Some perhaps useful information from CASKA members regarding PFDs and tow lines:
From Geneva Kayak Center's Ryan Rushton:
" Whether or not you like a waist or integrated pfd tow line has a lot to do with personal preference (for sea kayaking, whitewater and swiftwater rescue is a whole different ballgame, but that's not what we're discussing here). I prefer a waist tow and would not get a integrated tow. Most upper level instructors and coaches I have seen also use a waist tow. My preference is to save the extra money you're going to spend on a pfd with a quick release belt and get a really nice waist or deck mounted tow.
Here's my humble opinion based on my experience instructing and guiding using both kinds of tow-rigs:
1. On high impact tows - especially surf, the line goes slack and taught, creating a lot of stress on the tower. I find the strain on the tower is reduced greatly with a waist tow simply because it is lower and does not pull on your back.
2. Most good waist tows have a "burrito" style opening with a large mouth which much easier pack the rope into following your rescue if you need to get moving again quickly. Almost all the tows that attach on your pfd have smaller openings and therefore you need to pack it more methodically in order to get the rope back into the bag. See the northwater sea-tec, NDK or Expedition Essential tows - www.seakayakingusa.com , these are in my opinion the best of the waist tows.
3. I had a stohlquist x-tract rescue pfd that I was using in a swiftwater rescue class that I was teaching. During a demonstration I was being lowered into a rescue and a line got tangled. I went to release myself
and though the belt was threaded correctly, the amount of strain on the belt caused it not to release properly. I became entrapped and had to cut the line. I'm sure this was a function of this particular pfd and I have used other resuce pfds in swiftwater rescue with perfect results. But it was enough to make think twice.
4. From all the products I've seen, here are the one's I would consider and what I think are the strong points:
Astral Temp 200 - For it's comfort - www.astralbouyancy.com
Kokatat MsFit Tour - For it's pockets and attachments points
Peak UK - Sea Zip or Sea Vest - for it's comfort and large pocket in which
you can actually carry a parachure flare inside of.
Northwater Guide Vest - wear over your pfd to hold more crap."
From CASKA board member Tom Heineman:
"I have always used a waist tow and yeah it is easy to pack the rope in and it does always release. On my old PFD (which had the integrated tow that I never used), I did notice once that it was not “strung” correctly and the ring that was supposed to release didn’t release… but this was on dry land when I was just messing around. One thing I have noticed with the waist tow (I have the NDK one) is that it does get in the way when you are doing re-entries from the water… "
From CASKA board member Eric Matrejek:
"Not to create an enomorous history of obervations, but IMHO a couple of thoughts are worth mentioning.
"An oldy, but goody from Atlantic Kayak Tours:
From Ryan Rushton:
Eric and Tom - Good thoughts, some more....
I took the bungee out of my Northwater waist tow because it got in the way and I found that it didn't really do all that much for me......
If your waist tow is in the way upon a re-entry try rotating it around to your back while re-entering and then move it back to the front when your on your way, a different solo re-entry like a re-enter and roll, a
different assisted re-entry like a "between the boat", or a number of different solutions....
Getting the line momentarily snagged on something on the back deck, rudder or even a upturned stern can be an annoyance, but I'd rather deal with that than some of the other issues, imho of course..........
Haven't really had the heimlich thinng happen even in big seas, I'll look forward to that happening someday ;).......
Coaming tow gets in the way of sprayskirt release on occasion, which can be an annoyance or possible danger for a rescuer that for some reason is unable to roll.....
The new northwater sea-tec waist tow can be worn as a waist belt and now ('07) can be mounted to a towing cleat on the deck for a deck tow system. Seems like a good solution, a tow that can be used two different ways!
The one I'm using these days - Expedition Essentials by sea kayaking usa - to be taken as a grain of salt.. "
From CASKA member Wade Norton:
" The other point to be said is the ability to daisy chain the line. The older version of Northwater's tow belt had a brass clip inside the pouch so you could easily daisy chain the line. The newer version does not have this clip and they have moved the bungy (shock absorber) to the pouch end of the line, making it much harder to daisy chain the line.
From CASKA member Jim Tibensky:
" Horse tack shops sell something called a "panic snap" which can be got in nickel or brass. It is a quick release fastener that releases under pressure. Even the pressure of a pulling Clydesdale. About $3.00 from State Line Tack or $2.00 from Libertyville Saddle Shop. Very handy and very sturdy."