What should you keep in a grab bag?

25 June 2019

Let’s be honest, none of us ever expect to find ourselves abandoning our pride and joy for a liferaft and, as we should all know by now, we really should delay such action until there is no other option. That said, it is perhaps worthwhile considering what we should take with us.

Thinking about what is most likely to finish us off in a liferaft, the list is extensive. It’s probable that the dangers are as follows (in chronological order);

  1. Injury during transfer to liferaft
  2. Exposure (hypothermia or hyperthermia)
  3. Dehydration
  4. Infection & disease
  5. Starvation
  6. Collapse of Morale

None of the above sounds particularly appealing, so how best to mitigate or delay these dangers?

The first risk is best avoided by delaying an evacuation until there is no other choice. Abandoning to a liferaft in very big seas is a daunting prospect for any of us that have considered it in a storm. Of course, fire or severe flood may leave you no choice.

The remainder can largely be addressed by packing one or more grab bags and taking them with you. Dependent on the seas in which you are sailing and how far offshore you are, you might consider any or all of the following;


  • TPAs / Survival suits
  • Flare Pack 
  • Handheld VHF
  • Mobile Phone & solar charger
  • Passports, Ship’s Log, credit cards, cash, 
  • Flashlight or strobe
  • First Aid Kit
  • Water bottles
  • Rehydration salts
  • 50+ UV Sun screen
  • Essential drugs & antibiotics / iodine spray
  • Water purification tablets
  • Warm and high wicking clothing  to cover arms and legs
  • Sunhat and warm beanie
  • Foul weather gear and mid layers
  • Sleeping bags and cushions (to prevent conduction of cold through the liferaft’s floor)
  • Water (as much as you can carry) and a means of collecting more from rainfall or condensation
  • Throwing line
  • GPS
  • Charts & Pencils
  • Spare batteries


  • Manual Desalination pump
  • Scissors & Can opener
  • Tinned food (ideally with water or juice)
  • High calorie snacks
  • Vitamin tablets
  • Laxatives & Imodium
  • Sea sickness tablets
  • Knife/s
  • Fishing line, weights & lures
  • Fishing net
  • Chopping board
  • Second sea anchor
  • Pack of playing cards
  • LW/MW/FM radio and spare batteries
  • Alcohol Gel / soap
  • Towel

Maintain a daily routine (for longer term ocean situations)

Most liferafts include things like a signalling mirror, water, sea sickness tablets, etc. Adding to this basic inventory is essential. It’s also a good idea to take your dinghy and any additional liferafts your boat has. Be prepared for the worst - and hope for the best.

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