Customizing Your Ditch Bag

Have all your emergency sea gear ready to go in your ditch bag.
Here are some ditch bag essentials.
Check out this list of essentials for traveling at sea.

Weather permitting and with SAR resources being readily available, rescue in most regions should be a matter of hours, if not days. However, you should prepare for everyday travels just as you would for long journeys. You never know when disaster will strike while you’re out on open water.

Today, most boats are equipped with modern electronics, including radar, a GPS/ chart plotter, a depth finder/fish finder and a VHF radio. Years ago, these items were nice-to-have luxuries. Now they are absolute necessities for safe boating and navigation. Also, certain safety equipment is required by the Coast Guard and your primary concern is communication and signaling.

Another necessity that you can compile is your personal ditch bag. Pack it with any item you would need to survive out on open water. Remember to pack your bag for your environment, but regardless of location, your primary concerns are the ability to be seen from the air as well as the sea, and not drowning. Everyone should be wearing a life jacket! When getting into a life raft, your EPIRB should be at the top of your list of your ditch bag components.

Remember the old saying: “You should never abandon ship, until your feet are wet and you have to step up into the life raft!”

You can view the complete list of Coast Guard required equipment at, but these items are a good place to start:

  • Water packets
  • Energy bars
  • Swiss Army knife
  • ACR Satellite2 406 MHz EPIRB beacon
  • ACR SR203 VHF handheld survival radio
  • Two waterproof flashlights
  • Flares
  • Smoke/dye markers
  • Signal mirror
  • Chapstick
  • Suntan lotion Canned air horn
  • SOS signal flag
  • 100 feet of utility line
  • Flare gun with aerial flares
  • Baby wipes
  • Towels in waterproof bag
  • Toilet paper in waterproof bag
  • First-aid kit
  • Handheld VHF radio

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Fall 2015 edition. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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