It is too easy to be prepared – a few words on paddling preparedness.

I should have known better as I passed a group of less than thrilled women wading without their kayak. I was paddling in the Atlantic on a janky SUP that I rented from the Dominican Resort we were staying at. As I approached the breakers I watched a few Scuba instructors pull a sunken Ocean Kayak Fenzy from the bottom onto an old wooden Skiff. Apparently the drain plug was missing in action…….scary.  A few waves in, I had forgotten about the sunken kayak and was having a blast. On the next set I saw a decent size wave coming and started paddling hard. Before I knew it, I had out run the wave and gotten too far ahead of the breaker. The board started to nose dive and I was swiftly bailing out. I jumped off thinking I was clear of the sandbar. But I quickly hit the bottom in waste deep water and got a pretty nasty cut on the bottom of my left foot. As I paddled in I pondered the fastest option for access to a med kit. There was an overwhelmingly large line at the rental stand and after seeing the quality of the boats I could only imagine the Medical kits.  I opted for walking all the way back to my room for a Mountain Series kit that I had packed in my checked bag.  I had to walk a quarter mile back to the room barefoot as I had left my sandals with my wife back at our chairs in the opposite direction. By the time I got back my feet were black and the wound was covered in sand. Not good.

While my foot did not fall off and I miraculously made a full recover before happy hour started, it could have been worse. And I could have been more prepared. What if it was worse? What if the bleeding was not easily controlled? What if I was not at a resort but on a remote lake solo deep in the Maine wilderness? Would it have been the same outcome? The point is accidents happen and they can happen to anyone venturing into the outdoors. While experience helps, the outcome can be the same whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie who just rented a canoe for a short paddle. Think of all the times growing up or in present day when things could have gone bad but didn’t. Could you have easily been  prepared? Let me help with some scenarios. It is Memorial Day weekend and you decided to take your kids out for a paddle near the public campsite you rented. You rent a canoe from a teenager who barely got off his phone long enough to hand you the old life jackets and warped plastic paddles. It has been misting off and on all day so you leave your bags in the car. You paddle up the quiet tranquil creek until you reach a large tree with a rope swing. Your overzealous teenager’s canoe reaches the bank before you get there. By the time you paddle up he is halfway up the steep approach to the swing. Before you even realize what is happening he is screaming and running back down the sandy slope to the water. As he gets closer you see the swarm of angry bees converging on his head and shoulders. You think to yourself “at least he’s not allergic”. As the swarm dissipates you can start to see noticeable swelling. Do you have some diphenhydramine (Benadryl) to help with swelling? Do you have some acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain? What if he got a large cut on his foot on the run back to the water? While this was not life threatening, having a small med kit would have made the paddle back much more comfortable for your teen.

One more example for good measure.  It’s a beautiful summer day in Banff and you unexpectedly get off work early. You rush home grab your SUP and head down to the canoe club for a late afternoon paddle on the Bow River.  You paddle a few miles up the gentle current when you spot an Osprey in a tree near the bank. You do your best to quietly paddle over and pull out your Iphone to snap a picture. As you use your second hand to zoom in you lose your balance and plunge toward the chilly water. In an effort to save your phone you hold it above your head as you hit the shallow water. Good news, you save the phone, bad news, you hit your head pretty hard on a submerged rock. As you run your hand through your hair you realize it’s bleeding a lot. By the time you get your board on shore you can feel the blood running down your neck. You take your now soaked shirt off and tie it around your head. By the time your back to the dock the blood is soaking through your shirt. Thankfully the dock is near the center of town and you have quick access to a medical kit/professional attention. What if you had been farther up the river? What if you had been in a more remote area? A half ounce QuickClot gauze pad would have gone a long way.

Accidents are bound to happen but this should never stop you from exploring, adventuring, or just enjoying the lake with your kids. In this day in age it is extremely easy to be prepared. While my preference would always be to have a full Mountain Series Kit in my dry bag, it’s not always practical. However, there are some other fantastic options out there that allow you to safely go fast and light. For the past 5 years I have had a Watertight Pocket Medic kit stowed in the front pocket of my PFD (featured below). While I seldom take it out I know it’s there and it gives me the peace of mind when paddling out.

Recently I upgraded this to the Watertight/Ultralight .3 Medical Kit (featured below). This kit weighs just over two ounces and can be a huge help when things go south. I couple this with a half-ounce QuickClot gauze pad which is key for controlling bleeding.   In total I think I paid fifteen bucks for the kit and QuickClot.

An even better option, which I think I will switch to, is the “Ultralight/Watertight .5”. While this kit adds an entire ounce (joking it’s an ounce, get over it) it includes some key medicine such as Diphenhydramine and Aspirin. Bonus, the price comes in at just under twenty bucks. Overall these Ultralight and Watertight kits are perfect for stowing in a life vest and forgetting they are even there until you need them. When considering weight, price, and stowability there is really no reason to not be prepared.


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