Canoe packs

I find myself in the market for a canoe pack. My Lowe internal frame pack is too tall and unweildy, and a smaller Lowe pack I use for day trips XC skiing and hiking is, well, small.

My initial thought is to go for tradition, and buy a #3 Duluth pack. But then there are the Cooke packs, Frost River packs, Granite Gear packs, and who knows how many others?

I could simply go with a NRS Bill Bag, and save some money, but where is the tradition in that?


Woods Canada Mason Canoe Pack
is what I have been using.

Bought mine at Galyan’s on sale for $65 and felt like that was a pretty good deal. Seemed pretty comfortable to me on BWCA portages last summer and holds a lot of stuff. Plus the price is cheaper than other similar packs I was seeing. Cordura, not canvas, but I was willing to sacrifice that aspect of “traditional.”

I also use a Bill’s bag for gear that really HAS to stay dry…

You can check some of the outfitters around the BWCA, Ely and so forth… and find used Packs for good prices… I bought a Kondo’s #4 from Voyager North for $65.00 two years ago and it is still just like new… You can search the outfitter’s on line too.


I’m looking at purchasing this Italian Army Surplus exturnal framed pack… light, functional, able to adapt to what ever I want it to do… plus, only $25…

For me, army surplus really is where I start from… if there is some new product on the market that does as good or better for the same cost, I’ll purchase it, but there definatly is that ‘cost/function/weight’ ratio to factor in…

canoe pack
I think I have tried them all over the years! The roll down top bags are great for dryness but ugly. I used a pack basket for many years and that works fine for smaller loads. Duluth packs are great for heavy big loads but they get wet and everything needs to be watertight…Frame packs–no good in a canoe so…

I have adpted my duluth packs. I have build a “stripper” interior liner. 3/16 strips of wood fiberglassed like a canoe that just fits in the pack. The hard sides keep the pack from colapsing and its waterproof to a point. Sitting in a wet canoe it is fine, dump it in the water and the open top lets water in. So you still need plactic bags etc. The pack is comfortable and fits the canoe nicely.

For waterproof and rigid, I bought a pet food container from Petco. It has a gasketed top and measures about 16 by 16 by 28. I added shoulder straps and a waist belt and it fits nicely on its side in the canoe and its waterproof! leave it out in the rain.

Re: dry packs
there are several places to get dry packs… REI sells one that is almost bullet proof… a good quality drybag with pack straps for about $65

For my journeys i used a $25 wallyworld drybag type backpack…it worked well for the price and lasted for 5000 river miles…

i use plastic trashbags in the packs for added protection

I Like Arkansasman’s Idea
I have Duluth, Superior, and Portage Pack Co. packs (Portage is out of business) and have owned an assortmant of lower-end packs. I have an old army surplus pack that resides in the basement. Oh, it will work, if you can get past the smell! I would look seriously at BWCAW Outfitter’s used gear. They typically upgrade every year or two. They also typically have the best, higher-end packs to keep their customers happy. I put my gear that has to stay dry in a roll-top dry sack, but you can also buy the thick plastic bags from most of the pack companies or outfitters, or use heavy duty trash bags. Good luck. WW

Interesting responses
At this point I am leaning towards a Cooke pack. As an apartment dweller, I prefer to not have to deal with wet canvas (with apologies to Cliff Jacobsen). Roll-top bags from NRS,Cascade etc would probably do the job for the limited usage I have planned, but I still like the idea of an outer pack and a WP liner for safety.


They’re expensive (but, worth it). Try

I’ve had good luck with em’.

Duluth Packs shed most water. It takes a heavy downpour to get them soaked, and then it is just the top and bottom. Takes a few hours in the sun to dry them out. Sort of a pain, but not intolerable. I always use a heavy plastic liner with heavy Rubberband on top, and I have never had one leak. Plastic liners will last a few trips. I still use the traditional canvas number 4s for clothes, sleeping bags and tents–items that get packed up in the morning and not not touched until I have to unpack them at night.

For cook gear/equipment and food–items you have to be digging into on a regular basis and keeping organized, find a modern frameless or internal frame pack that fits your needs in terms of size and organizational needs. Its mostly a matter of your camping style that will influence this decision. Have fun shopping.

used packs
we have quite a few used packs for sale in case you are interested?

Give us a call or email me.

I caved in
Did not get a paddling-specific pack. I had wanted a light weekend backpack, and Campmor has Mountainsmith Phantom packs on sale for $100. I’ll just use liner. I spend more nights out on foot than I do in boat.

Thanks for everyone’s input.


Backpacking packs
I do quite a bit of backpacking and canoe tripping. I have yet to find a canoe pack that comes even close to a good backpack as far as comfort, fit and support. You hear people say that backpacks don’t stow well in canoes, but I have not noticed this. I have used both types for canoe trips. The ONLY advantage of a canoe pack is that it does not stick up above the shoulders like a backpacking pack. It is difficult to portage a canoe overhead with a backpacking type pack. It can be done but requires a bit more composer. The only plus is most portages are under a mile.

I also use a liner but don’t really care for it. It makes loading the pack more troublesome and always seems like a nuisance. I am going to experiment with a dry bag made of sil/nylon to put my entire pack into. Should only weigh a few ounces, will protect from rain and bilge water, but not a submersion. When it’s portage time just open it up and access the straps and use it like a traditional pack cover.

Eureaka makes some dry packs that are more like traditional backpacks with stays and nice hip belts. I have been considering trying one, but I already have too many packs, if that’s possible.


Canoe Packs

– Last Updated: Feb-17-05 7:23 AM EST –

I've use the old canvas canoe packs for 40 yrs.

I had to buy a new one last summer for the Mackenzie river. I went to Piragis for the Lewis & Clark bag. I like a pack that can fall down a 1000 ft cliff, float the river for a mile and then wash up on shore with everything still ok. I put my clothes in a dry bag inside the thing.

I like a tump line to portage and a forgiving attitude if I make a mistake. It happens!

There is a lot to say about canoeing history and the old type canvas canoe packs are - for me, still the best. I don't back pack. I portage when it is unavoidable. I just want to keep the rain off my clothes and make sure it floats. Tough is the key to old age. That goes for packs as well as people.

Two Paddlers–Two Packs
We carry a Cascade Designs pack for the stuff that MUST stay dry and a Kelty exterior frame pack for the stuff that can get wet, like cooking gear.

The exterior frame pack is handy, because you can lash stuff to it on portages, like your paddles. has some
Voyageur waterproof packs with shoulder straps, hip belts, and side-seal openings for about $50. Look for them on the paddling pages of outdoor gear.

Canoe Packs
We use Granite Gear and Kondos canoe packs

Kondos Duluth style packs
I will have a number of used Kondos packs for sale at Canoecopia in case anyone is interested. If you want a certain style, contact me and I’ll make sure I bring one for you.

For my money (and my gear)…
…there is only one name I trust - SealLine! I had a Bill’s Bag and it would NOT keep contents dry because of the way the top seals, and I use that term very loosely - kinda like the way the bag seals.

I have had SealLine bags submerged in my canoe on the bottom of a river for 36 hours, and when I raised the canoe the contents were perfectly dry. My sandwiches were even edible and my digital camera was bone dry. The rubber ribbing across the top of the SealLine bags makes a much better seal against moisture penetration.

Of course, it also depends upon HOW you seal the bag. I have observed many people just rolling those top edges over a few times and cinching them down. It is critical that each fold be perfectly flat and smooth in order to eliminate air pockets.

Typically, a dry bag will warm inside considerably from solar exposure, and the bag will actually expand due to the heated air inside. When you capsize and the bag hits the colder water a capillary action immediately cools the air inside the bag and causes water to be sucked inside through air pockets in the folds regardless of how many times they were rolled before cinching.

I start by compressing my bag to expel as much extra air inside as possible, then carefully make flat rolls on every fold, and typically fold my closure as many times as I can before cinching. Then, I cinch the bag as tightly as possible to maintain a tight seal.

My gear travels in several SealLine bags. I use Boundary Pack 115 liter and 70 liter bags for tents, sleeping bags, stoves, cookware, clothing and other bulky items. I use Baja bags for my First Aid kits and other smaller items.

After years of personal experience I am completely confident in SealLine to protect my gear on Class IV whitewater rivers. The Boundary Pack 115 liter bags cost about $70 and the 70 liter bags cost about $55. Boundary Packs are equipped with shoulder straps so they can easily be carried like a backpack. The Baja bags are in the $20-40 range, depending upon size. For my money and my gear NOTHING beats a SealLine drybag.

not for the traditionalist
I use Granite Gear Quetico and Solo packs. I think they are fairly comfortable for the short distances of most portages. Not as comfortable as a true backpack, but they do fit in the canoes better. They fit under the portage yoke much better than a hiking backpack (especially if the yoke pads are spaced out far enough so they don’t press the shoulder straps into my trapezius muscles)

If I was looking for a replacement I would definitely go with one of Dan Cooke’s packs. He makes them for Bell also. Dan has spent years refining the design and construction. Unless you are a hard core traditionalist, you can’t beat a Cooke pack.