Being sure you have enough boating safety equipment in case of emergency is essential. When something happens out in the water, you absolutely need to be prepared. Let’s see what you need to have.
Here is a list of some of the boating safety equipment categories that we will cover today in this article.
- First Aid Kit
- Throwable Flotation Device
- Wearable Flotation Device
- Hand Held Horn
- Emergency Whistle
- Waterproof Flashlight
- Marine Radio
- Extra Anchor
- Emergency Oar
- Extra Sunscreen
- Emergency Signal Flares
- Fire Extinguisher
- Boat Ignition Kill Tether
Usually when you are out boating, it’s not just your life that depends on you having the best boating safety equipment. When you need it, YOU NEED IT! Don’t wait until it is too late, because your boating guests are also counting on you for their saftey.
Best First Aid Kit
The first aid kit is first on the list because you certainly don’t want to get caught in an emergency where someone is hurt, without the proper tools to offer immediate aid. Being safe is one thing, but once a friend or family member is hurt, you need to treat their injury in the best way possible.
The best first aid kit is only around 50 bucks, and well worth it. It is the Marine Emergency First Aid Kit in a Waterproof Case. The whole kit only measures 14″ x 9″ so it can be easily stowed in a boat’s interior sidewall for easy access. You can find this excellent first aid kit on Amazon
This is a pretty complete kit, but there is a item that can be removed from the kit. It is the emergency drinking water. Why? Because every time you go boating, you should have plenty of drinking water along anyway (please remember this). Removing the one in the kit allows room to add other essentials, such as more silicon tape for keeping wounds dry.
There are so many different first aid kits available, it was mind-melting to research all the options to narrow it down into the best marine first aid kit to start with. I use the word “start with” for a reason. It would seem that a first aid kit either comes with unneeded items that are not relevant to boating type injuries, or it doesn’t really have every item that you actually may need. My suggested kit comes very close though with 118 items in it.
One of the reasons for this is because there are different boating situations and locations, that will come into play when designing a complete first aid kit for your particular needs. You should definitely start out with a pre-made first aid kit though, because it gives you a jump start. You will need the kit’s container to be waterproof, and have enough extra room for you to add in a few items that are needed for your style of boating.
We all hope to never need a first aid kit, however we also know we had better have one before it’s too late. The Marine Emergency First Aid Kit in Waterproof Case is a great kit.
Best Throwable Flotation Device
There are several styles, but I like a couple of them. I believe the throwable flotation device needs to be simple to use, so that it gets to the person in need, ASAP. For larger boats, you should have the “Life Ring” style.
The best overall pick for the life ring style throwable is the 24″ Taylor Made 364 Life Ring Buoy, in ORANGE. You can get life rings in many different sizes, colors, and materials. However, this Taylor Made is a very bright and vibrant orange and can be seen very well.
White and orange are the most recognized distress color combo. If you are looking for something quickly in an emergency, shouldn’t it be the color and shape you expect to see?
Taylor Made manufactures this life ring in Gloversville, New York. I am finding the best price on this at Amazon. You will also find a very wide assortment there as well, but you can find my favorite Taylor Made 364 Life Ring Buoy on Amazon for juat over $70.
Small To Medium Size Boats
The most common style of throwable flotation device for small to medium size boats is foam cushion. Commonly, these are very simple flat foam squares wrapped in nylon fabric. In this form they can be purchased between $10 and $30. The downside is that they tend to get sun faded or dirty quickly.
There is however a much better solution to owning a quality throwable seat cushion. It’s the JIM BUOY 101 Cushion with Vinyl Coated Foam. It comes in orange or white. Again I recommend the orange color for safety and rescue purposes.
- Soft unicellular construction
- Vinyl coating resists most chemicals and fuels
- Mildew resistant
- Dimensions: 15.5″ x 15.5″ x 2.5″
- Color: Orange
With this material, you won’t have to worry about it getting dirty. It is very durable and easily washable in either color. Also if you have a nicer boat, these keep that look and feel rather than the low cost fabric versions. These are also great for a booster seat at the helm.
Jim Buoy is a recognized name for quality and again, as with most things, the best price for JIM BUOY 101 Cushion with Vinyl Coated Foam is on Amazon and well worth the extra cost. The white version is about $5 cheaper, but keep in mind that you want this to be easily seen.
Wearable Flotation Device
Wearable flotation devices are often referred to as a PFD (personal flotation device). However, some of the throwables are also called PFDs. There are also “specialized” wearable flotation devices such as for water skiing, fishing, wakeboarding, etc.
But in this case we are talking about boating safety flotation vests. Most boats will have the specialized vests on board, and they absolutely count as USCG acceptable PFDs. However, the extra safety PFDs that you need on your vessel to match the number of people aboard, usually are stowed. They also cost less than the specialty PFDs.
Keep in mind that you need a properly fitting and weight rated vest for each individual on your boat. It’s not always required to be worn, but it has to be available and accessible. Be certain you are legal before leaving the dock. So here is what I suggest. Get this Stohlquist PFD Life Vest Pack of 4 plus one extra oversized vest. They come in a vented bag and stow easily. You can use these when you’re out on the water, or keep them stowed to be legal when you guests (even if one of the guests is oversized).
The Stohlquist Fit Adult PFD 4 Pack are Coast Guard Approved and a Universal fit. I love these because:
- High mobility, non-restrictive cut. Higher placement of upper buckle helps reduce ride up. Thinner back panel to reduce seat back interference
- All foam corners are rounded and sculpted compared to many 3-buckle PFDs. Box-stitched webbing is also more durable than bar-tac stitching used by other Economy PFDs
- Safety is our number one concern for open water explorers. Safe is exactly how you’ll feel with this PFD. It’s approved for paddlers over 90 pounds to enjoy paddling, general boating, and use on personal watercraft
- Four Adult Universal PFD life vests in a convenient zippered storage bag. Lightweight at only 0.7 pounds and available in an easily adjustable universal unisex size fitting
The 5th vest that is incuded is oversized for the larger guest. They may not use it, but if you have it on board, you won’t have any issues if you get stopped for a safty check on the water (Yes, it happens). This vest also comes in a vented bag and stowes easily.
Hand Held Horn
On small inland lakes, a hand held air horn may not be necessary, but if you ever venture out on large lakes or salt water bodies, you better have this very inexpensive audible alert device.
There are a lot of varieties and sizes of these personal air horns. I would not buy a small one. Being able to keep it in your pocket isn’t needed on a boat. Safety is needed, so you want one that can be activated several times without it depleting it’s charge.
I like this “middle of the road” size. It is small enough to be stored easily, yet if you break down and need assistance, you have several attempts to signal for help.
Everyone is familiar with the SOS signal pattern of three “short blasts – three longer blasts – three short blasts”
- Meets United States Coast Guard requirements for audible signalling devices.
- Powered by non-flamable aerosol.
- 120 Decibel volume with 1 mile audible distance.
Getting yourself noticed, when you are stranded or hurt, is the most important thing you have to do. If your boat horn and secondary hand held air horn don’t work, an emergency safety whistle is your next option. They are small and very inexpensive and the loudest whistle for our application is the Windstorm All Weather Safety Whistle.
For right around $6 and change, you can add the best safety whistle to your boat safety supplies. It is available in a few color choices, but remember, you want to be sure you can quickly spot it. So get the “bright yellow” or “safety orange color” on Amazon now.
Some whistles require an adult to make them make a loud sound. However, the Windstorm Safety Whistle can be loudly sounded by kids. Once you get it home, let them test it, so you know if they are the ones that have to use it, they will get some attention. By the way, you can use this underwater also, if that situation ever arises.
I would suggest you certainly get one in your boat, but if you have a wife or kids who should be carrying one with them for personal safety, you may want to but more of them. The one for your boat, “is for your boat”. Don’t take the one out of you boat for any reason. It is too easy to forget to put it back in. Remember, you don’t know when you will need it, so it better be available when you do.
We hate to think about hitting something in the lake or breaking down after dark, but it happens. I would suggest having two light sources on board in case of emergencies. Batteries don’t last forever, so in the case of an emergency at night, only use one flashlight at a time and conserve the other one.
Naturally being a boater, you need your light sources to be waterproof (though any emergency flashlight should be waterproof anyway). Unfortunately, many flashlights are marketed as being waterproof, when in reality they are only water resistant. You need it to be fully waterproof and submersible in case you need to use it underwater in an emergency.
I really love the HECLOUD 2 Pack LED XM-T6 Professional Diving Flashlights. As I stated, you need two and here you go. For under $30 you get two super bright waterproof flashlights made for diving. They have the bright yellow body and a wrist strap so you can have use of both hands if needed.
They are rated to 80 feet deep, however some have used it down to 110 feet deep. You’re not likely going to need that, but you can rest assured, for a safety flashlight that needs to be waterproof, this one is perfect. It puts out 1200 lumen and runs for about 4 hours of lighting in Low Mode with a single charge.
You get three light modes as well “bright – dim – strobe”. It comes with a rechargeable battery but also leaves you the option to use 3 AAA batteries. These are reliable, powerful, rechargeable, and submersible. Perfect for our boat safety kit. Grab this set of waterproof flashlights on Amazon. They are a “must have”.
I would guess that the most of us won’t require a marine radio for inland lakes. However, if you’re going to be on very large lakes, like the Great Lakes, or using your boat in salt water (ocean), you will be required to have a marine radio on board.
Actually, I had to use one once. If you have read many of my posts, you know that I got my first boat in my freshman year of high school (many decades ago). Well at that young age, I knew everything (lol), so we took the boat out on Lake Michigan. As usual it broke down and we had to call for help on our marine radio. We didn’t get back to the dock until 2 am, being towed by the Coast Guard! But we were rescued because of that marine radio.
Marine radios are much better and smaller than they used to be and my pick is the Standard Horizon HX890 Floating 6W Handheld VHF with Internal GPS. The title kind says it all, but having a built in GPS does some amazing things for you. Here is an exert:
- HX890 comes packaged with all the accesories including the rechargeable Li-Ion battery, Alkaline battery tray, 110V wall charger, 220V adapter, charging cradle, 12V charger, PC programming cable and belt lip with lanyard
- 6W transmit power output (Selectable 6/ 2/ 1 W) | 700mW Loud Audio and Noise Canceling Function for both TX/RX audio | Submersible IPX8 Construction and it floats
- DSC (Digital Selective Calling) ITU-R M.493 Class-H Operation | W2.60’’ x H5.43’’ x D1.50’’ – Round Case Design provides excellent ergonomics
- Built-in Integrated 66 channel WAAS GPS Receiver | 11-hour Operating Time with 1800mAh high capacity Li-ion battery | Easy to Operate Menu System with a large (1.7’’ x 1.7’’) Full-dot matrix display | Selectable Display Mode – Day & Night Mode | Waypoint and Route navigation | Group Monitor Function utilising DSC Group Position Call
- MOB (Man over Board) feature | Water Activated Emergency “WHITE” Strobe Light | Two Scrambler Systems built-in – 4-code CVS2500A & 32-code FVP-42 | Versatile Scanning operation (Dual Watch and Triple Watch) | NOAA Weather Channels with Weather Alert | FM Broadcast Radio Receiver | Micro USB Data jack for PC programming | 3 Year Waterproof Warranty
If you drop it in the water, it floats. It is also submersible for up to a half hour. This is not the cheapest option for marine hand held radios, but for the important features, it is the best marine hand held radio. I have had to count on my radio once and I’m glad I had it. My radio back then didn’t have GPS, so that’s why it took so long to be found. Don’t buy a two-way marine safety radio without GPS. If you want to be found, you can tell them your GPS coordinates / location.
You may need help one day also, so buy this reliable Standard Horizon HX890 Marine two-way radio on Amazon, and while you are there read more about all the amazing safety features.
In most inland lakes, you really only need one anchor at a time. But what if your boat is broke down and your anchor line breaks, or something else happens where your anchor becomes ineffective? You need a backup anchor.
It’s handy to have two anchors when the wind is moving your boat around to much when you’re at anchor. So for that reason alone it is a good idea to have an extra anchor stored at the back of the boat. The anchor that I am suggesting may not be adequate if you have a very larger boat, so pick a size that is compact, but still able to hold your boat in an emergency situation (multiple sizes available).
For this application, I don’t want the same style anchor as my primary anchor. It just may be the lake bottom that is the issue with your primary not working so it is a good idea to have this as your secondary/backup anchor. The Crown Sporting Goods Galvanized Folding Grapnel Boat Anchor is different, durable, weighted, and works in most bottom conditions. I love that it:
- Folds up for easy storage.
- Has weight to get it to the bottom when there is a strong current.
- Has a lock to keep it expanded.
You can buy the Crown Sporting Goods Galvanized Folding Grapnel Boat Anchor on Amazon. Depending on the size you need they range from $30 to $80. Once you click the link to Amazon, there is a chart that tells you what size you need for your size boat. Don’t forget to buy your anchor rope while you are there. The Amazon suggested (frequently bought together) polypropylene rope is good.
I really don’t like having a full size oar on my boat. They are too long to store and are kinda ugly, lol. I prefer collapsible oars. It is so much easier to store them. With the convenience of being able to make them shorter, comes the possibility of making them very weak.
There are several expandable boat oars available, but if you read the reviews, you’ll find that most of them break easily. If you are in an emergency situation and your only means of directing your boat is your emergency oars, you don’t want them breaking!
The best telescoping boat oar is the Davis Instruments Telescoping Paddle and Boat Hook. It expands from 32 inches long to 66 inches long, and it is strong. The locking mechanism is good because it can hold up to pushing against thing or pulling them toward you with the attached hook. Once you have it, notice how it can telescope at both ends.
Don’t just buy one of these. You most often are going to have other passengers, so buy two of these on Amazon for around 50 bucks each. Remember, you don’t want a cute little cheap paddle when you boat breaks down. You want a proven durable one (or two).
While the type of sunscreen people use is mostly a matter of personal preference, I am adding it to the list because you absolutely need it in your emergency kit. The sun can injure you and your guests severely if you’re not wearing protection.
Protection can be in the form of a long sleeve shirt and pants with a hat, or blankets, but that’s not a good plan for enjoying all the watersports that boating allows.
The simple solution is to keep some sunscreen in your emergency kit that has a higher SPF protection rating. I recommend an SPF 50 for your emergency kit. This isn’t intended to be there so you can get a great tan. It is there in case of emergency. I keep Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+, the 6 Ounce size, which is of course the best price on Amazon. Again this is my personal choice for the emergency kit.
You could go with a higher SPF, but not get much more sun protection. You will be well protected with this SPF 50+. This holds it’s water resistance for 80 minutes. Something else interesting is:
- Consumers have been led to believe that ultra-high SPF numbers like 70 and 100 provide much more protection than SPF 30. This is False. SPF 30 provides 97% protection from UVB and SPF 100 provides 99% coverage for UVB. We tell folks if you look at the back of the tube and you see a bunch of words you don’t recognize, you probably don’t want to put that on your skin. It is important that you’re using a truly Broad-spectrum formula that covers UVA and UVB.
Emergency Signal Flares
There are a few styles of emergency signal flares available, but my choice comes from the point of view that “if I am signaling for help, I want to be sure my signal is seen”. I want a signal flare that is:
- not scary to use
- is certain to launch
- is audible (makes sound)
- provides several flares
While I personally don’t mind using the hand held aerial flares, who says that it is me that has to use them. I may be the one injured. So I want something that anyone will be comfortable using and is very easy to understand. If you can’t see the other side of the lake, you need to be carrying your signal flares, but once you have them, keep them in the boat so they are always there.
I carry the Orion Alert Plus Kit on my boat. For an aerial flare, these are excellent and safe to use. It comes in a nice bright orange case, which is nice for storing and keeping it dry. The best price on the Orion Alert Plus Kit is on Amazon for $89.97
You should also be sure that your boat can be seen at night. Once someone notices the aerial, you will need either an electronic beacon or other handheld or floating flares so they can spot your boat. You can add something to your Orion Kit order that you are comfortable with.
On smaller boats, you can get away with just one fire extinguisher, but once you get into bigger boats, you really need them in multiple areas. My 29 foot Monterey has a big one in the engine bay, and also a medium sized one near the helm.
I have never had a reason to use a fire extinguisher on a boat. That’s 38 years of never needing to use one, but always having one available. I’ve had them in every boat and every personal watercraft.
For most boat owners following us at beginboating.com you’ll find that the First Alert Fire Extinguisher | Marine Fire Extinguisher, to be sufficient for their boat. This is the FE1A10GR model which is USCG approved, and of course available on Amazon today.
It comes with a mounting bracket which is great for most boats, so it is out and visible. However, what I see most people doing is laying it in a sidewall of there runabout. It is easier to mount in a pontoon boat, because there is more flat wall space. On my 20 foot bow rider, it is mounted on the inside wall of the helm.
Boat Ignition Kill Tether
I believe that ever boat should have a ignition kill tether. It is very simple to install, and in the case the driver has a medical issue or just gets thrown from the helm, the boat engine will shut off.
The last thing you want, is to have a boat running across the lake with no driver controlling it. It only takes an instant with the helm unattended and under power, to hit something or someone. Your life would be changed forever.
I am well aware that people won’t always hook it up to the driver, but it should be installed on the boat anyway. You can’t use it if it isn’t installed.