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What’s in my Guide Purse

Some call it a guide purse or guide bag, others call it a ditch kit or go-bag, and I’m sure others call it names I can’t even imagine. Whatever you call it, this is one important bag for safe paddling. It’s the bag that lives between my legs in the cockpit of my kayak while I’m paddling, by my side when I’m making meals and hanging around camp, and next to my pillow when I’m sleeping in my tent. It’s the bag that contains all of my most important safety equipment and would be the one swimming to shore with me in the event that I lose my boat. 

The bag itself obviously needs to be rugged and tough to survive being shoved in and out of my boat so often, and completely watertight to survive the extended dunks it receives daily. For my first couple trips as a kayak guide, I used a combination of different drybags and cases as ditch kits, but none were watertight enough or durable enough to satisfy my needs. By the end of my first guide season in 2015, I had decided it was time to invest, so I bought a blue Watershed Ocoee from my local gear shop and the rest is history… 

As it stands now, the bag is on it’s 9th season and finally starting to show its age. Over the years I’ve glued a Guide’s alliance patch to the front (it fell off after 5 years...), written my name and phone number on the back, and wiped it with 303 protectant after every season, but otherwise it has remained unaltered and un-repaired throughout it’s life. The bag itself is a bit more than 10L when rolled and opens with a ziplock-type closure along the long edge. This is what makes the bag so special - it has a huge opening for easily finding your stuff and is completely watertight. It also has some handles for easy carrying, a couple lash points, and some clips to keep it tidy when the zip is rolled down. If you have a large cockpit, I would recommend the Watershed bag that’s one size larger.

If you prefer zippers, Sagebrush Dry makes an awesome bag that would work well for a ditch kit - the small kayak bag. While the watershed bag is pretty ubiquitous in the Westcoast kayak world, the Sagebrush option gives it a run for its money.

Now, what you all came for - the objects I keep inside my guide purse! Over the years I’ve refined this list to the things I use most and the things I’ve found myself in trouble for not having. I think there is some utility in comparing your own guide bag with mine. That being said, I am not perfect and everyone will have a slightly different set of supplies in their bag.

For the sake of organization, I group my stuff into a couple bags so I know what I’m reaching for at any given moment. The main ones being a long mesh bag of assorted things, a sealed emergency kit, an ouch kit, a flare kit, a fire kit, and a pair of binoculars. 

Here are the things that are currently in my purse (updated on day 119 of our paddle to Alaska):

  • Sealed emergency kit

    • Tin blanket

    • Multi tool

    • Rope

    • Fishing kit

    • Flint and steel

    • Matches

    • Fire starter

    • Mirror

    • Whistle

  • Ouch kit

    • Hand warmers

    • Leatherman multitool

    • Leatherman folding scissors

    • Band-aids

    • Paper tape

    • Advil

    • Tylenol

    • Gravol

    • Voltaren

    • Tegaderm

    • Vet wrap (self adhesive wrap)

    • Topical benadryl

    • Benadryl

    • Immodium

  • Flare kit

    • 3 of at least 2 different kinds - I have 6 class B flares with a launcher and one class C

    • Bear bangers - 6 shots and one pen launcher

  • VHF radio - this moves to my PFD on rough crossings, in surf, and in high traffic areas

    • Spare battery

  • Binoculars - Bushnell 12 x 25

  • Fire kit

    • Pitch sticks

    • Lighter

    • Beeswax fire starter 

    • Matches

  • Mesh bag

    • Aquatabs - enough for 100L

    • Croakies for sunglasses

    • Spare sunglasses

    • Deck of cards

    • ALP stickers

    • Hand sanitizer

    • $1 coin

    • 3 AA batteries in a film canister

    • 4 AAA betteries in a film canister

    • Lip chap

    • Lighter

    • Nuun tablets

    • Breath mints

    • Zipper lubricant

    • Sunglasses case and cleaning cloth

    • First aid manual

    • Susan the tiny rubber chicken

    • Epi-pen

    • Fleece headband

    • Charging cables

      • iPhone

      • Micro USB

      • Shokz headphones

      • USB C

    • Headlamp

    • Writing case

      • 3 pens

      • 3 sharpies

      • 2 pencils

      • Tent pole splint

      • Lighter

  • Loose items

    • Log book

    • Skin moisturizer 

    • Large knife for wood splitting

    • 20000 mah battery pack

Things that were in there at one point and were helpful:

  • Shoulder strap made from webbing and two carabiners

  • Group paperwork 

Things that live in my PFD, but are stored in my Gurse:

  • Zinc stick

  • SPF 60 sunscreen

  • SunSki Treeline sunglasses

  • Shokz Openrun headphones

  • Silva Explore Compass

  • SPF 30 lip chap 

  • Spoon

Hopefully seeing inside my bag has given you something to think about when deciding what to put in yours. If there’s anything in yours that I missed, I’d love to hear about it! As I said earlier, my guide purse is filled with an ever-evolving list of treasures so I’d love to discuss.



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I'm curious what you use for charging your VHF, phone and other electronics on trip? I'm looking into solar charging options and would love to know what you use

Replying to

All of my devices can be charges with a USB cable so I bring a 20,000mah rechargeable battery pack and recharge things overnight. I find that one battery pack is enough for roughly 8 days. Maybe I'll write a post about my 'electronics system'.


Great list. What's the volume of the bag? I build a similar bag and found it restrictive between my knees and awkward when entering and exiting kayak

Replying to

The bag is around 15L. It's pretty 'sausage shaped' so it fits quite well between my legs - probably 5" wide and 14" long. I have a routine of laying the bag on my front deck, crawling into the cockpit, then placing the bag between my legs. I haven't had any issues with snags when doing a wet exit.

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