Flotation - bag size?

Turning my 15’ Nova Craft Royalex prospector in to a solo boat and doing some outfitting for flotation. I have some 30" NRS end bags I pick up cheap, but I’m wondering if it’s worth the effort to install them, there’s still a lot of open boat, how effective would the 30’s be in Class II tripping, if the boat got swamped? Any experience?

My next choice would be the NRS 3-D Solo Short bags at 42". I could still put gear in front and back of me.

Call BMO

Call Chris or Mary at BMO.

Chris installed end and center bags in my Wenonah Prospector 16. They’re my “insecurity” blankets.

I’m not sure what size my end bags are. They fit snuggly up to the front/back of the bow/stern seats. I’m using only the end bags for less than class II. I would put in bags as big an you can in the space in front/back of the bow/stern seats. What else do you need that space for?

My center bag is a monster and doesn’t leave any room for tripping gear; only a dry bag and small cooler. I put it in for class II or over.

I must not be trying hard enough, because I havn’t “tested” the bags yet. I’m due!!


Bigger is better but leaves less room
Hey Ed,

I had 30" bags in my Explorer. They didn’t do much the day I pinned it poling the Farmington. Not very well secured either as this shows.


The bigger your well secured bags are, the higher your swamped boat will float. The higher your boat floats the lesser the chance that it will pin. Whitewater canoes often have flotation anywhere there isn’t a paddler.

OTOH the bigger your bags the less room in the boat. I went with bigger bags in the Explorer for a while but didn’t like the way they kept me from getting way back in the boat when I wanted to pole upstream.

In your 15’ boat I’d likely go with the 48" bags or even 60". It’s easy enough to switch to smaller if you need the room.


I paddle class 1-2-3 with 30" end bags.
Paddling a 15’ WW Mad River Synergy, I can recall only one serious swamping in 10 years using the boat.

There might be one reason to put in larger bags. It may reduced the boat’s susceptibility to being blown around on a gusty day.

If …

– Last Updated: Feb-25-09 5:18 PM EST –

If you "think" you're going to need the flotation, you just might. I don't think that 30 inch bags would be enough flotation for a 15 foot Prospector, especially with a load of gear.

If I were you I would err on the side of safety, and put in 42 inch bags at minimum & preferably 48 inch bags. Compare the price of the bags to the possible replacement cost of your canoe.

48 inch bags would leave a lot of space for yourself & your gear in a 15 foot canoe, and they will "float your boat" a lot higher than 30 inch bags will.


Yeah, some gear bags can just go
under the float bags. This works fine as long as the gear bags have a reasonable amount of positive flotation, and are properly tied in to keep them down against the bottom of the boat.

Don’t forget that your gear packs FLOAT!

– Last Updated: Feb-25-09 8:41 PM EST –

Mid-size bags should be adequate. Leave room for the packs, and don't mess around with stuffing gear under full-length air bags. It's a misconception that a swamped boat with a load of gear needs more floatation than a swamped boat without gear. The opposite is actually true. The truth is, even your heaviest pack will float very high in the water on its own (non-believers should toss it into the water and see first-hand). A pack full of camping gear weighs a very small fraction as much as it would if it were full of water. Sure it's not as light as an air bag, but all the water the pack displaces when the boat swamps represents a pretty high degree of floatation. Lash the packs to the floor of your boat and they will help your floatation rather than hinder it. I mention this only because there's one P-netter who says they use full-size float bags and stash their gear packs beneath them. Naturally, if you want to go to the trouble of putting your gear under the biggest float bags you can get, that's better if you want every bit of floatation possible, but since you aren't talking about the kind of whitewater in a Mountain Dew comercial, just average Class-II, that seems like overkill. I'd have to think that anyone who WANTS loading and unloading the boat to be that difficult should just use a kayak and be done with it. ;)

By the way, I mentioned this in response to this question in your other thread, but here it is again. I use NRS "3-D Solo S" bags which I think is one model you are considering. With those bags installed in my Supernova, the gunwales barely even touch the water except at each end when the boat is upside-down. As I mentioned in the other thread, if rightside-up and swamped, the boat draws several inches of water (which isn't too bad, and the most of the water in the boat drains out if you tip the boat on its side), but with packs lashed in, it would float even higher when swamped and rightside-up.

Uh, guideboatguy, in a 15 foot WW boat
it is NECESSARY to stuff some packs under the float bags. What with the triple saddle, there is not enough room in the rest of the boat. Because much of my gear is in tapered gear/floatation bags designed originally for kayaks, and because three of the four bags are from Voyageur, with rather thin fabric, I cannot risk having them float free on whitewater runs. They must be tied in, and because they are only partly under the float bags, when tied in they contribute quite a bit of flotation on their own. I will be upgrading from 30" to 48" float bags in this canoe, and in that configuration, the gear/flotation bags will be almost hidden.

That sounds reasonable
I’m not sure what a triple saddle is (is that for three paddlers? I suppose for a true whitewater boat to be 15 feet long, it could be for three people), but I understand your point about not having much extra room. However, in a “normal” 14- or 15-foot solo canoe, there will be plenty of extra room for gear in the center of the boat if your float bags are each about 4 feet long, so all I was saying is in THAT sort of boat (recall that the original poster is paddling a Prospector) there’s no need to fill the entire canoe with float bags and thus need to put the gear below them.

Thanks for the input
I went to BMO and played around with several sizes, brands and materials. I settled on the 48" Harmony Vinyl bags. They are slightly heavier than some of the others I looked at but the price was good and they seemed more durable. Also the guy from Mike Yee’s shop advised me to use Voyaguer bags, they’re now owned by Harmony.

60 inchers be wat ah’ got, Ed…
fro’ NRS, Mohawk an’ de old Voyageur brand in me solos which ah’ kin stick in de stems of me tandems (paddled solo in most cases). Ah’ do have a huge old Mohawk center bag fer ol’ Mukmukwum (me ancient OT Tripper) dat ah’ used waan it wuz me only canoo.