Do you count dry bags as flotation?

Our dry bags normally have dry good foods, clothing and sleeping blanket or bags depending on season.

I am considering a down river kayak with no bulk heads. When factoring in costs, I was looking at flotation bags, wife questioning the need when with a little planning, a lot of volume taken up with dry bags.

Aside from not being attached to the boat, is her idea valid?

Yup! Kinda!

– Last Updated: Jan-06-14 8:18 PM EST –

Drybags displace de equal volume o' water... same as floatoon bags, but can make de boat heavier dependin' on de weight o' de stuff in yer drybag. Air weighs less than donuts.


Dry bags displace the area that
water would occupy if the bags were not there. Unless you are carrying lead or some other material that is denser than water, the properly sealed dry bag should provide flotation for your boat because the gear inside your sealed dry bag is most likely lighter than the comparable volume of water. Water dynamics can affect flotation level of the boat and how much water gets into the cockpit section.

Kayaks that have bulkheads are easier to pump out because the water is contained entirely to the cockpit area in contrast to a boat with no bulkheads where some water could travel to spaces between your dry bags and possibly get isolated there.

If the loaded dry bag floats on it’s own
then it adds flotation. Not as much as a bag of air would, the difference being the weight of the contents of the bag.

The big thing though is the bit about being unsecured, as the boat fills with water the bag will float up and out. Are you going to tie every single drybag into the hull every single time in such a way that you don’t become entangled in a tether when SHTF?

Find a way to secure them in the boat…

– Last Updated: Jan-06-14 11:14 PM EST –

... and you'll be fine. Ideally, the bag or bags would be big enough to fill as much of the interior space as possible, which might mean they are bigger than you need just to enclose your gear.

Securing them could be a problem, and not a problem I've ever needed to think about, but here's the idea that pops into my noggin right now. Install a metal ring in the extreme end of the boat, front and rear (but have fun coming up with a method). Run a rope through each ring so that both free ends come out the cockpit (do this well ahead of time and leave the rope in place so you aren't wasting time on this at the put-in). Tie one end to a dry bag, or if more than one, to the last dry bag that gets stuffed into that end of the boat. Pull the other end tight, and that will keep the bag in there nice and snug, but give you the convenience of quick-and-easy removal. Tie the free end to some convenient anchor point (you may need to install that as well), or even to the exposed end of the dry bag itself (in this case, stuff the bag under the deck with the anchor loops facing the cockpit so you can reach them easily).

Got a plastic boat? You could drill a hole in each end and thread your securing rope through there. Again, pull the rope tight to hold the bag in and tie the free end somewhere on the outside of the hull, or just knot it near the hole (so it won't pull through) and coil up the excess.

I'm sure there are other ways, but these would make each bag installation and removal simple and fast. I wouldn't want to be reaching down under the deck to secure the bags each time. I'd want a method that's easy.

I do my best to squeeze the air out
of my dry bags so there is more room in the boat - exactly the opposite of what you do with float bags. Unlike float bags, dry bags really aren’t designed to hold large volumes of air under pressure. Maybe they do but I’ve never tested it, and maybe that is less of an issue when packed tightly in a kayak. At least in canoes, you will often see people with small float bags in the bow and stern, and dry bags more toward the middle. On river trips, you need just enough floatation to keep the boat from pinning on rocks.


– Last Updated: Jan-07-14 9:05 AM EST –

There are two parts to that. One is water displacement, to make the boat less heavy from water if it does capsize. If dry bags are well enough secured to not pop out they meet that requirement.

Except that dry bags for gear are not fundamentally designed with the features that make them easy to secure well, unless you get the pricey ones. I am talking things like D-rings at the bottom or sides, to secure the bag to maybe other D-rings that you have glued into the boat, that kind of thing. More important if you are talking about an area that lacks a bulkhead.

The other part is adding flotation by adding air. The less gear to air in the bags, the better they will do that. But then you can carry less stuff in a given volume of dry bag.

Overall they can help. But whether they will stay put to be useful, and exactly how much they will help compared to regular float bags, depend on the individual situation.

Might have to do
because you won’t have room for both dry bags and air bags.


Monkey wrench
When you use a monkey wrench on a task that would be more efficiently done with a left handed monkey wrench…efficiency suffers.

Sounds as if you need a combination of flotation bags, and gear bags. Obviously, designers of gear bags never intended them to be used for flotation. Nor did flotation bag designers intend for them to carry gear.

Anything used for flotation in case of a capsize needs to be secured to the boat.



"Penny wise and pound foolish"
The answer is no

If your kayak with no bulk heads fills with water unless you have lots and lots of sealed in air space, it will sink.

I would opt for a couple of air bags. One lashed into the stern and one in the bow.

What the heck type kayak is it with no bulkheads?

Even the rec ones have some foam in the bow and stern

Jack L

An update to what I said before

– Last Updated: Jan-07-14 12:24 PM EST –

Some might say this idea is a cobble job instead of doing it right. I will agree with them if you are paddling in places where good flotation AND on-the-water re-entry may be necessary. On the other hand, if you are paddling mild rivers or other benign conditions where tipping over simply means getting the boat a short distance to shore, I still think it will do the trick. After all, nobody preaches about lack of proper flotation to canoe paddlers in quiet-water conditions, usually not even when they cross big lakes, yet with dry bags tied in, particularly over-sized ones so you maximize the volume they occupy, your boat will have far more flotation than any stock canoe (very few canoe paddlers tie in their packs securely enough for them to aid flotation). You wouldn't regret having the right boat for the job in the first place, but there's something to be said for working with what you already have, and for benign conditions this could be a perfectly acceptable option. Still, put in the thought to "get it right" as far as securing the bags, because you don't want to create an entanglement hazard either.

Dry bags are not usually 100-percent waterproof, but for the time it takes to get a boat to shore on an average river, you'll be fine. Even over an extended time, a little leakage wouldn't matter.

I am still looking for my left-handed
coffee cup.

The sales pitch was that I’d misplace it less often!

It all depends
upon whether the dry bags stay with the boat (either in, or attached). As Celia stated, if they aren’t secured, they are useless as floatation.

Behind a bulkhead, I’d give a “they’ll do fine,” statement, since they won’t go anywhere as long as the bulkhead holds (they may fail over time). Given a chance in an open boat, however, they will exit as fast as you do.

Secure them somehow.


define “down river kayak” NM

boat switch
I am thinking about replacing my Pyrhana Fusion S with a LL Stinger XP. I bought the Fusion as a limited WW and rock garden boat, I liked the tight fit on the S as it felt more like my touring boats. I have found that since I am at (or slightly over) the recommended weight for the boat it is a less than ideal WW boat.

I am looking at boats for self supporting river trips, and I have found most crossovers are terrible on flat sections of rivers (bathtub like).

I like the Stinger as it feels closest to a touring boat that is WW capable. When I tried out a Stinger it rolls easily, I can do a wet re-entry more easily than with a true WW boat, it holds enough gear for short trips; just no bulkheads or flotation standard.

For rock gardening I like my Dagger Alchemy, if it had more rocker (or if I was a better paddler) it would be perfect for what I have intentions in use.

You are probably OK

– Last Updated: Jan-07-14 1:04 PM EST –

The Stinger, like pretty much all whitewater polyethylene kayaks, has thick minicell foam central pillars running from the cockpit area out to each stem. They will certainly prevent the boat from sinking out of sight.

I secure the float bags in my kayaks, but I have known many whitewater kayakers who just put them in loose and blow them up. And the fact is they seldom come out of the stern of a whitewater kayak if the boat has a back band.

It is pretty easy to provide an anchor point for float or dry bags if the boat lacks any. I use a 3" length of PVC pipe around 3/4" diameter and simply push it through the central foam pillar at the appropriate place (a couple inches from the end of the pillar at the cockpit for the stern). For a set of float bags intended to stay in the boat, I would just pass through the PVC pipe a length of 3 mm nylon accessory cord or paracord and tie it the the loops at the fat end of the bags.

If you had to tie in multiple dry bags, I would pass a length of 1" diameter nylon webbing through the PVC pipe, bring it around the free end of the pillar, and tie it to itself. The loop serves as an anchor to secure lengths of nylon cord tied to your dry bags. This arrangement may not be as effective as securing the ends of the bags at the stem, but it works fine in a practical sense to keep the bags in the boat, and does not require drilling any holes in the deck or hull.

There are also float bags designed for gear storage. They are called "stow-floats" and although they are less common than when whitewater kayaks were all long, they are still available from a few vendors like NRS:
and Watershed:

These might also work as well:

Maybe since long whitewater kayaks like the Dagger Green Boat and the LL Stinger are making a comeback, stow floats might see a resurgence.

The Stinger is a great boat
I think your idea of using dry bags will work IF…

1 - the weight of the gear in your dry bags do not have an adverse effect on the way you can paddle it boat

2 - your dry bags remain dry. Although, if they leaked a little bit you will be okay

3 - the dry bags do not come out if you wet exit. If you put them behind the seat without securing them you should be fine. Any in the bow will need to be secured.

Some other people mentioned “stow-floats” which should probably be a good option.

Not on the XP
The foam pillar doesn’t run to the stern on the Stinger XP. It goes from behind the seat to the hatch opening. You can easily lade and access that entire compartment without modification.

Absolutely NOT

– Last Updated: Jan-07-14 4:27 PM EST –

All dry bag manufacturers have disclaimers that
specifically mention something to the effect
"""not to be fully submerged"""

-IF they aren't 100% capable of protecting your gear-
are they worth trusting your life upon or a friends ?

A dry bag merely offers "some"
level of water resistance, not waterproofness.
Hence they will never be 100% airtight

Use the proper tool/gear for its intended purpose

No need for an extreme stance in …

– Last Updated: Jan-07-14 6:18 PM EST –

... this situation

So what if a drybag can't be relied upon to keep your gear 100-percent dry? Any large dry bag will still float really well with many times as much water inside as you are ever likely to see.

The original poster is going to be using dry bags anyway. If he has the space for air bags too, great - some people have already suggested air bags in addition to the dry bags, or combination air/dry bags as a good option. If there's not space for air bags, which is possible since space in this boat is minimal, big dry bags full of air and gear can fill up much of the space there is and keep water from doing the same. And for downriver tripping, just HOW are dry bags going to leak so catastrophically that the boat won't float long enough to swim it to the bank? With that in mind and adding a little common sense to that scenario, if no one thinks twice about the practice of paddling canoes with barely enough flotation to keep them from sinking when on typical rivers (and everyone I know does exactly that when canoeing average rivers), why worry so much about this kayak which will float much higher in the water when swamped than a canoe, with the worrying centered on the fact that the stuff keeping the boat floating so high wouldn't be used for that purpose if no gear were being hauled?

Oh, I almost forgot, another important point is that no one is "trusting their life" to the flotation in their boat when river tripping (again, how strange it is that once one switches the discussion from canoe to kayak, suddenly open-ocean rules apply, even if you're still on the same little river as before!). The flotation is there to protect the boat (reduce the chances of a pin) and to make it easier to pull it to shore if swamped. It's not there to protect the paddler. In a kayak, flotation only comes into play once the paddler has exited the boat, and when that happens in a river, the paddler just goes to shore anyway.