Better lower back support for kayaks ?

My back is one that can not take any gap from the seat back to the lower seat cushion. The Pungo seat has that gap and is also too loose to the sides. If I take an orange universal PFD I can fill in the sides but a bit too tight. I stuff a towel in the space from the seat back to the seat bottom and that buys me some time on the water. The ache starts at the hip and eventually the whole lower back is just uncomfortable. Years ago ( same boat) my leg would cramp but that seems to not occur these days. Any ideas for seat options or padding to improve this ? The over all boat width doesn’t bother me at 28". I’ve seen replacement seat prices from 50-150 bucks for instance, with low backs.

cheap trial
I had a 20" length of round “pool noodle” with a 6’ piece of nylon rope through that I had used for a foot brace in one of my small folding kayaks until I got a a real one installed. The strung noodle ended up kicking around in the back of the car and one day I decided to try it in one of my loaner kayaks with that sort of seat (with not enough back support). I tied it loosely around the boat seat back and slid it down to where it would act as a lumbar support. Actually worked quite well for me. It was easy to move it up and down to change where it supported me, or just slide it all the way up and out of the way behind the seat completely (I was paddling on a warm day with no sprayskirt).

You can get larger diameter pool noodles if a standard one is too narrow – I have one of them and, looking at it, I think you could shave down one side of it to make it fit flatter against the seat back, leaving the other side with the intact curve to rest in the small of your back.

Anyway, it’s an easy and cheap thing to try, My local Walgreens is selling their pool noodles at the end of season price of under a dollar each – probably similar discounts most places this time of year.

cheap trial
Thanks for the pool noodle idea ! I had thought of plumbers insulation, mostly because its black like my seat or charcoal colored like the seat basket is… Oh and I don’t know why I didn’t think to describe this as lower lumbar support, oh well !

a very high percentage of posters asking back question need more exercise. Search to: EXRX.COM

When was the last time you practiced back exercises ?

All of my kayaks have good lower back
support, and most kayaks on the market have too much high back support.

Best Back Support Is None At All
Right, for those are the very muscles that need to be strenthened. Back supports only encourage the problem.

pool noodles
The advantage of pool noodles is they are closed cell foam that is not absorbent, Plumbing pipe insulation absorbs water and also breaks down pretty quickly with UV exposure and constant contact. Insulation foam squishes down too much also – doesn’t give as good contact.

But I have several otherwise athletic and fit friends who lack lumbar strength due to past injuries or spinal deterioration due to age so I know there are some cases where it may not help that much. I’m fortunate to not have those problems and sit in an upright posture with little contact with my seat backs when paddling my kayaks of choice (all of which have low backbands.) But some of the “loaners” I have owned have had really horrid two piece molded seats that forced me and any other paddler into a position that caused lumbar discomfort. Using the pool noodle chunk more pushed my hips into a better upright position rather than acted as support for leaning into it. It’s kind of a cheap quick way to accomplish a little of what customizing the cockpit with minicell does.

I think many kayak seats are increasingly designed with the prospect of people leaning back in them, not actively paddling with efficient torso movement. I rented a sit on top on vacation in the Caribbean that had such a ridiculous “barcalounger” high wraparound seat back that it was almost impossible to paddle. As soon as I got beyond sight of the rental dock I pulled to shore and removed it with my multitool. Didn’t have time to replace it when I got back so I had to make up a story of how it was “flopping around so I removed it.”

Cycling, paddling and stretches are my exercise, FWIW. My canoe ? I can paddle that pretty much all day, it has lower back support. I don’t last half an hour in it without back support. Cycling, I ride two different bikes, one is a cross style bike, the other a full road bike. Now I will say that the stretches are more geared to the cycling than paddling. Of course cycling forms an automatic triangle out of your body and bike combined, so that is your back support in that case. A now retired neurologist diagnosed my rumb, hip area with bursitis years ago and being a 46 year veteran as a heavy truck mechanic that makes perfect sense. My lower lumbar should not be left to gap open spaces in a seat of any kind, from the car to living room sofa whether in good or bad physical condition exercise wise…

What seats do your kayaks have that they are giving you good lower back support?

You don’t want BACK support…
…you want HIP/PELVIS support. Properly designed kayak back bands are designed to support your hips and pelvis, not your back. The back band should be located very close to the seat, if not touching it Otherwise, you get into the kind of problem that you’re having, where your hips/pelvis are being pushed under the back band as you paddle, causing discomfort.

Another good option (depending on your boat) is a Minicel foam backrest, rather than a back band. You can make it a continuous extension of the seat pan, so there is no gap at all.

Which Pungo seat do you have?
I think that back comfort in a kayak seat is very personal as to type of seat, size and shape of the back, back height, and so on. I don’t think there is any one prescription—be it back bands, stretching, exercise or anything else—that fits everyone.

What exactly is the purpose of whatever modification you want to make? Is it to support the lumbar area, or to remove pressure from a certain area, or something else?

The current Phase 3 Air Pro is one of the best seats on the market. What happens if you put the back down as far as it will go?

I attach a simple inflatable pad by Alps Mountaineering to my seat back. It has grommets so you can tie the pad to your seat. It adds quite a bit of comfort.

When my lower back and hips start to hurt I pull the bottom of the pad down slightly under my rear end, closing up this gap you’re referring to. For some reason that does provide some relief. It also seems like an inflatable pad provides extra comfort no matter how good the seat back is.

I find that proper thigh support helps my back. Finally, changing things up can help: change your sitting position, the angle of the seat back, and so on. And of course get out and stretch every couple of hours.

truck mechanic

Don’t be closed minded on exercise. “Doctor said…”

Inflatable wraparound lumbar cushions?

Examine your shoe heels ? Are heels worn ? Add cardboard heel cutouts to inside shoes lifting heels n throwing pelvis forward.

try upper pelvis stretches see EXRX.COM.

For exampull…bend over , hold ankles, spread feet apart n pull on ankles, stretch inside thighs and rotate pelvis.

I feel your pain.

Thank you all much for your suggestions
I like that inflatable idea. I will check that out. Meanwhile I did add a length of Pool Noodle and put a full Ocean Kayak brand cover over the existing Phase 3 original seat. It feels ok to sit in it but it’s been raining since so I haven’t been on the water yet. I believe my seat is the first gen phase 3. For sure it is not the latest, the boat is more than 12 years old now.

The goal is to put pressure where there is non now, aka fill that gap between seat back and bottom, plus a little more so that there would be a slight outward contour there. I have that right now if it hits the right spots. I will know as soon as I paddle the boat if my temp rig is working or not.

Thanks again !

higher seat pan?

– Last Updated: Jul-21-14 10:30 AM EST –

How high does the seat bottom rise at the back? I have the composite seat bucket that most people hate, but I think because it rises enough in the back it prevents the problem you're describing.
Agree w/everyone else here regarding exercise but I sense you're already there. My only other question would be whether you're upright or forward, or perhaps leaning back a bit.

Higher seat pan and center of gravity
If the seat pan is up too high it obviously will hurt the center of gravity. In my canoes I lower my seats to improve center of gravity and handling. But of course its still not as low as in the kayak. This approach has some merit though non he less. In the Pungo the rear of the seat pan is very near the hull floor level and the bottom cushion riveted right to it.

Seat back positioning I moved forward this year but then remembered why I had it back in the first place. It is definitely better back and try and bury my waist area right into it as far down the back as I can. I try to stay fairly upright when paddling but slouching happens. I don’t lean back a lot. I can’t paddle in a reclined position. Really the seat back lowered fully just hits too high, missing the mark by an inch or so. First chance I get I will try what I have done so far.

Quit paddling
Go to a gym, run etc but get in shape, then start paddling again.

quit paddling?
I do not run for anyone or anything. I watch people half killing themselves running every time I go riding. Running with my body at age 64 is not happening period. Now besides riding and stretches my thought is more paddling not less. Just many shorter paddles. I’ve had enough knee surgeries in my lifetime to know better than to take up running though. But certainty if to paddle more I should be positioned correctly to begin with.

Take a look at…
the Immersion research backbands. I install their Reggie model in my kayaks and love 'em. You can do a custom install in many boats to keep the band as low as possible.

I must have similar issues as you do as I require a low support support - more of a high butt band than an actual backband.

The IR bands have a nice ratchet adjustment feature that allows fine tuning once in the boat and variability during your paddling session.

Install the band with a retention strap that goes to the rear of your seat pan to keep the band in a low position.

Their installation videos are good and will give you some idea of the procedure and how you might best modify the install for your preference.

Good luck to you.

Very odd
that when ever a poster asks about lumbar support there are those who invariably respond that lower back support is not what’s needed. Sometimes, though, improved lower back support is exactly what is needed for a comfortable day on the water. It recently occurred to me to substitute my Sealine inflated thigh support as a back support. Works wonderfully well. It’s so much easier to put the miles under your keel when the body is comfortable.

Finally got back on the water
Between rain and after work commitments we made it out last evening finally. My seat alterations helped a great deal. Also switching to the faster Sting Ray Paddle gained us more territory in the same time period, giving us more time out in the back lagoon or bog at the back side of the pond we went to (viewing Blue Heron back there with some young). You have to skim over some 4"-6" water and once in there it’s maybe 4 ft. deep with lots of lilly pads. Bait fish rising back there. Peaceful place to be, nobody around as there is no land access to it because the vegetation is too thick…

Anyway, more successful trip than last week. I’m still interested in the inflatable pad though or waist band support perhaps. Much better non the less. No hip aching at least. I found I had the seat back tilted too far forward so really the top of the seat even though all the way down was pushing into my back up too high. I tilted it back to where I had it originally years ago, so the lower edge got a little bit further down on my spine. When paddling hard I was able to dig my lower back into the seat back much like a support band might do. Upper back and shoulders upright and off the seat back. So when I turned my body into the power stroke on the right side I could feel a slight push of the cushion right where the ache used to be instead of that area pushing into dead air space. I did get some sit bone aching ( bicycle talk there ). Nothing to complain about. I really pushed the kayak on the return trip with no issues except I left the wife with a gap she couldn’t regain till at the landing site. She understood what I was doing though ( she is only 5’1" in a 12 ft boat, I’m 6’2" in a 14 ft boat)… Now I can’t wait for the proper tides to return for a good time frame at the creek.