[Click the picture to enlarge and get detail]faq

Inflatable Rescue Boat

2009-04-14 18:34:12  
Hiking equipment is gear or equipment that one takes along on an outdoors hiking trip. While hiking is considered different from backpacking (overnight camping), the equipment is of necessity of a shorter term more practical nature for such a walk. However even for a day trip it is prudent to pack at least rudimentary solutions for eventualities that may arise including being forced to stay the night, getting lost, or accidents.


Hiking equipment may be considered in several categories

  • Items Worn - Things that a hiker wears on the hiking trip. This may include footwear, clothing, head gear, etc.
  • Carrying Items - Backpacks, waist packs, walking sticks or staffs, etc.
  • Essential gear - Items that are essential for the hike safety or necessary in potential emergency situations.
  • Food and drink - Food items to consume as snacks, lunch, or in emergencies.
  • Optional Items - Any other items that the hiker desires to bring along including seating pads, chairs, notebooks, hammocks, and sometimes even computers.

Weight and bulk limit the amount of equipment that one can carry (particularly if one follows the principle of Leave No Trace and does not discard items on the trail). Criteria for packing an item include weight, bulk (size), number of alternative uses and the chances of each of those uses becoming apparent, weighed against the importance. For example, a whistle may seem unlikely to become necessary, but can be real life saver when it does and weighs next to nothing. Other items, like a sleeping bag, can also be important but can also be very restricting, so a simpler alternative like an extra layer of clothing might be a better idea.

First of all, one needs something to carry the equipment in. This can be simple fisherman's jacket or a daypack for short hikes, or a full backpack.


Items worn

The hiker will generally consider clothing items based on the expected weather and demands of the particular hike location. For example rain or snow would require different gear than a desert environment.

  • Footwear - Many hikers wear hiking boots or shoes. These come in a variety of high top (better ankle support), or low top (more comfortable) styles. Some hikers wear various rugged outdoor sandals. Footwear should be rugged enough for the terrain envisioned (hiking boots for a rocky mountain, vs sneakers on a paved rail trail). Hikers will generally consider water proofing the boots or shoes based on the weather (rain, snow or slush), and the nature of the trail (swampy or wet). Along with footwear most hikers should also consider socks that will help wick sweat from the hiker's feet, provide warmth, and provide buffering inside the shoe.
  • headwear - A hat can provide cooling in the summer, warmth in the snow, and protection from sun.
  • Pocket knife, possibly with a tin opener and a saw.
  • Electric torch (flashlight) plus spare batteries and bulb
  • Map(s) with sufficient detail to be meaningful
  • Compass - roughly knowing which way is North can already make a huge difference. It is also helpful to know the declination from Magnetic North to True North applicable to your location.
  • First aid kit
  • Matches and/or a lighter and possibly a flint or magnifying glass (always work, even when wet)
  • Tinder - plus knowledge how to start a fire. In emergencies, a campfire can be one of the biggest life savers (warmth and signalling) and it is not as easy to make as some might think. A fire also keeps up the spirits, which can also be a life saver.
  • Candles - for light but also a useful aid to start a fire
  • Water flask, plus water if needed
  • Water purification - tablets and/or filter
  • Food - preferably with a low water content to keep the weight down (if water is readily available on the spot)
  • Plastic bags of various types and sizes to keep things dry and pack things out. Ziploc bags are very practical because they are easily closed and opened. Garbage bags can be used to line the backpack with, but also to put in one's shoes to keep the feet warm, even when the socks are already wet.
  • Insect repellent
  • Mat - even a small thin one can make a difference in emergencies
  • Sleeping bag (and/or liner)
  • Clothes - best worn in layers, so one can easily adapt to changing circumstances. So two thin sweaters make more sense than one thick one. Also, on overnight trips, keep one set of clothes dry for evenings and nights (eg a jogging suit) and put the dayclothes back on before you start walking, even if they are wet. You will thank yourself for that during the next evening.
  • A warm hat or cap - even when no cold weather is expected. Per weight and volume, this is the best insulator because a lot of body heat escapes through the head ("If your feet are cold, put on a hat").
  • Big handkerchief - for various purposes, such as a rough water filter, a thin scarf or a bandana to keep the sweat out of one's eyes (should be big enough for that purpose).
  • Rain jacket or parka - preferably either one that fits over the backpack or accompanied by a separate pack liner
  • Boots - worn in boots, that is! Often heavy boots with soles with a thick profile and high heels are recommended to avoid twisted ankles after a misstep, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a solo hiker. However, heavy boots put a lot of weight where it is least desirable and are thus exhausting. A less popular alternative philosophy is to use light trainers with thin soles so one can feel the ground one walks on and avoid making missteps in the first place.
  • Socks - as with boots, special attention should be given to socks (eg, no irritating ridge above the toes). Footwear is obviously essential for long distance walking.
  • Toilet paper or paper napkins - also handy as kindling
  • Sun cream and sun glasses - may be essential for those who are easily sunburnt, eg fair skinned people who rarely go outside. Especially on snow, water or (to a lesser degree) sand. The reflection of snow can lead to snow blindness.
      • Remember that this is only a guide ***


Worth considering

  • Tent and/or ground sheet - the sheet (plus a rope) can be a simple substitute for a tent.
  • Bivy bag or space blanket - a simple substitute for both a tent and a sleeping bag, mostly to keep out wind and rain.
  • Hammock - especially popular in the tropics, to stay away from most insects, especially poisonous ones.
  • Pillow - small or big, preferablyinflatablebecause of bulk (possibly neck pillow). Can be improvised on with clothes or backpack.
  • Mosquito net
  • String - for all sorts of purposes, such as a clothes line
  • Rope - various lengths and girths, for various purposes, eg Parachute cord. Maybe also (copper) wire.
  • Fishing line and fish hooks - extremely light weight, but potentially a life saver. The fishing line is also very versatile (eg for repairing boots)
  • Machete - may be frowned upon or even confiscated in National Parks, but can be essential when one wishes or needs to go off the beaten track, where one may encounter thick vegetation. Also very handy for construction and collecting firewood. Can also double as a spade.
  • Cooking pot or billy
  • Stove and fuel - can be as simple as an Esbit cooker. Esbit blocks are also good firestarters, albeit not too environmentally friendly.
  • Spoon and possibly other eating utensils
  • Rain pants
  • Cyanoacrylate or Super Glue - Can be used to stop bleeding and cover wounds; preventing further damage, or infection.
  • Sarong, shawl or other large cloth - for various purposes, such as a (spare) towel or sleeping sheet (or sleeping bag liner)
  • Scarf - can double as a headdress
  • Gloves
  • Flip flops or sandals - for the evenings or night visits to the toilet (or what ever passes for that)
  • Towel - can double as a scarf or head dress (against the cold)
  • Soap and shampoo - can be frowned upon in National Parks. Preferably bio-degradable. Use sparingly and away from lakes and rivers.
  • Sewing kit, possibly with a scalpel
  • Heliograph - a mirror with a hole in it for signalling airplanes. Requires knowledge of how to use it.
  • GPS is a rugged, waterproof (IPX7) electronic device used to display and monitor progress on trails downloaded from the internet or pre-made mapping systems, record trails on the fly, and keep track of trip times and other data. Good GPS systems have electronic compass and altimeter and either come pre-loaded or allow you to add topographic or aerial maps to help keep you aware of changing elevation and avoid sudden dropoffs or other hazards. All can let you record where you left your car, camp, etc.
  • Walking stick
  • Notebook
  • Earplugs - some forests can be noisy, especially cicadas in the tropics
  • Elastic bands - various sizes and girths for various purposes
  • Gaffer tape - for quick repairs
  • canteens - one canteen can hold about a liter of water
  • Radio - eg to listen to weather reports
  • Tweezers (if not already in pocket knife) - for removing thorns and such.
  • Spade - for various purposes, eg to dig a cathole.
  • Snacks - preferably of the healthy kind, as emergency 'power food'.
  • Beta light - handy for reading maps and possibly to catch fish at night
  • Black Shoe Polish - Can be used for marking and camouflage or as a fuel for fire, also giving off a smell that can repel animals


Special interests

  • Binoculars - not only for birders
  • Camera plus spare batteries and film/memory card
  • Gaiters - essential for those planning to cross shallow bodies of water or walk through tussock. However gaiters are useless unless worn properly. Always ensure that they are pulled down around the boot, attached to the laces and sufficiently tightened in order to form a waterproof seal around the foot. Gaiters should only be tightened around the calf when crossing water,otherwise they may cut off circulation.
  • Ice axe
  • Hiking rope
  • Snow shoes



  • The Tropical Traveller by John Hatt
  • Backpacking - One step at a time by Harvey Manning


The BLU-97/B Combined Effects Bomb is the submunition used in several cluster bomb type weapon systems. When the bomblets fall, they separate from the main bomb and independently free fall to the ground. They contain aninflatablebag (ballute) on the top of them, which slows them down and spreads them out. As the bomblets descend, they experience g-forces. Once they reach a minimum of 6 Gs, they arm themselves. As the bomblets fall, they are also spinning as well. Arming takes about 2.6 seconds. They have a combined shaped charge, fragmentation and incendiary effect on the target. It is very effective against and mainly used for anti-personnel, anti-materiel, and anti-armor.


BLU-97A/B in Museum of Aviation in Belgrade



  • Length:
    • Stored: 16.8 cm (6.6 in)
    • Deployed (w/o retarder canopy): 22.6 cm (8.9 in)
  • Diameter: 63.5 mm (2.5 in)
  • Weight: 1.54 kg (3.4 lb)
  • Explosive:
    • Standard: 287 g (0.63 lb) Cyclotol
    • Insensitive Munitions (IM) version: PBXN-107
  • Warhead: Shaped charge, fragmenting casing and incendiary zirconium ring.1


Weapon systems

  • CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition
  • AGM-154A Joint Standoff Weapon
  • RGM/UGM-109D Tomahawk
  • AGM-137 TSSAM


Operational usage

The use of the BLU-97/B in Afghanistan caused some controversy as the bright yellow color of the bomblet was the same as humanitarian ration packs handed out to civilians by U.S. forces.2 This reportedly led to 'dud' bomblets being mistakenly picked up resulting in death or injury. The color of the ration packs was subsequently changed.3

Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRBs) have been used for all forms of surf rescue, retrieval, and service by Surf Lifesaving in New Zealand and Australia since the late 80s.


IRB's being raced!



IRB at Bondi

IRBs are made of rubber and consist of 4inflatabletubes - 2 side tubes, a bow tube and a keelson tube. This specific feature coupled with the obvious fact that they are used in the water, has coined the term "rubber duck" or simply "duck" to describe an IRB. Typically the rubber is coloured a shade of red termed "Rescue Red" although a particular make of craft manufactured by 'Arancia' come in a shade of orange. They have a rigid floor piece and a rigid transom for fitting an outboard motor (usually 25 hp). This motor is capable of providing a maximum drive speed of between 25-30 knots on flat water. 2-Stroke fuel is stored in a flexible fuel bladder and is secured by 4 clips to the floor in the bow. An IRB is crewed by two people - an IRB Operator/Driver and an IRB Crewman. The Operator sits on the lower half of the port side pontoon where he operates the outboard motor to control the boat. He has foot straps to help him stay in the boat. His left hand can hold on to a strap on the port side pontoon and his right hand operates the outboard motor by means of a tiller arm and throttle. The Crewman sits on the upper half of the starboard side pontoon. A handle is attached by a rope to the nose of the boat for him to hold with his left hand, while his right hand may hold a strap attached to the starboard pontoon. He balances the boat and allows it to go over large waves before they break without flipping. He also assists when going through a breaking wave, commonly referred to as "punching-through". Two foot straps are available for his feet.

IRB after "punching-through" a wave at West Beach, South Australia.
IRB at Lorne VIC


Brief History

In 1969, after returning from life guard duties in the UK, Warren Mitchell of the Avalon Surf Lifesaving Club, had the idea for a rescue craft that could be deployed quickly under varying surf conditions and was adaptable to different Australian beaches. The first IRB he developed was in conjunction with the Dunlop Company and utilised a 20hp outboard motor. It measured 4 metres in length and set the precedence for the familiar IRB we now use today. Avalon SLSC, New South Wales is now considered the home of the IRB.



IRBs are of great value when patrolling a beach especially ocean surf beaches where either the surf is too powerful or the beach too large to perform rescues effectively on a board.

Prior to the start of a patrol, it is the driver's responsibility to ensure the craft is correctly set up and ready for patrolling duties. Typically this will involve inflating the crafts 4 pontoons to the correct pressure with a hand/foot or electric pump. The motor is test run in a tank of fresh water to check full function and reliability before installation to the transom. The fuel bladder is filled and installed along with a tow rope, rescue tube, 2 oars, and a blunt point knife as minimum. A check list is then filled in by the driver, after which the IRB may be signed on for patrol by radioing "Surf Command". At this point other patrol members assist to move the craft to a suitable launching position on the beach. This is usually a location outside of the safe swimming area defined by the patrol flags. Where applicable the boat maybe towed onto the beach by way of a tractor or small jeep and trailer.

Beached IRB, ready for launching.

When performing a rescue, the driver must negotiate large surf breaks and possibly obstacles such as rocks or other swimmers to reach the patient. The crewman helps the driver by keeping a lookout for the patient and hazards. He is also instrumental in keeping the IRB balanced when crossing surf breaks and turning rapidly. The crewman is also primarily responsible for bringing the patient on board, often during extremely dangerous and rapidly changing conditions, and looking after their welfare while at sea.

The crew of an IRB can communicate with the shore through various accepted hand signals or through modern waterproof radios which are becoming more popular.

During a patrol an IRB will be left on the beach by the waters edge at all times ready for action. On a busy day an IRB may be permanently out the back checking on swimmers.

On conclusion of the patrol, it is imperative the IRB is correctly packed up and stored to ensure it is ready for use by the next patrol. This is also the responsibility of the driver, who will usually start by radioing surf command and signing the IRB off for the day. This may involve reporting any rescues as well as how many people are still on the beach and in the water. Once the IRB has been signed off, the boat is taken up to the club where the motor is removed and run in a tank of fresh water for approximately 10 minutes. This clears the remaining salt water still in the cooling system, and allows for a quick check over of important parts of the motor. At the same time the IRB is emptied of oars, fuel tank, tube etc. The IRB will require a thorough hose down to remove sand, salt and shell grit, on and inside the boat. Standing the boat upright against a wall allows the water to fall down and out of the boat taking with it these unwanted particles. The boat is then returned to the trailer and the 4 pontoons are allowed to semi-deflate, to prevent over-stretching of the seams and rubber. The driver will fill in a checklist and report any faults, problems or issues to the club mechanic before storing the craft and motor. He will also report weather conditions and rescues performed for the day.


Licensing Requirements


IRB Driver

In Australia, surf club members must hold the Bronze Medallion minimum lifesaver qualification as well as obtaining a boat drivers' licence from state authorities to undertake an IRB training course. This course is usually arranged by the club when enough interested members get together to form a small group. The course involves a small theory component on basic outboard motor mechanics, pontoon pressure as well as set-up and dismantling procedures. This is coupled with a much larger practical component. The practical sessions require learning basic operation and manoeuvring techniques as well as gaining the ability to negotiate large, rough surf, with and without a crewman. Other practical components include: towing, signalling/communications, patient pick-up, recovery from an up-turned boat amongst others. Training typically takes 6-8 weeks, by which time the group members are ready to be assessed by a qualified person. Upon successful completion of the course members gain their Silver Medallion in IRB driving and may henceforth operate the IRB for the club. Annually drivers must undertake a reassessment organised by the club to prove they are still proficient.


Crewman's Certificate

Nationally as from 1 January 2003, it became compulsory for club members to hold a crewpersons certificate in order to crew in an IRB. Previously, the minimum requirement for crewing in an IRB was possession of the Bronze Medallion. This changed amidst safety concerns over training procedures relating to the correct positioning of feet and body in the boat. It was decided that the skills involved in correctly and safely crewing an IRB were enough that a complete course was required of and by itself. Holders of the drivers certificate automatically qualified as crewmen.



IRBs are used for water cover during ocean sports, such as ocean swims, surf carnivals and triathlons. But during the winter months they are put to the test when clubs from around the state and nationally compete against each other by racing IRBs in a number of events: see IRB racing

Lorne crew punching through a wave at State Titles


  • Australian IRB Racing Forum: The Site for All IRB Racers
  • Surf Life Saving Australia
  • Surf Life Saving South Australia
  • West Beach Surf Lifesaving Club
  • Avalon Surf Lifesaving Club
  • Clovelly Surf Life Saving Club
Categories: Surf lifesaving | Rescue

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