Airbags for Bell Wildfire

I am looking for advice on the size of floatation airbags to use in a Royalex Bell Wildfire. I will occasionally use it on class II rivers, and want to make sure it floats nice and high when (not if) I swim.

A good place to start…
You might give the Mohawk Canoe website a look.

I know they sell airbags, and you can find out their prices. I know they have various lengths & widths of the bags they have available listed. They may, or may not have directions for installation of air bags on their site; used to but don’t know if they still do. They have decent bags as a fair price in my opinion.


Bob’s dead on
Mohawk… Their prices are great, and I’ve never noticed a problem with the quality. Half the price of Bell, Voyageur, or Headwaters. Plus they have a few extra colors.


Wenonah best for narrow tripping solo
I have both sizes of the Wenonah flotation bags, available directly out of their catalogue under “whitewater gear”:

I’ve tried Voyageur, Harmony and others, but they are too big - designed for big tandems or high-volume high-sided whitewater solos. Wenonah’s fit great in my rx wildfire and in my wenonah prism: Flotation Bag; Solo front or tandem either end (25"x30"x15") $33.95 Flotation Bag; Solo rear (36"x60"x15") $39.95

Kneeling issues
Does the 60" rear bag interfere with kneeling at all? Have you made any other modifications to your Wildfire? (seat height?) Thank you for the advice.

We have Mohawk bags…
Good bags at a good price. Get the next size up from the smallest end bag. We have the small ones for tripping and because we thought that some flotation would help in recovery if we dump. Turns out that our ‘weenie bags’ are of minimal help. We tested this in the pool class and the small bags keep the boat a little higher in the water, moreso if it is flipped over. But the next size larger would keep a lot more water out of the boat, which is what they’re for.

Wish I’d asked this before…
…I bought mine. I’m in the process of installing small float bags in my wildfire. I got them from NRS and they are ill-fitting. Of course, they are designed for a tandem canoe not a solo, but I figured they would inflate to conform to whatever shape they needed to. But they didn’t because they are too narrow at the pointy ends, and also too short in the ends. They will still help, but there is room for maybe 5-6 gallons of water in the very ends of the canoe where there should be floatbag. As far as quality goes they seem well made of strong materials (they are nylon).

I’m using instructions from Mike Yee’s site and I like how its going:

I saw a plastic canoe sink in a flatwater river once [there was a good amount of current]. Despite several searches over the following days and weeks, we never found it [I bet somebody did-and kept it]. So now I’m paranoid :wink:

I think you’ll be fine with Mohawk solo bags. I’d avoid the tandem bags as tandems are vastly larger in width, and bow/stern bags for a tandem are pretty short. I have a MRC Guide that is only 6 inches longer than your wildfire. I use 72" bags in the bow and a 64 in the stern. I could easily use a 72 in the stern too. I wanted the bags to pretty much fill the boat so it could be rolled, and I figured if I whitewater tripped in the boat that I’d put the pack under the floatation just behind the seatPersonally, I think that the Wildfire could easily use the big bags too as it’s only 3 inches shorter in each the bow and stern. The flotation bags are only partially inflated in a canoe anyway. Infact, I just slid my bags into my 13’ Flashfire, and the 72 fits in that too.

Best of luck,


Big Bag No Problemo
For the rx wildfire: The big wenonah bag does not interfere with kneeling. The big bag comes flush to the rear thwart, so there is room for feet under and behind seat. It depends a bit how you position the d-ring for the nylon strap and how hard you ratchet it down. I have not modified the seat, and my size 11 feet fit under fine. I have lacing on the gunwales from bow and stern respectively to the thwarts. You have to have the big bag slightly deflated to fit it between the seat and rear thwart while sliding it into the rear position.

The big bag comes a few, maybe 6, inches past the front thwart. I like a foot brace for sitting and have installed a few d-rings on the hull to strap down a duffle bag or other such to brace my feet on, just under the front thwart. It has worked pretty well so far, and I haven’t pulled up the d-rings or otherwise broken them even though I put quite a bit of sustained force on them; time will tell. So sometimes I don’t inflate the big bag completely in front to make room for a duffle or other bag.

The small Wenonah bags come about one half way to the thwarts. They’re good to have if you have a big load.

There is maybe a 6”-8” gap between the bow and stern and where the bag starts, but I have never thought it was a big deal. The bags flush perfectly with the gunwales.

I’ve never used or taken notice of Mohawk bags so I can’t comment on them.

The best advice I got, on this board I think, for installing d-rings is to use the (relatively)big can of vynabond, rather than the little tube. It makes sense that the can has a much longer shelf life and has less variation batch to batch. But the best thing is that the cap has an integrated brush that stays down in the vynabond, and you can scrape the brush on the side of the can as you extract it so it has just a touch of vynabond and so it is pretty easy to spread a very thin, even layer of vynabond. You’ll probably never use the whole can and I hate to waste and thus be responsible for producing more noxious chemicals but I’ve had good success so far using a big can, knock wood.

Bags not needed
I’m surprised that nobody has brought up the point that bags are not really needed in class 2, especially with a Royalex boat. In my mind they would provide little benefit unless heading towards much bigger water. Besides, Royalex already floats pretty high.


Chuck, I don’t mean to be a pain, but
the Royalex Wildfire is completely submerged if you don’t have bags. It doesn’t go to the bottom, but it is not floating high. The canoe will float on top of the water with bags and reduce the chance of pinning under rootwads, strainers and rocks. Bags have made recovery easier for us.

Chuck …
I noticed that the person who posted the original question listed themselves as a beginner; while you have yourself listed as an advanced paddler. Class 2 to some beginners, may be the equivalent to an advanced paddler’s class 3 or 4. Perhaps the poster of the thread is not a strong swimmer? Perhaps they choose to err on the side of safety?

The air bags displace water; water does have weight.

With the air bags, a capsized Wildfire should float higher, fill with less water, and therefore it should weigh less, and also be easier to get to the shore, or shallow water.

I do have a Wildfire,I am a good swimmer, I don’t have air bags, but don’t see any problem with anyone who wants them getting them. Matter of fact; if they feel like they need them, I think they should get some.


Bags are on the way
Thank you for all of the advice concerning floatation. For me, the bags are needed as I plan to practice my WW skills at the East Race in South Bend, and they frown on boats that don’t float nice and high if or when they flip. I have paddled the East Race in a WW kayak, but have limited seat time in a solo canoe (20-25 hours), thus I expect to swim a few times while learning the boat and strokes.

The bags are coming from Wenonah - I have owned other Wenonah products and have been happy with the quality, plus it sounds as if these may be the best fit.

I have “lurked” here for a couple of years, and I am always amazed at the quantity and quality of the help and knowledge that is out there in cyberspace. I was hoping to get one good response, and have received many times that.

Thank you all


Okay, floating high was not the best description I could have used. In my experience, the Royelex Wildfire floats with a lot more than neutral bouancy (which is what I really meant) and is easily rolled out of the water when flipped, even in current. It’s both short and light.

I still stand by my post that float bags in class 2 rapids, even for beginners, are overkill. If someone wants to use them…fine. But I thought an alternative view was needed.


That’s what this forum is for…getting different opinions and then choosing what works for you. Glad you posted.

I have physical limitations and the bags help even the odds for me. My hubby just posted a question about bags. He’s in better shape and more skilled. Like thebob said, it’s an individual thing. My solo canoeing instructor has even given me his blessing to use an impure doubleblade when needed. LOL