The Lap Bag. The purse. The m-urse. The small waterproof valise into which every kayaker and rafter compile essentials. Carrying it in any international airport is a dead giveaway that you are river kin. Being without it leaves a sensation of complete disarray and utter angst. Having it dialed and enjoying the ensuing air of preparedness, comfort, and peace of mind: priceless.
My Lap Bag always contains those no-brainer essentials: first-aid kit, mini survival kit (think lighter, waterproof matches, bivy, space blanket), water purification back-up (Aquamira), ‘biners, sunscreen, multi-tool, and of course basic toiletries. But through the years, I’ve learned a few tricks and added a few unconventional items that are worth adding to your kit, or at least considering. Don’t forget the essentials, but here are a few things the standard stock guidebook might not tell you to put in your day bag.
Wag Bag: You just never know when that morning coffee is going to come calling at an inopportune moment. I know someone that, when locked out of a bathroom at a public park, decided it was his best option to poop on the grass, make due with no TP, and use a dog bag to pick everything up. A wag bag is far classier and worth having on hand.
Birthday Candles: Birthdays are the best! They’re our chance to celebrate people and everything good about them…a ribbon thrown in can take a candle lit birthday beer to the next level.
Headlamp and Extra Batteries: I have a horrible habit of thinking the day will last a little longer no matter what time it is…9 PM? Well, it usually gets dark in 15 minutes, but it definitely won’t today, so I’ll go a couple extra miles. You never know when you’re going to get caught in the dark, and battery run-down seems to come up more often than not, so having back-up batteries is a varsity move. A big thanks to everyone who carries two headlamps, you’ve saved my butt.
Cork: A lost drain plug literally equals a gaping hole in your boat, which is not optimal. A good ol’ cork is actually a great back-up. Shaved down or beefed up with duct tape, it can be fashioned into a makeshift drain plug for any boat any time.
Ski Strap: It seems like these things are perfect when you need something, but don’t quite know what it is. Strapping paddles together, rigging a tarp, fashioning a shoulder sling. A ski strap is one of those very small, versatile, make-a-difference items.
Bitchathane: Bitchathane is a protective material used in construction to full-proof roofs against snow and ice. It also happens to be the best material for sealing welds or make shifting repairs on cracked boats—definitely worth keeping on hand.
Travel-Size Bottle(s) of your choice of alcohol: Pros: allowed on a plane (although you can’t legally drink them on the plane), so it won’t be a sacrifice if you forget to take it out of your carry-on. Useful for sanitizing whatever may need to be emergency sanitized, or drinking while wounds are being cleaned, or instigating the placebo effect of thinking that you’re killing everything in your system by drinking after taking shots of a dirty river to the mouth, or, of course, for a little celebration. Porque no?
Hats: One for sun and one for cold. Sun off your face equals amazing. Warm hat on a cold day to put on for a scout, at lunch, or just off the river equals thank you for keeping me functioning.
Extra Zip Locks: Don’t take up much space and can always be used for something: a just in case for your phone, a container for leftover food, a makeshift pocket mask. But do yourself a favor and invest the dollar more on the good ones.
Snacks/ Kira Kit: The zip lock with energy bars and my epipen (in case of fire ant bites) that I carry was officially labeled the “Kira Kit.” Prone to hanger and crashes, snacks make all the difference in my world. Snacks. Lots of snacks.
Duct Tape: I know, so cliché, but imagine it’s day two on a snowy multi-day trip when you pull your drysuit over your head and feel the relief of ease, and then the “Oh shit!” when you recognize you just ripped your neck gasket. Being on the verge of hypothermia with water pouring in or comfy with a duct-tape-repaired gasket is a big difference.
Small Journal and Writing Utensil: Whether it’s recording a SOAP note or the Doug Ammons river of life insight that just hit you, keep a pen and paper handy for doodling, journaling, writing notes to post at put-ins to let your friends know you borrowed their car for shuttle, whatever. Bottom line, it’s useful to keep your creative side up and for nitty gritty. (Or jotting down items you wish you had in your day bag…and items you’ll never need in your bag again).
Body Paint and Tattoos: You just never know when you’re going to need them. I’ll leave it at that.