Float Bags for Old Town Cayuga --do I need them?

How do I know if I need them? Just to recap… I’m a beginner and the kayak I’ve purchased is an Old Town Cayuga 110. It’s a 10’6" sit-in. I plan to use it primarily in the calm springs and slow-moving rivers of Florida. I might take it out into the wind-sheltered mangroves in the bay are some point. I want to be safe, of course, but not overly excessive. Thoughts? Thanks again, guys!

You’re asking a group that knows nothing about you a personal potential life or death question?

Wow. Hostile much? This is a kayaking community with paddlers whom I would assume are knowledgeable about paddling. I feel it’s an appropriate question. Do you have a better suggestion for getting advice on that particular question?

It is always advisable for any sit in kayak to have enough flotation such that you will be able to get back in the kayak, whether by self or assisted rescue, and continuing paddling. If the kayak does not have sealed bulkheads , float bags or some other means of floatation are required.

A flooded kayak will weigh hundreds of pounds and will be extremely difficult or impossible to swim or tow to shore. If the cockpit rim is not appreciable above the water line, again it will be very difficult or impossible to empty on the water.

Look into, learn, and practice, practice self and assisted rescues. You will likely need a pump and paddle float in addition to the floatation for the boat.

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Thank you for the helpful, constructive feedback. I am going to bring my kayak home this weekend. It does not have a sealed off bulkhead, just a foam pillar, so it definitely sounds like I’ll need float bags in the bow at the very least. The Stern does have a walled off dry hatch. I’m planning to take lessons, so I’m not completely clueless and can get myself out of a bad situation should one arise. Thank you!

You could have can asked about the pros and cons of float bags, cost, effectiveness, purpose, etc. No one knows your physical condition, ability to swim, experience in a kayak, comfort level in bad conditions, etc AND yet you asked do “I” need them!. My comment was and is appropriate based on information provided.
Do you expect them to allow re-entry after a capsize or just keep the boat from sinking, or reduce the amount of water you may have to bail out?

I just bought her an OT Trip 10 fishing kayak that she has been using for casual river floats and also inland lakes here in NW PA. One of the features I liked was the sealed bulkhead in the stern as it provided a dry place to put stuff and mostly the floatation. I didn’t feel the foam beam in the bow was enough and depending on the length of your legs most of that is just wasted space. I took the DIY route and bought a cheap $1.99 kids play ball that is about 9” and stuck it in the nose then I bought a 15” yoga ball $15 the smallest size they sell on line and put it in and blew it up, after removing the foam beam first. The 15” ball conformed nicely to the hull is really tough and held itself in place as the deck opening is smaller on her boat closer to the cockpit. If yours is not you could run a strap between the foot rest bolts to make it captive.

In her case the end of the ball is just out a little past where the foot rests are and she can use the foot rests but she likes putting her feet against the ball better.

Along with doing that I made her a 10’ painter line with a loop on the end and a small float. The goal is if one of us goes into the water the other can help if needed but I wanted the boats to float well enough we can swim them in to shore. A swamped boat is next to imposable. We also carry a hand powered bilge pump that can get the boat empty as long as it is somewhat out of the water.

So yes IMO you should add some to your new rec kayak don’t venture out past where you feel safe and can swim in and get a good quality PFD. Also watch the water temps if you happen to be up north.

I felt ok with this as a DIY others will recommend you get proper made for the job tapered air bags. :canoe:

If you say so, but I took it as snarky and non-helpful. Perhaps you could have indicated what you meant (as you just did) in your initial response and I would have happily edited my post to include that information. I did state I’m a complete newbie in my post, so I don’t really even know what information to include when framing my question at this point.

I’m small/medium build. I can swim, but wouldn’t call myself a strong swimmer, necessarily. I’ve kayaked all of 3 times. So, definitely not comfortable with anything but gentle conditions. So, that’s why I’m researching, asking questions and trying to make informed, safe decisions.

No one here is ever by going to say you definitely do not need them! If you think you need them, then you should get them. The key is to avoid feeling overly confident or reliant if you have them, they are only an aid that may not work every time or as you had expected. Same applies to air horns, lights, knives, sat phones, pumps, first aid kits, etc.

If you have enough floatation, such as sealed off front and rear compartments and/or sizeable floatation bags that are secured in place (no good if the float away :slight_smile: ), the kayak may float high enough that you can pump or bail it out. With your one sealed compartment plus the foam pillar, the kayak won’t sink and it will probably float well enough for you to hold onto for safety, but you might not be able to bail it out until it gets dragged or drifts to shore.

I’d say you don’t “need” a float bag but it may make your life easier if you ever capsize.

I appreciate all of these replies so much! I can’t wait to bring my new baby home this weekend. I think I will measure her out and get the float bags, but at the same time, I am also loving the BALL idea because the one thing I was not crazy about is that my big feet aren’t particularly comfortable on the foot braces. So, this definitely gives me things to consider!!

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Once you get the boat home, capsize it near shore and try to get back in without being able to stand on the bottom. If the ball displaces enough water that is great, if it doesn’t make it possible you know to consider float bags and not take this boat further from shore than you can easily swim.


IMO your chance of bailing and reentry will be greatly improved if you are not alone and have partner to assist. I’m far from any kind of expert on these rec kayaks. One thing I noticed is the seat back extends above the deck on ours and kind of wants to flop down into the cockpit. Ours has an extra large opening almost like a canoe in the front and that affords a few different entries than a smaller cockpit.

We haven’t practiced a lot but I told her with another boat to help stabilize hers and after a little bailing I feel it would be worth doing a reentry. Alone I told her to not exceed what she wants to swim pulling the kayak to shore and without a doubt that ball in there will make that task much easier.

If you are light and agile I’m sure you could master a reentry with a paddle float.

I had a chance to try out my bailing hand pump yesterday as I had the canoe right side up in the yard and was called away and we had a gully washer of a rain. So I tried it out. It pumped a lot of water pretty fast and I’m glad I bought it. So if you have enough float to let you get in and keep the top edge a ways out of the water it wouldn’t be bad to pump it out. With just the stern compartment I don’t see that working. Again with another boat holding you steady that will be much easier to do. Without another the paddle and float could be rigged to stabilize you. :canoe:

Regarding the stern compartment, never assume that a compartment in a kayak will be completely watertight. Many will leak small amounts of water if the boat is capsized or if there is water in the cockpit. Always put anything placed in a hatch in a drybag. Check any compartments at the end of the day to prevent mold and mildew if water has gotten inside.

Another advantage of float bags or other means of floatation in a boat without fore and aft watertight compartments is that it will greatly reduce the amount of water that you will have to pump or bail out. A full cockpit can hold a lot of water.


The feedback here has been so valuable! Today, I bought a bilge pump and a bilge sponge (just in case). I am picking up my kayak on Saturday, so I haven’t had the opportunity to measure the compartments for float bags yet. From what I have read, it is optimal to drill these guys into place, which would make me incredibly nervous to do on my brand-new boat! Ack! Any suggestions on installing them? What has worked for you? And, I am also curious…for anyone with float bags installed, have you had the opportunity to see how they function in the event of a capsize?

Thank you again, everyone!

looking at a photo online, it looks like your boat has a sizeable rear hatch, better than many rec boats, that’s a real plus . Put a couple of blow up monkeys or flamingos in the bow on each side of the foam pillar. The monkeys are nice because you can fold the arms and legs for a tight fit.

Swamp the boat out near shore in a controlled environment, that way you can see how the boat behaves full of water.

Float bags generally have grommets or some other way to tie them off. . If you are leaving the foam pillar in, you might find float bags to go on either side of it and fasten it to the pillar. If removing it, you can try adhesive Velcro tape on the float bags and the inside of the boat. Alternately, if there are though hull fittings for the bow toggle, you could replace one with a longer bolt and using appropriate hardware fashion an attachment point. Be sure not to leave any sharp edges.

Good thoughts! I think I will leave the foam pillar in place for simplicity’s sake and to have something to attach those bags to!

I will have to find a good place to practice capsizing and getting back into the boat! Has anyone ever done this in their swimming pool? LOL. I am half-joking/half-serious…obviously, a good rinse afterwards to get the chlorine off…

The foam block is held in with one sheet metal screw from the deck. There is a little aluminum strip that kind of holds into the foam and the screw is run thru it and into the foam. It is not the most ridged thing.

I wouldn’t drill holes the foot pegs are on a track to make the adjustment for how long your legs are. They are already drilled thru the hull and you can use the bolts that are at the front end to attach a strap to hold the bags in.

Personally if I was going to buy a bag I would look for one wide wedge and take the foam piece out after seeing how OT attaches the foam piece.

With the yoga ball I found it rounds out into the cockpit leaving room at the sides for your feet on the rest. I think the picture I posted shows that. With a wedge shaped bag you will have to have it end below your feet. Those two bolts stick out a little so padding them as to not cut your bag is a good idea.

The yoga balls are tougher than most blow up pool toys. I would say they are about as thick as a truck inner tube.

If I had a pool that would let me put my boat in for sure I would do that. :canoe:

Practicing in the pool is just fine. You should have someone nearby or in the pool for safety.

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