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Discussion Starter #1
I have a few questions concerning throw bags that I would appreciate your input on:

1) Are all throw bags created equal? Are some better than others? Is there a certain type and/or diameter/size of rope that works better that you've found?

2) Is a throw bag with more rope better? I see many throw bags have around 50' of rope, I've seen some that offer 75' of rope. Would it be better to have more rope?

3) Is there a better/quicker/recommended way to reload throw bags? I assume you should always test your ability to throw and then reload throw bags so they unravel properly/reliably when you throw them. I just don't want to have it knot up and stop mid throw, that's all if the time ever comes where it is required...

4) Where do you carry your throw bags? On your person? ON your boat? Where is most useful for you personally? I've heard some suggest it might be a hazard to carry them on your person potentially is the reason I ask..

5) Have you ever used a throw bag successfully? Any stories to relate would be welcomed....Also any tips would be appreciated.

Thanks for your time!
 

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I've been thinking about this in the last day or so. I'm not an expert on throwbags and some folks on here know a lot more but here's my two cents before I turn in...

All throw bags are not created equal. Some have stronger rope than others, you want to make sure the rope floats and is supple static line. I think the bags DRE sells are about 5/8" and rated to about 1000 lbs. Is that right Matty?

Kayakers usually carry smaller diameter line (3/8"?) and about 50' ropes because of the compact size. Us rafters usually have 75' ropes (5/8"?) in bigger bags. The way I learned to stuff a throw rope is to have the rope coming from behind you and running over your shoulder so the empty bag's in front of you. This way you're stuffing the rope into the bag about a foot at a time by pulling it down over your shoulder, making sure the rope is layered in the bottom of the space available in the bag so it plays back out continuously. This is about the fastest way I know and I've never had a bag knot when deploying. If you need to throw again quickly, you can do so without restuffing the line by filling the bag with water to give it enough weight for the throw. 75 feet is really about as far as I can throw a dry throwbag so that's optimal to me.

I feel like the longer the better because not only may the swimmer more than 50' or need the extra time floating by to get the bag securely in hand. If you use a pully for mechanical advantage, you won't have much to work with once a 50' rope's doubled over.

Don't let your first throw be to someone that really needs it. Do dryland practice throwing with a buddy walking across in front of me about 50 feet away so you can get the hang of getting the bag ready, leading the "swimmer" and throwing accurately without consequences if I botched the toss. Every practice throw is followed by practice rope stuffing. Make sure you're securely braced before you throw, especially if you're going to haul in a runaway raft. Be prepared to let go or cut the rope, don't wrap it around your wrist - thnk of the force and momentum of a swiftly moving swimmer or loaded raft. Not only are there plenty of stories of people missing the swimmer or getting pulled into the water when the slack runs out but I've also heard of people throwing the entire bag - oops...

I've had some perfect throws the swimmer caught and I felt like a rockstar and the next time had a spastic-looking useless throw because I was too hasty and forced it. Practice beforehand, and when the time comes, keep cool, make sure you're set up properly and in a good stance ready to brace or hand the rope off to your passenger while you jump back on the oars. Be judicious when deciding whether to throw a rope. The more ropes out and in the water, the more entanglement hazards that can drown someone. I've found myself under a flipped paddle boat with loose rope all over me going through rapids - yikes!

Which reminds me, always get the deployed rope back into the bag ASAP so it's not an entanglement hazard. Practice throwing with your boating partners a few times a season so the rope is also inspected periodically and you can re-stuff it properly from time to time to prevent / eliminate any random knots that may develop as the rope is being jostled in the bag over the season.

I've got a 'biner on a loop at the end of the rope in the bottom of the throwbag in case I throw to someone that needs to clip onto a raft quickly. Ideally a caribiner on the throwbag should be on the outside of the bottom of the bag and in a labeled pocket with a Velcro tab closure so it can be accessed easily and also so it doesn't knock a swimmer's tooth out if one manages that bullseye toss - something to consider for some custom stitching. Maybe someone with a heavy duty sewing machine could sew something like that or create a mesh bag that'll allow the rope to dry easily in the bag? Preferably a retired guy with lots of time on his hands... :)

Your bowline may become your main rescue line, make sure it's up to the task. I've usually retired old throwbags to the bowline after a few years, now rethinking this practice because...

When my boat was upside-down the other day, my bowline was the workhorse rope because my throw bag was sitting lashed on top of the cooler where it's really handy if the boat's right side up and I'm in the captain's chair. That wan't very helpful there when I was standing on the bottom of my boat and I sure didn't feel like going back under to get it. I'm thinking of strapping my main throwbag to the outside of the frame just behind the oar tower so I can get to it easily from inside or outside the boat, looping a 3' strap around the frame a few times so the strap stays on the boat after it's unfastened, and I can get the throwbag off easily from the bottom of an upside-down raft. I'd like to know where other folks put theirs so they'll be easy to get to when the boat's upside down.

Any thoughts?

I might get a bag to wear on my waist as well since I may not be lucky enough to be boating the kind of great folks I was with recently.


-AH
 

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1. As Andy mentioned all bags are not equal. Most ropes are either polypropylene and have very low tensile strengths, or spectra core that have much greater tensile strengths. Both of my bags are 5/16" in diameter. I have a waist belt bag that is 75' polypro rope for swimmer rescue, and a 90' spectra core rope that stays clipped inside of my raft or my kayak for raft, kayak, canoe, etc...rescues that put much more stress on the rope.

2. The only downfall I see to having more than 50ft of rope in a throwbag is it takes a little longer to stuff the rope back in the bag, but after a rescue situation time is generally not a huge concern because all involved are going to want some time to catch their breath so you should be able to leisurely restuff your bag. In my opinion it is better to have more rope as many rivers are generally more than 50ft wide, and there will be times you find yourself more than 50ft from a swimmer that could benefit from a rope bag.

3. Andy's response pretty well covers the only technique I've used to stuff a rope bag. I throw it over my shoulder and stuff it inside the bag much like I stuff my sleeping bag in a stuff sack, and I have yet to have a knot form utilizing this technique. There is a greater risk of the rope knotting up if you miss the initial throw and try to coil the rope to save the time of restuffing for a follow up throw.

4. As mentioned above I carry a bag around my waist as well as clipped into whatever craft I am in at the time, be it my kayak or a raft. There is definitely an inherent risk with wearing a waist bag; however, that risk is taken into consideration and I have a quick release on the belt buckle that I can pull to free myself from it should it become entangled on an obstacle in the river.

5. I have used throw bags many times successfully to rescue people and remove rafts and kayaks when pinned on rocks or bridges. The key in all of these situations is practice as much as possible. Part of the practicing process is getting to know your gear and how to get in the water as quickly and accurately as possible from it's completely stowed state wherever you decide to stow it while underway. The hardest part is to suppress the emotional excitement of the situation so that your adrenaline does not cause you to rush the situation and affect the accuracy of your throw. Be aware of your footing before you throw so that you avoid being pulled into the river and becoming a swimmer yourself and being in need of rescue. If possible have a buddy back you up and hold your vest when you have swimmers on the line just so you have some extra weight preventing you from being pulled into the river.

When you decide it's time to buy, borrow as many ropes from friends that you can get your hands and see what feels good to you when throwing. There is a surprisingly big difference the weights and shapes of various throw bags. Best of luck in all of your future adventures.
 

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Take a Swift water rescue class. They should explain the fine points and have several different ropes for you to try.
I second that. Your questions are spot on Speyfitter. I took a SRT class this year, and I got all of those questions answered and more. I practice my throw regularly, but I admit to missing sometimes. (practice practice practice!)

When I inflatable kayak, I carry a Salamander Golden Retriever waist bag. It comes with a leash with a tether and it has a quick release knob like a rescue vest. It sucks to repack, the opening is small. learning how to coil the rope and throw it coiled is a valuable skill.
In my raft I wear that bag, and then I have a 60' Downstream products bag that stays on my bow, it is not my bowline. It is visible and able to be accessed, so long as the bow isn't underwater.
I have a Cascade throwbag that stays in my rower's compartment (Or close to me when we paddle the raft) that is my favorite bag to toss. I am the most accurate with that bag, it repacks nicely, and my accuracy seems the most reliable.
I keep a bag on my person at all times so I am always prepared, even if I swim a rapid, I can help someone else. There are several schools of thought on rope choice, what to run on the end of your rope, and how to use your rope. The class I took showed several different ways of of doing things, so that I could make educated decisions. :D
 

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...I feel like the longer the better because not only may the swimmer more than 50' or need the extra time floating by to get the bag securely in hand.
-AH
Andy took a lot of time to give you great advice. The only picky thing I would say is that the swimmer should grab the rope not the bag. If they grab only the bag, there may be a bunch of rope that still needs to leave the bag before they can be pulled in.
Just for discussion: I took a class recently where the instructors said not to throw a bag from a boat, only from shore (I had never heard that before and don't know how "accepted" that rule is). The other thing they said was do not throw a rope unless you have a knife accessible -- that one seems right on.
 

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All great information here.
Spend a few minutes prior to each trip explaining how to throw and receive a rope. Try to make eye contact prior to throwing. Yell the persons name when throwing. Make sure they know to grab rope if possible as indicated above. Try to get on your back when being hauled in as holding the rope wrong can but you face down in the water (not fun). Practice all ahead of time whenever possible.
Consider what will mess with a throw bag. On a recent Grand Canyon trip, I witnessed interference with umbrella poles and GoPro poles during throw bag use. I am not saying not to use umbrellas or poles, but you have to consider them and be willing to either pull them down ahead of likely use times, or sacrifice them during an emergency.
 

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Practice is a big deal. Usually when someone throws it, it ends up downstream from the intention, which does no good. You always want to aim a little behind where it is intended.
 

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After you take a SWR class you will realize the 50' bag should not be your primary bag. Get a 75' bag and compliment it with a 50' bag. All the guys I kayak with have 75' bags. There is lots of room in the stern, no reason to cheap out on 25' of rope that could be crucial.

Kayaker's usually have 1/4" rope for compact. I carry a 1/4" Spectra 75' rope always. The spectra is likely over kill but for an extra $20 why not.

Also practice throwing that rope often. It's good practice when you are hanging out at a take out to throw it 10 times or even 5. Your buddies will appreciate it some day.
 

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4. As mentioned above I carry a bag around my waist as well as clipped into whatever craft I am in at the time, be it my kayak or a raft. There is definitely an inherent risk with wearing a waist bag; however, that risk is taken into consideration and I have a quick release on the belt buckle that I can pull to free myself from it should it become entangled on an obstacle in the river.
I do the same. I always have one on my person, because you never know when you are going to be separated from your boat. I learned that the hard way the first time I ended up in the river. Luckily, the throw rope was not needed, but had I needed it to help my fellow boaters (also in the river), I would have been screwed. Took me a while to get back to my boat (I was flushed downstream rather quickly), and had they not swam to shore as I had instructed them to, they may have needed some help that I was not able to provide.

As for the boat itself, I always carry one in the boat near the rowing compartment (may need to re-think exactly where per Andy's point about it being upside down) or on the back somewhere when paddling. Then I also have a bowline that I know I can use in a pinch at the front of the boat as well.

So really, I have three throw bags on a boat at any given time - well, assuming I am still on the boat.... LOL
 

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Brands

Nothing I can add really except to agree that you'll really benefit from a SWR rescue class (lots of fun, too) and I like my Salamander Pop Top bag. Kind of a pain to restuff but throws great. I usually just buckle it onto a thwart of my canoe.
 

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All throw bags are not created equal. Some have stronger rope than others, you want to make sure the rope floats and is supple static line. I think the bags DRE sells are about 5/8" and rated to about 1000 lbs. Is that right Matty?
Close, Andy!

DRE's standard bags (stocking items) are 3/8" polypro in either 30', 60' or 75' and the line is rated at #1600 lbs. However, polypro is not static. DRE does offer static throw bags and will cut them to whatever size you prefer. They are rated between #3500 and #4400+ depending on which type of rope you prefer.
 

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Just for discussion: I took a class recently where the instructors said not to throw a bag from a boat, only from shore (I had never heard that before and don't know how "accepted" that rule is). The other thing they said was do not throw a rope unless you have a knife accessible -- that one seems right on.
I'd be hesitant to say that you shouldn't throw a rope from your boat. When I was a raft guide I once pulled two swimmers out of the river above a sieve while still in my boat.

There are a couple concerns when throwing a rope while still in your boat:

1. If you are in an eddy, there's a good chance the swimmer will pull you out of it as you reel them in. The negative implications of this are obvious. There must be no considerable hazards for the swimmers or the raft downstream.

Solution: have someone else in your boat holding onto a rock, or standing on the shore/rock holding the boat. Also, have an egress plan if you do get pulled out of the eddy.

2. Loose rope in the boat is a serious concern. Don't let your feet/legs get tangled up in the slack, don't step in/around the slack, don't get between the slack and the direction of the current.

3. When you throw from the boat, the boat is going to move funny out from under you, so be very stable and very precise with your throw. You won't be setting any distance or accuracy records from your boat.
 

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Best secondary use for a throw bag?

Hanging food and garbage away from the bears...
 

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The only other thing I would add is I like a bag I can get my hand into, some of them are so small and so stuffed that stuffing them back in is a royal pain. Also good to practice using a throw bag while swimming many people are on their stomach when they grab the line and face the person who is throwing. That will get you a face full of water and make it difficult to breath it is better if you roll over on to your back, and place it on your downstream shoulder the water will go over your head and leave an air pocket for you to breath. I have seen swimmers drop the rope because they didn't roll on their back. Keeping it on the downstream shoulder will usually keep it off your neck. If you practice that it will be more instinctive when you need to be rescued. Also if you are using ropes you should have a river knife.
 

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The best and most important secondary use for a throw bag is to un-pin a raft. So get a nice long and strong line.







Hanging food and garbage away from the bears...
 

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You should not only learn how to use a throw bag, but also when not to use a throw bag.

Ropes in the water can be very dangerous, and are probably over used, especially on anything easier than class IV.

Do not deploy a throw bag in the river unless somebody really needs it. Always carry a knife on you if you need to cut the rope. And never leave the bag deployed in the river. Many people have been killed by ropes left in a river.

You really should either take a Swiftwater course or learn from a much more experienced person.
 

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You should throw the bag past the swimmer. I have seen people throw the bag at a swimmer and if the throw is short, the swimmer probably doesn't reach the rope.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I want to say thank you very much for the time you guys took to offer input and answer my questions. You have truly gone above and beyond and really taught me a lot! It's information like this that really helps promote the sport in a proper safe manner!

Assuming this course I'm scheduled to take Sept 13/14th goes through on the Thompson, I'll be looking to take a Swiftwater Rescue course sometime after that as well.

Thanks!
 
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