Question on E. E. tow rig.

I’ve pretty much decided to go with the Expedition Essentials tow rig. On the following page at the bottom, there’s the recommendation to add the “Quick Release for Tow Rig Carabiners.”

There’s a lot of good reviews on the E. E. rig as stock with the stock 'biners. Interested to know what you think about adding the quick release 'biners though.

Paul S.


– Last Updated: Mar-28-07 8:11 AM EST –


This is Tom from the Virginia Sea Kayak Center. The quick release isn't a different type of carabiner, it's a modified d-ring setup that lets you quickly detach the biner from your tow belt (or shoulder strap on a PFD) so you can just "tug" on the quickdraw for the biner and have the biner in your hand ready to attach on the victim's kayak, without having to unclip the biner from your tow belt or another attachment point.

The idea is that it quickly releases the biner from its storage location, without having to fuss around with opening the gate. I hope that makes sense -- I haven't had my coffee yet this morning.

Maybe someone who was at the Sweetwater symposium and saw my setup can explain it better! And thanks for thinking of us for your purchase.

Added -- The EE setup uses "hookless" biners.

i would get that piece as well…
i have fumbled trying to get my tow rig biner to release from its storage position and added time into a rescue when there was no need for it…

the other thing is to make certain that your biner has no hook where the gate contacts the biners frame…i have refitted “keyed” biners on those rigs…just one less place for a hang up…

nice rig…most likely my next one…(hopefully i do not wear out the one i have now)…


btw: vsc is a good place to order from as well…nice guys…prompt shipping et al…


– Last Updated: Mar-28-07 9:45 AM EST –

Depends where you paddle.

1. Aluminum carabiner. It can be hard/soft anodized, powder coated and just sprinkled with magic dust, it will corrode in sea water. It will jam, etc, etc. Nice color, though. "smooth gate opening" ?
Oh yeah, how do you figure the "heavy steel carabiner" is going to start flying toward you during rescue release? You know, the magic bullet towing 30ft of poly line. Matrix special effects, here it comes.

2. What is that crap about sea kayaking and throw rope?

3. Pouch sounds OK.

4. 30ft would be great for short period/length waves, but sea/ocean typically ask for more.

5. No float, no problem. BTW, they do not impede hooking up. Monkey business about poly line quick draw keeping carabiner afloat... priceless. Quickdraw? Another element that can fail, degrade in quality.

6. No shock - big problem.

Lovely marketing ...

A solid rig that does what it says
A few points about the EE rig. Dale Williams designed this based his experiences guiding and teaching on the Georgia coast. After making modification after modification to existing systems, he decided to create his own.

Of course, it’s marketed, but Dale’s a pragmatic guy and one of the top rough water coaches in the US…and he puts his gear through the ringer.

  1. Given that Dale uses this gear in saltwater and on rough seas on the east coast, I think concerns about the aluminum biner and the length can be put to rest. Most tow lines have TOO much line, which results the tower pulling the line through the water (which creates a surprising amount of 3drag). 30 ft is fine for the towing in east coast seas. A longer length is available for the west coast.

  2. The quick draw is an element adapted from rock climbing. If you were subjected a towline to forces that could cause this item to fail, then you’d have bigger problems than a broken tow system. It’s not a complicated piece of equipment, but definitely makes for quicker attachment and easier handling of the biner.

  3. I tested it out and while the biner doesn’t float like a cork on the surface, it doesn’t sink like a rock. It sort hangs below the surface, with most of the line staying on top. The quick draw has some bouyancy, as does the line, and the biner doesn’t weigh much.

    It’s a nice piece of equipment.

I don’t mind not having a shock absorber
Poly rope has a lot of stretch to it and in my case unless I’m long towing with all 50 feet, the daisy chain adds plenty of shock absorption as well. Bungee also gives you that slingshot effect that I don’t really like.

The EE rig looks nice…
but towing systems are very personal so I would end up modifying it like all the rest of them. If Jesus came out with a tow rig I would end up modifying his. Jesus is a better paddler than Dale Williams by the way, no question.

30 feet is great but on the Pacific, I need 50-55. Fine, add an extension to your kit, daisy chain the 30 down to 15 so that it is useful in a rock garden. SS biners are really nice, aluminum biners have an uphill sell to me, sorry, not drinking the kool aid there. I prefer a bungie, easy to add in. I like a float as more on the surface equals more easy to find after ditching it.

The quick draw thingy, sounds like a western movie. It’s easy to add a D ring you bought at REI for a buck and sew it on your belt or your PFD for instant retrieval of the biner. In short, Dale has a nice system, not as good as Jesus’s, whose tow rig is not as good (for me) as mine. The bottom line is they all cost a fair bit and take time and more money to modify.


dumb question but…

– Last Updated: Mar-28-07 2:24 PM EST –

rather than having the biner stowed in the bag or buying some handy dandy thing doo dad to store the biner...why not draw a bit of line outta the bag and then stuff that line and the biner into your pfd arm hole?

the compression of your chest on the line and biner keeps it there and it is VERY handy for deployment. i've used this for years and have never had an issue with the setup.

as far as the bag itself -

it's not a very long line - 30 - less than 2 boat lengths. i wonder if in big seas you might want just a bit more? add distance to keep the tow-er from potentially surfing down on you.

doesn't look like it has any bungie to lessen the impact on the tower's midsection when you have a load on under way...i like having that bit of absorption to let me know what's coming and it isn't as jarring to my midsection.

also, while the quick release buckle securing the belt/tow rig to the paddler is used and that's a good thing you may want to consider modifying by drilling a small hole in the center of that buckle and running a thin line a few inches long and adding a small toggle/ball. when your hands are cold or you are wearing gloves you lose a lot of manual dexterity and fumbling around trying to release that latch can be cumbersome...with the toggle/ball there isn't too much fine control needed.

...and $95 huh? i haven't priced out tow rigs lately but isn't that a bit steep for what you're buying? for similar taco wrap bags like that...northwater, ndk, palm and surely others....are those more or less expensive or is that really the going rate?

amen to that
North Water Sea Tec has:

Steel carabiner


Shock cord

costs 110 - get yours at ( no affiliation )

Mine came with 45ft of rope, I shortened it to suit my needs.

For Dale’s setup- quickdraw is obviously used to position the rope correctly on cab ( some peeps use simple electrician’s tape for that purpose). Same can be acomplished using rope splicing ( sailing days), heat shrink wrapping, heat welding, etc. Whole rope could’ve been replaced with 1/2 or 1/3 synthetic ribon/tape, that would’ve saved space ( there is a version of short tow that has snap-out ribon ).

For SS carabiner with eyelet no f…ing around is required.

Manufacturer obviously saved some money on shorter rope ( LOL ) and aluminum carabiner ( SS is way more expensive).

The Northwater Sea-Tec…
…is a better design, IMO. I don’t buy the claims that a float and shock absorber are unnecessary weight and bulk. I’ve used rigs with and without both and discovered:

  • It’s a hassle if you accidentally drop the 'biner and retrieving the sunken line takes valuable seconds that could adversely affect the outcome of a rescue.

  • The lack of a shock absorber can create painful pressure when towing.

    I’m also not convinced that 30’ of rope is enough for all towing situations, though it is sufficient for most uses.

    One design feature I do like on the E.E. rig is the mesh bottom, provided that it’s durable enough that it’s not going to wear through and let the contents protrude.

Salamander Sea Tow

– Last Updated: Mar-29-07 10:07 AM EST –

As usual lately on gear selection, when I look into it a little more I start to waffle until I figure things out.

I asked an acquaintance to bring his tow rig to the pool last night so I could get a better look at it. It was a Salamander Sea Tow. Shock cord, two SS biners. I liked that you could use the extra biner to hook on a loop in the line for a short tow.

This person also felt strongly that towing any distance without a shock absorber was really rough on the body. I don't have the best back.

I've never tried towing, actually. Right now I just have some poly line in my day hatch. Any tow belt is gonna be better than that, so I'm getting a little anxious.

There's a good description of a Salamander Sea Tow Pro at Atlantic Kayak Tours.
In another location on the SKT web they say though that Salamander has made unfavorable changes to that rig, now the Keel Hauler, I think.

So maybe it's between the EE and Northwater depending on whether one wants a shock cord or not. I would think the biners can easily be changed between Al and SS on either.

Paul S.

How do you rig a short tow?
Is there a second biner to hook to a loop in the line, or is there a different way. Please forgive my ignorance, I’m new to tow rigs.

Paul S.

Thanks for the clarification, Tom.
Much appreciated.

Paul S.

Second biner
Yes, there’s a second biner in the bag that allows a shortened tow in the EE design. You can just make it out in the second photo of this series:

A friend of mine has a Salamander…
and it has not just one, but get this, two lines and biners, because I guess we as Americans obviously demand more. The intent is one side is your long tow and the other is your short tow. You can solve that by adding a second biner close to your body and learning how to daisy chain, the simplest of things to learn. You’d be surprised how small 50’ of line becomes with that.

If it were me buying a tow rig for the first time without knowing much about it I’d probably buy a Northwater and while I was at the store another 20 feet of line and a brass snaphook for an extension. 30 feet is too short for me.


that’s similar to what I use…
but I got the Salamander whitewater bag which comes with a short tow with a carabiner and a 50 foot throw rope. I added two stainless steel carabiners to the throw rope and daisy chained it to make it a medium to long tow and it has worked pretty well for me and it’s pretty compact. The plus side for me is that I can pretty quickly convert it back to throw rope configuration for use in whitewater.

Smart idea, Alex
It’s nice to have stuff that is interchangeable and be useful in different contexts. I enjoy seeing how other folks solve issues. Lots of creativity out there.


How short
On my modified Northwater rig (done before the Sea-Tec was available), I have a short contact tow on one side and the long tow on the other. I keep the main (~50’) line daisy-chained down to ~20’. If I need the full length, I just unclip it and let it unchain. There are pics of my modifications in an album on Webshots at:

Salamander rigs are poorly designed

– Last Updated: Apr-01-07 11:50 AM EST –

While the quality of materials and construction in Salamander tow rigs is very good, I have to wonder if any of the designers actually used them under real conditions before they put them on the market. While their rigs look all nice and tidy and compact in the showroom, they're a pain to use in the real world. In particular, the bags are so tiny that it takes forever to stash the rope after using it, if you can do it at all. That is NOT a problem you want to deal with in an emergency situation!

In contrast, the Northwater rigs (and similar rigs from other companies) have bags that expand when you open them, so you can stash the tow line in a heartbeat. Having taught rescue and tow classes and been involved in emergency tows in rough conditions, I've learned that being able stash the line quickly can be nearly as critical as being able to deploy it in a hurry. Also, don't buy into the "just stuff it down the front of your PFD" nonsense. As an absolute last resort, that may work, but I've seen paddlers end up tangled in their tow lines when they came popping out from the top and bottom and armholes of their PFDs. It's far better to have a tow rig that permits fast and secure stowing of the line.

Towing is deceptively dangerous, much more so than many people realize. It requires practice and knowledge of safe practices. While a tow line should be part of everyone's safety gear, getting instruction in it's use and practicing with it are critical if it is to be a useful tool.

Good input.
Thanks Brian. Good input, as usual.

People at Atlantic Kayak had some input into the earlier Salamander rig, so I guess they were OK with the bag size. I agree, now that you mention it, it was tedious to stuff the rope in the side end of the tubular bag, even standing on land.

Good point about practice. I’m starting to meet some people who have a passion for both teaching and learning in conditions, which is great! If I’d thought about it when we did some rescue practice on Yaquina Bay a few weeks ago, I probably could have got some people interested in tow practice, too. That was the first trip I’d been on where a number of people were wearing tow belts, which is what kick started me to want to buy one. I’m gonna order the North Water today.

Paul S.