Canoe packs

If you were going to buy a canoe pack, would you go “traditional” and get a Duluth or one of the other brands in cotton canvas, or go modern with a Cooke or Granite Gear model?


Both ahve advantages

I think that they both have different advantages. Cotton Canvas packs have proven themselves over the last 100 years to be both durable and comfortable to use.

That said, I usually use a modern cordura pack. It carries well, it lies nice in a thin solo canoe, and I can get all my stuff into one of them…

For a serious canoe expedition, several packs of different construction is the way to go. The new portage packs work great for clothes, tents, and sleeping bags all packed in dry bags as none of these packs are 100%waterproof. The Duluth packs work better for carrying heavy equipment, pcak baskets, and they dry faster. Barrels are better for food, and dry boxes have their place too.


pack barrels
i use 60 liter and 30 liter barrels from Blackfeather. they carry fine, fit in the canoe, are water proof, they float, they’re bear and critter proof and hard to beat.

use em all
I use pack baskets made of wicker, internal frame packs, and frameless packs. they all serve their purposes. Food goes in the basket. Gear and clothes in the internal frame pack and the tent and sleeping gear in the frameless.

Just Back From Trip…
so pack matters are fresh on my mind. We carried three packs on a 7 day 6 night trip. A large “Boundary Bag” a medium Boundary bag and a huge military “Tanker” bag. All the bags worked fine. The Boundary Bags which I’ve had for years, but really not used too hard held up very well. I’m sure if they went on a few more similar trips with such frequent portaging they’d begin to give out with leaks and busted straps. At roughly half the cost of the Duluth packs they’re a decent option if you aren’t going to push them too hard (We made typically 4 to 6 portages per day). We waterproofed gear inside the boundary bags to have a second line of defense.

The tanker bag’s only drawback is that it was too big, inviting too much gear. My brother in law carried it, but it like to killed me getting it in and out of the boat. I’m getting old.

We decided that for our next trip we’d rent two Granitegear Superior One packs and one of the bear barrels with a carrying harness. If it looks like we can get into the annual or semiannual northwoods tripping routine we would likely invest in those items.

We used a medium sized boundary bag for our food pack and though we got pretty good at hanging it, we decided that a barrel would be worth trying next trip though. My thinking is that the barrel might be my first purchase since raccoons and coyotes can be a problem in this part of the country.

The Duluth Canvas packs look so good. One of those No. 4’s may edge out the Granitegear pack if I make a purchase.

I like canvas
I like the look, the feel, and the smell of canvas. Just from those aesthetic points I’d choose canvas. From a practical point, I think they’re about the same. Some folks might give an edge to the modern packs because of hip belts and sternum straps. The Duluth types, however, have the tump straps.

Duluth type packs get my vote though you will be well served by the modern ones as well. It’s personal preference.

Modern One
I use a modern one, a Cooke Custom Sewing Explorer, and a day pack. They both have a hip belt, fit well in my solo canoe, and carry everything I need. The Explorer also has a tump line…

I remember when I first saw the cost involved with a Duluth pack I was actually a little put off.

That said, I’ve become a believer. I love mine, and routinely recommend them to others.

Canvas Breathes
I’ve used both and prefer canvas. Canvas has the abilty to breathe so any moisture that finds its way into the pack can evetually escape on it’s own.

When moisture gets into a nylon type pack it’s generally trapped inside until the pack is opened.

If it’s a full immersion situation, the canvas pack will still shed the water that’s inside on it’s own, even fully loaded, whereas a nylon pack would stay wet inside for weeks if left to it’s own devices…


tumpline tale
I fitted both my boundary bag packs with tumplines prior to the recent trip as per JJoven’s instructions, using 2" webbing and a do-it-yourself grommet kit that was on hand. I didn’t use the tumplines myself because I didn’t seem to need them. On the second day, however, my brother-in-law borrowed one for the military tanker bag. He used it the rest of the trip and said it really helped him.