I first started using a waist sling many years ago after taking a river rescue class from my good friend Eric Magneson. At that time it was mainly suggested as a simple means of having an anchor system for a river rescue situation with you at all times.
Not just for anchors:
Since then I have found that I use it less for an anchor (It would be a reflection on my judgment and that of the people I paddle with if I was setting up anchors all of the time.) and more for simple tasks like lowering a boat down a steep trail at the put in, corralling boats in a eddy at a portage or scout, keeping all of my gear clipped together at the take-out, or improvising a means of carrying gear.
When to bring it:
It’s low cost, light weight and versatility make it an essential part of my kit when teaching, guiding, and running challenging water with friends.
How to make it:
Mine is made of 1 inch nylon tubular webbing which can be found at most climbing and outdoor shops. Since this might be used as an anchor for z-drag systems, it is recommended you not skimp on strength. The length you need will depend on your waist size and your clothing layers. Mine is somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 or 14 feet long before knots. The webbing is tied in a closed loop using a water knot. Some people prefer not to have the closed loop so that they can thread their sling through cracks and gaps in rocks when setting up anchors. If you decide to go that route the length will be different and you will want to tie a small loop at either end of the sling for a clip-in point. I recommend a figure 8 loop knot in this case.
Where to put it:
You want it easy to reach and out of the way at the same time. Mine is doubled up, then worn around my waist on top of my spray skirt tunnel, but underneath the outside tunnel of my paddle jacket or dry top. In this way it maintains a clean profile, yet I can undo it with one hand. It is clipped together with a locking carabiner that serves as a sort of belt buckle. If I am out of my boat scouting, portaging, or assisting another boater in some way I have it with me.
Caution and care:
If you are using it in a rescue situation know what you are doing; take a class. If you are using it for any of the many other reasons I mentioned above, your creativity is the limit. Check the wear and tear on the webbing and the status of your knots. If you see any abrasion or weathering that would compromise the integrity of your sling, replace it. Check the tails on the knots to make sure they are long enough (2 inches minimum.). These can creep into the knot over time and eventually come untied.
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