Canoe Floatation

I’m outfitting my solo canoe with floatation bags in the bow and stern. Whats the best way to secure these in the boat? I’ve seen the tie in kits from companies like Northwater but they’re sixty bucks and it looks like they’re just a couple of D-rings, straps, and parachute cord. Is there a more economical approach or am I just being cheap?

holes and d-rings
Cheapest/easiest - just drill holes through your hull under the gunwales and thread some cord along the sides to create a “daisy chain” of anchor points under the gunwales, then use that for lacing-in cord over your bags. All you need is a drill and some rope. Don’t worry about drilling a series of little holes in your hull, no big deal. There’s probably 101 variations of ways to do that too, but there you have the basics.

For the bottom anchors, d-rings are probably the easiest. Most solid bag cages use 3 attachment points at the ends of the bag, but you could easily get away with 2.

I usually just use one rope to lace the top and the ends, but of course you can use any combo of ropes and/or webbing.

If you have end loops that go through the stems of your hull, you may also want to get cheap caribiners and clip the bags onto the inside of the grab loops.


I agree, but will add…
if you have plastic or aluminum gunnels, just drill the holes through the gunnels.



try this

If aluminum gunnels, then remove a few rivets, add these and re-rivet.

I glue one D-ring in the center of the hull floor for a final tie off of the bag end.

Bill’s Slick Trick
I have one boat that has a floation “cage” rigged on through-hull holes and another boat where the cage is rigged from pad-eyes screwed to the bottom of the inwale. Both boats have a single D-ring glued to the floor where the bag ends, with a webbing strap that runs in the center of the boat from the D-ring to an attachment point near the carry handles. Both systems work and I see no particular advantage to one of the other, except the through-hull holes are probably easier, though it is mentally painful to drill holes in the hull. The pad-eyes are, I think, more flexible, since you can attach other things to them.

Some folks remove and reinstall the bags every time they use them. I don’t but Bill Walsek did, and I liked a little trick he used to get and hold the pointy end of the bag into the pointy ends of the canoe. He drilled a hole near the canoe stem, and I can’t recall if the hole was in the deck plate or the hull, but either will work. Through the hole went a length of 3/16th line. Outside the boat, the line terminated in a stop knot. Inside the boat, the line had a clip.

To install the bags, Bill would clip the line onto the pointy end of the deflated bag. Then he’d pull the string, dragging the pointy end of the bag up into the canoe stems. The excess line on the outside, he’d pull back into the boat and tie it off to a thwart. If you put your hole in the deck plate vs. the hull, that would eliminate having the string run over the gunwale, so that might be the way to go. Removal of the bag was just the reverse: loosen the string from the thart, pull the bag out, remove the clip.

The way I rig my boats, the webbing strap over the center and onto the D-ring prevents the bag from sliding out of the bag cage. With Bill’s method, if you trust that connection in the bow/stern, you wouldn’t need the D-ring, because the bag can’t slide out.


Actually, the cord in a kit I bought was
polypropelene, not Nylon parachute cord. If you buy your own materials, I suggest AVOIDING Nylon because Nylon cord will relax when wet, and tighten when it dries. ALSO, Nylon cord is more susceptible to UV. Polyester cord shows less tension change with wetting, and is more UV resistant. I don’t know how UV resistant polypropelene cord is, but it does not absorb water into its fibers, and it does not change tension when soaked.

Another issue is float bag material, Vinyl film versus Nylon impregnated with PVC (cheaper, heavier) or polyurethane (lighter). I have always used Voyageur urethane coated Nylon bags, mostly with good results, but if you leave them in the boat while traveling, check often to make sure they aren’t too tight (they can distort a hull markedly) or so loose that they flop in the wind. That flopping causes little stress points, and later on, leaks through the fabric.

I may have been wrong in favoring Nylon/urethane for its lightness. Consider this. The fabric surface is going to get wet, and some of that wetness stays there even after you dump the boat, adding weight. Water does not “stay” on the surface of a vinyl bag… it runs off, and you bail or dump it out. The only water that “stays” with a vinyl bag is a thin film caught between the bag and the bottom and sides of the boat, and this will be less water weight than that for a “light” Nylon/urethane bag.

the northwater stuff
I will just throw in my one little tid bit. I put in some floatation in my canoe. I used a contact cement (yes a cheap one, like me, I had on hand and just tried). Thank you Edison, I found another way that didn’t work. Anyways, it held great until the boat sat in the heat. then they fell off. Glad i wasn’t out on the water somewhere. I would have gone ballistic. Well I would have probably had the same cement in my bag for repair, but I am off the topic.

Be sure to get a good epoxy or what ever will hold the strips in place. I like the strips myself, they look nice and professional in my boat. I don’t want holes and stuff in my pretty boat. the strips are useful, versital, attractive.

I am going on too much, Just get a good epoxy.


vinyl anchor strips
I think he means the webbing “daisy chains” on vinyl anchors, like d-rings on anchors.

Installing those under your gunwales would be an option, but an expensive one for a solo boat, and way more attachment points than you need.

As mentioned, contact cement doesn’t work. But it’s not “epoxy” you need - it’s specific vinyl-to-vinyl glue (a common brand is Vinyltec), make sure you follow the instructions for letting it dry sufficiently before putting down the anchors.



– Last Updated: Dec-01-07 1:11 AM EST –

You've received some good options & ideas.

I drilled holes in hull for lace kit. Have done so on 4 different whitewater boats with absolutely no problems.
I have straps running over the top/center of bow & stern airbags. Straps end at D ring anchor.
I use the same method of inserting/removing air bags from beneath lace kit that booztalkin described. Didn't know anybody else used that method. It works. I alway take airbags "out" of the boat when I travel.

Email me if you would like to see photos of the outfitting I did in 2 of my boats.
Picture vs 1,000 words...........


Thanks for all the tips guys.

Haven’t tried this, but why couldn’t…
…a person use velcro strips, glued to bottom/sides and bag? In other uses, it seems to have tremendous grip. Of course, if the bags go on and off, the velcro would get crudfilled.