What to Put in Your PFD: 14 Helpful Items

What to Put in Your PFD: 14 Helpful Items

Kimberly Kenyon
5 minute read

What should you put in your PFD...are you confused about what is a necessity, and what's a nice-to-have? Need some product recommendations to get you started?

I’m a Whitewater SUP instructor and spend as much time on the water as I can. In this post, I go over everything I carry in my PFD. Some of these are mandatory, others are options, but carrying them will prepare you for most of what the river will throw at you!


What I Carry on the Outside of My PFD


Fox 40 Whistle Classic

Fox 40 Whistle Classic


The Fox 40 Classic is a very loud, industry-leading pealess whistle for use in many environments. The Classic Fox 40 whistles have no moving parts, making them resistant to freezing, jamming or deteriorating. NOTE: Colour sent will be random unless… Read More

I tether a FOX-40 onto my PFD. This is a requirement via Transport Canada that individual operators must have on them. It is a key piece of safety equipment in order to call for help and/or get someone’s attention.


River Knife

NRS Neko Blunt Knife

NRS Neko Blunt Knife


The NRS Neko Blunt knife is very similar to other models NRS produces. The Neko knife has a smaller profile and sheath making this a great choice for paddlers everywhere. Its handy features like the smooth and serrated cutting edges,… Read More

Is a safety tool. Being able to cut oneself free from entanglements is important. Also serves as a great on-the-go cheese knife on multi-day trips.




Who could resist the classic Timex Ironman. Not overly priced and has been a reliable watch for decades. Having quick easy access to check the time is great. Like they say "time flies when you are having fun."


What I Carry in the Main Pocket


Phone/ Inreach


The priority behind this item is to have means of communication with the outside world. My decision on which of these to carry depends on cell phone reception. If my Inreach is not in my PFD, it’s in my dry bag on the nose of my board.



I especially like small fruit gummies -- I like having a quick pick me up when I have been out on the water (no one likes to be Hangry).


Small Waterproof Flashlight


I had a waterproof Pelican penlight for a couple seasons. I realized the limitations of this flashlight. I now carry a small dive light with SOS capabilities. Although the weight on this light`s battery and unit is the maximum I would want to carry for a light. This is located at the very bottom of my main pouch. I don't particularly like the rolling on/off settings of this flashlight due to accidentally being turned on. 


What I Carry in My Front Mesh Pocket


keys in pfd

Of course tethered in using a carabiner.  


Fire starter and Small Bit of Fuel

firestarter in pfd

I found this amazing little waterproof fire starter by Exotac, the Nanostriker XL. 


If you're navigating.


What I Put in My Internal Pocket Sleeves


what to put in your pfd

I do not carry liquid sunscreen. I carry the stick solid type.  


Lip balm


My lip balm always has UV protection. 

Classic Chap Stick, use SPF 30. You will be getting more sun than expected because of the reflection off the water.


Spare SUP Quick Release Shackle 

sup leash shackle

This is Stand Up Paddling specific, a great thing to have if your quick release fails while on the water.


Spare Hair Tie

You never know who will get to the river and have forgotten to tie back those long luscious locks.


Pin Kit

pin kit

Many boaters will also carry the supplies to create a Z-Drag. They can be purchased as a kit. Formal rescue training is recommended.  

Carrying this kit is only an option for Rescue PFDs, as they have large pouches meant for Pin Kits.


Final Thought

Consider the worst-case scenario: a situation where you become fully separated from your water craft. 

People who spend a lot of time on the water realize the worst situation is you become separated from your water craft. Left with nothing but what you’re wearing is a daunting thought. Pack your PFD with the intention that it may become your “ditch kit.”

When push comes to shove, what you pack in your PFD will become the basic safety items to help you survive. 

Thanks for reading!

“Dreams don’t work unless you do”

Kimberley Kenyon

Badfish Team Athlete

AQ Outdoors Whitewater SUP and Splitboard Ambassador

Advanced and River 1 SUP Instructor Paddle Canada


Related PFD Articles

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NRS Recreational PFD Buying Guide

Kokatat PFD Buying Guide

Mustang Survival PFD Buying Guide

How to Fit a PFD

Astral PFD Buying Guide

Best Whitewater PFDs

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