Backpack as a deck bag

Anyone just use a backpack as a deck bag on their kayak instead of a specifically-designed deck bag? If so, how do you rig it to the deck? And are there any additional precautions you take to protect it and its contents from the elements?

I’m trying to gear up for my first kayaking adventure this weekend and am looking for a deck bag. None of my local outfitting stores has anything in stock. So, I will need to order something online, which most likely will not get to me in time. In the meantime, I thought maybe using a backpack as a stand-in could work. Just trying to figure out the best way to rig it to the deck since backpacks don’t come with rigging lashings and stuff. Also, how to keep the contents moisture free in the event of splashing. I’m just going for a few hours of recreational paddling on a slow-moving river. So, no chance of whitewater or huge waves soaking the pack, but there most likely will be splashes/drips from paddling and such.

deck lines
Get a few carabiners and clip it to your decklines (under them if possible).

Put your things in plastic bags before putting them in the backpack.

I would not recommend it. It will get soaked and probably slide around, also a backpack is usually too deep and so it will stick up too far. I would suggest picking up a small to medium drybag. Most sporting goods stores sell them (I have spotted them in Dick’s and even in some Target stores) for under $10. You can attach it to the deck lines with a carabiner or rope and tuck it under the deck bungees. And it’s something you can use down the road. I actually own two deck bags (had one and then a used kayak I bought came with one) and almost never use them anymore as I find it annoying to have that bulky of an item on deck. I usually just use one of my medium dry bags for snacks, first aid kit, camera and the like and stash stuff like my water bottle(s) directly under the decklines. My spray skirt has two small pockets in which I stash small lightweight stuff like tissues, handcleaner and a small flashlight.

waste pack
I sometimes use a waste pack (or fanny pack or whatever you call it). You can just use the waste belt and wrap it under the bungees on each side of the deck, then pull tight. Then if you want, you can take it off at some landing point and use it as it was designed to be used.

same here
I don’t see many people using deck bags myself and I hate the clutter also (although clutter INSIDE my hatches somehow doesn’t bother me…).

Hadn’t thought of it that way…
I didn’t realize a deck bag could be more of a nuisance than a necessity. Being a complete newbie to kayaking, I have no idea what is really necessary and what isn’t. I’m trying to do my research to make sure I’m properly equipped before I get out on the water. So, I Google for kayak outfitting and most outfitting lists I see include a deck bag. Are they really necessary? Or are they just accessories that everyone is trying to sell you? Is it mostly gearheads that want/use them just because they HAVE to have all the accessories and gear?

My new kayak doesn’t have much storage space. There’s one tiny hatch on the rear deck. It’s not even waterproof, though I tried to improve its water resistance by adding foam rubber weatherstripping to the rim of the hatch lid. And there was only a single cross of bungee cord on the front deck. I spent all last night attaching perimeter deck lining. So now I can at least clip in and lash gear to my kayak. I’m just looking for more places to stow any extra gear I take along.

a deck bag is a fine idea
for your boat and your purposes. They seem to be out of fashion at the moment. I can see the point that they get in the way of some kinds of paddling (and rolls and so forth). Personally, I like using a deck bag, although I prefer a small low profile one. Camera (waterproof, with float), binocs (ditto), snack, small Platypus (larger one under skirt or in hatch), etc. Easy to get to. And doesn’t interfere with the kind of paddling I do. Try it and don’t worry that other people don’t like them, reach your own conclusions.

Second the fanny pack
I used those at the start and it’s what my wife prefers to use still. I have a small mesh deck bag I like to use. You could make a quick one if you find a square bag that zips up. What’s likely to go in there, bug spray, sun screen, waterproof camera and a water bottle at most? Nothing else needs to be on deck.

HD trash bag
under your knees ?

Duct tape trash bag as a rollup bag, to deck ?

A small pack is prob OK but no overloading. You don’t want a sloppy bag interfering with your trip.

Buy a see thru vinyl roll up dry bag for under the knees if you have this room available.

Deck bags are expensive. Vinyl glue glues heavy vinyl almost permanently. You could cut out and glue your own to fit.

better investment
I gather from your hints of description that you have a rec style kayak with either no bulkheads or just a small leaky one in the stern? If that is the case, your money saved for a deck bag would be better spent on a set of flotation bags. These stuff under the decks and are inflated to displace enough water to keep your boat from completely swamping and sinking. If you don’t think that could be a problem on the slow shallow stream you say you plan to paddle, watch this video.

You should definitely be carrying a bilge pump as well.

There will always be somebody to lecture you about safety precautions. Alas.

You don’t need flotation bags in a rec kayak in easy waters, especially with a group. And a pump will be a joke in trying to empty it if it goes over. You’ll be there all day (even with the bags), and get quite an aerobic workout. Lift and turn upside down or t-it and empty it. But flipping that boat in calm waters will require a real effort.

Just go enjoy it.

No need for the pack to be too high
Just as many good packs have compression straps so that minimal contents can be kept from wandering/flopping around inside, a pack that’s naturally too deep need not be stuffed so full that it sticks up too high. If the pack is too deep when full, don’t stuff it full, and make the tie-downs serve a dual purpose, working as compression straps too.

Now, if the pack is a huge one, it is probably too big in more than one dimension, and it would be difficult to tie it “cleanly” on the deck. However, most daypacks are no bigger than a lot of the deck bags I’ve seen, and none of us knows how big a pack is being proposed in this case. A daypack would be fine.

That said, storing gear inside the boat is better, and a good method for a rec boat is to use bags that are specially made for both flotation and dry storage. The OP is looking for a “right now” solution though.

Holy Schnikeys!
I believe young Max has some issues that transcend a rec boat full of water.

I like the fanny pack idea
You could fit it behind you on the stern deck.

I feel like I need to explain that the reason some people don’t like deck bags is that they feel it interferes with their paddling strokes, some of which are braces or rolls. My roll starts with my arms tight against the hull and they sweep low across the deck. When I’m in wind, I sometimes switch to a very low angle stroke where a deck bag could also interfere.

Another reason is that the foredeck can be the wettest place on the boat. I’ve heard people say to make it smaller/lower but that doesn’t help once you’re aware of it IMO. But if it doesn’t interfere with your stroke, and the foredeck is dry or your stuff can get wet, nothing wrong with deck bags.

he is so misunderstood
but I expect if he makes it he’ll be a solitary paddler.

The only thing I
want out in front is a 2L Playtapus. even that can get in the way but I am a fan of drinking water.

Still you would probably be better off putting a drybag in the hull as it will get the weight lower.

Deck Bags Fine
Unless you have a real paddling store near you, it is doubtful you will find anyone selling a deck bag. Even if you do have a paddling store you might not find a large selection of bags. Check out the paddling stores like ACK, Outdoorplay, NRS, as well as Amazon.

On a rec kayak you will not find a deck bag to get in the way or your paddling. The people who find deck bags annoying are in touring/sea kayaks with much smaller cockpits and lower deck height (so closer to the water). There is no way that when paddling a rec kayak your paddle will be close to the deck bag and you will never roll your rec kayak.

Plus, since your deck is high the bag will not be getting soaked from splashes. Lots of deck bags are not waterproof but are fine getting splashed anyway. Still anything in the deck bag needs to be either waterproof or in dry bags/boxes, unless you have one of the few real waterproof bags.

Most deck bags seem designed to secure to perimeter lines on a touring kayak. On a rec kayak you may have to install pad eyes to have a place to attach a deck bag. In general the bags that have velcro straps on the bottom are easier to secure to rec kayaks bungies.

What is nice about a deck bag is you can store all your needed gear to grab and go. You will find that paddlers fall into two schools of thoughts, those that take everything and minimalists. There are good arguments to made for both depending on the conditions. If paddling for you means having a camera, binoculars, a map (even on a small pond it can just be fun to have a map) and you want to keep it all near at hand then get a deck bag. The reality is that lots of things you take rarely get used. I always take waterproof binoculars and maybe use them 2 out of 10 times. You probably need less gear than you think.

Sadly yes,
unless someone puts him in a deck bag.

Gear I’m wanting to stow…
Basically, I’m looking for a storage option for the items listed below. Some items are things I won’t need while paddling, but just need a safe place to keep them while on the water. Other items I may want/need convenient access to while I’m paddling.

Safety/Survival/Rescue Items (only require access in case of emergency):

-Paddle float



-Bilge pump/sponge

-Throw bag

-Fire starter



-Glow Sticks

Personal items (just need safe/dry area to stow):

-Car keys


-Cell phone

Personal items (will want convenient access while paddling):

-SPOT GPS tracker

-Garmin portable GPS unit

-iPod Touch with wi-fi hotspot

-Small digital camera

-Drink/Sport bottles



-Bug spray




As you can see, I have a lot of smaller items I want to have with me on the kayak. Unfortunately, with it being a cheap-o “toy” kayak, and a small 10-footer at that, I don’t have a lot of built-in storage options. I have one small, shallow hatch on the rear deck that isn’t waterproof. I tried to make it a little more water resistant by lining the rim of the lid with weatherstripping. I’d be fine putting my keys, wallet, cellphone, and rescue/survival items inside a couple dry bags inside the hatch. The other items I’d like to have at arms-length in front of me for easy access. A lot of those items are electronics. So, it’s important that they be protected from the wet environment.

With my kayak being so short, I don’t have a whole lot of deck space to store things. So, I’m probably going to have to get creative with some things. The front deck isn’t even long enough to stow a 2-piece spare paddle without the ends sticking several inches out from the bow. For now, I’m just going to shove a small wooden canoe paddle under my seat just in case the need for a spare ever arises (I hope not). It would be slow and inconvenient to paddle with, but at least it would be better than my hands!

I’m a taller guy (6’ 175lbs) in a short kayak. So, there isn’t a whole lot of room to stow anything under the front deck in front of my feet. I could possibly use that area to store an emergency change of clothes in a dry bag and shove it up under there. It just isn’t a very convenient area to reach if you’re seated in the kayak.

Bilge pump/sponge and paddle float can be stowed between the hull and the sides of my seat, I think. Although, I did find there are blocks of Styrofoam on either side of the seat. Not sure what those are for. Can’t imagine they’re for seating comfort! I can’t tell what, if anything, is behind the seat under the rear deck. The back of the seat is molded down from the the top of the rear deck and doesn’t allow access back there. So, I have no idea if it is just a big hole that extends from bow to stern or if there’s actually any sort of bulkhead there. I assume it is wide open from bow to stern since the scupper plug is in the top of the rear deck at the very back of the kayak. Wouldn’t need it to be there if there was a bulkhead in the rear. Plus, I would assume the rear hatch would be MUCH bigger and waterproofed if that was a giant dry area.

you don’t need a deck bag
You need a touring kayak!

Consider splitting those things into things you might need on deck, and everything else. Then get some cheap dry bags for the “everything else” and stow them below deck.

Whatever works safely for you in the end is the solution, there is no single correct answer.