throw bag salamander paddle gear

How to choose the right throw bag

May 14, 2020// Leave a comment

Whether you are new to whitewater rescue and need to buy your first throw bag or you're a seasoned vet of the rivers looking for the current designs in river safety this guide will help you choose the throw bag suitable for your adventures. When you search across the internet for throw bags you can find a long list of options. What throw bag you need depends on a few things. What size craft you paddle, Where you paddle, and personal preference.

Your craft size can vary from a small SUP board to a large river raft. Where you're paddling can be a class IV micro creek that’s 25 feet across in your kayak or a flooded river that’s 150 feet across in your raft. Either way, a throw bag is an essential piece of gear in or around moving water. 

Rope Diameter

The two most common diameters of rope are 5/16” and a larger 3/8”. 3/8” rope is generally used for river rafts the larger diameter rope it helps with the larger boat. Also, many paddlers learn river technic through rafting and the larger diameter rope is easier to work with when learning rescue situations. With a thicker diameter rope, you also get a high break strength. Most Stand up Paddle Boarders and kayakers use a 5/16” rope because it’s sufficient for rescues in the smaller crafts. And when you're paddling a smaller craft you start looking for ways to shed weight where you can.


Rope length

Most throw bags come in lengths around 50’, 70’, and 85’. At a minimum on any moving waterway, a 50’ throw bag can be essential in a rescue. If you are paddling on larger rivers a 70’ rope or longer is recommended. As a long-time paddler, I do recommend carrying two throw bags if you are paddling class IV whitewater or higher. One to carry on your person for quick rescues and one stashed in your boat for unexpected situations. This goes back to where you are paddling. If it’s mainly on calm water on smaller waterways a 50’ bag should be sufficient. The most important thing is making sure you have enough rope for your surroundings.

Rope strength

5/16” Polypro rope is rated at 1000 lb break strength whereas 5/16” Spectra rope is rated at 2500 lb break strength. The difference here is in most ‘easy’ rescues (throwing a rope to your friend and pulling him to shore) the polypro rope works great. However, if your rescue situation turns into a lot of work, like after your buddy swam and his/her kayak washes into a cluster of rocks in the middle of the river 50’ from shore and you have to Z-Drag the boat out. You are going to need the Spectra Rope because the force of the water holding your boat in place can easily be greater than 1000 lbs. This goes back to where you paddle. Harder whitewater demands more planning no matter what craft you use.

3/8” Polypro rope is rated at 2000 lb break strength and 3/8” Spectra rope is rated at 3500 lb break strength. Again this is the reason rafters normally carry a larger diameter rope, for the higher break strength. The larger the boat the more it weighs when the water is pushing on it.

Bag Style

This is where it can get a little overwhelming with all the different styles out there. There’s everything from a small personal basic bag to large football-shaped throw bags. Some paddlers lean toward simple is better and some get very technical. To me, simple is better and you should pick a throw bag you feel most comfortable using. If you are comfortable throwing a throw bag like a football (Overhand) then a football-shaped bag is probably best for you. If you like to throw underhand toss then a basic bag or a Pop Top style is probably best for you. If you feel more comfortable having your throw bag on your person at all times then a waist bag (Or a throw bag that attaches to you until you need it) is probably best for you. 


Basic Throw Bags;

Most throw bags are a simple bag with a small loop of rope on the bottom to anchor off somewhere if needed and a pull cord closure on the top like the Salamander Safety bag (5/16” rope) that retails for $30.00 and the Fatty Throw Bags (3/8”rope) start at $45.00.

Fatty Throw Bag - Buy Now Safety Throw Bag - Buy Now


Add some bells and Whistles;

Some throw bags such as our Pop Top Series feature a side clip buckle feature so you can easily clip it into your boat or onto a raft frame for quick access. The Pop Top closure on the top of the bag is a quicker option than dealing with a pull cord closure.

Another style bag that falls in this category is the Little Big mouth (5/16” rope) and Big Mouth (3/8” rope) bags. These come equipped with a loop knot on the end and a carabiner for more in-depth rescues. They also feature a quick clip to attach to your boat and a pull cord opening. The Little Big Mouth and the Big mouth are available in multiple rope types and lengths and range in price. Click the links below to price out your throw bag. 


Pop Top Throw Bag - Buy Now Little Big Mouth Throw Bag - Buy Now


Personal Preference comes into play;

In our line of throw bags, we have the Dart series which looks and performs just like a football. These bags feature the Pop Top closure for quick access to the rope. If you’re confident in your overhand throw you can put this bag right where you want it! 

The Dart Series - Buy Now


Ultra Dry Throw Bag

Some paddlers prefer this bag because the bag is actually a dry bag and keeps your rope dry until you need to use it. This helps keep your rope in great condition because it does absorb water on each paddling trip and that also keeps additional water weight out of your craft. You also won’t have to do as much rope maintenance with this throw bag. 

Ultra Dry Thow Bag - Buy Now


Waist Bags;

A lot of paddlers chose to carry throw bags on their person for quick access. Being from a whitewater kayak background I am a big fan of this because you ALWAYS have it on you. When you get out to scout, it’s right there. When something happens and you have to jump out of your boat to help, you don’t have to take time to pull your throw bag out of your boat, it’s right there! Salamander Paddle Gear makes 3 different types of Waist worn throw bags. 

The Guide bag is designed with rafters in mind. It features a small loop knot on the end in case you need to tie it off for rescue and a pull cord closure for the rope end. The belt also features a quick release pull cord to avoid getting tangled on anything yourself. 

Guide Throw Bag - Buy Now


The Retriever and Golden Retriever

This bag was designed with kayakers in mind. One end of the bag has an 8’ tow line in it for quick boat rescues on the river. The other end has a pull cord closure with 52’ of rope. It also features a quick-release pull cord to avoid getting tangled. The ‘Golden’ Retriever simply refers to the Spectra rope.

Retriever Waist-worn throw bag - Buy Now


Rapid Fire

The Rapid Fire bag was designed with SUP paddlers in mind. This bag features small D-rings on the top and bottom of the belt to attach a SUP leash. This particular bag detaches from the waist belt and can be done while wearing the belt for quick rescue in timely situations. This bag is also great for Rafters and Kayakers, having the ability to detach the bag from the belt has been long overdue. The neoprene pouch on this belt keeps the bag stored more compact than the others and does not allow the bag to flop around as much. Having immediate access to a bag that throws as nice as this makes the Rapid Fire the go-to choice for anyone that wants a waist-worn bag!

Rapid Fire Throwbag - Buy Now


Hopefully, this helped you pick the right throw bag for your adventures. Keep in mind river etiquette and common sense play a huge part in river rescues. Keep calm and hopefully, you will never have to use your throw rope for anything more than hanging up your gear at camp. Keeping your rope dry and clean will keep your throw rope in great condition for many river trips. If you start to notice damage to your rope then it’s about time to replace it. Check back soon and we will have more written guides to ‘How to Stuff your Throw Bag - Many Technics’ and ‘Proper Rope Care’. 

*Keep in mind that almost every bag listed above comes in each rope option we discussed. Check our website for all options.

Browse All Throw Bags

If you have more questions about what bag is right for you, email


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