For the more experienced white water paddlers, raft guides and the like, What features do you look for in a throw bag In the swift-water environment. Ie.

  • Favorite/most useful length [for your rivers/conditions]

  • Spectra/Dacron? or normal rope why?

  • Partial mesh? or full cordura bag why?

  • Specialty things like QR belt straps etc. why?

  • Things you have had issues or problems with Throw Bags

Please include what sport/activity(s) your advice is most relevant to. Specifically looking for throw-bag advice, but line across/z-rig line advice would add utility to the question.

2 Answers 2


The advice these days is for a clean line - so no handles etc., or at least not that can't be easily removed. Also the base of the bag, and the way the rope joins to it, should be suitable to have a small loop (to attach a carabiner when necessary) without that loop being able to twist and crush fingers is someone does hold it by the loop.

That also means no integrated straps or dangly buckles when detached, but for rafting, canoeing, and SUP there are bags that leave the strap cleanly behind. For WW kayaking they're unnecessary as they'll get in the way of a spray deck. Similarly bag fastenings shouldn't be fiddly - of course you don't want the rope falling out, but neither do you want to fail to fully undo one of two fastenings and throw short. Mine had a drawstring (possibly made of shock cord) as well as Veclro. Now it just has Velcro because the drawstring got in the way for no real benefit.

You need to decide on what the line is mainly for - 8mm rope is good for rescuing swimmers, but if you're going to be recovering boats using force-multiplying techniques it's not really strong enough. Note that thicker lines are easier to hold, and Spectra tends to be used precisely to be thin (and therefore light). For grabbing the line (and you should assume that the line, not the bag, is being grabbed) 8mm is good, but some Spectra lines are only 1/4" (6mm) - so if you go for Spectra, go for 10mm (3/8"), which is then a recovery line.

In a group, it might be appropriate to carry mainly light lines, with one or two 11mm lines. In some cases, some paddlers may carry both. If carrying both, the swimmer-rescue line should be nice and accessible because you'll grab it often, for example when inspecting from the bank. The heavier recovery line can be tucked away as there's less urgency in setting up to recover kit.

Your line should be sized so that you can throw it accurately. There's no point having 25m of 11mm line if you can't hit a paddler more than 15m away reliably. Training will help here.

Obviously the line should be easily visible, but modern lines all seem to be bright colours.

Personally I rather like the flattened rope in my throw bag, but it's not a major factor. So, for the fairly narrow rivers in the UK, I carry a 20m rescue bag - I can aim that well at its full length, and it fits in an accessible place in my boat. But I know there will be both longer and heavier bags in the group. The club I paddle with trains everyone in throwline use, so most paddlers, not just leaders, will be carrying one, and some of the ones that can be borrowed from the club are among the biggest you can get. I carry a 5m webbing sling for lifting and lowering boats on banks, so don't use my throwline for that.

This article from Palm is worth reading, though it's heavily geared towards their own products.


What I carry/use depends on the group/river/boats used.

For kayaking: I have a 70ft Spectra Sterling Waterline 1/4" rope made by NRS in my boat. The bag has parial mesh to allow for draining which is good. I actually don't really like my bag from a durability standpoint and have had to replace it under warranty. The Sterling spectra waterline series of ropes though are excellent. They are strong, light, throw well (without tangling, etc), float, and are easy to see. I remove the loop at the end of the rope so it flows through pulleys/etc without getting stuck. I can always tie a loop in the moment if I really need it. I also retied the loop on the base of the bag where I attach a carabiner to make it much smaller. It is just big enough to allow the carabiner to pivot but not big enough for hands/fingers. I find this to be a good length for most rivers.

For rafting: I have the 50ft spectra waist bag NRS makes around my waist. It has a QR belt and the same type of construction/rope as my kayaking bag. Any waist bag should have a QR system. The QR system on my greenjacket has saved my life when I was pinned underwater so I consider QR a unnegotiable must in general. For commercial rafting trips I through my 70ft bag in my raft to meet length regulations for the river.

For z-drag/rope work of a kayak I'll use the above. For rafts I'll use a thicker Spectra rope if available (commercially we have one per pod). My pulley's/prusiks I carry for personal use are sized for my 1/4" rope.

In the best kayaker's boat, or in the car for easy access rivers, is going to be a thicker rope for times when a lot of mechanical advantage is being employed.

The most important thing is the rope itself in my opinion. I've tried other ropes but I really like the Sterline rope way better than anything else I've used. You want a static rope with high breaking strength for zdrags/rope work. For throw ropes the dynamic ropes with sub 1000lb breaking strength are fine. For the rare live bait scenario dynamic would be nice, but I prefer the higher breaking strength of spectra for peace of mind and just having the belayer use slack to add dynamic "stretch" to the system.

Similar to Chris I also carry webbing and recommend you do the same. I have one short piece (5ish ft), one long piece (12ish ft) at a minimum in my PFD's side pockets with carabiner points on the ends and a carabiner attached making a loop. Basically flip-line style of tying. They are useful for lowering boats, but also for when you need to attach a rope to a boat in a weird angle for z-drag/etc.

In summary, if you are only getting one thing, I'd get a 70ft Spectra rope with a partial mesh bag.

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