How To Choose a Ditch Bag

The proper ditch bag can keep you safe in the event you're forced to abandon ship.

A “ditch,” or abandon ship bag is a must for both offshore cruisers as well as coastal boaters who risk being stuck at sea should their boat have to be abandoned. Ditch bags should be stocked with vital items to help you both summon help as well as survive while awaiting rescue. But while it’s easy to be preoccupied with what should go into a ditch bag, don’t overlook the container that will keep all these items organized and readily at hand. Here are a few suggestions on how to choose a worthy ditch bag.

Make Sure It Floats!

ACR RapidDitch Express Abandon Ship Survival Gear Bag
Look for both a carry strap as well as a tether with a clip. The latter will allow you to secure the bag to yourself and/or a life raft.Courtesy Amazon

In the event of an accident or emergency, things will likely happen fast. As there’s a good chance your ditch bag actually ends up in the water, make sure it floats. And not just floats when empty, but floats with the weight of all the gear you’ve stuffed inside…plus water that may find its way to the interior. The best ditch bags have sewn-in buoyancy panels designed to provide positive floatation and keep the bag afloat at all times.

Water-Resistant Is Good, Waterproof Is Better

MARCHWAY Floating Waterproof Dry Bag
Visibility is key. Bright, day-glow colors like yellow and orange will stand out in daylight hours. Look for reflective tape to increase nighttime visibility.Courtesy Amazon

Obviously, a waterproof bag is ideal, eliminating the worry should the bag end up overboard before you can retrieve it. Water-resistant bags, however, will still do the job as long as they have features designed to at least try and keep the water at bay. Tip? Pair a water-resistant ditch bag with several smaller, waterproof dry bags within. Essential items will be fully protected and the dry bags will offer added buoyancy.

A Place For Everything…And Everything In Its Place

Vitchelo 30L Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack
Consider additional secure, exterior pockets to will keep vital items, like an EPIRB, within quick reach.Courtesy Amazon

A ditch bag should be compact enough that you can grab it in a rush. Still, most people will want to fit lots of stuff inside. That’s why it’s a good idea to choose a bag designed expressly for the purpose. Ditch-specific bags have segmented pockets to help organize items within so that the right item is easy to find in an emergency.