My current life jacket of choice is a 2016 Astral Green Jacket LE8 Edition. In my eyes, it pretty much is as rad as LJs get! For me it was a no brainer to get the LE8 Edition, I mean common! It’s so cool!
I like to think of an LJ/Rescue Vest as a Day Bag that I wear. The Green Jacket has a crazy number of pockets and attachment points, which allows me to hold a lot of gear. With its Day Bag abilities, I am prepared for anything. From keeping my lips not chapped, to setting up a Z-Drag in less than a minute; this vest lets me be prepared at all times on the water.
On The Vest:
NRS Pilot River Knife: This river knife is a vital tool. However, it is something you buy and hope to never have to use for its intended purpose. If you are ever tangled in rope or branches underwater you need to have a knife in an accessible spot that you can use to cut yourself loose. There are many awesome River Knives, I personally prefer the Pilot. It also doubles as an awesome peanut-butter spreader at lunchtime.
Pig Tail with Locking Carabiner: The Pig Tail and Biner are fantastic for live bait rescuing, and clipping into a hardline on steep portages. It is an awesome addition to a Rescue Belt; though it is very important you only use this after receiving the proper training. White Water Rescue is awesome, without knowing what you are doing, (especially during live bait rescues) you can easily turn yourself into a victim rather than the rescuer, so make sure to seek proper training before using these.
Whistle: From getting peoples’ attention on an open lake, to white water signaling; a whistle is one of the most vital and used accessories on a canoe trip. I use the Fox 40 whistle because it is loud, bright colored, and has no bead inside and therefore works when wet.
Paracord: Cord is something you can never have enough of. It is often brought out for repairs and is extremely strong. These bracelets are fantastic because you can clip them anywhere!
Carabiner: You can always use an extra biner!
Lip Chap: SPF 15 AND PEACH? Winner winner chicken dinner! Chapped lips drive me crazy on a long hot day of flat-water paddling. Keeping a tube in my LJ front pocket is a must.
Spork: I have gotten big into mixing GORP and Peanut Butter in a mug to eat for lunch or a quick snack. Yeah a stick works fine, but having the option of a titanium utensil always at my disposal is prime. Pretty glam, but once you go spork you never go back.
Blaze Tape: I am a huge fan of bush-crash portages (or portages without a designated path). They allow you to link up bodies of water that you normally wouldn’t connect, due to lack of an established portage, and seek new areas. Blazing your own trail through the forest is awesome but does require markers. That’s where this high visibility, durable “tape” comes in.
Water Purification: If you want to throw the dice with Giardia sure, but I prefer to purify my water and only have to reach for the moss when I need to. There are a ton of amazing purifiers out there, I usually keep Aquatabs in my LJ pocket and an MSR pump in my day bag. Aquatabs come in packs of 10 individually sealed so the packaging can get wet.
Mio Sport: It’s not always Mio Sport, but having water flavoring that is accessible is a nice spirit lifter for yourself or your group, especially if the water you filtered tastes awful. This is not vital to have, just nice on those not-so-nice days.
Snack: “You’re not you when you’re hungry” is so true. On a river shooting rapids you need to be at the top of your game mentally and physically because no matter how good you think you are, water is always better. Hunger can really mess with your critical thinking. Having a small snack available can be a huge lifesaver. I like granola bars such as Cliff Bars, GORP Bars, Oh Henrys, basically anything that is sealed and tasty.
Z-Drag Kit/4321: The Green Jacket has a lot of space to store equipment. The back/hip pockets are perfect to hold your Z-Drag Kit or 4321.
-4 Locking Carabiners: Behind the front pocket of the Green Jacket is a secret carabiner clip. I always keep at least 2 there. In the back pockets I have 3 biners, one in the right, one in the left.
-3 Pulleys: These give you the mechanical advantage in your Z-Drag. I always have 1 PMP (Prusik Minding Pulley) in my right pocket and 2 in the left. This allows me to get the first pulley set up the fastest.
-2 Prusik Knots: I don’t currently have those; I burned through both on a rescue this summer. Normally I have 1 long loop and 1 short loop in my pockets.
-6ft Tubular Webbing: This will get water knotted and then clipped around my waste. The big long loop will be used as an anchor for the Z Drag
(These are things that will make appearances in my jacket but aren’t consistently in there.)
Polarized Sun Glasses: These make all the difference when scouting a rapid, lining a set, and paddling on open water with a clear sky.
GoPro: Who doesn’t love POV rapid footage right? I highly recommend a back float or a tether if you’re going to bring this out, as you certainly don’t want to lose it.
Spare Compass: This item usually switches between being in my LJ, or in my Day Bag. Always have a backup!
Satellite Communication: I have used both inReach and Spot devices and both work fantastic. It doesn’t hurt to have one of these with you, especially when cell service is very spotty out in the forest.
CPR Mask: I’m trying to keep these consistently in the pockets but I sadly lose mine. You can get these fantastic little fold up ones, highly recommend.
This isn’t a “Be All End All” list of what you should, and shouldn’t have in your LJ; this is just what I personally like to have. Whatever you choose to use, it is very important to know what is where, so when the time comes you’re not looking frantically through all the pockets!