea as i'm now in my
60's and perhaps more prone to medical problems..
feedback is more than welcome..i hope you enjoyed this..

Posted by: DesertFox

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/13/07 06:28 PM

Very nice kit. Well thought out. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/13/07 06:42 PM


Some ideas and items I've never seen or considered before.
Posted by: teacher

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/13/07 08:31 PM

Good thinking here -- did i miss any mention of a knife?

Posted by: Blast

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/14/07 01:32 AM


Nice post! I hadn't thought about a flasher on my PFD. Most of what I paddle are small, local streams surrounded by heavy woods. I'm not sure if a flasher would be useful...

As for the compressed soup, does it come in any flavor other than pea?

When I'm out in my canoe I have a pocketless PFD vest and over that I wear a multi-pocket fisherman's vest with my gear. If I feel I don't need the vest (for instance, shallow, slow moving water on streams 20' across) I sit on the PFD and just wear the fisher-vest with my emergency gear. That way if something unusual does happen I still have my gear even if I'm not wearing the vest. Plus, the vest holds a lot more stuff than any PFD I've seen.

Posted by: ironraven

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/14/07 02:28 AM

Looks good, the only thing I might add is some kind of compact water bag (probably MRE beverage bags if you can find them, or a turkey bag- an empty bladder is still too bulky) and maybe a flat of chlorine dioxide tablets. Maybe a compact spark based system, like a Sparklite.

The only thing I really don't like is the mylar blanket- the heatsheet bivy would be about the same size and lot more effective, although you might have to shuffle some things around.

Oh, and two heads ups:
-Your duct tape is looking a little punked out, how long has it been in that bag?
-Check the date on your lifeboat matches and protect that striker on the top. They don't last much longer than their "best by" date in my experience, and the proprietary striker is prone to be worn off.
Posted by: bigreddog

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/14/07 08:44 AM

Nice kit - my suggestions pretty much follow the previous posts:

1.AMK sheets v old spce blankets
2.Knife - even a very small folder would be a good addition(alox SAK maybe? One with a blade and a saw would be very light and useful for converting local trees into useful things like shelter posts and fuzzsticks, and converting caught fish into cookable chunks)
3.Water bag and puritabs - if you can't get a fire going for some reason
4.Anti-spasmodics - if you are in the wilds, getting the squirts is real nasty, quite dangerous and stopped with a tiny pill
5.Whistle - natural partner to the mirror

None of this is heavy or bulky, and should help you a bit
Posted by: wildman800

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/14/07 12:50 PM

The workvest (Stearns) that I use has limited pockets. I carry a flasher hooked to one shoulder, a 55gal and 35gal garbage bags, signal whistle (tied to zipper pull tab), and a signal mirror. In my Radio Pouch are spare batteries and a flashlight.

When expecting Hurricane winds, we hand out a ziplock bag with 3 Granola bars and 3 nutria fruit bars, and 2 bottles of water. The emergency rations will fit into a pocket but the bottles of water are stored inside of a person's shirt.

The canals we sail through are not as deep as we are tall. If we sink in a canal, we just climb up to the flying bridge and wait for help. If we sink in the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers, we'll be swimming to the nearest bank, and will try to be as comfortable as possible while waiting for rescue.
Posted by: Dan_McI

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/14/07 01:47 PM

Originally Posted By: wildman800
If we sink in the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers, we'll be swimming to the nearest bank, and will try to be as comfortable as possible while waiting for rescue.

You brought back a memory of me trying to pull a pair of pants as my boat heeled over 25 or more degrees, having just broken one side of our push gear and not the other. The barge was pulling us sideways with the gear on the other side. Then, that gear broke, things calmed down, and we chased down the barge. For a few moments, we thought swimming was in our near future.
Posted by: SwampDonkey

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/14/07 05:48 PM


it is good the way you evaluated your potential survival situation and developed a kit/knowledge to address it.

I am in a similar situation making a kit for use if I sink a snowmobile through the ice and I make it to shore. I hope to post the kit if I get a digital camera for Christmas.

What area do you normally canoe in, perhaps we travel the same country?

Posted by: teacher

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 12/29/07 01:04 AM

OK -- been mulling this one over a while...

First, I think its a great idea, all the gear in one place. I'd look at adding a big pocket on the back (like a fishing vest) for bulky but light items (plastic for tarp, fleece hat,etc.)

But the important things are:

ONE you have to wear it all the time. If you are way up in the wilds alone its self-rescue for 24 -96 hours. Every time you are on the water.

TWO get a PRLB -- yes its expensive, but well worth your life and your wife's peace of mind.

thanks for listening

Posted by: teacher

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 05/31/19 03:16 AM

I may convert a fishing vest (think pockets) for this.
Posted by: Herman30

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 05/31/19 04:28 AM

smile That is some necroposting, 12 years since last post.
Posted by: teacher

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/28/19 08:58 PM

Three - a nice strobe light attached to the vest.
Posted by: AKSAR

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/29/19 04:30 PM

Originally Posted By: Herman30
smile That is some necroposting, 12 years since last post.
Old threads never die. They just get regurgitated....I mean resurrected!

But since Mr. teacher brought it up, I will add that the absolute first priority of an "overboard vest" (AKA PFD) is to keep one afloat when one goes overboard. If the vest doesn't do that, nothing else in the pockets matters. Some considerations:

Most vests sold in the US ("Type III") only have about 16 pounds of floatation. More floatation is usually better, especially in rough water. Every pound of survival gear you add reduces your effective floatation. I once talked with a park ranger, who found out that when wearing his duty belt, radio, handgun, etc, some life vests were inadequate to keep him afloat.

Stuff carried on the outside of a vest, or even big stuffed pockets on the vest, can make it challenging to get back into a boat or raft. I once took an unplanned swim on a whitewater rafting trip. Even with help from those in the raft, it was difficult to get back aboard. And that was while wearing a plain PFD with no pockets or external gear.

Bottom line: The first priority of life vest is to keep you afloat. Carrying some survival gear is OK, as long as it doesn't interfere with that.
Posted by: Herman30

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/29/19 06:18 PM

How about carrying the stuff in a dry bag attached to the vest with a tether of some sort? Once in the water the stuff will float on its own in the bag without straining the vests floating capability.
Posted by: chaosmagnet

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/29/19 06:20 PM

Originally Posted By: Herman30
How about carrying the stuff in a dry bag attached to the vest with a tether of some sort? Once in the water the stuff will float on its own in the bag without straining the vests floating capability.

Not a boating expert by any stretch, but I'd be concerned about getting tangled up in stuff on the boat or in the water.
Posted by: AKSAR

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/29/19 07:52 PM

As is most situations in life, there are tradeoffs, and one must balance competing priorities.

As I said above, floatation is critical. In a whitewater river, or other rough water, higher floatation is good. In waves, you can drown even if the vest keeps you afloat, when every time you try to get a breath you get hit in the face with a wave. A little more floatation, which keeps your face a few inches higher above the water can be crucial. It also makes you easier to be seen and be rescued.

On the other hand, too much floatation can make it more difficult to swim. Some of the "Mae West" type inflatable PFDs have as much as 35 pounds of floatation. Great to help you breathe and be spotted, but this can make it very hard to swim. With some of those vests, the only practical way to swim is by doing a sort of back stroke. And the big air bladders can make it tough to climb into a boat.

If you are in a remote area, and manage to make it to shore, having some survival gear is obviously good. On the other hand, too much gear on your vest can reduce your effective floatation, get you tangled, caught on strainers and sweepers, and can get in the way when trying to get back into a boat.

In the incident I mentioned upthread, the whitewater river we were rafting was right next to a busy road. So there was little point in carrying lots of survival stuff. The priority was staying afloat and getting back in the raft. We clients were wearing high floatation commercial Type V vests with collars designed to turn you upright. No pockets or external gear to get in the way. The river guides all wore low profile vests with lower floatation, but which allow more freedom of movement. But guides are generally young, very fit, strong swimmers, who have had training swimming in whitewater.

Thus one looks for the best compromise for a given situation. What is appropriate for a client on a guided whitewater trip near a road might not be ideal for a flatwater canoe trip in a remote area, and neither would be ideal for an offshore trip on a sailboat. Different situations require different priorities. But if you drown, nothing else matters.

For info on types of PFDs, see ABCs of PFDs

For examples of various types see Life Jacket Styles.

For a former USCG rescue swimmer's take on gear for offshore in big water, see Pockets For a Reason
Posted by: Russ

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/29/19 11:41 PM

My PFD is set up a wee bit differently. Think large turbo-prop over the ocean...

In most water survival situations the only initial priority is getting to the surface and then staying afloat. Only after you are safely on the surface breathing air do other priorities become relevant. (I say ďmostĒ because while I canít think of one, but there may be some situation I hadnít considered.) In the initial stages of an aviation ditching, it may be preferable for the PFD to not be activated. Aviation survival vests in general do not auto-inflate when they contact water. An inflated vest can make aircraft egress difficult to impossible. Once clear of the aircraft you can activate the CO2 cylinders.
Note: My aviation survival vest is a Switlik HV-35 modular vest (apparently no longer available) to which I attached a few MOLLE pouches. The closest in the current Switlik line is the Switlik - X-Back Air Crew Vest ó 35 lbs of buoyancy.

My intent was to egress, stay afloat and then signal for rescue. When I equipped the vest my going in assumption was that we were far enough and low enough that the good folks tracking us did not have a reliable location (possible). I also assumed that the aircraft sank rendering its ELT (emergency locator transmitter) inoperable (also possible).

For signaling I carried a PLB in a dedicated pouch on my left shoulder; a marine VHF radio (Ch.16 et al) in the front left pouch; flashlight, strobe-light and laser flare in the right front pouch, and a signal mirror. It was about getting found and pulled from the water efficiently.
Posted by: chaosmagnet

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/30/19 01:28 AM

Iím sure that Russ thought of this, but make sure that your Marine VHF radio is waterproof.
Posted by: Russ

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/30/19 02:30 AM

The Marine VHF handhelds Iíve looked at were all waterproof. Mine was the Icom M72 Marine Transceiver.
The IC-M72 offers Icomís best-ever protection against water intrusion. This radio has been tested to survive after being submersed in 1.5m (4.9ft) depth of water for 30 minutes.

It doesnít float (some radios do float), but itís lashed to the flotation vest so it canít get away; all the gear was attached with short lanyards. The PLB was lashed through its pouch to the vest.
Posted by: chaosmagnet

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/30/19 04:28 AM

Icom makes great radios.
Posted by: Russ

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/30/19 02:58 PM

I got the idea to include a Marine VHF radio after reading about some guy off the coast of Florida who hit a wave wrong and found himself in the water with lots of stuff and no boat. His VHF handheld was of the floating variety. Using it he was able to contact a fishing boat using Ch.16 (every large boat monitors Ch.16) and they had him out of the water before the Coast Guard could respond.

Iím not convinced an aviation handheld such as the Icom A16 or A25 VHF Airband Handheld radios would contact anyone who could actually assist. An airliner at altitude (35K Ft aka 6.6 miles plus) may not hear the radio call ó donít know, never tried it. Private pilots at lower altitudes may or may not monitor 121.5 (VHF guard). The VHF radios Iíve used had good antennas and a ground plane, and they were still noisy. Besides, mayday calls would/should have preceded water entry. After a ditch, the Marine VHF and PLB combined made more sense.

Another thing my survival vest is missing is webbing with a D-ring that can serve as a lifting point. Fortunately, everything Iíve seen shows that USCG prefers baskets and such rather than the simple gated hook I used during training, so a lifting point is no longer needed.

Glad I donít do that any longer.

Edit: If I were in a canoe or small boat my choice of radio might change ó depends. On a largish lake (Great Lakes come to mind) a Marine VHF is probably the way to go. On a river or someplace where the Coast Guard is not primary, a VHF handheld may be more useful for contacting Civil Air Patrol or other aircraft who may respond to your PLB. Before buying a radio, think about giving SAR a clue and get a PLB.
Posted by: chaosmagnet

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/30/19 04:44 PM

I would definitely invest in a quality marine VHF handheld if I were spending a lot of time on the water. And I agree, I would take that over an aviation handheld every time. I expect that SAR aircraft would be listening on marine channel 16, especially if they work near bodies of water.

Many years ago I took a number of flights in small private aircraft, and I seem to remember that one of the radios was always set to 121.5 ó I was and am very interested in radios and aviation, and I paid attention to that. Supposedly commercial aircraft maintain a listening watch on that frequency. If the aircraft is in view Iíd also expect to be able to communicate with it on a handheld. VHF generally has excellent range when there isnít vegetation, buildings or terrain in the way, even at low power. Obviously, donít transmit on aviation frequencies outside of a bona fide emergency or a properly licensed and legal use.

My ham radio handhelds are all programmed for marine VHF. Itís legal to listen to, and in a bona fide emergency it could be legal to transmit. Aviation VHF uses AM where marine VHF uses FM. I donít remember ever seeing a handheld ham radio that could transmit using AM.
Posted by: Russ

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/30/19 05:53 PM

I donít recall it being a requirement for General Aviation to monitor the 121.5 MHz International Air Distress (IAD) freq. Our primary UHF radio had a ďTR&GĒ (transmit/receive & guard) selection which would allow us to transmit & receive on whatever UHF frequency we dialed in, and would concurrently receive on 243.0 MHz. I donít recall that selection on the VHF radio in the Cessna I flew. A second radio could be tuned to 121.5, but many small General Aviation aircraft only have one radio. Point being, 121.5/IAD is unreliable to contact GA aircraft.

OTOH, GA aircraft using 121.5 should be able to contact ďmost air traffic control towers, FSS services, national air traffic control centers, military air defense and other flight and emergency services, as well as by many commercial aircraft.Ē See Aircraft emergency frequency on wikiP

If thereís a GA pilot in the house please correct me if Iím mistaken.
Posted by: teacher

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 06/30/19 11:15 PM

Good points.
Thank you.
Posted by: hikermor

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 07/02/19 02:33 AM

I am surprised that a knife, kept handy, hasn't been mentioned. My sea kayaking rig is comprised of a knife, in an inverted scabbard, and a signal mirror in a pocket. The knife is very handy in a kelp forest environment with distinct possibility of entanglement in other objects.
Posted by: Russ

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 07/02/19 02:56 AM

Since you asked, the knife in my vest was a Spyderco Atlantic Salt, a fully serrated folder designed for use in saltwater.
Posted by: teacher

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 07/16/19 08:38 PM

Man tries to jet ski on Lake Superior.

A jet ski usually doesn't have
extra gas
a compass
a marine radio
a jacket
Posted by: Russ

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 07/16/19 09:01 PM

It would be interesting (from an intellectual standpoint) to know what gear he had besides his cellphone and what he was using for navigation. From the map at the link, he was way off course. A course of 090 (true) from Grand Portage takes you to Isle Royale. Based on that map he took a course of 150 true (give or take).
Posted by: hikermor

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 07/16/19 11:31 PM

He is lucky to be alive Superior is a very challenging body of water. Witness the numerous shipwrecks on the lake and around Isle Royale.
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: OVERBOARD VEST - 07/17/19 03:53 AM

Yeah, he caught some major breaks!