float bag size- will it fit?

I am planning a short solo trip and I want to install some small float bags in the stems of my Bell Woodsman 3. I found some bags from NRS that I think will work, but they are wider and deeper than the area I will be installing them in. I am drilling holes in the hull for paracord and will have d-rings to attach webbing down the center to restrain the bags(typical rigging). I have no experience with float bags and I don’t know if being unable to fully inflate the bags will cause a problem.

NRS bag specs 29.5"L x 28.5"W x 18"D

canoe stem specs 30+"L x 21"W x 15"D

Of course the length won’t be a problem but what about the width and depth? I assume you can just fill the bags to the size needed, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Any advice is appreciated.



You are correct

– Last Updated: Jan-07-12 1:01 PM EST –

Just inflate the bags to fill the available space. I've never seen float bags being available in different widths and depths, only different lengths. I think an unrestrained, fully-inflated bag is always bigger than the space it actually occupies when secured in a boat.

On a related note, don't forget to deflate them quite a bit when you leave them unattended. If the sun shines on them or if it's a hot day, when the air inside heats up and expands, the bags will "try" to break what confines them.

don’t worry about it

– Last Updated: Jan-07-12 4:52 PM EST –

photo of the week

I'm using 5' center bags. Not uber smooth, but definitely works....over an over and over again ;-).

As long as you're somewhat close on dimensions, you'll be fine, and it's better to have extra bag than extra space in a given area.


– Last Updated: Jan-07-12 6:06 PM EST –

Am in agreement with both previous posters.

As long as they are properly secured, bags that are "close" to the dimensions of the area you want to fill will work just fine. I think larger sized bags would be preferable to those that would be too small.

Just for your information; check out the Mohawk Canoes website. Got to their outfitting store & check out the dimension of the bags they offer for sale. Will also offer you a price comparison with NRS.
Mohawk also have a section that describes the outfitting of canoes with flotation/saddles/etc.

Remember what guideboatguy said about leaving fully inflated bags in your canoe, on top of your vehicle, during the heat of summer. Could be a costly mistake.


I had “little” 30" Voyageur float bags
in my ww Mad River Synergy, drove from Atlanta (1000’) to a high spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 5000’. Parked the car and hiked. Sun came out. When I got back, the Royalex (excellent Royalex on that boat) was significantly bowed upward by the stern bag straining against the laces.

Fortunately, after opening the flotation tube, the bag and hull returned to normal.

When traveling, stop now and then and adjust the bag pressure. It should be just enough so that the bags don’t whop/flop in the wind, which will eventually damage them. The inflation tubes must be accessible, but find a way to restrain them or the wind may actually tear them out at the base.

Some people remove the bags after paddling. They apparently don’t have better things to do with their time.

Traveling with bags installed
I haven’t had a bagged canoe on my car as often as many folks here, but at times I’ve deflated them most of the way, then looked for some sign that they were flopping in the wind. It wasn’t happening at all, as near as I could tell. Another time I stuffed the empty bags into the end of the of the boat, and though only loosely crumpled, they did not shift position at all. Dry leaves stuck to the floor of the boat are often still there after a highway trip too, so at least on top of my car there doesn’t seem to be any wind inside the boat. When I hang a pair of surveyor’s ribbons from the tip of the stern to keep idiots like me from walking into the boat when the car is parked, I notice that when driving at highway speed they simply twist and shift around, still hanging straight down. They do not “trail back” in the wind like you’d expect. Seems like there’s just a bubble of turbulence there, rather than a slipstream. Just inside the stern of the boat is even more protected from wind than the area where the ribbons hang. Whether your bags will flop in the breeze if loose is probably something that happens with some cars and not with others.

Nuthin’ better to do with my time
Yup better to have oversized bags than under.

Yup be aware of how temperature change affects your bags and boat.

Nope don’t leave them in the boat while not paddling.

Many folks do. That’s their business.

But I’ve found that my bags last a whole lot longer if I put them in at the waters edge and remove before I hit the road. Especially for longer drives. IMO they’re too expensive to subject to needless abuse.

An electric inflator that can be reversed to deflate is handy for larger bags.

And creative use of webbing clips…
…can make re-installing the bags a “snap”.

I keep boats quite a while, and
it doesn’t bother me if I have to patch a bag now and then.

I also believe (but do not have proof) that having inflated bags in the ends of the boat, expecially the front end, is an aerodynamic advantage.

It seems to be a matter of taste. Do you want to deflate and store your bags before heading home, and do you want to fuss with a pump to blow them up again when you get to the put-in? My unofficial survey says the paddling public doesn’t want to bother.

It’s new to me,
but my method so far has been - bags in and inflated on the way to the water, and bags out on the way home. Makes it easier to keep boat & bags clean.

My Unofficial Survey

– Last Updated: Jan-09-12 9:26 AM EST –

put's it about 50-50 with half the folks I know transporting their boats with inflated bags and half putting them in and taking them out at waters edge.

I suspect that living in the 'burbs of Boston and having 1-5 hours on the highway before and after paddling makes for more folks like me than you would see where paddling is closer.

Thanks to everyone
for the replies. I just wanted to confirm my assumptions before ordering.

I looked at the Mohawk bags as BOB suggested and there isn’t much price difference between them and the NRS bags. Does anyone have experience with both and would recommend one over the other?

Sometimes I leave them in
I usually take bags out for longer trips. I have found that leaving bags in the boat all the time promotes mildew on the bags and interior of the hull.

I have had bags damaged by wind buffeting when traveling on the highway. On one occasion I left a bag partially inflated on a 6 hour drive and the flapping of the filler stem caused it to break at the elbow leaving me with a non-functional bag. I will leave the bags in for shorter trips but inflate them sufficiently to keep the bag from buffeting and try to secure the filler tube so it can’t flap around.

I have observed slightly better gas mileage with bags in the canoe than without.

It is possible to damage hulls or break or deform gunwales if bags become overinflated in warm weather.

Another option
and close to you in TN:


I’ve used these as have friends and like them.


Not in the SE. It’s uncommon to see
ww OC-1 paddlers removing the bags before trips of any length. I think NE makes for OCD-1 paddlers.

I’ve lost one bag, a cheap Harmony
that had a short filler tube right in the center so that I couldn’t keep it topped up and adjusted at stops. Both the filler tube and the dump valve tore big holes.

The Voyageur Nylon/urethane bags have been much tougher. However, if one lets them “rumple” in the wind too much, they may develop tiny leaks at the tips of the rumple zones. Easily fixed with Seam Grip.

I’ve had Voyageur light bags in a c-1 continuously. I deflate them a little bit before loading the boat, and top them up at the put-in. Mildew may occur, but seems not to attack the Nylon. A possible cause of Nylon damage is leaving sand and fine gravel under the bags rather than rinsing it out.