Lashing gear into canoe?

Hi there. My father and I are heading out for an 11-day canoe trip on the Green River in May. The canoe gets pretty well loaded up, and we’re concerned about what would happen to our gear in case of a capsize.

It’s flat water, but last year we had one VERY windy stretch with big waves kicked up and lots of struggling to keep the boat going straight. By the time we were through it, we were exhausted and had a boat full of water. It was only then that it occurred to us that, had we flipped, we would’ve been pretty much screwed for the remaining week of paddling.

So…does anyone have suggestions for lashing gear into the boat? The canoe is rented, so drilling holes is not an option. It’s a Mad River, but it doesn’t have the IQ system gunwales.


Waterproof, then just tie it together
Lashed in gear is useful when a river is quick, and without pause. It provides flotation, and keeps everything together. However, it also makes the canoe much more difficult to empty of water.

On flat water, you might just want to tie things together on a single line, then to a thwart. If everything is in dry bags or boxes, it will all float. Clip a throw-bag to one end, and swim to shore with the rope, then haul the canoe and your stuff after you.

Lashing in gear
Be careful in lashing gear to your boat. Too many loose or long lines and stuff could cause you or your dad to become tangled in it if you did capsize. If you want it to stay in the boat, keep it close. Just something to think about. Hope you have a good trip with your dad.

Yes, tie it in.
You definately need to tie it in, even if you are just lake paddling. In windy conditions or when there is current, if you spill everything out of the boat, your resulting yard sale will immediately begin to disperse while you need to be worrying about saving your persons and boat.

I was told by old-timers not to tie things to thwarts, because they have a propensity to rip out if the boat hits something or pins. However, given that it is a rental boat, thwarts and seats may be all you have to tie off to. I once glued knee pads in a livery boat. The outfitter thought it was an improvement and didn’t charge me any damages. Maybe you should discuss gluing in some D-Rings with your livery operator. It’s an improvement, right? If you are real convincing maybe the livery will pick up some of the cost, or sell you the supplies at reduced price.

Tied in tightly, your gear, especially dry bags or anything watertight, becomes floatation. It will help keep a swamped boat near the surface. It takes up a lot of space, so if you are able to bail, any space taken up by the load is space not taken up by water, so less to bail. You do need some clear area around your seat / feet in which you can wield the bailer.

Ideally, you will find a way to run a web of lines on top of the load that will hold everything in place. The risk of entanglement is low if your tie down job is neat and tight, and is mitigated because all paddlers carry a knife, handy in the pfd, right? Preferrably the knife can be deployed with one hand, but I’m off track, we are talking about tying down stuff.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

Bungee Cargo Nets
Also seen some guys who use D-rings or eye-bolts mounted in the gunwales to stretch bungee nets over their gear:

As others have said, depending on how much gear you have in the boat, this could complicate emptying water, but this is a case of the-more-gear-the-better, as a fully-loaded canoe will not allow much room for water. Some hearty baling should get most of it, followed by a little time spent with a kayak-style bilge pump to get the dregs.

Thanks for all your responses!