Become a Rock N Rescue Dealer

Essential Swift Water Rescue Gear

When someone falls into a swift flowing body of water, the rescue effort must be rapid and immediate. This is why it is essential that anyone taking a trip down a river or other swift flowing stream is properly equipped so that the reaction is almost instantaneous. Having the right gear at the ready greatly increases the chances of a successful rescue.

There are several items that every professional or tour guide should have with them to ensure anyone who falls overboard has a better chance of returning to the craft. Even if you are a boating enthusiast, you should make sure to have the right equipment to get you through a tough situation.

It is also important to note that not all rescues are for those who fall into the water. Sometimes a rapid body of water can push a craft into a tight spot, trapping the vessel’s passengers or a craft may overturn. Rescue equipment should focus on rescuing those who fall out a craft that get lodged, and collecting everyone from a capsized vessel.

The following lists what the essentials are for a swift water rescue and why you need each piece of equipment. You can create kits for each vessel to ensure that all of the rescue supplies are quickly available in case of an emergency.

Swift Water Rescue Vest

Everyone who goes on the water should be wearing some type of floatation vest. However, for bodies of water with rapidly moving currents, a sturdier vest is required to help someone who has fallen into that water. Swift water rescue vests are designed to provide more cushioning and durability, as well as being made of bright colors. The sturdier material is important to cushioning the person’s vital organs, while the bright colors make it easier to see the person against the neutral and darker colors of the water. These vests also have greater buoyancy to help the person keep their head above water in the rapidly flowing water.

The swift water rescue vest also has a handle for attaching the throw bag to the vest to pull the person out of the current. Pockets in the front of the vest can be used to store other potentially necessary tools, such as a light, knives, or other small gear. Typically, a whistle is attached as well, giving the victim a way of getting rescuers’ attention if the victim is lodged or trapped with their head above water.

Throw or Rope Bag

Every boat needs at least one throw bag. It is comparable to the rescue floats used in the ocean, but the primary tools in a throw or rope bag are the ropes that you need to help someone who has fallen out of the vessel.

The bag may include a cinch rescue collar as well. The victim is able to slip the harness from either side, so that rescuers can focus on getting the device to the person, and the person can more quickly secure themselves with the device. Once the collar is on, the rescuer can pull the rope taught, and the device will secure the victim by cinching around the chest. This device makes it easier to pull a person out of the water, even during a helicopter lift.

Carabiners and Pulleys

Carabiners and pulleys are necessary to attach ropes to different objects and secure the victim. Carabiners are used to attach and lock the rope to the victim’s rescue vest and objects at the other end. Specially designed pulleys can be used to secure ropes over branches and other objects so that rope can be maneuvered around sharp edges or areas where they may catch. Pulleys actually serve multiple uses and are required in most swift water rescues, making them an essential tool for any craft on swift moving water.


This is a piece of gear that is often forgotten, but it is essential for certain types of rescues. Some streams or rivers are narrow enough that they do not require additional anchors, but they also have varying widths and debris that can be used to anchor a line. By including webbing in your kit, you can add extra length and stability during a rescue. Webbing typically comes with its own stainless-steel D-ring and carabiner so that you don’t have to forgo having these pieces of equipment available for use in other locations. The tether of the webbing attaches to the shoulder strap so that it does not get in the way. In the event of a rescue, additional rope can be attached to the D-ring to provide additional leverage to the people on land who are part of the rescue effort to bring someone back to land.


Rapidly moving water is often cold and the cold dampness will make it more difficult to grip the rope to pull someone to safety. Special water rescue gloves can help rescuers have the grip they need on the lines to pull someone to safety.

Haul Lines

The haul line helps to move vessels that are trapped or lodged to move back into the stream. It includes a rope that acts as a static line to help pull the vessel away from rocks. Smaller crafts, like kayaks, can use smaller lines, and some companies use the throw bags. However, for larger vessels, it is best to have something sturdy that was designed to take the weight of the larger craft as it is being moved.


Kits should include a specially designed knife that can be used to shorten a rope or quickly cut a tangled line. A special knife is required because swift water conditions can be difficult to work in, and these knives are designed so that they can be used by the victim or the rescuer whether they have wet or cold hands without putting the person at greater risk. The blade’s edges are serrated, but the tip is blunted, which also allows it to work as a screwdriver for slots. Rescue knives are designed to serve several needs so that you don’t have to carry more equipment. The special knives are also resistant to rust so that you can use them longer.

Swift Water Rescue Guide

While this isn’t something you will need when you are in the water, everyone who spends time on a body of water that could have a quick current should take the time to read a swift water guide book or manual. It is the kind of information that you hope never to use, but that you are glad you know in an emergency. Most of these guides are geared toward those who have less experience or who are hobbyists; however, there are some more detailed and technical rescue guides that are written for professionals.