Center or end floatation in tandem boat?

We’re starting to use our Royalex Bell Northwind canoe (16’6") on mild whitewater daytrips (in addition to easier river canoe camping). I’d like to add some floatation.

Are 30" end bags sufficient? If so, I could also use them on camping trips. Although: Does anyone actually do that? I would also have to drill the boat.

Or does a center bag make more sense? 49" inflated is the longest I could find, but I have space for about 58". I could use the 6 D-rings already in the boat, plus the three thwarts, for lashing in the bag.

Center bag
end bags aren’t enough flotation… that center compartment has a lot of volume

People typically do not use center flotation on camping trips. Packs packed properly do hold air… It is important to secure them in the boat.

So never have an empty center…that’s all.

Around here people are thrifty and often use truck inner tubes for the center.

Big boat can hold a lot of water
The end bags will keep the boat afloat, so it depends what you mean by sufficient. The thing is, a big tandem can hold a lot of water. The more air, or as KM alludes, gear, bags you have in the boat, the less room there is for water.

I have seen boats that are not only bagged ends and center, but have had foam installed along the sides where the paddlers sit.

It’s really hard to paddle the boat when it is full of water, or even partially full. The boat is very tippy, and it weighs a ton, so it moves slow. Then if you can get it to an eddy, when you turn, all the water wants to keep going downstream, and will rush to the downstream side and try to turn the boat over. The more airbags in the boat, the less room there is for water. I suggest using both center and end bags.


End bags versus center bag

– Last Updated: Nov-12-16 6:55 PM EST –

As has been well pointed out, the more flotation the better, but given the paddling conditions you describe (and assuming I'm picturing things correctly), I don't envision you plunging through big waves and then trying to paddle a swamped boat to safety as much as I picture you flipping over and then hoping your capsized boat doesn't get pinned before you get the chance to pull it to safety.

Obviously a single big center bag will displace more water than a pair of end bags. Also, it might be hard to get very much inflation of an end bag in the stern (there's not much volume in the space behind the seat), and depending on the boat and how the bow paddler is positioned (kneeling versus sitting), the end bag there might take away from their foot room.

Given your one-or-the-other comparison and my idea that you probably don't have a really great need for as much flotation as you can get, I'd say a center bag is a better minimalist approach than just a pair of end bags. Naturally it still doesn't hurt to have both. It's just that the center bag will contribute more.

I agree, center bag does more.
And , because it is wider, it gives you more stability when swamped and therefore less chance of swimming.

Here’s my Mohawk set up with center and end bags:

I keep the end bags in all the time. I only put the center bag in when I think I need it.

You can find installation instructions for end and center bags here:

the more flotation the better

on the ground

– Last Updated: Nov-14-16 8:31 PM EST –

need to pack hull with gear n shift positions into effective use age leaving only enough foot/kneel room.

then the left space is air bag space.

the problem is:

weight optimally goes to center boat

but air bags to bow stern leave water center when swamping with a pendula effect for floating. ???

is possible reducing center air bag accommodating 2 NRS size harness dry bags for aft of air bag then adding bow n stern air bags. NRS bags hold air.

air bags are a positive move like flu shots n snow tires.

! I DIY but....