Paddling tips, tricks, news and gear reviews from an Unsponsored point of view

Choosing A Throw Line

If you are running whitewater I strongly believe that all members of the paddling group should carry and throw line/bag AND know how to use it safely/effectively. I would also say that if you are carry a line you must also carry a knife that is capable of cutting it.


The choice of throw lines/bags is vast and although they may look the same there are some distinct differences that you must consider before selecting the right one for you.

The length of the line is something that should be considered carefully, where do you normally paddle would a 20m or 30m line be excessive? Would a 15m, 18m or even 20m line be more suitable? You also need to think about the fact that a longer line can be harder to throw and will normally be thicker and overall much heavier. However longer lines are useful for the rescue of pinned boats as you may need the excess to help form some sort of mechanical advantage system.

How the rope handles and pays out of the bag is also very important. 8mm rope can be quite tough to hold yet allows for a smaller, lighter and perhaps more accurate bag. Bags with 8mm line are usually pretty compact and can be worn on a waist belt without creating too much hassle. My personal preference is the HF Weasel as its fairly small, has 18m of rope that is thin but not too thin and it throws/repacks really well.

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Thicker rope (10mm) will tend to have better handling qualities when under load, have a greater load capability but will be heavier/take up more room. Some may find it more difficult to throw a heavier/larger. My personal preference is the HF Alpin Compact or the Palm Alpine Bullet bag.

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When thinking about buying a new line I like to try throwing the pay to see how well it flies, how well the rope is deployed and how easy it is to repack the bag. Most kayak stores (if they are any good) should allow you to do this. You need to feel confident that the bag fits your needs. Attending a training course often gives a chance to try a range of different bags in different situations as well as giving you the vital skills to use a line safely.

I like to have the ability to attach a bag to a belt if possible. Most manufactures have integrated tabs on there small/medium throw bags to allow for this. I also like to have a way of clipping the bag to my boat without having to use the rope loop. The HF bags I use have a plastic D ring in place for this purpose.

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In summary you need to consider the length/thickness of rope, how well the rope deploys and how easy the bag is to repack. There will always be a compromise somewhere but as long as you are happy with the package that the individual bag offers and you have spent some time learning how to use it safely/effectively you may find it to be a life saver.


  1. Phil

    Two main questions spring to mind.

    First, What is the average length a person can throw a bag with 10-11mm rope? And what is the average length a person can throw a bag with rope with a smaller diameter?

    Secondly, Is there any advantage to having a larger or smaller loop on the end of the bag? I know that some people reduce the size of the hoop, so a panicking swimming doesn’t purposely lodge their hand in.

    • Phil

      *panicking swimmer…

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      Not as far as most people think they can in both cases. It isn’t very often that I have relied on the full length of the rope in the bag. I prefer the loop as small as it can get whilst still being able to hook a carabiner in and out with ease.

      • Phil

        No offensive, but all of your answers to my posts and the article itself is really fluffy. None of it actually provides any information.

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          No offense (or offensive as you say) taken. I would as you may expect disagree with you about providing information, I think the article provides things to consider. What it doesn’t do is tell you to buy “that bag”. There are too many variables and it is down to how you will use, how you throw and how fast you can repack. Are you willing to trade off weight, throw range, rope length, bag size, colour, storage size, cost, clip in points, belt compatibility, brand, availability etc….. against one another? Which one(s) win?

          This is why I suggest that you try out bags (at a shop) or even those carried by fellow paddlers to get an idea of what is best for you. I have used loads of different bags over the years – Palm, Slime, Nookie and HF. All had there +Ve and -Ve points, but I took some time to check out what was available and considered all of aspects in the post. If you are after specifics on what I use it’s all HF kit.

          HF Weasel – 18m
          HF Compact Alpin – 20m

          Bags are tough, ropes are OK all-round and handle well, but most of all the bags pack really quickly.

          Try some out, a WW course is always a good place to do this. It also means that you will be safer when you use the bag.

  2. Phil

    Thirdly, what is the difference between a Palm and a HF throw bag? Or any other manufacturer?

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      The feel of the rope and general width/length of the bag. This can make a huge difference to how the bag handles.

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