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Watercraft Safety Gear Review


A must have for boaters, the ACR Electronics RapidDitch Express survival bag
 

Date: 4/28/06
Tackle type: Watercraft - Safety
Manufacturer: ACR Electronics
Reviewer: JIP






Total Score: 8.25

Introduction:
Boaters are required by law to carry certain safety gear such as flares, a throwable flotation, lifejackets, and maybe a few more items in different regions. But there is one more item that all anglers with boats should carry, a floatable safety ditch bag that one can quickly grab and go when unexpected events occur. We take a look at ACR Electronicsí RapidDitch Express Bag thatís built to perform when needed.
 

ACR Electronics RapidDitch Express Bag Specifications

Material 600 Denier Polyester
Floatation Closed cell foam
Overall Size 19"W x 15"H x 7"D
EPIRB/GPS Pocket Size 4"W x 14"H x 4"D
Main Compartment Size 15"W x 15"H x 7"D
Features Internal pockets, elastic daisy chain organizer, Tether strap, EPIRB external pocket, mounting/securing bracket
MSRP $69

 

The handle straps are wrapped and held securely together via Velcro

 
Impressions:
When you first set eye on the ACR RapidDitch Express, it looks like any ordinary tall orange duffle bag. It has a main compartment where you secure items inside via zippers, a side pouch, a small front meshed pocket, and hand and shoulder straps used for transportation. Once you take a closer look and actually pick it up, youíll notice the Express Bag is actually more than just an ordinary bag. The RapidDitch Express is a safety ditch bag thatís constructed out of 600 Denier polyester with closed cell foam used for floatation. The main compartment along with organizers is actually very large in volume and can hold a lot of safety equipment. On the right side of the bag is a pocket that can be used to hold things such as a GPS or EPIRB unit with their antenna sticking out. Along with some other smaller features, the RapidDitch Express comes with mounting hardware thatís available for use if needed. Our initial impressions of the bag are good and itís very well built, but letís see how it actually performs on the field.

 

Here's the external side pocket perfect for holding an EPIRB

 
Field Tests:
Many anglers and boaters will ask why they need a ditch bag. Well, similar to lifejackets, the RapidDitch Express bag is a safety tool that can and will safe your life one day especially if your boat capsizes or sink in a remote area while in offshore fishing grounds or in secluded waterways. We brought along the RapidDitch Express on our offshore adventures, and also field tested the bag in lakes simulating a possible real life situation.

 

JIP in the water field testing the ACR RapidDitch Express bag

 

The Design: The ACR RapidDitch Express bag was designed to be an abandon ship survival gear bag that has the ability to house the equipment that can ensure oneís safety. When disaster strikes anglers and boaters need to be able to grab and go. The RapidDitch Express is designed to be placed on the deck of the boat or can be snapped in place in the cabin via the bag mount hardware thatís including with the bag. This allows an angler to quickly snatch up the bag while abandoning ship.

 

The Express bag can be secured on the deck of the boat or inside the cabin

 

Another thing that makes this bag a good design is that ACR Electronics constructed the bag to hold essential signaling electronics with the external side pocket that fits an EPIRB. If your EPIRB is water-activated, this should do it, or having the device held securely external will allow one to quickly reach for the most important S.O.S. device especially for offshore big game hunters. The ease of use continues where the Express bag has large zippers that make it easier to open and close in difficult situations. We tried accessing the equipment in the main compartment of the RapidDitch Express bag while in a lake treading water. Since the bag floats and has easy to reach zipper cords, opening the bag was quick and stress-free.

 

The bag floats and can double as additional floatation while waiting to be rescued

 

Though all or most of the survival gear you place in any ditch bag is or should be waterproof, having a waterproof bag to go along with the equipment will surely prolong the life of electronics and such. The RapidDitch Express is only water-resistant and if submerged water can enter through the zippers. The bag floats and does a good job at keeping water out, but if you didnít have a lifejacket on and you used this bag as floatation, water can get in.

 

Two snap-hooks on each side, four total, of the bag will keep your items from falling out into the water when opened

 

Inside, the main compartment is designed to hold both large and small gear such as flares where they are held securely via elastic daisy chain organizers, and three small pockets to keep other small equipment in its own space. Then the main compartment itself can hold any large survival gear or supplies and can be secured via four snap-hook tethers. We used these snap-hook tethers and attached them to the lanyard from our handheld electronics. Thanks to the design of our RapidDitch Express bag, we had little worry of these important survival tools falling into the water when unzipping the bag.

 

Constructed with closed cell-foam, the RapidDitch Express floats when loaded with survival gear

 

Plentiful Storage: This bag was design to hold survival equipment and has plenty of storage space for that. With the Express bag you can hold all required safety equipment and more. We loaded it up with six sticks of flares, both aerial and handheld, ACRís Firefly strobe, ACRís signaling mirror, space blanket, handheld GPS, backup handheld VHF radio, extra batteries, energy bars, bottles of water, and much more. Still there is plenty of room for more gear, but we recommend that you do not overload such bag to the point where it will no longer float. One thing, because of the great storage capacity of this bag, the size isnít that small and will pertain to saltwater anglers more than bass anglers with bass boats.

 

Large capacity to hold more than enough safety equipment

 

Elastic daisy chain organizers are great for flares and other objects

 

Ergonomics: Ergonomics with the ACR RapidDitch Express is good. With a large zipper you have an easy time opening and closing the main compartment. The external side pocket is also simple to operate by the elastic band that can be locked in place. Two ways to carry the bag while on land or when abandoning ship, with the hand straps that Velcro together or the shoulder tether strap. In the water we find using the shoulder tether strap is best especially if youíre swimming or in motion. Having the safety bag securely around your body allows you to move around freely without having to hold onto the bag itself.

 

Grab the shoulder strap and put it around yourself when swimming will allow you to have full control of your hands

 

Durability: After having used the bag for quite some time now in saltwater and freshwater situations, we find the RapidDitch Express bag quite durable. The 600 Denier Polyester fabric provides a rugged external armor against damage from things such as hooks though it is vulnerable to inadvertent snags. The bottom of the most current model now available at stores has a more durability fabric than our test model. This will provide for better wear on the bottom of the bag as it slides around on rough surfaces. The zipper on our test bag is made of pot metal thatís well coated but the most current ditch bags now have a plastic zipper thatís durable and will be corrosion-free. Overall our bag held up well but the new and improved version should be even better in the durability category.

 

Good sized zippers allow a secure grip when opening in the water

 

Price: The MSRP of $69 might seem high for some while for others itís not especially if itís lifesaving. But simply use your favorite search engine and type in ďrapidditch expressĒ and youíll receive results to online retailers that sell this bag for as low as $39. What a deal!

 

Aside from the elastic daisy chain organizers and three smaller compartments, there's also a meshed compartment on the flap

  
Ratings:

ACR Electronics RapidDitch Express Bag Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The construction of our bag held up nicely overall but the newest model of this bag is even more durable with plastic zippers that wonít corrode and a more rugged bottom fabric 8
Performance The product does well as a quick ditch bag while holding all the necessary survival gear while easy access to necessary equipment. The only thing that we thought might be useful is to have the same bag but make it waterproof instead of water-resistant 8
Price Look around and youíll find retailers and online retailers selling it for a lot less than MSRP. We searched and found a few websites selling for only $39 9
Features This bag is pretty simple but features the essential things such as the external EPIRB pocket, organizers, hooks to secure important equipment that could fall out when opening the bag, and more 8
Design (Ergonomics) Ergonomics is good especially in providing a should strap where one can put around their shoulder so their hands are free when in the water. Also ACR knows safety and designed it where people have easy access to the most important devices such as the EPIRB 8.5
Application This bag is one that holds survival gear for abandon ship situations. It can hold other stuff but we do not recommend it. Keep fishing gear and survival gear separate. Anglers fishing fresh or saltwater can use this ditch bag though it might be large for freshwater anglers 8

Total Score

8.25


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Useful compartments L Only water-resistant
J Floats  
J Plenty of storage capacity  
J Durable external fabric  

 

One of the three pockets in the main compartment. The Velcro keeps the item from falling out

 
Conclusion:
When it comes to survival gear ACR Electronics knows their stuff. They have been producing consumer and commercial survival and safety equipment for boaters, outdoorsmen, fliers, and much more. One of their popular products is the RapidDitch Express survival bag thatís used during situations where one has to abandon ship. This bag seems normal but is constructed well with durable 600 Denier Polyester and closed cell foam to give it floatation. The compartments are smartly designed for holding important supplies and devices, e.g. the external pocket that fits an EPIRB. The only area we see for improvement is to make the bag water proof rather than resistant just for that added sense of security. Abandoning ship or being stranded is a situation no one wants to be in, but when it does occur, youíll be ready if you have the ACR RapidDitch Express bag.



 

 

 

 

 

 
 





 

 



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