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Knowing the Ropes

It is important to understand the different types of rope found in throw bags, especially if you are looking to purchase one. Some ropes are stronger than others and some ropes are more durable than others. Here is some information to better educate you on the different ropes found in most throw bags.

Rope Types: Braided vs. Kermantle

Braided Rope –

Braided rope is truly that; braided strands of polypropylene rope with no core (kern). Braided rope used to be more present in throw bags many years ago. Due to the limits on strength and abrasion resistances, it has pretty much become obsolete. H2O Rescue Gear throw bags DO NOT carry braided rope.



Kermantle Rope –

Kernmantle is rope constructed with its interior core (the kern) protected by a woven exterior sheath (mantle) designed to optimize strength, durability, and flexibility. The core fibers provide the tensile strength of the rope, while the sheath protects the core from abrasion during use. The Mantle is commonly made of polypropylene. The Kern can vary from nylon to polyethylene- also commonly known as Dyeenma or Spectra. Most water rescue ropes will have some stretch.



Minimum Breaking Strength (MBS) – The lowest permissible breaking strength of the rope decided by testing and regulations.

Rope Diameter

There are 3 common size ropes you will find used in throw bags – 1/4”, 5/16”, 3/8”

1/4” Rope

MBS – 600 to 2,000+ lbs

Pros -

  • Light weight
  • Compact size
  • Easy to deploy from a bag
  • Great as a messenger line – when you need to get a rope across the river

Cons -

  • Due to the ropes small diameter it can be hard to hold on to especially in fast moving current, cold water, exhausted swimmers, wearing gloves
  • Doesn’t deploy as well from a coiled throw

H2O Rescue Gear bag types that carry 1/4” – Side Arm

5/16” Rope

MBS – 1,200 to 4,000+ lbs

Pros -

  • Light Weight
  • Compact Size
  • Easy to deploy from a bag
  • Easy to grip
  • A well-rounded rope for swiftwater rescue applications and one of my personal favorites

Cons -

  • The smaller diameter could make pulling in larger loads but better than 1/4”

H2O Rescue Gear bag types that carry 5/16” – Side Arm and Sharpshooter

3/8” Rope

MBS – 2,000 to 5,000+ lbs

Pros -

  • Strong
  • Easy to grip
  • Great for haul systems (unpinning a boat or maneuvering a boat with ropes)

Cons -

  • The rope is heavier so can be harder to throw for some
  • Due to the larger diameter of the rope the size of the bag isn’t as compact

H2O Rescue Gear bag types that carry 3/8” – Big Shot and Sharpshooter XL

All 3 diameters of rope have pros and cons. You have to decide what you will need for the type of rivers you will be paddling. We personally prefer to carry 2 ropes – a Side Arm or Sharpshooter bag which is our primary (5/16” or ¼”) and a 3/8” Big Shot with Ultraline in case we need a rope for hauling or unpinning a boat.

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