Go-to Gear: River Safety with Nate Ostis

What the author of NOLS’ new River Rescue Guide packs along in his safety kit

Nate Ostis

Nate Ostis, author of NOLS' new River Rescue Guide

Swiftwater Rescue Level 5 and Rescue 3 International Water Rescue Instructor Trainer Educator Nate Ostis might be making waves with his new river safety book, The NOLS River Rescue Guide, but we went deeper into his bag of river tricks for the top three things he always takes on the river.

1. The Wild Water Snagplate: "This slick, no-nonsense tool can be retrofitted into your existing throwbag and live there essentially unnoticed until needed. The plate can be deployed to snag a rope that is out in the current but otherwise unreachable from shore. This can be helpful in both foot entrapment rescues as well as gear recoveries. Other more expensive options exist on the market but they're heavy and have high-maintenance, spring-loaded clips that provide an overly committed approach. Keep it simple. Go light, fast, cheaper and more dependable with the snag plate. I’ve experimented with it in a variety of terrain across the country and it’s a standard part of my gear set now."

2. Superclip Rescue Tool: This lightweight and simple design deserves a place in your drybag. Sure, it’s not a tool you’ll reach for often, but when needed you’ll appreciate that you’ve kept it handy for all those river miles. Whether you need to secure a line on a patient or a piece of gear, this tool could be the one thing that allows you access. We’ve played with this tool in several different conditions where patient contact is required immediately. It can be easy to over-pack or bring too many fancy tools into the field but this tool should always make the list.

3. 5.10 Water Tennies: Just as a good house has a solid foundation, a solid rescuer has a foundation that they can rely on. That means reliable and secure footwear. The time is now to confront your peers and tell them it's inappropriate to run rivers without dependable protection on their feet. Neoprene socks and slippers are okay for park-and-play paddling, but when heading downstream you have to be rescue-ready. Consider this shoe for its great edging, sticky rubber, and low-profile ankle protection. I own two pairs: my summer pair when I just go barefoot inside and an oversized pair that I wear with my drysuit, heavy socks, and Gore-tex booties.

–More about Nate Ostis’ book, The NOLS River Rescue Guide

–Read more safety tips on our SKILLS homepage.