Articles - Throwline Group Test - canoe & kayak rescue gear

Throwline in use
Throwline in use
Canoe & Kayak UK Test Team - Posted on 22 Jan 2009
As a whitewater paddler carrying, and knowing how to use, a throwline is an absolute must. If you’re out there running rapids then at the very least you should be carrying is a personal line each and at least two longer bank rescue style bags depending on the size of your group. To help you find the right bag for you we’ve been testing ten of the leading bags on the market to see how they stood up to a few cycles through the CKUK Test Team wringer. Here are our findings…





Nookie 15m Throwline 
RRP: £26.99 
Info: www.nookie.co.uk

We liked this bag, Nookie have taken on board feedback and addressed many of the niggles that used to bother us about their bags previously. The line seems thicker and more rounded than in previous incarnations and this makes it easier to handle. The old studs on the neck seal used to rust, and then release but these are now rust proof and backed up with a Velcro seal to make sure the bag stays closed when not in use. Construction of the bag was bomber and we loved the bright hi-vis colour-way, although the flouro-yellow material did start to discolour, and the reflective piping began to peel* after a few months use. The first throw was spot-on every time and it was quick to scoop us water for a second throw. The rope was sealed nicely at both ends and secured with a correctly tied bowline, backed up by a cable-tie. Packing was a chore as the narrow neck of the bag makes getting a hand in difficult, but the rope fitted snugly in to the bag and it was easy to seal. The handle on the outside was a good length and we where unable to get a hand through it. The bag also has attachment points so it can be worn in conjunction with Nookie’s waist belt system.

Accuracy
1st throw: 5/5
2nd throw: 4/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 90%

Ease of throw: 4/5
Repacking: 3/5


Green Slime Mini Target Throwbag 15m
RRP: £29.95
Info: www.suzysweatshop.com

Suzy’s Sweatshop have been designing and manufacturing throwlines since they where first invented, and still bear legendary expedition paddler, and reputed innovator of the throwline, Pete ‘Green Slime’ Knowles name, and have been used by paddlers around the world for many years. The 8mm floating rope comes in a hard-wearing bag with a good hi-vis colour-way with clear instructions, for how to throw the bag correctly, printed on the outside, a feature that the test team really liked. The rope was secured with a very well tied bowline and the bag contained additional flotation foam. The handle was correctly sized and over all the construction was excellent. Interestingly it was the only bag in he test, which is actually manufactured in the UK. This was a popular bag with all the testers and it handled and threw well. Our only bugbear is the single popper closure. Although it’s never come undone when carrying the bag, we would like to see some kind of back up closure system on there… Just in case.

Accuracy
1st throw: 4.5/5
2nd throw: 4/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 90%

Ease of throw: 4.5/5
Repacking: 3.5/5

Peak UK 16m Throwline
RRP: £29.00
Info: www.peakuk.com

This personal bag from Peak UK had some nice, innovative features on it, which we really liked. Unfortunately, along with the Nookie 20m, it had a fault, which highlighted a very important lesson to be learned when purchasing a throwline (see side panels). This bag didn’t have a knot at all, just a cable-tie holding it in place. Once we’d retied with a bowline we were ready to continue with testing. The hardwearing floating polypropylene rope is housed in a rip-stop Cordura bag, which has a large open neck and foam filled walls. This made repacking very quick and easy. The base of the bag is mesh, to aid drying. Initially we though that this would prevent it from allowing a quick second throw, but we where surprised to find this was not the case and, unlike its big brother, the Peak 16 deployed well repeatedly with a scoop and throw technique. The neck closure seals using a cord and cord-lock system that we really liked. It was easy to use and gave a solid secure closure. The red colour-way is easy to spot and the construction of the bag was solid. It has a reflective strip to aid visibility, although this peeled of out bag after a few months*, and had instructions on how to care for your line printed on the outside of the bag. Bar tacked straps to allow it to be used with Peak’s waist mount system. Allowing for the absence of the correctly tied knot this is a great little bag, which repacked and threw extremely well.

Manufacturers comment:
We were really concerned to hear that the bag tested did not have a knot tied in it. Our product spec insists on a figure of eight knot being used to secure the rope into the bag. We pride our products on quality and their safety. The bags go through quality checks in our far-east factory and again when the stock reaches our UK warehouse, so we were very disappointed that the bag tested had no knot tied. We have since checked all our stocks and improved our factory quality control to prevent such an incident happening again.

Accuracy
1st throw: 5/5
2nd throw: 4/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 90%

Ease of throw: 4.5/5
Repacking: 4/5


Palm React 18m Throwline (V.F.M)
RRP: £22.95
Info: www.palmequipmenteurope.com

A compact and well put together bag. It features a lighter weight, 10mm Polypropylene floating rope, than the 10.5mm found in the Alpine, but we still found it pretty easy on the hands and fine for most common rescue situations. The bag was well constructed from foam lined Cordura and the rope was securely tied with a figure of eight knot and had a plastic ‘hosepipe’ style handle on the outside. It has a wide neck opening, but we found the tightness of the bag still made repacking the bag a bit of a chore. Once the rope is in the neck secured by a simple bungee draw-cord with a large yellow stopper. This is easy and simple to use and wont come undone by accident, a big plus in our book. It threw well on a first throw, but we found that when pulling back in for a re-throw the neck collar of the bag tended to prevent it filling with water, causing a slight delay on a second throw while we filled it with some water. If a re-throw was attempted without doing this it was very difficult to get any distance, without simply throwing coils. Despite it’s drawbacks the React’s tough build, 10mm rope and very reasonable price will make this a popular choice for enthusiasts.

Accuracy
1st throw: 4.5/5
2nd throw: 3/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 90%

Ease of throw: 4/5
Repacking: 3/5

HF Rescue Pro 20m (Winner CKUK Choice)
RRP: £34.95
Info: www.systemxkayaking.com

German company HF have always had a strong reputation for producing great rescue equipment and the Rescue Pro is no exception, although having said that we did flag up a few flaws in the course of our test. It threw really well, which made it easy to be accurate time and time again. The tapered bag has a wide neck with a simple, but ingenious, grab handle built in to it. This made a quick and accurate second throw very easy. The rope was 11mm floating line and was very easy to handle. Flotation comes in the shape of foam in the bottom of the bag and the rope was secured with a well-tied overhand knot. The bag came with a grab handle on the throwers end of the line, which we removed to give us a clean line. The wide neck also allowed for easy re-packing and the line fitted easily in to the bag. The neck is then held shut by an excellent stainless steel fastener. On the downside the quality of the construction could have been better, especially at the price, and the stitching on the seam of the bag began to come apart on out test bag fairly quickly. Over all though this bag had some excellent features and was the out and out favourite of the majority of testers.

Accuracy
1st throw: 5/5
2nd throw: 4/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 80%

Ease of use: 5/5
Repacking: 5/5


Nookie 20m Throwline
RRP: £29.00
Info: www.nookie.co.uk

This shares the same solid build quality of its smaller 15m brother. The rust proof popper and back up Velcro neck seal and bright hi-vis colour-way was a hit with the test team, but again the flouro-yellow material did start to discolour, and the reflective piping began to peel* after a few months use. As with the smaller bag this throws really well and is easy to be accurate with.  The rope is 10mm but on inspection we found it to be tied with what was clearly a reef knot, not good at all as this could slip under load. The length of the line is clearly marked on the outside of the Nookie bags, which is excellent but on measuring we found our test bag, although marked as 20m, to be only 18m long, again not good. It was a real shame, as we liked the way the Nookie bag threw a lot. 

Manufacturer’s Comment:
We were very disappointed to hear that the line in the bag was shorter than advertised. The first thing we did when we heard about it was pull all of the 20m lines out of stock and measure them, we’re happy to say that they were all 20m, so we can only think that the one line highlighted was an aberration. With regards to the knot - we think it is possible for a loosely tied bowline to invert into a knot that looks miss-tied - in fact this is still a bowline and will lock after a centimetre or two of slip. We imagine this was the case with your test line. For this reason, although our lines are supplied from the factory with a bowline knot, which is locked by a plastic tie wrap for added security, we always recommend that the end user removes the tie-wrap and reties and checks the knot in person.
 

Accuracy
1st throw: 4/5
2nd throw: 4/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 85%

Ease of throw: 4/5
Repacking: 3/5
 
Palm Alpine Rescue Bag 20m
RRP: £34.95
More info: www.palmequipmenteurope.com

When it comes to technical features and construction the Alpine was the daddy. The 11mm rope has impressive 1000kg line strength and is very easy to handle and hold on to under strain, but we’d like to see it sealed a little better at the end. It was secured to the bag with a well-tied figure of eight knot, and the neck closure elasticised draw-cord system secures very securely. The bag is constructed from tough hi-vis Cordura, with flotation built into its walls, and features some nice touches. It has a webbing loop on the base, which is ideal for attaching a karabiner too. It has an excellent internal steel O-ring to enable clean rope use. It’s been designed to be used in conjunction with Palm’s Zambezi utility belt and has a tough Cordura sleeve for the belt to slide through. It throws really well, although the heavy-duty rope did make a second throw harder to get the rope to fully deploy once it was wet, although it did still remain impressively accurate. On the down side it was a bit fiddly to re-pack, especially for those with big hands, and once in it kind of feels that the bag’s just a fraction short for the rope. Having said that we think the excellent 11mm rope, and well thought out features will make this line will be the bag of choice for serious whitewater rescue professionals and hardcore creekers alike.

Accuracy
1st throw: 5/5
2nd throw: 4/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 78%

Ease of throw: 5/5
Repacking: 3.8/5
 
Peak UK 25m Throwline
RRP: £35.00
More info: www.peakuk.com

We really liked the spacious, profiled bag, and it has some very nice features. It’s constructed of tough rip-stop Cordura and the wide neck is finished with webbing. The base id made of mesh with a webbing section housing two eyelets where the rope attaches. The 8mm floating line packed easily in to the bag and it was securely fixed with a well-tied figure of eight knot. Despite its 25m length its first throw was always good, but the larger mesh bottom meant that, unlike the smaller version, it didn’t throw that well on the second throw. We found the best way was to simply throw it as coils instead. There are some nice well thought out features on this product, but we would kind of like to see a thicker diameter of rope on a bag of this size.  

Accuracy
1st throw: 5/5
2nd throw: 3/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 60%

Ease of throw: 4.5/5
Repacking: 4/5
 

Nookie 25m
RRP: £34.99
Info: www.nookie.co.uk

This is the big Daddy of the Nookie range and shares the same solid build quality of the other bags in the range, with foam filled Cordura walls. It is also compatible with Bookie’s wait mount system and has two bar-tacked webbing straps to allow this. The rust proof popper and back up Velcro neck seal, clearly marked length and bright hi-vies colour-way pleased us once again. But, in line with the other Bookie bags, the flour-yellow material did start to discolour, and the reflective piping began to peel* after a few months use. This is more a cosmetic niggled than a real problem as it in no way affected the way the bag threw or handled. The 10mm floating line was secured with a bowline, and it packed slightly more easily than the smaller bags, due to its bigger size and the rope fitted easily in to the bag. For a line of this length it threw very well on both the first and second throws and we were impressed with how easy it was to be accurate with it, especially on the re-throw.

Accuracy
1st throw: 5/5
2nd throw: 4.5/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 80%

Ease of throw: 4.5/5
Repacking: 3.5/5
 

Green Slime Expedition Target 25m
RRP: £49.95
Info: www.suzysweatshop.com

 Large tapered bag constructed with tough 1000d Corduroy and containing 10mm floating rope. The bright fluorescent colour of the main body went down well with the testers, as did the clear instructions of how to throw the rope printed on the outside. A block of foam inside the base of the bag provides floatation, the rope was secured with a well-tied bowline knot and there was a plastic ‘hosepipe’ style handle on the outside. It threw really well, and like the Nookie 25, we where impressed by how easy it was to re-throw. Over all we liked this bag a lot and the only two gripes we had was the lack of a back up system for the single popper neck seal and the slightly high price tag. Still, having said that the Green Slime bags have a long and proven track record, and, unlike the rest of the bags in this test, are still manufactured in the UK and as we know that comes with a cost. 
Accuracy
1st throw: 5/5
2nd throw: 4.5/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 80%

Ease of throw: 4.5/5
Repacking: 4.5/5
 

NRS Pro Waist Mounted Rescue Line
RRP: £89.95
Info: www.i-canoe.com, or www.nrsweb.com

This was a bit of an anomaly, many of the throwlines in the test have been designed to be used in conjunction with a separate quick-release waist mount system, but the NRS Pro comes as an integral part of such a system, and can’t really be used without it. The very slim bag contains just over 16m of Dyneema® rope. Although this has an impressive tensile strength it is very thin and we found it difficult to handle and a bit like cheese-wire to hang ion to under load. In our opinion it’s certainly intended solely as a throwline and would be totally unsuitable to use for any other rescue scenario, such as a Z-drag or vector-pulls. To add to it’s woes the NSR Pro also had a tied in handle on the throwers end of the line, which we removed before the test to give us a clean line, was also very difficult to re-pack, due to the slimness of the bag and carried a whopping price tag.
    In its defence, when worn it’s low profile made it one of the least obtrusive waist-lines that we’ve tried and despite its light weight it did throw very accurately on both first and second throws. We can see that this could appeal to those who want a secondary back up bag on them at all times, in addition to their usual personal line, to provide a last-ditch throw. In this scenario it could prove a solution. But for all of our testers the negatives far outweighed the positives, and they’d much prefer to use a bigger bag, with thicker rope, in conjunction with a detachable waist system!

Accuracy
1st throw: 5/5
2nd throw: 4/5

Rope deployment
1st throw: 100%
2nd throw: 90%

Ease of throw: 4.5/5
Repacking: 1/5



Buying a Bag!
•    When you purchase a new bag always unpack it and check the knot and length of handle. You shouldn’t be able to get your hand through it. The bag should ideally be tied with a figure of eight or bowline knot. If you’re not happy adjust the handle length and re-tie the knot to your liking.


•    Take the time to read any instructions that come with the bag, these aren’t there just for decoration, they could be the difference between a successful rescue and a failure

Care and Maintenance
Always dry your rope out after use, we know it’s tempting to just leave it in your boat, or sitting in a dry-bag, but it’s important to keep the line in as good a condition as possible.

If it has become covered in dirt or sand during the course of your run give it a rinse in fresh water to clean it before drying. Never use detergents on it, plain ol’ water will do.

Inspect your bag regularly, checking the knot, the neck closure, bag and most importantly the rope for any signs of wear and tear, or damage.

If you have to use your rope in a rescue scenario where it’s been under heavy loads for a sustained period, and been used with other rescue equipment such as slings, prussic loops or pulleys check it very carefully for wear, and seriously consider replacing it for your next river trip.

When drying your bag try and keep it out of direct sunlight. UV can do more damage to a rope than any other factor.
Bag Basics – Do’s and Don’ts
It’s not enough to carry a throwline, just because the manual says you need to; you need to know how to use it to! We’d recommend that all whitewater paddlers attend a rescue and safety course to learn the skills you need to stay safe on the river.

If you get out of your boat, to inspect or portage, always take your bag with you. It saves time and you never know if someone may slip and fall in, or a swimmer from another group may appear. If you have your bag to hand, then you’ll be in a position to affect a rescue.

Ropes can save lives, but they can turn in to a deadly trap in seconds. If you carry a rope, you should carry a knife. Make sure it’s up to the job and easily to hand, even during a swim.

Never tie a rope off while being held by a swimmer.

Never put your hand through a grab handle of a bag, or wrap the line around a limb.

Keeping it Clean
Current thinking from whitewater and rescue professionals is that the line should be kept ‘clean’ at the throwers end. This is because if a scenario should arise where a line is worsening the situation and the swimmer is unable, or unwilling to let go, the rescuers only option at that time, is to release their end of the rope. So as to reduce and minimize the risk of the line snagging in this scenario it is best to have a clean end to the line, with no knots or handles. If indeed you come across a situation when a handle is required it takes only seconds to tie one. The other argument for a clean line is also that if the force of the water is such that the rescuer cannot hold on without the aid of a handle then it will almost certainly pull them in to the water too, in that situation the rescuer also has no option but to let go of the rope.


We highly recommend reading Whitewater Safety and Rescue by Franco Ferrero and published by Pesda Press (www.presdapress.com). It’s an invaluable resource of rescue knowledge and experience.


Top Tips

Ross Montandon
It’s always good practise, if it’s not already clearly marked, to write the length of the rope in permanent pen on the side of the bag. This makes it instantly clear to anyone using the bag what length it is, so if someone else needs to throw your bag quickly they will know exactly how long it is without having to read the small print.


Simon Westgarth 
In my experience, always keep a screw gate karabiner on the end of the throwline; as in most cases you'll probably need it for rescues. The counter argument to this suggests that you might hit the swimmer in the face with the karabiner, it is, however normally the case that the thrower projects the throwline beyond the swimmer to ensure sufficient line is available for the rescue to be successful.

Dave Carroll
For me the most important feature to look for in a throwline is good rope…10.5 mm thick! Thin ropes that get stretched out are really hard to hold on to, especially with cold hands. This applies to both swimmer and rescuer. A thin rope bites in to your hand and can burn your palms as it slips through. They are also know as ‘hug’ ropes; the reason for that is that if you have to do any steep ground descents on a thin rope, then you’ll need a hug at the bottom to get over the fear.  Take it from me if you need to haul more than one or two boats up a bank on a thin rope your hands are destroyed. Larger diameter ropes work much better for swimmers, in rope systems and for bank users. Hopefully these arguments should get rid of the idea of spectra cord being the ‘business’ as the American paddlers will tell you. It doesn't float and is hard to handle.
    My top tip for using a bag is this. If you're standing close to a hole or where a swimmer is likely to pass and you have good footing, take the first 5-metres out of the bag, and be ready so you can throw it to a swimmer, if you miss you can still throw the rest of the rope still in the bag, thus giving you the availability of two quick throws. It works well with a 15m or a 20m bag. It also means you can tidy up safety quickly, if there are no mishaps, and be on your way down the river again. Lastly always take your line when you get out scout a rapid, no matter how small you think it may be. People fall in off the bank all the time! And you’re lines no good then if it’s in the back of your boat!

Pete ‘Green Slime’ Knowles
Having a bag that’s easy to re-stow is important.  Lets face it, your throwline is going to become part of your paddling life, you have to look after it and dry it out, this means you are going to have to empty it, dry it out, and then re-stow it after every paddling trip, not to mention every time you protect a drop or have to rescue, and you will soon get really fed up with it if it isn’t easy and quick to re-stow!
    It sounds obvious but my top tip is to hang onto it when you throw it! How many throwlines have ended up in rivers because the thrower has let go? We have all done this at sometime or another! For this reason, and despite the general current thinking to the contrary, I think there’s a strong case for a loop or stopper knot on the throwing end.  Take the knot out if you are using the throwline for more complicated rescues where you need a 'clean rope', I believe that this term is often quoted out of context and the principle is poorly understood!
    Always clip your throwline into your boat using the small loop or attachment at the neck of the bag. Never clip it in using the loop on the base of the bag. Several accidents have occurred in the past where the paddler has taken a swim, the neck fastening has come undone, then 15m of rope is loose in the water waiting to snare any rescuer trying to salvage the boat. A paddler called Lyn Williams drowned because of this about 15-years ago, in the States, and since then all reputable throw lines have an attachment loop at the neck of the bag.

If you enjoyed this article chech out here and here for more great gear reviews. Check out our how to use a throwline article too!

 
To find your nearest rescue kit retailer go to the Market Place 

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