I stumbled upon a river self-rescue video which described use of a cow tail / tow tether / leash as a way to attach a paddler to a packraft to avoid getting separated from paddler’s boat.

From river safety courses that I’ve done, the only use I learned about was to use a leash for towing kayaks in easy water during rescues.

Not being 100% sure about what I am seeing on the video I decided to ask on the Internet. My question got a great response from the packrafting community.


Here are my notes from the discussion about using a cow tail / tow tether / leash attached to a releasable buckle on a PFD attached to a packraft:

Cowtail or leash must be always attached to a releaseable buckle on a PFD. Only rescue type of PFDs have releaseable buckles.

When both ends of a leash are attached to a PFD then both ends must be releasable.

Releasable buckle belt can go through the friction plate, or can bypass the friction plate ie. no friction from the plate. This is river rescue course material.

Leash can be considered on open water eg. lakes, ocean. This is to avoid separation from packraft and risk of hypotermia and death. Known cases already.

Attachement on open water can be avoided completely by simply not getting into a situation where attaching myself to my boat is a matter life or death.

Leash must not be used on rivers to attach yourself to packraft to avoid risk of entanglement and death. Known cases already.

Separation from packraft on a river can be solved safer ways than attachment to cowtail eg. other paddlers can rescue gear.

Best way to learn more about these things is on a river rescue course.

My Take

Whilst doing my research I stumbled upon an accident from February 2019 where a paddler was trapped underwater by a leash. It was eye opening reading.

I bought a leash and have it on my PFD since last year primarily for kayaking missions. Packrafting and open water use was unknown to me until now.

Even though both ends of my leash are releasable from my PFD I think that the risk of having it on me is higher than its usefulness on the river.

Based on what I learned I decided to remove the leash from my PFD. The risk is too high for me.


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