Kneeling Mat for Tandem Canoe?

I’ve not owned a tandem canoe for a very long time——until today. It’s a Galyans Woodsman III (same hull as Bell Royalex Northwind.) I know I want something for kneeling, but not sure what to use. I assume UV resistance is something to consider. Also, do you glue it to the floor or not? Suggestions?

For casual paddling, no need to glue

– Last Updated: Apr-27-14 11:28 PM EST –

I've mostly used Bell kneeling pads, but I don't know if you can get them anymore. I find them to be a little slippery, but solved that by painting the places where your knees go with "plastic dip" used for tool handles. The pads themselves can slip on the hull, but not if you put down some bathtub traction strips.

Cooke's Custom Sewing kneeling pads are better than Bell pads, because they have better padding. I have one, but have hardly used it. I suspect a little plastic dip on the knee-contact areas will help with that brand too, as the covering fabric is about the same as what's on the old Bell pads.

I have a new Mad River kneeling pad that I think will become my favorite. It has a rough, "almost sticky" surface that should provide a pretty good nonslip surface where my knees go. However, I'm aware that some people think the surface is too rough for comfort when wearing shorts. The degree of padding on the Mad River kneeling pad is excellent.

The comments about slippage and bathtub traction strips might seem to say you should glue them down, but most of the glued-in kneeling pads I've seen have been extremely dirty and yucky to kneel on, probably because it's not possible to clean them while on the go, because they are always there to filter dirty water sloshing around (water freely bypasses drop-in pads, or you can pick them up off the floor when bailing or sponging out dirty water), and because it's a real pain to replace them at all. I've never had a removable pad get very dirty at all, because it's a cinch to just shake or rinse off whatever dirt gets on them at any given time. Actual block pads that are glued in are favored by many, but for casual paddling, I find a drop-in pad to be fine, with no-slip modifications as needed. One nice thing about mat-style pads is that you can put your knees anywhere at all, not just at the "ideal spot" as is the case for glued-in block pads.

Don't fret over UV resistance. Do you look for that feature in your clothing or packs? You don't need it on a kneeling pad either.

Knee pads

– Last Updated: Apr-28-14 12:38 AM EST –

I've used all sorts of kneeling pads. One approach is to use Velcro. In a Royalex boat, I believe the self-stick stuff holds pretty well. Get a kneeling pad from Duluth Trading Co. (also holds Velcro well) and you're in business. Just put a strip on each end.

These days I like to use baseball slider pads. The only drawback is they tend to collect water so my knees get wet. Waugh! Their big advantages are that they move with me and there's no pad to get in the way or get dirty.

I have both…

– Last Updated: Apr-28-14 6:04 AM EST –

Glued in pads are nice because they are always there when you need them – you’ll never forget to bring your kneeling pad. For flatwater boats I use a simple flat pad – something like this:

Not sure how the adhesive is on these would hold up over the long term – I glue mine in with contact cement.

The big T-shaped kneeling pads are nice as well, and are especially comfortable when they are sitting over the glued in pads. I tend to use the big kneeling pad more in the summer. The cloth cover is more comfortable to kneel on with bare knees than the foam.

Workshop flooring
It’s minicell fairly cheap. Get an oversize piece and trim so it’s jammed under the gunwales and hence can’t slide.

The smaller Bell and CCS pads do tend to slide. I glue pads in only on tripping boats

More my view of Glue vs No-Glue

– Last Updated: Apr-28-14 8:26 AM EST –

I already mentioned the dirt-accumulation problem I've always seen on glued-in pads. I often paddle in places that are muddy, and it makes all the difference in the world that I never have to resort to wiping dirt off pads (which gradually smears it in to the fabric over time, and then the ground-in dirt makes it wear out), but instead get most of it off by shaking/whacking, followed by dipping it in the water if that's needed.

A few bathmat strips (I use three on each side) will completely stop a pad from sliding just as effectively as glue (your knees will slide on the pad long before you develop enough "push" to make the pad move). But the strips can be installed in a few minutes, and would very quick and easy to replace if that's ever needed. Gluing in a pad, and especially removing it at some later time, is a much bigger job that takes a whole lot longer. Plus, I can easily switch between a small pad when I'm wearing boots or shoes to a big pad when I'm barefoot. This is especially handy when when wearing more bulky boots (like for duck hunting or exploring marshy places on foot), since bulky boots slide in and out from under the seat, and move around under the seat more easily once they are there, if there's no pad on that part of the floor. I'd hate not being able to switch pad sizes or even pad materials.

I know some will always choose glue no matter what, but since a few bathtub strips will absolutely stop a pad from slipping, I see no advantage at all to gluing the pad in.

Big Harmony pad
I have a sixteen foot tandem that I sometimes “solo”

(or it solos me :)) on multi-day floats and I’ve been very happy with the big Harmony pad. Not very expensive, pretty comfy and doesn’t slide around in the boat and can double as a mat for ground sitters in a pinch. I recommend it.

minicell pads
Removable pads are fine and so are glued in minicell pads.

Any dirt or mud on minicell pads is easily washed off unlike perhaps nylon covered foam pads. Glued in minicell is what virtually every whitewater open boater in the world uses, and they are getting plenty of mud, dirt, and grit on their feet and in their boats tramping around scouting rapids and such.

As Erik E said, the advantage of having the pads glued in, apart from them not sliding, is that they are not forgotten and they are one less thing (two in the case of a tandem) that needs to be carried at the put in, the take out, and any portages. In addition, they do not float away in the event of a capsize in moving water. Removable pads can be tethered to the boat if a grommet is provided, but stuff hanging outside the hull increases the risk of entanglements and complicates rescues if the need arises.

In addition, minicell can be built up and shaped for a custom fit which can be very convenient. In the bow of some tandems, the curvature of the hull bottom makes it difficult for the tandem paddler to keep his or her knees spread sufficiently. Adding additional thickness to the inboard side of the knee pads with additional layers of minicell, and perhaps adding a bolster to the inner edge of the pads can provide a level surface for the paddler’s knees and prevent them from sliding inboard, which makes bracing and heeling the boat much more secure. You can also easily sculpt out a cup-like depression for your knees to rest in.

Removing and replacing minicell pads in the same position is no big deal. Warming the surface of the pad with a heat gun or a hair drier loosens the glue bond somewhat and working a thin bladed putty knife or paint scraper underneath the pad will remove it pretty easily. There will be some foam residue and glue residue left behind. If you are putting a new pad in the same place, it is not necessary to remove all of this, just clean it up a bit.

If you want to completely remove glued in foam, use some paint thinner or mineral spirits and allow it to work into the foam residue. Use something like a Scotch Brite pad to gently abrade the residue, be patient, and it will come off. It will likely leave a change in coloration of the inner vinyl layer of the Royalex, or the resin of a composite boat, however, so it the thought of this is objectionable, don’t glue in knee pads.

The precut Padz pads that Erik E mentioned are overpriced, in my opinion. You can buy minicell foam of the same thickness cheaper and cut any size pads you wish. Minicell is easily cut with a sharp knife or something like a coping saw. It can be shaped with Surform tools, Dragonskin, or sand paper. The contact adhesive on the Padz products works fine for a variable length of time and then fails completely when you need it most. Most folks use the flammable variety of DAP Weldwood contact cement (in a red and black can) to glue in foam and it works very well, but you need to use two or three coats on the foam because of its absorbancy.

The “puzzle mat” pressure relief workshop floor foam that Kim mentioned is often sold very cheaply by Harbor Freight, and no doubt other vendors. It has a textured surface on one side that is not good if you intend to glue the foam in, however. I have heard of some folks sanding it flat before glueing, but it sounds to me like more trouble than it is worth. It works well if you want to make a great big kneeling pad like freestyle canoeists use if you intend to cover the entire floor of the hull from inwale to inwale because the under surface of the inwales will hold it in place.

If you like to move around on your knees a lot like freestyle boaters do, then a big rhomboidal or T-shaped pad is nice, but adds a fair bit of weight compared to a pair of rectangular minicell pads.

Try the Bag Lady
Sue makes great pads…expensive but really nice and practical

Your new favorite sounds kind of like
the ones we bought years ago under the “Voyageur” brand name. About a yard long, 8" wide, black, tacky. They stay put in the tandem.

In my MR Synergy, which has a triple saddle, I found that glued in knee pads interfered with the turned back feet of my bow paddler.

Then I found I could pass one of the “Voyageur” pads through the water window arch in the triple saddle. It is right where I want it for solo, and so far has stayed in place in swamping.