PFD Survival Kit

Posted by: Woodsloafer

PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 12:42 AM

I've travelled by solo canoe in the northeastern US, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. I always canoe with my daypack tied into the boat. The pack is setup as my level III survival kit and I have confidence it would serve me should I dump in rapids, meet a submerged rock head-on or other wise do something abnormally stupid. Suppose the canoe was swept down stream, became pinned under water or simply torn off, then what?
I decided to equip my Extrasport PFD (life vest) with a basic level I kit. The one pocket (5" X 1 1/2" X 1") on the vest limits the amount of gear carried. Kit contents as follows:
Left Shoulder Patch:
1-Schrade WR-1 knife in locking sheath (3 1/2" blade)
1-High intensity light stick
Matchsafe w/ whistle and compass:
30-Waterfroof matches
1 -Stiker strip
1 -Hexamene block
Vacuum sealed packet:
1-Butane lighter
4-Fire-tab tinders
1-Adhesive tape, 1" x 36"
1-Wire saw
1-Razor knife
1-Scapel blade, #11
2-Book matches, waterproof
3-Fishing line, 15#, 45' ea
6-Snelled hooks
6-Fish hooks
6-Split shot
3-Safety pins
2-Sewing needles, large
1-Thread, heavy, 6'
1-P-38 can opener
Signal mirror, made from a CD
The matchsafe and packet are tied to the vest with nylon cord.
There are comprimises here as in all kits.
My next project is to add mesh pockets inside, under the PPFD arm holes. This area lacks the foam tubes of the remainder of the vest. I am making up a more comprehensive level II kit based on empty E-3 flasks from the old Air Force E-17 kit.
I welcome any and all comments regarding the kit shown above or the level II kit under construction.

Posted by: Chris Kavanaugh

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 04:59 AM

Dump the CD mirror and invest in a commercial unit with a correct sighting hole and mirror. How good is the matchsafe compass and whistle? Since your midway on a river voyage you should have a good idea of where you've been and are going. If you keep to the river attempting to walk out the compass merely needs to help keep you connected to the river if your land route takes you off track temporarilly. With the natural loud noise of various rapids etc.The whistle has got to be of good decible quality. Your Shrade is a good knife, but you need something to keep it sharp. A small flat diamond plate will take up a little room. One hi intensity lightstick limits your options in night illumination. I'd add a photon or similar minilight. I'd lose the hexamine and make up a small container of vaseline and cotton tinder. If your fishing the vaseline will help dope the improvised flies for your fishing, and I would add more safety pins. If I was walking a river a small container of DEET for the mosquitos and no see ums beats the mud on face scenario. Besides, you want a nice shiny face for searchers to spot.
Posted by: Burncycle

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 12:54 PM

Welcome to the forums!

How far do these trips venture from civilization? Are you mostly within walking distance of somebody, or is it many miles out into the wilderness?

It's a good idea to build a kit that stays on your person in case you lose the canoe and/or daypack. First, a couple of long term considerations:
-A life vest more suited to carrying gear
-A personal locator beacon if you venture more than a day's walk or two; if you are injured, a dozen miles may seem like an eternity
-Spare Air tank (this attaches directly to your vest, and can help you in case you find yourself stuck under water

I understand due to the expense, these may take lower priority, but something to think about if you go on these trips often.

I'm not an expert, so the following is just an opinion, so take it for what it's worth. As for your kit, it looks like you have fire down pretty well, but what about shelter and water? Given the nature of your trip, if you ever have to use this stuff, you will likely already be wet which compounds your problem from the start. Some sort of shelter needs to be on your person in case you lose your daypack and canoe; even if this is just a space blanket/trash bag. In addition, unless you strap a water bottle to your person (I don't blame you if you don't, they're bulky-) you'll need to have some way of holding water in case you ever find yourself with only the stuff you have on you. Condoms, gerber breastmilk bags, and so forth take up little room. Then you'll need something to purify it with. Micropur MP-1 tablets or something similar.
Finally, consider
-A handkerchief
-550 cord
-duct tape
-maps in a waterproof plastic baggie
-A waterproof LED flashlight (perferably with strobe option)

Posted by: williamlatham

Fish Hooks - 04/25/05 01:24 PM

It just occured to me......does anyone see the benefit of pre-tying fish hooks to short leaders with a pre-tied loop at the other end? While I can tie on hooks and luers/flies in the field, I prefer to do it at home. A short leader with a loop termination can then be used with a loop to loop connection to the main line. Granted that tangling would be a potential issue, but I think the benefits would outweigh the detractions.

Posted by: Brangdon

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 01:47 PM

What's the Hexamene block for? I use them for cooking, but you don't seem to have anything that will serve as a pan. The ones I use burn for about 10 minutes.

Does the butane lighter use a flint? Apart from that, you seem to be relying on matches for fire. I would carry some kind of flint rod or a Sparklite or similar, and tinder.

You might try to find a way to carry parachord. Apart from the usual uses, it might help you retrieve the canoe (and gear) if you get separated.
Posted by: Brangdon

Mirror sighting holes? - 04/25/05 01:49 PM

"Dump the CD mirror and invest in a commercial unit with a correct sighting hole and mirror." - How important is the sighting hole? Would you rather a big mirror without a sighting hole, or a small one with?
Posted by: Burncycle

Re: Mirror sighting holes? - 04/25/05 02:41 PM

You don't have to use both hands with a proper sighting hole, and you can get on target and stay on target a great deal easier.
Posted by: Burncycle

Re: Fish Hooks - 04/25/05 02:42 PM

Sure. You can buy them that way as well.
Posted by: TeacherRO

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 03:15 PM

You should be thinking hypothemia -- pack a jacket or fleece. Cargo pockets in your pants/ shorts will give you extra room. ( and /or a belt pack.)

A good signaling mirror is $10-15 ( US)

t ro
Posted by: KenK

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 03:30 PM

Two thoughts come to mind:

1. Personal Locator Beacon: If you are traveling alone during a trip that could indeed put you in harms way (running even moderate rapids would fall into that category), then I am starting this think that the purchase of a good personal locator beacon, though relatively expensive, should be seriously considered. My thinking is something along the line of -- picture yourself injured and hoping that someone will come along to help or that a friend or relative would finally notice that they haven't heard from you - what would you be willing to pay to get your situation resolved almost immediately? I think $600 or $700 isn't far off that mark, considering a nice mapping GPS can run $300-$400.

2. A few months back I had the good fortune of chating on the phone with Malcom Murray, the gentleman who makes the Rescue Reflector mirrors. He gave some great advice. First he recommended a mirror than can easily be held by one hand - specifically a 3x5 mirror, as opposed to a 4x5 mirror. We also talked about the quality of CD-ROMs as signalling devices since I was thinking of using them to teach signaling to a cub scout den. Based upon his measurement he found that they were good at all. He also recommended to avoid glass mirrors since they are so heavy and breakable.

Do signal mirrors need to have holes? It is very nice. While I don't think you necessarily need the higher tech sighting grids, the ability to sight from the center of the mirror can greatly increase your aim while using the two-handed sighting method. The sighting grid gives you the ability to aim one-handed, which is nice. On the other hand, the usual practice is to sweep back and forth across the target, so if you are peeking from one side of the mirror it seems the result is likely about the same. I'd rather have a high quality mirror with no hole than a CD-ROM with a hole.
Posted by: Exploriment

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 06:16 PM

Might I suggest the ability to boil water.
I notice that you have fish hooks, but those are more of a long term survival item. If you dunk and come ashore, your immediate need is to warm up. The ability to get some form of hot liquid (be that tea, coffee, soup, even just plain hot water) into your system could make all the difference. (I know that the requirements to become a canoe trip leader according to the British Canoe Union are that you have to be able to get a fire going and a hot liquid into your system within ten minutes.)

I always include an aluminum baking tin (one of the small loaf tins. Unroll the rim, fold it to fit in a tin, bash it with a dead blow mallet, and put it in. I folded and unfolded three to see if the folding and bashing caused any holes to form. I didn't see any. (And in an emergency, duct tape will fix that.) I will try one again in a year to see how it stands up. I just find it much easier to unfold and put over a fire than trying to fold a piece of tin foil into a vessel.

Another thing to consider is some form of clothing to change into. Maybe some poly pro long johns, perhaps some socks and a balaclava and gloves also. Vacuum seal it into as small a package as possible. Carry it in the cargo pockets of your pants. While not much, some barrier against the cold and wind will certainly help. And also start wringing out your clothes as soon as practical to get as much water out as you can.


Posted by: X-ray Dave

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 07:14 PM

Fire is the critical item here. Go at least double and triple would be a good idea. Something that will work with cold, wet, numb hands & fingers.
Posted by: paramedicpete

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/25/05 08:32 PM

I think for an on person/PFD kit you are in pretty good shape. Dont go overboard, too much bulk/many items could limit your mobility. While most of the suggested add ons, do not increase weight significantly, keep in mind items that might become wet and water logged could add significant weight that your PFD might or might not be rated to support. I am not a big proponent of using 550/parcord to lanyard items to you or your PFD, unless they are attached in such a way as to be able to break away if they were to become entangled from underwater obstacles.

I would add either a survival blanket or a large vacuum-packed heavy-duty trash bag to act as a vapor/wind barrier.

Posted by: Be_Prepared

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/26/05 01:59 AM

Another thing to consider might be upgrading your PFD to something with more pockets. I have a couple different versions that look like fishing vests with floatation. They are Type III PFD's.

I saw one recently in the Cabela's online catalog that looked like it would allow you to spread your gear around, organized in multiple pockets. The ones I have from Sterns are good, but, this one looked particularly interesting:;amp;hasJS=true

Particularly if you're doing something active, like paddling, you'll want to distribute the gear around, rather than having a big heavy lump in one spot. I have a vest/PFD like this outfitted for fishing and basic survival. When I go fishing on other people's boats I hope they are prepared, but, I don't assume it. I'll have to pull it out and put the list of items here.
Posted by: Woodsloafer

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/26/05 07:03 PM

Thanks to all of you for the input.
I should have been clearer about the kit size. With the exception of the knife and light stick, the kit contents need to fit in the single pocket in the existing PFD. That's the main reason for the CD mirror is it is thinner than the normal signal mirror. I should also have added that I always carry a Leatherman Wave, AA Maglite, and Doan magnesium block in a belt pouch.
The hexamene block is a firestarter as I have had variable success with the cotton/petrolium jelly type.
I agree an emergency locator beacon would be a nice, tho expensive, addition. It, and any bulkier gear such as maps, GPS, metal cup etc would reside in the Woodsloafer's day pack tied in to the boat.
I have been looking for a PFD that has more storage pockets, but I'm concerned about comfort and gear restrictions while paddling. I'll take a look at Cabella's. I am also considering a manually inflaitable type III PFD, like the Sospenders units. The waist belt could be replaced by a fanny pack belt and the unit inflated by mouth prior to running any rapids.
I'll let you know when I complete the level II kit and add the inside pockets to the Extrasport PFD.
By the way, a few years ago, I recall seeing a thin pack designed to be fastened to the back of a PFD. Anyone remember the manufacturer; it seems it was a PFD maker?
Posted by: paramedicpete

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/26/05 08:15 PM

Extrasport has a hydration pack that will fit on many of their PFDs. I would think you could you use the outer bag for storage instead of the hydration bladder.

Posted by: Be_Prepared

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/27/05 03:10 AM

When I suggested the Cabela's model, I forgot about an inflatable one that I saw also. If you want to consider an inflatable style, you can look at Mustang Survival's fishing vests, they have a few styles. Six pockets, manually operated CO2 inflation. Here's a reference page:

I haven't tried these vests in particular, but, Mustang's gear is good enough that I see Mustang survival gear on commercial fishing boats, and I've seen Mustang suits on Coast Guard vessels at Woods Hole on Cape Cod.
Posted by: williamlatham

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/27/05 01:34 PM

Take a look at the Lotus Designs EFT pack. It attaches to the back of the PFD and contains a hydration bladder.

web page
Posted by: williamlatham

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 04/27/05 01:39 PM

Actually picked this link from the ETS forum many moons ago

web page

It concerns hypothermia kits, pfd kits, etc...
Posted by: Craig

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 05/10/05 01:07 PM

That's a great link. Thank you.

-- Craig
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: PFD Survival Kit - 05/14/05 03:55 PM

I agree ... Good signal mirror and whistle. Smoke is good too. you want to be actually ready for getting help in an accident more so than being daniel boone.

You're not going to catcha lot of fish. Hyperthermia kit - space blanket, powergels. Fire making.

Because of limited space these are the priorities.

Add a signal tape and flashlite like a photon ( want water proof). Also a nice chunk of folded duct-tape.