Throw bag, rescue bag selection

Don’t want to restart the debate over rescue gear, but for those of you who advocate carrying a rescue bag, what length/size/strength line would be appropriate for canoe/kayak, small rivers, class 2 max. The lines come in a variety of diameters and strengths, but I suspect that the smaller diameters might be tough on the hands. I mainly paddle MN, IA, MO, and haven’t had a need for a rescue bag, but it seems like a resource and skill I should develop.


– Last Updated: Aug-25-04 4:00 PM EST –

Here is what I carry.

It's not the best, not the worst but for what you describe it should be OK.

Canoe rescue?
My understanding was that canoeists never need rescue therfore do not need rescue gear :wink:

throw bags
Are those throw bags from NRS made in the USA? If not, anyone know who carries American made ones? Thanks.

And it’s on sale right now
for $33.70…

Fit your needs …
The NRS Standard Rescue Bag would probably fit your needs, based on your proposed usage.

Seventy feet is optimal; most people can’t throw a rope that length to full extension.

3/8" thickness is good; 1/2 inch is too bulky & 1/4 inch too hard to grasp & pull. A breaking strength of 1,500 lb. is generally accepted minimum for river rescue ropes.(Whitewater Rescue Manual)

Ignore the naysayers; the majority of the people I’ve pulled from the water (rafters, canoers & kayakers) were those that say they, “don’t need no stinking throw bag”!

Never had one person I threw it to ignore it!

Practive with it to become accurate; it is virtually worthless if you can’t hit the target.

Also learn where, and when to use it, and how to correctly retrieve the person on the end of the rope. The person you rescue may be someone you care about a great deal, and it’s no big deal to carry & keep handy. I can name quite a few Pnet paddlers that will vouch for me having my throw bag handy, at the right place, & the right time.


P.S. Sometimes pulling a person from the water will offset “potential problems” that might occur if they continue to float, or swim downstream, or towards shore.

Try this eBay link.

This person from Idaho apparently makes these throw bags, as well as dutch oven bags, equip bags, etc. - hey, maybe they could start making paddle bags for another P-net poster.

While his/her product may not have the panache and the extra features of coated grip handle and mesh draining band that the NRS bag does, I’ve found the 50 footer I purchased from him on eBay 10 months back to be of fine and durable construction (though Topher felt the stitching was a tad uneven - but then Topher is a fine tailor who is quite skilled with a heavy sewing machine in repairing high-end outdoor gear that rambunctious youth put their jagged personalities to). And at $14.99 (starting price, the “buy now” is $19.99) for the 50 footer, extremely reasonable. Didn’t see this go-around, but in the past he also offered 75 feet bags as well as sets containing both 50 & 75 footers along with a bow bag.


I just took a rescue class, which confirmed your suspicions that 1/4" line is hard on the hands. It’s not easy to throw a 70’ bag to full length, but the length is handy is you’re doing anything other than a simple throw.

Here’s another good source:

I’ve got one of their medium-sized 50’ bags, which I like a lot, and a 70’ NRS bag. Both work just fine.

a few experiences

– Last Updated: Aug-26-04 10:17 AM EST –

Throw bags I have handled/used/borrowed/owned...

Bluewater rescue bag, 50', 3/8 polypro rope: Very easy to throw this bag accurately, and it fits nicely into small spaces when packed. Unfortunately, it's a real pain to restuff, as the bag opening is smaller than most hands, and the bag's volume is an exact fit for the rope.

NRS standard rescue bag, 70' 3/8 polypro rope: Big bag, easy to stuff. Would probably hold 100' or more of line. Not so easy to throw to full length, though. With the extra large bag and lightweight polypro rope, it's kind of like throwing a fluffy pillow. Less of an issue when wet, of course.

Lotus 70' 3/8 polypro bag: Throws fairly well, stuffs reasonably, good compromise between ease of stowing the bag and ease of use. Decent bag, but don't buy one unless it's on sale. Name brand isn't worth _that_ much!

Harmony Pro Throw Bag: Throws easily, but hard to restuff due to small top opening, and based on the ones I've seen in use, the bag material starts to fall apart pretty quickly.

Generic, old school throw bag. Heavy nylon bag materialy, 80-100 feet, 1/2 inch polypro. Great for entertainment value during a rescue class, as you watch people launch their ropes straight up in the air or straight into the water at their feet. Heavy and awkward, but works just fine with practice.

If you just canoe class 1/2 stuff, you probably won't do many (if any) rescues with the bag, but they're still useful to have in case you need to drag your boat up a 20 foot cut bank, hang your gear out to dry in camp, etc.

restuffing, etc.
With the smaller bags, holding the mouth with the last three fingers of each hand and using the thumb and first finger of each to feed the rope works pretty well. It’s faster than it looks.

Make sure the people you paddle with know how to catch a rope in current: immediately roll on your back, put the rope over the shoulder opposite the thrower, tuck your head and lock your elbows down. If you try to stay on your belly facing the thrower in fast water you’ll end up diving. Find a safe spot and practice being on both ends of the rope – it’s a real eye-opener.

I would remind people that if you try to pull someone towards a canoe, the canoe not the swimmer will be moving. That’s because canoes and kayaks glide through the water better than people do. Unless you plan on having to run along shore somewhere trying to save a swimmer the throw bag won’t be of much use other than a clothes line.

Throw bag, rescue bag selection
Would a 3/8" throw bag line also be used, with additional hardware and a Z Drag setup, to release a pinned canoe, or is that a completely different setup?

You can use the same line, but stay out of the line of fire – polypro line is fairly elastic, and it’ll recoil a long way if something lets go. With a good setup the prusiks should start slipping before anything breaks. Consider it a warning to back off and try something different. Spectra-core 3/8" is much stronger and stiffer and worth considering if you anticipate rigging a lot of haul systems.

Typically …
Typically, myself & the people I paddle with (particularly on whitewater), scout rapids on rivers which are unfamiliar to us, before anyone runs the rapids.

If we are familiar with the river, and know places that we expect obstructions (such as strainers) might possibly have formed, we also scout those spots before anyone runs those rapids.

Those not running the rapid first become downstream safety people; so there is no “running downstream on the riverbank, chasing people”. After you run the rapid, you replace the person who provided backup for you. Not being first offers an opportunity to check out your proposed line, or the line others choose, and see the results firsthand.

Some people with the " just go for it" mentality think it’s a pain in the butt! They don’t even have a throwbag! We pull them in too!

Good practice. Usually takes me about 15 to 20 minutes to walk downstream to a good position, watch a run, pull em in if necessary, then walk back to my boat upstream & make my run. My life is worth 20 minutes; so are my friends. We’re all still here, we’re all still paddling, been doing it that way for 15 years, ain’t gonna change!