Newbie to sit inside kayaks, stock styrofoam vs float bag

Fairly new to kayaking. So far I’ve only paddled sit on top kayaks but I just bought my first kayak and it’s a sit in style. I love it and can’t wait to put it to the test but I am a bit worried about tipping it and potentially sinking it. The kayak I bought is a pelican mustang 100x and it comes with styrofoam on the sides of the seat (not sure if it goes all the way to the stern but I doubt it). My question is, will the foam be enough to keep it from sinking if it takes on too much water or should I go ahead and get a float bag for the hull (since I can’t get one to the stern)? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

The styrofoam in cheaper kayaks like the smaller Pelicans is not for flotation, it is to keep them from collapsing structurally when they are stacked together during shipment because the hulls are so thin. Yes, you will need inflatable flotation bags in the bow AND stern to paddle safely. If you capsize or take on water without them, the boat will sink and you will be unable to re-enter it. Even with float bags, this is not a boat you should take out in deep water or far from shore.

Be cautious about how much you “test” it. This is not a boat for big water or white water. Strictly ponds and slow shallow rivers.

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There are 2 levels of flotation important for akayak.

Strictly speaking - the Styrofoam should be enough to keep the kayak from sinking, as in slipping below the water surface and disappearing. This is the first level. Prior to the 90s/aughts, many kayaks did not have enough flotation and sunken kayaks did happen. But over time we learned and now almost all commercially built kayaks do have this minimal level of flotation built in.

But it won’t be enough for the second level of flotation - to let you get back into the kayak in deep water. For that, you would need a lot of flotation - enough so that the kayak even when it has as much water as possible, would sit high enough that the combing (the edge around the cockpit) is above the water when you are in the flooded kayak. Without the combing being above the water line, you could never drain the kayak. For that you would need float bags (and even so, potentially, you may not be able to get enough flotation to make it work). Few recreational class kayaks (what you have) have this level of flotation, and some can’t even be retrofitted to this. Touring kayaks and sit on tops generally do have this second level of flotation and one (with some knowledge and practice on the process) could get back in to a flipped over kayak in deep water.

The boat you have actually could take a float bag in the rear, just a smaller one. I doubt that hatch cover is awfully watertight. The fore and aft bulkheads on my sea kayaks are fully or mostly bone dry and I still put float bags in there to stop stuff from sliding around, and in case I find a rock the hard way.

Concerns about on water re-entry are good, but frankly this cockpit is so huge that you probably could not fix the issue even with adding float bags. We had boats like this come to rescue practice sessions our local paddling group had several years ago. If there was even one of then that the paddler was able to get back into and empty out to be in shape to paddle from the water I don’t recall it. Plus there is zero deck rigging to help you get back in. Bungie that stretches is no help there.

In sum have fun with the boat, but as advised higher up don’t go anywhere you can’t swim to shore.

You did not indicate where you plan to paddle - is it local ponds and the like or other?

Most modern recreational kayaks have just enough native flotation to avoid actually sinking, but the cockpit combing will often be at or slightly below the waterline when swamped. Whether or not you can get enough flotation to successfully get back in the boat in deep water for a self or assisted rescue is questionable, but float bags can significantly reduce the amount of water that you will have to drain or pump out. At 8 lbs/gallon, a fully swamped kayak will weigh hundreds of pounds which can make it very difficult to tow to shore or haul up on a steep river bank.

Rigid deck lines to hold onto the boat, as opposed to bungees to hold gear, can often be run through the same fasteners that hold the bungees. Strongly recommended.

The Styrofoam on the seat sides in your boat will only keep it from sinking to the bottom of a lake. If you add a bow float bag you need to secure it in the boat. If you add a stern bag, remove one side of foam from the seat side and shove the deflated bag into the stern. Keep the air hose handy where you can inflate. You can drill a small hole for the hose if needed.

Alternate is remove both foam blocks and shove pool noodles back there.
Enjoy your boat.

Wow! There is a lot great information and advice here. Thank you all so much!

Celia asked above where I plan to paddle. There is a slow moving river where I live and the deepest spots are only about 6ft, so there should be no problem there. However there are also a couple of smallish lakes nearby that I love going to. They are big enough for pleasure crafts to ski, tube, wake board, that sort of thing and they’re pretty deep, at about 145 ft. Though I only plan on paddling on days with low wind and calm waters, I know sometimes things happen out of our control and the water can be a very dangerous place. Also I would like to be able to hop out of my boat for a swim and confidently be able to re-enter/self-rescue, so I have taken all of your advice and ordered some float bags for my boat.

There are a lot of great tips above and you can be sure that I will be making use them so thank you all very much!!!

I took my boat out for its maiden voyage at one of the lakes yesterday (a beautiful warm day) and I felt very secure and stable, no risk of tipping and it preformed exactly how I wished for my purposes. I had a great time and I can’t wait to go out on the water again soon.


Here’s a pic of the larger part of the lake as I was paddling back to the boat launch. It had started to get a bit windier in the evening so I decided it was time to pack up but I couldn’t resist taking another pic of this beautiful lake. :blue_heart: :sunny: :grin:

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Fill the ends of that pretty boat up with inflatable blow up monkeys and beach balls! A fully swamped pelican is a heavy beast so be careful dragging it onto shore. Try to empty it as much as possible before pulling it up on shore. Glad to see you are getting out and having fun!

The cockpit looks huge! Maybe just an illusion.
Or you are a tiny gal.

I have not gone on my pelican’s maiden voyage yet.
Tomorrow might be the day.

If you don’t see anymore posts from me?
It didnt go well…lol

As you see several posters are totally unfamiliar with Pelican kayaks, be careful of their comments. As some else said foam blocks are on sides of seat, and not really secure to the boat. Add pad eyes so you can also add bow bags.

Waist deep water. Tie a line to it. Turn it over. If it sinks you’ll know. Then pull it out. If it floats with bow down on the bottom that is not good either.