The Essential Swiftwater Gear List - 2023 Edition

The swiftwater world is one of the most exciting environments for a rescuer to work in. It’s loud, fast, disorienting, dynamic, often very cold, and risky.

Training is the keystone to any swiftwater operation, and we're blessed with a wealth of resources here in Canada. In British Columbia, we have some of the best training organizations in the world.

After great training comes great gear. Water rescues can change from safe to scary in a split-second. Proper gear can help mitigate some of the risks. Swiftwater rescue teams must have specialized equipment, such as personal protective equipment, swiftwater rescue boats, throw ropes, and rescue harnesses.

Check out our 2023 swiftwater safety gear list below for our go-to essentials for when water turns rough:


First and foremost - flotation. Your primary source of buoyancy is your personal flotation device. Fit is the key here. If the PFD is not snug, it will ride up and keep you in a lower position in the water and obscure your vision. We also want our PFDs to allow for a good range of motion and to provide optimum flotation with minimal bulk.

Our favourite for the professional is the Northwater Pro System PFD. This highly adaptable PFD has dozens of add-on options and comes in multiple sizes, making this the best option for someone who uses their PFD on a regular basis.

If you're looking for an option that suits a wide range of rescuers, the NRS Astral Green Jacket PFD or NRS Zen Rescue PFD are well suited to the task.

The Astral Green Jacket Rescue PFD sets the standard for whitewater pros. It combines full rescue capabilities with the comfort, protection and style of today's best low-profile life jackets.

The NRS Zen PFD is a low-profile rescue jacket with all the features essential to assist guides and experienced paddlers in a swiftwater rescue situation.



Drysuits are also an invaluable part of the swiftwater kit. We have seen huge improvements in design and materials in the past decade. There are now options for all budgets and specialties. Our SAR customers love the NRS Extreme SAR Drysuits. Built rugged, like our rivers and creeks, the new Extreme SAR will last for years. Available in GoreTex and an on-budget 3-Layer TriTon™ version. Reflective elements, cargo  pockets, relief zips, internal suspenders, built in waterproof socks make this a top shelf product at a very reasonable price point.

The NRS Ascent SAR GTX Dry suit combines a streamlined design with superior waterproof-breathable fabric construction. It provides both the protection rescue professional need and the durability required to handle unforgiving environments. Constructed of 100% recycled, 3-Layer GORE-TEX Pro for best in class waterproof-breathable performance with lower environmental footprint. Cinchable neoprene neck seal and neoprene wrists for a less constricting, nearly watertight seal.

Water Shoes

Rugged, wet environments require traction and stability unique from your basic wetshoe or bootie. The NRS Storm Boot is purpose built for enhanced breathability and quick-drying performance, with a perforated insole to drain excess moisture and a rubber sole for sticky traction. 

The new, improved 2023 NRS Workboot Wetshoe is used by river professionals, rescue agencies and Navy SEALS, the NRS Workboot Wetshoe is the hardest-working river boot on the market today.


NRS is launching it's new Reactor Rescue Gloves this Spring. Made with 3 mm neoprene with titanium laminate adhesive to provide maximum warmth when you're working in cold conditions.

Rescue Rope

The Sterling Waterline Water Rescue Rope is a highly buoyant rope that provides rescue personnel with a range of option to meet their specific needs. Ideal for swift water, flood, and ice rescue applications.


Check out all our water rescue gear here 

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