Tow rope, throw rope...

They’re both … ROPE! Right?

So can you throw your tow rope, or tow with a throw rope?


Maybe if you rig your own

– Last Updated: Jun-24-11 4:45 PM EST –

Later add - OPer knows the diff but I'll leave this here in case it's of usee anywhere else.

Different ends and beginning on each.

A tow rope needs to have a quick release at the rescuer end and something like a carbineer on the rescuee end that'll clip onto the rigging of the other boat. The carbineer does not have to float, though the line should.

The throw rope doesn't have the carbineer end [edited - went to the basement and looked at mine and my memory is a sieve] and typically does not have the quick release requirement.

The tow rope is intended to be used when everyone is on the water. So things go wrong, the rescuer may have to unclip from the other boat in order to stay safe. Or, not uncommon, the rescuer may get too tired to continue towing and has to pass the tow line to another paddler by unclipping from around them, or their boat, and clipping to the other person or boat. Waist-mounted belts are popular because someone can pick up the towing without having a rescue cleat on their own boat.

The throw rope is more a creature of WW, where the rescuer will be standing on land or at least pretty secure rocks, may wrap the line around a tree trunk. These lines are typically longer than tow lines.

Not that throw ropes don't get used as tow ropes and vice versa at times, but they start out from different of view.

you can
As Celia said, throw rope is more of a moving water thing. Of course, if you spend a bit of time where waves meet rocky shores, you might encounter some moving water :wink:

Anyways, one way to have the best of both is to attach something to the end of the tow line, and throw it. A pump, for example, can be decorated with a loop, into which you clip your carabiner, throw the pump, voila.

That way the hapless swimmer can grab something fairly substantial, and you can still quick release

isolated experience
In the surf of an ebbing inlet, I once had a girl give her kayak a good shove parallel to the waves to separate herself significantly from it, and threw her the end of my tow rope with a carabiner on the end. She grabbed on, and I started towards shore. A wave picked me up, she couldn’t hold on, and the carabiner grabbed one of her fingers and sprained it pretty good. Since then I always carry the handled throw rope for such situations. Easier to hold on to. Less chance of an undesirable catch onto something like a finger or a nose.

I carry one when I am doing caves…might save me from going in.

I use a modified throw bag, and a deck tow system.

the bottom picture is a throwbag, the top picture is a belt tow system used on the deck tow

Best Wishes


Am I the only one who does both?
WW and sea?

Actually, I was more curious as to whether they’re the same thickness and length. I know about the ends.

Most throw ropes actually don’t have anything at the thrown end but the bag. Swimmers are advice to hold the rope not the bag. Or they’ll experience the empty feeling of “holding the bag” when the rope plays out!

You can hang separately, or you can
hang together.

I’ll have to look at mine
I swear there is a small loop just beyond the end of the bag. Not huge but something in a pinch, maybe pun intended.

You aren’t the only one who does both. But your question was a little lean on its starting point… did you have a design in mind?

Liquid Logic - SpeedLoader

– Last Updated: Jun-24-11 5:21 PM EST –

Saw this a while back - looked interesting for real life tests

A three sided design that opened well,
closed well, and stood up like it had a tripod.
The three sew sides give it much more stability
while sitting on the ground, rock, boat, whatever.

Any old rope will work
We were paddling with a group and got caught by surprise with some ugly high winds and rough seas and had to make a five mile crossing to get back to outr take out.

I won’t go into a lot of details, but the group split up and we were taking up the rear.

About half way back we caught up to several of the paddlers, and one old timer was completely fatigued and in bad shape. The other paddler, (whom many of you here know) with him didn’t have his new Night Heron tricked out yet, and had all he could do to keep the old timer up right.

My wife always carries a rope with a carabina in each end,(primarily for tying up on remote keys for lunch breaks) and thanks to that we were able to tow him the last two and a half miles back.

Without that rope, I am sure there would have been big time problems.

Snce then we have never left home without that rope.

jack L

Diamater of the rope
I find that I don’t have a prayer of being accurate for longer tosses unless the rope has some weight to it. I’m not great at it to start with, and I need that help. Can be less picky about the tow rope because it is not generally getting tossed.


– Last Updated: Jun-30-11 9:30 PM EST –

1. A throw rope needs to be a floating rope so that the targeted person can find and grab it (you throw the bag beyond the target to insure that the target has something to grab)

2. A throw rope has a weighted (but floating) stuff sack so the it can be thrown and will carry 50 - 75 feet.

3. Both a throw rope or a tow rope need to be large enough in diameter so that someone can hang onto them with cold wet hands.

4. A throw rope can work okay as a tow line, but a short single purpose tow line does not work so well as a throw rope. There are dual purpose tow/throw lines available.

5. A rescuer never ties their self to a rescue line. They will use a quick release belt if available.

6. Either rope may be drawn into use that it wasn't intended for, so selecting a practical diameter and strength is prudent. Select a rope that can be tied and untied after being pulled on in wet cold conditions.

"did you have a design in mind?"

It’s just a general question. I don’t have either and am thinking of acquiring something for such purposes.

So the question naturally came up: are they close enough in character to be dual duty? Are there design out there that allowes the rope to be used for either purpose say, by swapping the end-attachment peice?

From your list,
“4. A throw rope can work okay as a tow line, but a tow line does not work so well as a throw rope.”

Except for missing the “belt” attachment to the tow-er, what else is different? (I assume you can always add a carabiner to clip it to the boat being towed.

Assuming this is a serious question, throw rope bags typically contain at least 50’ or more usually 75’ of line.

Tow tethers that attach to your boat or waist, depending on what system you use and whether you are in a WW or ocean boat, may be more in the 5’-15’ range.

Some products, like Salamander, combine a throw bag with a long line and a separate tow line tether.

Long boat tow lines
Longer than that to start, but mine is often daisy chained to be one of those shorter lengths. You only need the full length in limited situations.

I don’t know why the above question - I can see a few diff’s named in the posts.

That’s right
There are also some “fanny pack” type throw lines where the fanny pack has a quick release buckle - tow and throw line in one.

here’s one -

Last I knew …
demand was exceeding production and there was quite a weight for one. Also, they are not cheap. These are really designed for sea use, but would probably work in ww too.

In a whitewater rescue situation, a carabiner is not at all the same as a quick release. A carabiner is hook shaped, even with the gate open, so it does not “quick release” and may, especially in swift water, be under enough load that the user cannot get free. And, yes, to head that question off at the pass, it does not take that much current to put a couple hundred pounds of load on the line.

Yes you can
You can use throw ropes for towing, and you can throw tow ropes – some companies such as North Water make bags that work for both. I use a throw rope for towing with my rear deck mounted tow system. You can read more about it and see pictures here: