In preparation for our upcoming canoe trips I'll be posting a couple of articles on what I'm packing and why. I wrote a previous article on how I kit out my PFD for canoe touring, which serves as my most essential life support system should I be separated from the rest of my luggage during a remote trip. Building on that then, my next layer of planning is what I'd like to have should I take a swim in deep water to recoup once on dry land.
My ditch kit then focuses on the key risk should I get wet and cold, hypothermia, and works in conjunction with my PDF kit.
- A foil blanket: not the most useful item on it's own and certainly isn't the miracle tool it's made out to be, but when used next to a fire can reflect heat and importantly hold warm air close to you. It can also be used in dire straits to construct a Mors Super Shelter!
- Chocolate: pick your favourite, it'll had a real morale boost when you need it plus a good bit of energy too. My only advice would be to pick ones packaged in plastic, a warm day or too close a proxy to a fire and you're ditch can end up all sticky!
- A warm wool hat: We lose a good deal of heat through our head, especially with wet hair.
- Warm gloves: I prefer two pairs of thinner gloves over one thick pair for flexibility. It's also worth noting I'll dip into this kit at night when camping if I need some extra warm layers when the mercury drops.
- A wool buff/scarf: As with your head, you can lose a great deal of heat from your neck due in part to the large arteries passing closely under the skin which carry warm blood to your head. You also have a chimney effect where warm air from your torso rises and escapes your clothing at the neck, an extra layer here is almost worth a whole jumper in heat retention in my experience.
- A small stuff sack to keep item 1-5 tidy within the larger dry bag.
- A thick woolen baselayer: I carry a 400g Woolpower pullover for this job. Woolpower use a type of loose knit for these garment which isn't very common, but is excellent at keeping warm air trapped close to your body. A note on the above: I choose wool for my primary baselayers because it performs excellently when wet or damp, considering I plan on using this stuff after a swim my skin may be damp when putting this stuff on.
- A thick duvet jacket: The Keela Belay Jacket has become my absolute favourite cold weather jacket. The insulation is incredible warm, lightweight and lofting. It also packs down very small! See picture. I use this over the top of everything to keep me warm, the drawstrings at the neck and waist help to keep that all important warm air trapped.
- A dryback for the ditch kit with a smaller one for my jacket. It's important to keep this kit dry for when it's needed.
Keela's Belay Jacket
packs up fantastically small. It's usually packed into the top of my ditch kit as I'll often use it at lunch stops in cold weather when we're sat still.
The Ditch Kit
All packed up (A4 page for scale). This lives in my day pack whilst canoeing, with my spare clothes in the larger portage pack. That way should I capsize and only be able to recover one of my packs, I'll be still be able to change into a dry set of clothes.
I hope you find this article useful, I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below. If you'd like to go on a canoeing expedition check out our expeditions and our bushcraft courses too or drop me a message via the icon at the top of the page.