Throw Bags, Accessories and WorkShops "Gear For Life"

Explanations About Gear


Explanations About Gear/Equipment Requirements For Workshop Participants

                                                                                                                                              -- Jim Simmons

ACA rescue workshops have a stated amount of technical gear that a participant is supposed to bring to the class. In actual situations, however, circumstances confronting rescuers may require more gear than the minimum amount stated for taking an ACA workshop (refer to ACA Course Outline under SWR Workshop Info). This depends not only on the difficulty and isolation of river trips but on the skill and experience of paddlers. Rescue situations may require several throw bags, carabiners and prusick loops (used as links/hitches); along with additional lengths of one inch tubular webbing that may be needed for setting anchors or in special circumstances.

Throw bags are a basic rescue tool and primarily used for reaching swimmers in the water or in other situations involving direct rescue of paddlers. Typically, recommendations for bags range in length between 50 and 75 feet. Seventy five feet is preferred because of the potential 'reach' needed in specific rescues, such as setting a stabilization/cinch line for entrapment, or in rope systems. Also, a 3/8 inch size rope with at least the 'strength' of a 1600--2000 lb poly line, is a better choice for haul systems when unpinning boats.

Rope sizes smaller than 3/8 inch (5/16 and 1/4 inch), and shorter than 75 feet are fine for catching swimmers but have limitations and disadvantges in certain rescue applications. Although more costly, stronger choices than regular poly line are 3/8 inch grabline (a sophisticated poly--3200 lbs) and 3/8 inch spectra or dyneema rope (4500--5261 lbs).

Prusik cord is used to configure hitches on the haul rope that act as links in a haul system. Matching prusick cord size with the throw bag rope size is an important factor in haul systems. Will the prusick loops grab on the haul rope? For standard 3/8 inch rope, 6mm size is a good choice. Some may choose 5mm (for smaller line) or 7mm (for larger line). Practicing a haul system setup on dry land to be sure your gear will work the way you expect it to is recommended. An alternative to using prusick hitches as links is to attach 1/2 inch supertape webbing (or even one inch webbing) in a friction hitch such as a Kleimheist or similar type hitch (wrap). Finally, while not necessary to perform a haul system, small lightweight pulleys (4000--7000 lbs) when used with carabiners reduce friction in a system (friction is a drag).

A concluding thought. Because whitewater canoes and kayaks have limited storage capacity paddlers may have to divide the gear that is carried among different boats/paddlers within a group. Whatever amount is carried be prepared for unexpected gear/equipment needs. Most of all, just the same as with first aid supplies, know how to properly use the things that you carry.

JS- 7/2010; revised 8/''11
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