Do I Really Need a Throw Bag

Traveling a class I and class II-lite river (Rappahannock in VA). You see it all: inner tubes, lawn chairs in canoes, etc. Do I really need a throw bag?

It depends

– Last Updated: May-03-14 2:39 PM EST –

Do you like the people you are paddling with?
If you do then the answer is definitely yes.

Seriously speaking.
If you are a responsible member of the community the answer is also yes.

It depends, part #2

– Last Updated: May-03-14 4:05 PM EST –

I like Vic's answer. On top of that, I am looking at air photos of that river right now. You didn't specify your paddling location (which, considering how much most rivers vary by location, would have helped a lot), but the place I'm looking at is the junction of the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers, and the water was high but paddle-able when the photos were taken. I see some fun-looking rapids there at the time of those photos, but also all kinds of opportunity for danger. I don't have nearly as much experience in whitewater as plenty of other people here, but the few times I've seen a throw bag become necessary was when conditions were fairly mild.

Besides maybe saving someone's life, it may be the only way to help someone recover their boat. I helped a friend do exactly that last summer. His air-bag equipped boat was unharmed and neatly "parked" against a rock, just waiting for him to come and get it, but he "couldn't get there from here." By climbing onto a rock upstream from him and tossing him my rope, I gave him an anchor point that allowed him to easily cross a zone of flow that otherwise would have blown him downstream had he tried to cross. This was below the rapid that flipped him, and conditions were pretty mild at that spot, but without the throw rope, getting that boat back would have been a lot tougher, and kind of dangerous too. I bet people like, pblanc, "the paddler formerly known as g2d", and several others could tell stories all day about needing a throw bag in mild conditions.

Okay, I looked at more air photos farther downstream of what I mentioned above. Those shots show the river at a much lower level, during autumn, and there are plenty of little drops, sometimes several of them in series. I'd take a throw rope if I went paddling there. (Interesting how the rapids come to an abrupt end at Fredericksburg, and suddenly it becomes a flatland river)

They have other uses besides throwing
to swimmers.

But paddling since 73, often solo, I don’t always take one along.

I’m not inclined to say someone is irresponsible for not taking along a throw rope. Soon, we’ll be told we all have to carry defibrillators.

Precautions are based on what actually happens, how often it happens, and the cost if it happens. I say throwbags are something to strongly consider, like a river knife. But something you may go through a whole paddling lifetime without using.

Now seatbelts, shoulder harnesses…Those have helped me in about half a dozen accidents.

throw bags are for wimps and kayaks
I use 100’ of 1/2" nylon with a bleach bottle tied to the end. It used to have 6’ of chain and a 12 pound danforth in place of the bottle, but found I didn’t really need 4 anchors on my sailboat.

I brought this with me as a safety boater on the “boateater challenge” race 4 years back, and not only did I not get booted; this year they asked me to run sweep…as a poler through cl.2+…

We stopped using ours many years ago.

If you want the extra baggage get one, but my guess is it won’t be with you after a few years.

If I was paddling III and higher, I would probably be taking ours

jack L

The Rapp
You may already be aware, but the Rapp was 12 ft over the safe paddling gauge height recently. The flooding was massive. Debris everywhere, many roads near the river still closed. There’s going to be all kinds of new debris in the river.

Maybe the odds don’t mean much

– Last Updated: May-03-14 8:51 PM EST –

I think most people go their whole lives without ever having a car accident that's severe enough for them to benefit from seatbelts and shoulder harnesses, and you've already had half-a-dozen yourself. But even for the average person who will never have such a wreck, what's the downside of being prepared and wearing a seatbelt? None.

Along those same lines is what happened on one of our club outings a few years ago, when two rental boaters on the river got into a strainer. At the time this happened, it was just by luck that someone from our club had parked his boat 30 yards downstream from the rest of us when we stopped for lunch. If he hadn't been there, and if he hadn't been prepared, one of those two newbies likely would have drowned. That river hardly deserves a Class-I rating and was running a mere 1.5 feet higher than normal, but that was enough to cause the current to be unusually swift at the strainer location. Here's a case where a person probably would have paddled such rivers all his life and never needed to help anyone, except because of what happened on THIS day.

That doesn't mean I'm in favor of "rules" regarding what people should carry with them. It just shows that unlikely things can happen.

That’s why I always wear my
lightning rod when posting on pnet.

But throw/rescue ropes are nice. I do carry one on my more serious ventures.

I save my persnickerties for adults who don’t wear life jackets on whitewater. A life jacket makes it much easier to find your body, so we can try out the defibtillator.

Put In at Elys Ford
Definitely some opinions here. We typically put in at Elys Ford on the Rapidan River. Quite familiar with the confluence of Rapidan and Rappahannock.

Yes, the river has been WAAAAY up due to recent weather. We aren’t going till early June so plenty of time for things to improve (or get worse?).

I dunno, I may plunk over the change and get one just to stop thinking about it. I’ll practice with it a bit if I do, though.

Thanks all!

Yes usually
on rivers …yes.

Would you enjoy watching others suffer in a capsize? On the Buffalo we depolyed ours several times when others upset. They weren’t even in our group. One couldn’t swim and was hanging on to a willow of questionable support.

In Canada, yes on all water. It’s the law to carry one.

Throwbags are such a small item that there really shouldn’t be any issue.

my thinking is when you say “you see it
all” on the Rapp that you might need it someday. Probably not for saving yourself but others.

I can honestly say its been many years since I’ve rescued someone with a throw rope yet I still carry it, kinda like insurance. Throw ropes work best for pulling in swimmers when your “setting safety”. Meaning your at a fixed location, usually out of the boat, where your main function is to prevent others from flushing down into additional hazards.

Over zealous throw ropers are a hazard to themselves and others.

Additionally, throw ropes are used for body and boat extractions/rescues- why wouldn’t you want that capability? Take a river rescue class and you’ll be able to answer your own question of whether or not a throw rope is a good idea and more importantly you might learn how to use it. I don’t say this in a condemning way, but with kindness. Your question is a good one, but more important than the rope itself is your knowledge of how and when to use it.

yes but you still use a horse
to mow your lawn.

I thought you were ezwater
I’m not sure why you should take guideboat’s dissent personally. No need for a lightning rod.

You really only need a boat and paddle. The rest is all convenience if you view it that way.

OTOH, a throw bag is a pretty meager investment and takes up little room. I don’t ww but my tow line is always with me because it takes more time to dig it out of my kit bag and leave it at home. So the question strikes me as odd as, say, “do I really need underwear”.

It seems as though
most people think of safety equipment as something they will use for themselves. I carry my safety gear and have never used it for myself, but I have used it for all of the following:

-(several times) rescuing other paddlers (throw bag, spare floatation)

-rescuing SCUBA divers (2 divers in rough conditions - one with no air or a failed BC inflator - gave him a paddle float and a tow rope)

-retrieving pinned boats (rope)

-several swimming rescues - generally using floatation (including an ice chest, inner tube, and rope as part of the rescue)

Safety equipment is necessary because if you do need it, there is generally not sufficient time to run to the store and purchase same. I look at those who don’t bring minimum safety gear as moochers.

IMO, these folks are in the same class as someone who show up at a campsite without a tent, food, or water, and then decide to clean their loaded weapon near you and aim it carelessly. They endanger others without even the minimum token effort at safety.

If that seems a tad harsh, well, I apologize (but not very strongly).


Just because
Just because someone is doing this: “You see it all: inner tubes, lawn chairs in canoes, etc” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be safe. If you want to be like all the others that may be doing unsafe paddling practices then follow their lead and not get one. Safety and knowledge is what separates Canoers from Canoeists.

Need for throw bag…

– Last Updated: May-04-14 5:12 PM EST –

You don't need one; until you need one...........

Same thing can be said for carry a first aid kit, wearing your pfd, and carrying a river knife.
If you take the attitude that you'll "never" need those things; you won't have them if you ever "do" need one.

Over the years I have pulled over a hundred people to shore with my throw bag. Many were not good swimmers,and were not wearing a pfd. Most had paddling skills that sucked! 75% of them I had no idea of who they were; they just needed help. Several might have drowned (in strainers) if I had not pulled them out of the river.
This most often occured on class 1 & class 2 rivers.

Have pulled good buddies & acquaintances out of whitewater on multiple occasions. Have also been pulled out of whitewater myself on several occasions.

My opinion:
If adults choose to NOT carry a first aid kit, NOT wear their pfd, NOT carry a river knife, or a throw bag; that is their decision. I'm sure they are aware of possible natural consequences. No need for me to interfere with their decision making.

I will always try to assist a child in any way I can.
Sober adults; maybe I'll help, maybe not. It depends on the situation. I am usually pretty good about assessing situations on the river.
Drunks I leave to the care of their drunken friends & family members.


Matt - if I waited for you…
to throw me a throw bag, I’d have done a lot more swimming.

Paddle with Matt if you want to learn how to self-rescue. :wink:

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