Extrasport / Foster towbelts

Any opinions on these tow belts…



They use webbing instead of rope. Being designed by Nigel Foster, I’d expect them to be good, but I’d appreciate any feedback from actual use. I’m looking to use them in up to moderate conditions, so I think 25’ is OK. I’d get the 2.0, with the pouch, since I don’t have the matched PFD for the 1.5.

Thanks. --David.

It will be hard to stow in a small
bag. After you finish using it, you will wind up stuffing the webbing inside of your PFD.

My preference, after owning several belts, is to customize a commercial belt to your own specs. I prefer the Expedition Essentials rig or the Northwater. Both have good large opening bags that you can stuff the line into very easily. My personal belt is the Expedition Essentials that I have added a bungee cord to.

webbing causes more drag
From my experience with the NF belt, the webbing causes more drag in the water than rope does. You experience this, a. when you tow somebody in bouncy or rough conditions when the line is not always under tension, b. when for some reason you have to paddle dragging the line (without a victim) behind you to get to a safe place to stow away the line. The webbing does stow easily and might has a smaller chance of getting tangled than rope does in my opinion.

So, what’s the advantage of webbing…
… vs rope? I’ve seen some pretty accomplished paddlers using webbing, but haven’t had a chance to ask them why.

Hmmm… I guess it stows tighter and neater, if you have a chance to roll it up, and is less prone to fouling. Anything else?


Had one for a while but gave it away. Quick re-stowing is tricky and the extra drag can be a PITA.

more on drag
Drag is proportional to the surface area.

1 inch of 1 inch webbing has 2 sq inches of area (actually, a bit more)

1 inch 1/4 rope, has 1* Pi/4*(1/4) ^2 = 0.05 sq inches of area

1 inch 3/8 rope, has 1Pi/4(3/8)^2 = 0.11 sq inches of area

Drag while going up current is a drag.
The webbing can catch sail and make it hard for the tow provider to tension the line on the towed.


Drag, schmag.
I think the most important feature is the re-stuffability of a tow system. Being ablt to take handfulls of line and stick them into a generously-sized pouch is a bonus when bobbing about. The Current Designs/Northwater models are good in this respect.


I’ve got one of these
I’ve been happy with it but have not used it in rough conditions, only for practice. As mentioned it does take a while to stow.

One problem when someone was trying it at a safety session it did roll out twice in a row. I couldn’t see how she was hooking up that loaded the gate but I swapped to a screw-gate carabiner so you have the option of locking it.



I can’t think of a single good reason…
…to use webbing instead of rope for a long tow rig. It seems like a case of being different for the sake of being different. There’s probably a good reason that these rigs are on “closeout” sale.

Stowing and screw gates

– Last Updated: Sep-15-07 12:25 PM EST –

If you can't stow your tow rig quickly in rough conditions, it's likely to become a liability at the times you need it most. Such a rig is useless, IMO.

Using a screw-gate carabiner on a tow rig is a really bad idea for several reasons:

- When you need to get it unhooked, you often don't have the time to mess around with a screw gate.

- Dealing with the gate will be difficult with gloves on.

- Screw gates jam easily with sand.

- It will probably corrode to the point of being useless in short order.

If you're having problems with a tow rig disconnecting from the towed boat, you're not attaching the carabiner correctly.

To elaborate a little on what Brian said
Make sure you clip to only ONE deck line. Don’t hook to both sides of the boat. If the front deck fitting pulls loose and you hooked to both, you will lose the tow.

Also, keep the gate of the biner UP when you hook up, there’s less chance of it coming off unexpectedly that way.

I use the 1.5 w/Retroglide Sabre
I’ve got the NF 1.5 system and use it with the retroglide sabre. I don’t know how big the pouch is on the 2.0 system, but with the 1.5 you can stuff the webbing into the front pocket of the sabre just as quickly and easily as rope. It’s flat poly pro, not thick nylon or tubular.

In my experience, webbing stows more neatly and compactly than cord. While it’s easy to stuff into the front pocket of the Sabre, it’s true that rolling it up for proper final stowage takes a minute. Webbing is less prone to tangling than cord. The webbing does have a some “pull” in the water. So there are positives and negatives. IMHO some ppl on this thread are overblowing them.

I use the NF 1.5 with a PFD that was designed for it’s integration. That may be part of the reason I like it. Probably if I was using a PFD that it didn’t integrate with, I’d still be using my NW sea-tec. As is, it’s low pro, keeps out of my way when I don’t need it, is easy as all get out to deploy when needed, stows quickly. Can’t speak for the 2.0, or even the 1.5 with a different PFD though.

I don’t want my tow rig in a PFD pocket

– Last Updated: Sep-16-07 7:13 AM EST –

I use the pockets for other important items and I prefer a tow rig that I can share with others. It's a personal preference, but I can't see giving up pocket space unnecessarily and perhaps leaving other critical gear behind. I also don't like the idea of having anything in a pocket that could create a significant entanglement hazard if it fell out in rough water or while rolling.

At least the integration that you speak of explains why Nigel would have his name on something that seems so poorly designed when you look at it separate from the PFD it's designed to work with. It seems to me that this product should not be sold as a tow rig without explaining that it's only meant to be used with a specific PFD.

Never had to leave anything behind
I don’t like a lot of stuff in my PFD. The Sabre is pretty generous with pocket space, but generally I follow the same KISS principle with my PFD that I do with my tech diving rig. Low profile, no extraneous crap strapped here and there, etc. I don’t like big pockets that a bunch of things are tossed into, because I don’t like digging around through a jumble of crap. A place for everything and everything in its place, and all that. Small knick knacky type things like chapstick, sunscreen, etc, go in my skirt pocket. So I probably wouldn’t be using that big pocket for anything significant anyway. Plenty of more appropriate places for primary kit left in/on the PFD without it.

Really I don’t think the system poses any greater entanglement risk than a regular waist belt tow system. It keeps out of the way very well.

FWIW, it’d be a total breeze to convert the system to use cord instead of webbing, but it’s never bothered me anywhere near enough change it out.

I dunno. It works for me quite well, all considered. YMMV. I feel like with the Sabre it’s much more streamlined than a separate waist belt, which I dig. Again, can’t speak for the 2.0 or 1.5 with a different PFD.

After watching a guy blow a tow because
the webbing caught sail in current, no thanks. Others had to help. I notice the higher center of balance when I tow from a PFD. PFD systems usually are very tough to take off in a capsized position and return to serviceable condition on bouncy water.

I like lots of stuff on me, that way I have it and can access it when I need it. But that’s just me, I’m kinda funny that way. If it works for you, that is great.

Augustus Dogmaticus


It’s true the tow point is higher. Two effects: Depending on your boat the stern generally interferes less with the line. But it does pull more than a waist system. If you DO have to remove the belt and put it back on, you can easily put it around your waist (not threaded through the PFD).

As far as stuff mounted on the PFD, I guess you’re right, to each his own. Myself, I’m a disciple of the KISS principle, as aforementioned.

As for the current blowing the tow for the sole reason that it was a webbing rig, I wasn’t there. But it sounds like a pretty “impressive” situation.

Indeed it was an impressive situation.
I don’t get all bent out of shape regarding the nuances of personal decisions towards equipment. Nigel is a smart guy and he figured out a pretty good way to kayak and make a living. Your choices reflect someone who’s worked out what works in your paddling life. The fact that people are doing this and asking questions makes for a fitter paddling world in my opinion.