Create bulkhead or use float bags

-- Last Updated: Jun-30-16 9:15 AM EST --

My wife and I are novice kayakers and bought two Old Town Vapor 10s which do not have bulkheads. We've been reading a lot about the need for either bulkheads or float bags and were wondering if it would be better to build bulkheads or just buy and install bags. Any suggestions or advise? Thanks ahead of time for any help.

Float bags
should suffice and are a lot cheaper to implement. I’ve repaired bulkheads and it takes some doing (over the years, hulls deform and bulkheads leak) to make a tight seal. Once a hull starts to deform, it becomes a rather odious task that needs repeating. The advantage is that the bulkhead does add some strength to the hull and helps keep it in better shape over time.

The float bags are an easy fix for flotation issues, but you have to deflate them and let them dry or you will have pretty significant mold/mildew issues (both bags and hull will suffer).

Your skills working with foam bulkheads, whatever caulking material you use, and scrambling around the hull to ensure a good fit may be better than mine and your results may well be better. It sounds a lot easier to install bulkheads than it actually is.


Float Bags
Especially if you mainly do flat water paddling and you’re not planning to get the inside of boats really wet (as you would by practicing wet exits and rescues) then float bags will be fine.

And with a short boat with a large cockpit, putting the bags in and taking them out will be a very easy task.

NRS has a big selection for not a lot of money…

third float bags
A bulkhead is generally better (displace more water), but float bags do the job well enough. Given the amount of work to build bulkheads, just go with the float bags. Make sure you find a way to attach the float bags to the boat so that should the boat flood, the bags don;t just float out.

If you really want bulkheads, the cheaper/easier route would be to sell the current boats and upgrade to something with bulkhead.

Bags vs bulkheads
Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I honestly wasn’t expecting such a quick response but ya’ll have helped me make a decision. We believe most of our kayaking will be smooth waters but learned this past weekend that things can change quickly when you’re on the water and about 30 minutes paddle time from shore and winds and wake/waves start kicking which is why we figured we needed to look into and be more prepared next time for the “what ifs”. Thanks again!