I have spent 8 years on the river recreationally and professionally. As a swift water rescue instructor one of the repeat conversations I have is ‘what should be in a personal floatation device (PFD) or buoyancy aid (BA). Here is what I believe you should have and why.
As a rescue 3 instructor I teach that everyone should have as a minimum a:
A loud whistle with no moving parts such, as a fox 40 is ideal. when whistles with moving parts get wet they tend to be less effective.
Within easy reach of your mouth. The zip on my PFD is perfect as it reaches my mouth in very position.
Although I have been on the fence in the past about having it inside or outside my preference is outside, but be very careful where you place it. It’s very common for a raft guide to lose their knife when climbing back in the raft as they have a tendency to catch on anything available. With this in mind there is only one place I’ll put mine and that’s on my left shoulder strap. This means I can reach for with one hand, and as I’m right handed this gives me the best chance of a smooth release.
Blunt tip- Any knife I use on the river will have a blunt end. Using a pointed blade comes to too many unnecessary dangers.
Quick Release – a quick release is essential for as I know when I need a knife it will be when time counts. As important is a strong quick release as if the mechanism for the release is weak you’ll lose that knife before you can use it.
Keep it simple, rated and short enough for purpose (i.e. if you’re not a sea kayak guide you don’t need a 6m tail). Minimize looks and knots and make sure there’s a locking carabiner on the end.
Attached to the quick release harness (using an O ring), if you don’t have a quick release, don’t use a cows tail.
1st they must be locking Carabiners. I would question paddling with someone that used none-locking. I believe these are most dangerous when in a raft. The risk is that the gate can open and catch around anything they press upon, such as the outside line (a rope that runs around the outside of the raft). I have seen this happen to people getting back in a raft, but what if this happens when the raft is upside-down, likely game over at this point.
For the 1st reason mentioned in “what kind” I only attach carabiners to a quick release mechanism, as shown in the picture where it is attached to a quick release harness I always have one attached on the outside for a speedy use the rest in the inside.
Gravity load when possible
There are many vibrations and constant nocks on the river so gravity loading Carabiners when possible helps to ensure they can’t open accidently. To do this simply face the gate so that when you screw it closed you screw towards the pull of gravity.
I keep several in my PFD. They are one of the most useful items to have. I have ended up using then constantly, sometimes for simple task like attaching a GoPro for a customer or repairing a outfitting in a kayak.
Inside. I have seen people wear them on the outside and this cause considerable wear and tear.
Small, but still able to use a 10mm rope. Make sure they’re rated, because if you do have to use them they’ll be taking large forces. The problem with pulleys is you start to rack up weight at this point so I carry one, because I still want to float.
The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.