Equipment Used By Rafting Guides

Your raft guide cinches a life jacket around your ribs giving you instant perspective on exactly how much air you normally can take in with each breath. A helmet is placed on your head and tightened around your chin. You suddenly have got everything you need to go rafting for the day.

Your raft guide, on the other hand, carries additional equipment essential for your safety on the water.

A raft guide’s primary job is to keep his clients safe. In order to accomplish this, essential pieces of equipment must be taken on each river trip.

The Personal Flotation Device, or PFD, becomes a second skin for the busy summer raft guide. Often, a raft guide can be identified from miles away by the unmistakable PFD tan lines left on his/her sun-kissed skin. Most rafting outfitters require their guides to wear rescue PFDs, which offer more safety features than the client’s PFDs. Locations for a river knife, whistle and even safety harness allow the guide more versatility and convenience if an emergency were to occur.

Inside the PFD, every raft guide will carry a river knife, whistle and several locking carabineers.

While knives are most frequently used for spreading jam and slicing cheese during river trips, they also assist in river rescues. Whistles facilitate smooth communication throughout a trip. Each whistle blow sends a different message to other raft guides and clients ranging from getting the attention of the group to alerting others of an emergency. Locking carabineers perform multiple functions. They can be clipped to a raft to secure other equipment or used in the set-up of a mechanical advantage system during a rescue.

Depending on the difficulty of the river, raft guides may also carry two pulleys and two prussic loops inside their PFD pocket. Through a Whitewater Rescue Technician course, a raft guide learns how to use pulleys and prussic loops to increase pulling strength. In the unlikely event that a raft were to become pinned under water, a mechanical advantage system using pulleys, prussics, rope and carabineers allows the guides to lift hundreds of pounds of water in the raft as it resurfaces.

On your raft trip you will also notice a piece of webbing wrapped around your raft guide’s waste and fastened with another carabineer. This strap, usually at least six feet in length, is known as a flip line. When a raft flips upside down, raft guides swiftly climb on top and use their flip line to turn the raft upright again and gather all swimmers. This piece of webbing also has an important role in a mechanical advantage system, usually acting as the anchor.

Within a guide’s raft will also be a canvas bag with coiled rope inside. Called the “throw bag,” this is usually the first line of rescue for a swimming customer. During the initial safety briefing, raft guides will explain this procedure. The throw bag is a convenient way to carry safety rope at all times while on the river.

A raft guide will also make use of paddles for more than just controlling a raft. Primarily, paddles become an extension of the arm to reach a swimmer in the water. A raft guide will give the T-grip end of a raft paddle to an overboard client, pulling he or she in closer and lifting the client back in the raft.

Although every raft guide job differs slightly, each guide carries the same type of equipment on each trip. Whether guiding on a daily stretch of the Potomac in Virginia or the American in California, each raft guide is prepared with these essential equipment items.

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