Tow rigs - what length rope?

I’m in the market for a tow line belt - one that would be good on open water and waves. I’d like to buy a high quality system.

The two most cited products are the Northwater Sea-Tec (30 ft) and the Expedition Essentials which is 40 ft.

However, almost without exception, I read that you need 50 ft in open water paddling, if you are caught in big waves.

What puzzles me is what appears to be a disconnect between the expert advice and what products are offered in the market. It’s true that some tow belts have 50ft of rope but those are the cheaper systems and with lesser features, or so it seems.

When I contacted Northwater about it, they said that I wasn’t the only one asking and that they would do a custom package for me - of course for a premium.

So I would like to ask again and in a larger forum - what do people use when going out in open waters such as the Long Island Sound - off the coast of CT, big lakes, Nova Scotia etc?



NRS Towing Ropes
They have both 50’ and 65’ waist systems. I have the 50’ system and think it is good quality. When you need a shorter tow line you simply daisy chain the rope to the length you need.

You want enough line to keep the
boat you are towing TWO Wavelengths behind you. This will prevent them from surfing into you. The wave lengths on the East Coast are typically shorter than those on the West Coast.

Out here on the West Coast, most of us usually carry 40 foot tow lines, however, there are times when you really need to connect two together or add some additional line.

Hope this helps.

check North Water again
their “quick release rescue tow line” should come with 50’.

Otherwise the Expedition Essentials tow belt comes with 42 feet (west coast version).

I bought a Expedition Essentials bag and belt (no rope or hardware) and the added rope and a ‘quick draw’. It is important to get a ‘smooth gate’ quick draw like the Petzel Spirit Quickdraw.

I think the NRS Pro Kayak Tow Bag with a quick draw instead of the plastic clip would be a great setup. Just remember to have a way to shorten the tow line when you don’t need all 65’.

Daisy Chain Knot
Which knot and at what intervals do you use to daisy chain your line? Anyone have photos they want to share?


Canada Requires
a minimum of 50’.

15 Meters or 50 feet
It’s the law here.

It is easy to shorten a rope but hard to make one out of nothing.

I have a 50’ (15M ±) NRS belt system. It is used with some regularity.

I have thrown away the Aluminium biner that was on it and replaced it with stainless.

I had a plastic biner system on another line but have given that up as I am not confident it will work in a three man husky tow in a bad sea hauling three loaded boats with a very sea sick casualty in the middle.

We had to do about this some weeks ago but we had only two boats in tow.

I prefer a tow belt to a fixed system. If I have to drop a tow a friend can pick it up with no problem.

We had experience with this.

50’ when I worked in Can.–but
I usually only used 20’ to tow in most conditions . Too short an the tow yak is all over the place . Paddling the Hudson an LI Sound I have a smaller 25’ belt I made . Spectra line - it floats , ties easy an unties easy -high visiblity an strength .


NRS system
I’m happy with my 50 ft NRS system. Their prices on tow systems (and many other things) are good too. And I’ve always gotten fine service from them.

Is standard for the east coast and Great Lakes. The rigs produced for the west coast are longer.

The amount of drag produced by floating line is surprising, so you want to use the shortest line that you can safely use in your environment.

I use an Expedition Essentials and have been happy with it…very lightweight and low bulk, there’s no float (which I prefer) but has a quick-draw making the biner easy to manage for quick clip-ins. Because aluminum carabiners are used they plane up to the surface when paddling (unlike the heavy stainless carabiners in the NW system). Be sure to wash them after use in saltwater.


Dr. D for the Sinnet Knot PDF. Will employ today.

50ft daisy chained to around 30-35ft
I have an older Northwater waist tow system which has 50ft of line which I usually keep daisy chained to around 30 or 35 feet. The daisy chain is done so I can easily release it from the bag end.

I have replaced the standard biner with a quick draw (with the line replacing one of the biners). Be certain that the loops of your daisy chain are large and loose enough to release. I’ve seen very neat tightly done daisy chains not release.

Also be certain that the float is far enough away from the end of the line to insure that it does not snag on perimeter lines especially in assisted tow situations.

Waist tows allow for quick release, handoff, and/or pick-up. They also keep your center of gravity lower than tow lines attached to rescue vests.

I paddle on the East Coast so have very rarely needed 50ft length.

thanks for all the inputs
I think I will go with a Sea-Tec rig. It’s just a matter of whether to get it off-the-shelf with 30’ or order it from Northwater with 50’. I’m leaning towards 50’ just to be safe, hoping it won’t add too much weight and bulk. I can always turn the extra 20’ into a short towing line - right?


45 feet daisy chained to 20 ft for
for faster extraction in tight places. I start the chain on the hook side of the line and work up to the waist where a small snap hook keeps it taught. I carry a 15 foot extension with a bowline on one end and a simple brass snaphook on the other. I prefer heavy shock cord and stainless biners but ymmv.


How to shorten the line?
Thanks for the inputs. I went ahead and got a Northwater SeaTec with ~50 ft of line. It looks very well made although I have not had a chance to test it yet.

One question though - are there common ways of adding some sort of clip inside the bag to help shorten the line? What kind of clip would be good to use?