I went out and bought a Palm Zambezi Belt to wear a throw bag on before doing my raft guide training course last year. The idea was that it would allow me to always have a throwbag close to hand, so that I could deploy it from a raft if need be. I’ve been really impressed with it so far and already had a few thoughts about wearing them.
First of all, the belt should have a quickly release, in case you get in to trouble and need to get rid of it fast. Therefore if you’re going to wear a throwbag belt, you need to practise throwing the line starting with it on the belt – otherwise you risk having a comedy moment. The classic one is reaching for the throwline whilst under pressure and pulling the quick release buckle for the belt instead, dumping the whole lot at your feet…
Some belt bags come with a tow line already attached, for towing other kayakers. These are great for working on flat water, as you can have a throwline and towline close to hand. However, on white water, we shouldn’t be towing boats from the waist. On the Zambezi belt it’s easy enough to take off, freeing the pouch up to be used for safety gear instead. It’s the perfect size for a Palm safety tape and karabiner, or for pulleys. I’ve heard of people stitching on buckles as well to make doubley sure that the pouch doesnt open. I use mine for my rafting flip line.
It’s worth thinking about what size of line you’re going to carry on your waist as well – some throwbags are much bulkier than others. For rafting, I carry a tiny HF Weasel (18m) on my belt, purely for throwing and a bigger Palm Alpine (20m) on the raft itself, for rope work. Try different sizes – you may find that a bulky throw bag will hinder your roll when kayaking, or get in the way when leaning out the back of a raft.
When choosing a throwline to wear as a belt bag, you need to pick one with a reliable closure at the neck of the bag. You really don’t want the bag to come undone, spilling the rope everywhere. I was on a rafting course recently where a guide’s throwbag came undone and wrapped around myself and the guy behind me, just as we were dropping in to a stopper. Luckily, they unclipped the belt and threw the whole lot in to the river to get rid of it, but it serves as a reminder of what can happen. Personally, I wouldn’t want to wear a throwbag that had just velcro for the neck closure. Tight bungy cords or press stud poppers (as seen below) seem much more reliable.