Tips on Packing a Ditch Bag

Tips on Packing a Ditch Bag

A ditch bag – or abandon ship bag – is one of those things that you hope you’ve wasted a lot of money on. The fact is, however, if you boat and fish with enough frequency sooner or later you will be confronted with a potentially compromising situation. In the instance of an on-board fire or collision you may have to abandon ship in 30 seconds or less, and having essential gear packed and ready to grab could be a lifesaver.

There is a variety of pre-packed ditch bags available for sale, and purchasing such a kit might provide a good start. We would suggest that you evaluate contents of such a bag based upon the kind of boating you do and add and remove items accordingly. Rather than have this kit be a suitcase full of bulky items, ranging from medical supplies and tools to food and drink, you might limit your emergency stash to deal with one basic question: “Besides my PFD, what would I need in the water?”

The bag itself should be a brightly-colored, sealed, soft sided bag, hard-sided tool case, a sealed 5-gallon bucket, or anything that you know will float once it’s thrown into the drink. You can increase the bag’s nighttime visibility by liberally applying reflective tape. When not in use, the bag should be kept at the helm or within reaching distance at all times. Most important, your ditch bag should be water tight and float with all of your gear in it. To make sure, cut a swim noodle into small pieces and stuff them wherever they’ll fit inside the bag to increase buoyancy.

Most of our boating is within 30 miles of shore. Here’s what’s in our ditch kit:

1     Floating Flashlight w/ AAA Batteries
1     ACR Personal Locator Beacon
1     Floating VHF Radio with GPS/DSC – AAA Battery Pack
1     Mini First Aid Kit
1     Leatherman Stainless Pocket Tool w/ Scissors
1     Roll of Duct Tape
3     Zip Lock Freezer Baggies
4     Red Aerial Signal Flares
3     Handheld Smoke Flares
10   Cyalume Chemical Light Sticks
1     Signal Mirror
1     Waterproof Whistle
1     3′ X 3′ Distress Flag
4     Bottles of Drinking Water
10   Replacement AAA Batteries
1     Sunscreen
1     Dye Marker Kit
1     Collapsable Mug
1     Sharpie
1     Pair Cheap Sunglasses
1     Pair Reading Glasses
1     50′ Length of Cord
2     Mylar Survival Blankets
6     Large Zip Ties
2     Kitchen Sponges
2     Rolls of Lifesaver Candies
4     Energy Bars

Remember, your emergency ditch bag will do you no good if you can’t reach it in a hurry, so keep it nearby at all times and don’t leave port without it!


Comments (1)

  1. Susan Weiland

    Thank you, so helpful!! I shared with my sailing nephew in Seattle!!

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