building my own tow line

HAve been trying to follow incomplete instructions here and there. So what I have so far is 1 1/2 inch webbing. Quick release cam buckles (2 inches). A small fanny pack. 3 ft of 3/8 inch bungee cord. So am I just missing the rope, the beaner, the flotation device and some cobbler sowing it together? What rope should I get. Does one end of the rope get sown into the bag and the other end attaches to the float and beaner?


I have this tow line and love it.

– Last Updated: Jun-25-07 7:14 AM EST –

My opinion: tow line might be necessary in life threatening conditions, and when you factor in the need for a quick release system, conveneient and comfortabke on belt (doubt a fanny pack would give you that), flexibility in the line (daisy-chain, etc), by the time you buy all the components and make an inferior tow line, you'd likely be out about $30-$35 in equipment anyhow.

For $60 plus $9 shipping you;d have the ideal tow line. Compact, comfortable, and foolpproof. When you tire of it or quit the sport,, you can sell again on eBay to someone like yourself wanting a tow line for at Least $35 bucks.

Just a different way to look at it. Good luck and happy paddling (and towing).

Why towlines? Educate me!
I’ve seen towline questions pop up on this forum before. Why a towline and are there special towlines for yaks?? I carry a throw bag as default safety equipment. Somebody explain towlines, please…

There are many reasons for a tow line
Here are a few:

  1. Paddler becomes seasick and completely unable to paddle
  2. Paddler injures arm/shoulder can’t paddle
  3. On a group paddle, trying to beat the weather, one paddler is too slow. Waiting puts the entire group at risk. Using a tow effectively converts two singles into a double.
  4. A paddler wet exits just outside of the surf zone. While the rescue is taking place you can clip the tow to the bow of the rescuer and pull them away from the surf.
  5. Paddler wet exits and loses his/her boat to the wind. While someone rescues the swimmer, another can get the boat.
  6. You need to exit onto a rock jetty, or rock filled shore. - Wet exit and attach your boat to you with a tow belt.
  7. In extremely high head winds, can help two boat from getting blown down wind.

    Do I need to continue?

still want to build my own
I thank you for your different outlook. But I would still like to build my own. Have used many a tow rigs and none are to my liking except for some of the really expensive northwater ones.

So can someone please give me detailed directions on building one. Thanks.


Here’s a pic of a heavily modified…
Kokatat towline system.

I’m not daisy chaining the line as in this photo anymore because it cannot then be used effectively as a throwline. If the line is ‘stuffed’ into the pouch as you would with a climbing rope in a ropebag, you can grab the biner and toss it and the float the full 50’ of the line. Float is shaped from foam for kayak cockpit outfitting and has a ‘friction’ fit on the line such that it cna be moved anywhere on the line as needed.

Just some stuff I’ve done. Maybe it’ll give you an idea or two. Good luck.

towline = throw bag??
Ok, points made and thanks for the explanation.

I carry a throw bag, as well as a length of 1" nylon webbing for various uses.

A throw bag and it’s rope is different than a tow line/system?

I paddle lakes and slow rivers. Not much surf around here.

i use a salamander throw bag
with the plastic trow handle taken off and the rope loop made larger, I then thread the quick release belt on my jacket through the loop to attach it, and i have another biner on the loop near the mouth clipped to my vest. I then have butterfly nooses every few feet so I can clip that biner to it to adjust length. super easy to pack and adjust, also can use as a throw bag.

It can be difficult to throw a throw
line from a kayak. Try throwing to someone 30 feet away on your side. Much easier to just paddle up and clip on.

Also, once your victim has caught the throw line, what do they do with it? It’s pretty hard to reach the bow of the boat to attach it.

Otherwise, you’ll be towing them sideways.


– Last Updated: Jun-25-07 7:09 PM EST –

when caves or bad conditions for the rescuer exist. person is usually already a swimmer.

better to throw even a little sometimes, than go into a bad place with conditions that are very very unfriendly.

if you never paddle with caves or violent cliff type spots in tumultious conditions...then you don't need a throw bag / tow sys combination

You only need a tow system.

Best Wishes

One more reason…
Years back we stopped for lunch and went to a convenient place with a log to sit on out of sight of the boats. A motor boat wake disloged one boat and it went out to sea. Nobody had a tow line or rope. No big deal, I just paddled out to get the boat and push it back in.

What a chore!! IT KEPT TURNING IN THE WIND. It took the longest time to get that boat back 50 yards. After that we all had tow lines.

I’ll grant what you are saying as valid.
It’s just that in 10 years of paddling (including playing in some rough spots, ie caves and rocks - I’ve never had a need for a throw bag, but I’ve used a tow line more times than I want to count.


– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 12:38 AM EST –

I tow people all of the time on Class I/II river. I use a piece of 3/8 rope 6 feet long with a carabiner on each end for kayaks and knot it in half to tow canoes.
BTW the subject "for Dummies" was a compliment to make reference to the simple rope I use.
I taught myself how to use a computer from the "Dummies" books.

PLEASE …somebody post some detailed …
…instructions! Thanks.


UK link for making a tow line…

making a tow line
I do think it might be possible to make your own but if you don’t know what you want, it is hard to do.

Also I question whether you can make one rated like a professionally made one. I use the N.Water waist mounted tow, changed out the carabiner but left all else intact.

I know the buckles are rated to withstand something like 650 pounds of pressure - they just aren’t any buckles. They also RELEASE when under tension - how do you know yours will unless you test.

Personally I think if you want to make something, make a jacket, make a sleeping bag, make a hat… but a tow system???

Sure - a short tow that consists of two carabiners and 6’ of rope - that’s OK.


question about Tow Rope for Dummies
Where do you attach the carabiners?

behind my seat
The Kestrel 120 & 120HV have a locking bar to lock the kayak behind the seat. It is easy to reach and I have used it many times to tow canoes and kayaks. And the part about the rope being 1/2 distance works well.I tow someone evey week onthe river or lake and my max was a kayak 4 miles (and a great work but I just finished 18 miles when I found her. The woman was in her sixties and four miles from the take out. We have become good friends and she frequently joins my trips and now owns 4 kaykas.

BTW I would “never” attach the rope to my body.

I’ve wondered about this
I have an old poly Aquaterra Sealion

Right behind the seat on the back deck, there is a heavy loop eyelet, and a spring loaded cord gripper to my right still behind me.

Would this be used as a rear tow point and take-up device for towing??

Never knew what this was for, but then again, I pretty much have to paddle solo and couldn’t tow myself (Ha Ha )

susanneh makes a good point…

– Last Updated: Jun-27-07 1:24 AM EST – that you should always have a dependable quick release built into any tow. Even my home-made front deck shortow incorporates a quick release mooring hitch.

(using just two cross deck lengths of line now instead of the pictured 3--too long)

This is unlike many similar front deck towing set ups similar to mine but that have a carabiner at each end instead of the mooring hitch. How are you going to release that quickly? With a knife?...while upsidedown underwater before you roll back up?

See: This is an excellent article in numerous respects but hits on what can happen in towing situations. Have a functional quick release--and even that may not be sufficient.

My earlier post in this thread on the subject shows my long tow system. The rest of the system, not pictured, is a Type V PFD (I think these buckles typcially release at 1100 lbs.. But under good flatwater towing situations, you shouldn't feel more than 3-4 lbs pull on the system.) with quick release tow belt. Both my long tow and short tow are attached to pieces of gear (PFD and boat) so that it is not a separate item to forget to bring with me. I always have them with me and each has a quick release mechanism.