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Spring is here. Check your gear!

Spring is here. Check your gear!

Spring cleaning doesn’t only apply to your house and garage. It also means taking a look at your boating and rescue gear to see how it survived the winter. While some of you have probably been using it all winter long, others are just emerging from the grips of winter. Jackson Hole just went above 40 degrees and it sure feels like spring. Having the right gear and taking care of it is an important part of being a prepared rescuer or boater. Take a look at a few maintenance tips for your gear, and a sample of a sweep or rescue kit for boaters.

Caring for ropes and mechanical hardware:

Ropes: Inspect the full length of the rope, look for abrasions and heat affected sections. Feel for crimps or gaps in the core. Early retirement is an OK option with rescue gear. It is better than the alternative. Remember if during your training your ropes get wet, let them dry properly before storage. A rope bag can help keep your rope in better shape. Check with the manufacturer of your rope for more specific care instructions.

Carabiners and pulleys: Check to see if the mechanical moving parts are functioning properly. Dents or chinks can affect the integrity of the gear. It’s not worth keeping compromised gear in rotation. Decommission worn out gear.

Prusik loops. If you’re using raise / lower  systems, your prusik brakes can take a beating. If not minded properly heat can jeopardize the integrity of your prusik loops. Check for heat affected or ‘burnt’ areas on the loops.  Buy and re-tie new ones.

Periodic up-keep of the gear you have will help its longevity. When dealing with gear (yours other others) remember that it is a life saving tool. So you’ve done some spring cleaning and now need to dial out your rescue kit once again? Think you have a complete kit and looking to put the finishing touches on it?

Take a moment to think about what you want from your safety or rescue kit. Every kit is different, and personal preference often dictates what goes into a kit. A good rescue kit is versatile. Since we are not backpacking here, we can pack a little more than p-cord and duct tape; but pack carefully.  Consider including items that have multiple purposes. We all know that rafts can carry more gear than we know what to do with, and one can easily go overboard when packing a rescue or safety kit.  Work with what you have, improvise when you can, and bring what you can’t improvise.

Here’s an example of the basic tools you might find in a swiftwater rescue  kit:

image courtesy of rescuesource.com

  • Static rope (1/2 in 150-200ft)
  • 1″ tubular webbing  2×15 ft, 2×20 ft, 1×30 ft
  • Prusik loops: 3-5 pre-tied or sewn 5-7mm
  • 4 locking carabiners (omega D)
  • 2 auto-lock carabiner (pear shaped)
  • 3-4 pulleys (prusik minding are preferable)

That’s the basics. The above tools should enable you to set up mechanical advantage systems, tension diagonals, and other rescue techniques. Agency responders, make sure the gear you carry adheres to the NFPA standards. What else do you keep in your rescue Kit?

The above components should be kept in a waterproof bag, and checked before each trip. Just because you left it there, doesn’t mean its always there or in working shape. This kit is your rescue toolbox. As with any tool, know how to use it, and practice before you really need to use it. Remember, not every kit is the same, and everyone has personal preferences. As long as you have what you need to get the job done, you’re set. Before you go on a trip ask your self the “what if’ questions. You’ll find that your answers might lead you directly to the gear you’ve packed in your rescue kit.

Have a great spring! Train hard stay safe. Want more swiftwater rescue knowledge? Come check out a course at Sierra Rescue.   -ZB 3.7.12