• Jonny Hawkins

White Water Leader Kit List

Updated: May 16

Leading mates down a new section of river or guiding clients down their dream run can be an amazing experience. Carrying the right kit can really help you and your team have a great time, so here is a list of what I carry as a White Water Leader.


Throwline - There are so many options on the market varying in; rope length, thicknesses, colour and bag closure methods. Think carefully about what you will predominantly use it for and buy one that suits. I have a thin, light weight, 18m line for chilled situations and a thick, durable 20m one for more advanced environments.

Knife - A must if you have a throwline and it must be very accessible, ideally with one hand.


Tape - A super diverse bit of kit that comes in different lengths. Tapes are more versatile than sewn climbers slings and I like my Palm one with tiny eyelets at each end for a carabiner, making anchor building a doddle.


Carabiners - Another versatile bit of kit that comes in many different styles. I like them to be big, HMS shaped and have screwgates so they can handle an Italian Hitch and also stay closed when you need them too. No snapgates for me thanks :)

Phone - For checking river levels, summoning assistance, locating yourself and ordering pizza for the takeout.


First aid kit - Make sure it stays dry (2 dry bags) and contains all the things to solve likely injuries. There is a balance between having all the medical supplies and it not weighing a ton, so figure out where you are on that spectrum.

Group Shelter - These are great to hide in when waiting for the shuttle or sheltering a casualty when waiting for mountain rescue and they make brilliant sails. They do a great job at keeping their contents warm and again there is a toss up between size and weight. You're more likely to bring a lightweight design on a river trip but ensure no one gets left outside.

Repair kit - Think about what could break and bring something that can fix it. I like items that have multiple uses and am yet to find anything that covers hull cracks and is resistant to rock bashing.


Splits - If possible don't skimp on them. When you are in a situation where someone has lost or broken a paddle, you are probably going to want a good paddle to get out of it.


Headtorch - Particularly when paddling in winter, you never know when the river trip is going to take longer than expected or an emergency situation carries on into the night.

Personal Location Beacon - These are growing in popularity and although expensive, mean you can summon help wherever you are. My Ocean Signal Rescue Me is the size of a headtorch and with no subscription fee, the initial purchase is the only cost.


Saw - More typically carried by canoeists but I have used mine to clear a portage or remove a tree to make a line paddle-able.


Pulleys + Prusiks - Encouraged as standard for canoeists and for kayakers when paddling advanced water. Cheap and cheerful pulleys don't make a big enough difference to warrant bringing them, so invest in a metal bearing design. Prusiks are versatile and can be used to fix stuff as well but make sure the diameter is small enough to grip the throwline you are using. Top tip: make sure someone in the team has a 10mm line for advanced ropework.

I hope this article has helped you develop as a leader and it would be great to hear about any other bits of kit that you carry on the river. If you would like to learn more about how to use these items, I run British Canoeing safety and rescue courses for kayakers and canoeists. Click the links below for more information.



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