As one of the younger members of the team I don’t remember a kayaking world without tapes. They are a core part of a sensible rescue kit. However when chatting to some of the more seasoned members of the team, that wasn’t always the case. To find out more about the rise of safety tapes we asked our good friend Chris Evans, Lead Paddle Sport Instructor at Plas Y Brenin.
Why have open tapes become so popular over the last four or five years?
“The rescue tape over a sewn loop sling has been used as a rescue option for as long as I can remember, I used to buy lengths of tape off the reel from climbing shops or buy a big sling and cut the stitched join out to gain the same outcome. The popularity of them has increased due to increased knowledge and practice and the many paddling specific rescue tapes that are now available.”
There are quite a few options on the market now. If you were only going to buy one what features would you look for and what length?
“Here’s a question that would spark a lengthy, possibly unhealthy debate…… First thing to look for is visibility, the brighter the better (black tapes are hard to see in the water). They are available with sewn in loops in one end or both ends, either of these will give options for different rescues.
“The single loop attachment is useful for boat hauling or for a ‘piggyback’ system to your mechanical advantage systems (2-1 or 4-1 for example), this can be achieved with the two looped tape as well but the advantage with them is an anchor can be created by clipping the two loops together, this can be achieved with any tape by tying an overhand knot in the ends of the tape. THE LOOPS NEED TO BE BIG ENOUGH TO GET A CARIBINER IN BUT NOT YOUR HANDS!
“Another key thing to look for with a tape is how easy it is to hold under tension. The thicker the tape the easier it is to hold. How easy is it to fold up or squash in your hands? If it’s easy to manipulate there’s less chance of it being like a razor blade through your hands if you need to drop it.
“The length of tape is always going to be a well debated subject and unfortunately I don’t think there’s an easy answer. As a rough guide look for somewhere between five and seven meters and play with the different options available. How easy are they to store? Where are you going to be storing it (buoyancy aid pocket as a suggestion)? Will it fit with all your other pocket items? How easy is it to get to? Have a go at throwing it…. They won’t mind in the shops so long as you don’t take down any light fittings.”
What are the main uses of a tape in moving water? What should you practice?
“River tapes have infinite uses in the river! So much so that I carry one sea kayaking now too. Everything from a short throw rescue to boat lowering, hauling systems, mechanical advantage and washing lines! I’ve even seen a colleague turn one into a comedy style bow tie before.
“As a suggestion, practice the things that are time pressured, this could be things like the short throw rescue for example. Anything with little time pressure (boat stuck for example) allows you all the head scratching time you need as (to put it morbidly) boats don’t need to breathe.
“To truly be slick with any rescue equipment, and to start building your own preferences around what kit to carry and how to use it why not consider some coaching. The white water safety and rescue course covers all the above in detail and covers how to avoid needing to use it in the first place.”
So what’s available at the minute?
There’s a whole heap of safety equipment on the market so we thought we’d discuss the three most popular tried and tested options. The Palm Snake Sling, Whetman Equipment Adder and Peak Safety Tape. All three of these slings have a loop at each end but to help you compare here’s a table of the key stats.
Having used all these slings on various courses and days out paddling, as Chris mentioned, a wider tape is more comfortable to use and doesn’t really take up much more space in your PFD (I keep mine up my waist tube anyway…). Ease to clip in and the fact that the tape can be passed through itself does put the Adder as the front runner for us, but this is just our opinion. Come on down, have a feel of each and make your own mind up!
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