With just a little preparation, you can be ready for many of the common issues that might arise out on the water. Every time I go paddling, I wear this kit of a few key items — all of which are available at PADDLE! the Florida Keys. Over the years, it has carried me through some sketchy situations.

I use the Onyx Inflatable PFD. Many paddlers will take a bulky lifejacket and clip it to the front of the board, but in a situation where it’s needed, it’s no good to you there. An inflatable is the best choice for me. I like the Onyx in particular because of its wraparound fit, and the belt also serves to hold the rest of the kit.

Next I clip on the NRS titanium co-pilot knife. This was my white water knife, and it has been by my side for many adventures. Having the built-in bottle opener is handy too. Being made of titanium, it has absolutely zero rust spots. Considering what salt water does to steel knives, this feature is important, and means you won’t have to buy a new one in six months.

Then we have the SPOT GPS device, which I use for solo and longer paddles. Working on global satellite technology, this device should work anywhere in the world. It can be set to ping the satellite every 10 minutes with my position, and a custom web address lets others back on land (like my wife) follow my trip. The other four buttons are customizable online. I can send messages to a preset list of recipients as well as summon the Coast Guard. I also pay for the evacuation insurance, which should cover me in case I need to be airlifted. While I don’t always wear this, it’s reassuring to know that I can be found and useful to have a record of my progress on a long paddle.

Last but not least are the whistle and flashlight. For years, I’ve used the FOX 40 whistle because of its piercing noise. Be aware that if it’s windy, whistles don’t carry as far as you think, so it isn’t always the most valuable signaling device. But it does keep your requirement with the Coast Guard. My flashlight is called a splash flash, which alternates between a flashlight and a SOS beacon. It is waterproof, and one AAA battery powers it for a long time. This is also a Coast Guard required safety device when paddling at night.

You can find these items and everything you need to “paddle yourself to a better place” at PADDLE! the Florida Keys.