Outfitting canoes for multi-day class II

Hi all!

I’m getting my two canoes ready to lead a San Juan trip this summer with the Boy Scouts (I’ve done this trip in my raft before, but this trip will be canoes). I have a Tripper and an AlumnaCraft - both 17’.

I would like to add attachment points on the gunwales of both canoes, plus attach D rings to the floors, in order to securely attach my gear into the boats. As my Tripper is Royalex, and my AlumnaCraft is aluminum, I expect the manner of adding attachment points will be quite different.

I would also like to talk the Boy Scout troop into doing the same thing with the troop’s canoes. I took this same troop down Ruby Horsethief last fall - great trip, but all of our gear needs a little work!

I haven’t done any permanent damage to either canoe (yet) - before I start drilling or glueing I thought I would ask the knowledgeable folks on Paddling.net

Thank you in advance for any suggestions - I’m really looking forward to this trip!

Cheers! Lynne

Don’t add rings. Run lines the length of the boat to stuff gear under. If you swamp, you will need to be able to remove gear quickly to empty the boat. Simply run the lines and wrap to the thwarts. Attach the gear ON TOP of the gear with biners for fast easy access. No modification to the boat needed.

river tripping outfitting
On river trips that involve any type of whitewater I would include provisions to add some supplemental flotation to your boats.

Tandem canoes usually have enough room in the stems for a pair of short tandem end bags, one behind the stern paddler’s seat and the other in front of the bow paddler’s legs. These will help the boat float a bit higher in the event of an upset. Bags and gear can be restrained under accessory cord made of nylon or some other synthetic material about 3 mm thick. A strap of nylon, polypropylene, or polyester webbing about 1" wide attached at the stem of the canoe on one end, and to an anchor on the floor of the hull at center on the other end will keep the bags in the hull below the gunwale line, and pushed up in the stems of the boat where you want them.

Accessory cord lacing that runs transversely back and forth just beneath or at the gunwale line can also be used to secure packs and gear under. In this case, you want to be able to easily lace and unlace the cordage.

I would not attach anything else to the gunwales. In the case of a capsize, you don’t want heavy gear attached at the gunwales hanging down into the water to get snagged. Gear attached to points at the gunwales also make boat-over-boat rescues difficult or impossible. Granted, boat-over-boat rescues may not be feasible for canoes with a lot of gear lashed in, but having a bunch of crap hanging from the gunwales can make getting the stem of a swamped boat up onto the bank so that it can be inverted and drained difficult.

On Royalex boats to which I wanted to add flotation bag lacing I have generally just drilled holes through the hull spaced about 4-6 inches apart and threaded the cord through. This works very well but if the cord needs to be repeatedly loosened or removed it becomes laborious. You can buy lacing kits that have nylon “inchworms” to thread cord through, or you can drill a pair of holes about 3/4" apart and run a short loop of accessory cord through each pair to function like an inchworm.

Small nylon “P clips” of the type sold by Radio Shack to secure coaxial cable also work well and are much faster to lace cord through than holes in the hull. These can be secured using aluminum pop rivets just under the gunwales of an aluminum boat, or to the undersides of synthetic gunwales on a Royalex boat using stainless steel sheet metal screws.

I have always used a vinyl adhesive such as Vynabond to secure D rings based on vinyl patches to the hulls of Royalex boats. I have not attached D ring patches to aluminum hulls. I doubt that Vynabond would work. Contact cement usually does not provide enough grip if there is any real tension on the D ring. West System’s G Flex epoxy (which can be purchased in smallish quantities for about $25) is said to work very well on aluminum and it will definitely bond vinyl D rings. If you use an epoxy it will not provide an immediate tack bond, however, and you will need to secure the patch in position with something like duct tape, and preferably gently weight the patch to avoid air voids while the epoxy cures.

rig for kneeling
you should add some form of kneeling pads, or at least a rubber mat of some kind contact cememted to the hull - makes kneeling much less of a pain, and keeps paddlers from sliding around on the bottom of the canoe at the time they need the most control.

Even cementing pieces of an old closed cell foam sleeping pad is a big improvement over a bare hull to kneel on

and I would recomend installing D-ring patches to the hull bottom. Aside from the bow and stern bags, the only real floatation you will have will be the gear in dry bags (I assume)- if they aren’t held in place solidly, they won’t offer much floataion (i.e. - they need to be anchored solidly if they will function to displace water).

Great advice so far.

– Last Updated: Feb-20-13 9:23 AM EST –

What's worked for me is to stash most of the gear between the seats then run two cam straps in an X across it. If you push everything together just so and insure every bag has a strap under the handle it's very secure. It also nestles nicely under the yoke which helps. Like Pblanc I glued D ring patches to the floor for securing bow and stern floatation bags, but I also made bomber bag cages by screwing little D rings to the gunwales (wood gunwales) and running paracord through them. I did drill pilot holes to prevent splitting. Some cringe at the idea of screwing anything to those beautiful ash gunwales, and I must admit I did too, but I finally gritted my teeth and did it. I think they look nice and they're very handy. The bags go in under the paracord lacing then get a cam strap lengthwise from the D rings to the handles. I agree that you'll want to have some kind of cushion for kneeling. I personally like the big kneeling/sitting pads. They're portable (no need to glue anything down that may or may not work for someone else who might end up paddling your boat)and in a pinch can double as a seat at camp or lunch. Harmony makes one. YMMV.

Have U done the B.S.A. Safety afoat
with your scouts ???

Easier and less-permanent knee pads

– Last Updated: Feb-20-13 11:01 AM EST –

I haven't glued kneeling pads into my boats. I use various foam pads from Bell or Cooke's Custom Sewing, and I just lay them on the bottom of the hull. Foam pads glued to the hull would get far too dirty and abraded in my boats - I can keep them and the boat a lot cleaner with removable pads. To keep them from slipping I install several "traction strips" on the hull. I find that the "indoor" variety of traction strip from 3-M works well (the outdoor variety needs to be "de-gritted" a bit because they are much more abrasive than what's necessary, and could potentially tear up your kneeling pad). To keep my knees from slipping forward on the pad in semi-severe paddling situations, I paint the knee area of the foam pad with "plastic dip" like what's used to coat tool handles. To keep my knees from slipping forward during much more severe paddling situations, I sewed a pair of canvas sleeves to the pad, one just ahead of each knee location, and inserted a short length of pool noodle into each sleeve. I find the sewn-in pool noodle to be a very solid support against knee-slippage, and the whole foam pad will not move under any circumstances with traction strips glued to the hull.

Obviously this type of outfitting would be less than ideal for really wild whitewater, but for what you describe it will be plenty good.

Attachment Points

– Last Updated: Feb-20-13 12:12 PM EST –

Pblanc covered attaching D-rings to the floor of a Royalex boat. In my Royalex boats, which are solo models, I've installed a set of four D-Rings ahead of the seat and behind it. Each set works great for tying packs to the floor. For a tandem canoe, I'd install about six or eight rings (three or four in a row on each edge of the floor) in the center part of the boat. D-rings on the floor will be far more effective at holding your gear down than tying ropes to anchor points on the gunwales, because the ropes will be "pulling down" and cinching everything tightly to the floor, rather than simply overlapping the top of your gear. Attachment points on the gunwales might be handy at times, but on a Royalex boat, I wouldn't install them for any purpose except to make a float-bag cage, and even then you are better off just drilling the hull as Pblanc describes.

I'll add one more note about gear that's lashed securely to the floor. Not only will it not get snagged on anything or get in the way during recovery of a swamped boat, it actually adds to the flotation of the boat. Ever see an unsecured gear pack get away from a swamped boat? Did you see how high it floats? It definitely helps if you can make your packs "one with the boat" by securely lashing them to the floor. Of course, this assumes your packs are either waterproof or properly lined with well-sealed plastic bags (NOT garbage bags - garbage bags are far too flimsy). By the way, there's no need to be able to quickly remove gear from your boat for recovery from a capsize. Since lashed-in gear aids flotation, it's actually easier to get your swamped boat to the shallows with the gear in than not.

For the aluminum boat, I think the ideal thing would be to get a welder to install aluminum patches, with D-rings, onto the floor (I've never heard of someone doing that, but of course it can be done). I also see no problem with bolting such patches to the floor (you already have rivets poking through, so tiny, round-head bolts would not make things any worse), but make sure you seal the contact surface between hull and patch. In the first case, you would need to make (or have someone make) custom patches, so this takes someone's talent and time (which may cost extra). In the second case, you could use steel patches, and can probably find them ready-made with D-rings attached, but they will rust (that wouldn't bother me - they'd still last virtually forever). Here's a case where D-rings bolted to the gunwales might be okay, but I'd keep the number to a minimum and avoid drilling holes any bigger than you have to. However, if you are only attaching ropes at gunwale height, the thwarts are already going to give you similar tie-down ability, so maybe skip the gunwale attachment points altogether. I guess another option would be to install them partway down the sides, proving better direction of pull for your anchor ropes but still not requiring waterproofing where you drill holes to attach the anchor plates.

On the river…

– Last Updated: Feb-20-13 11:36 PM EST –

You've received some good feedback regarding rigging the canoes; I won't add anything to that subject.

However, I would suggest that you have some practice sessions, with all participants, prior to actually getting on the river. Practice the recovery of people, boats, and gear. The time for such practice is NOT the first time those things occur on the river.
When I did river trips with scouts, every participant was trained in first aid, CPR, Basic Water Safety, and Intro to Canoeing.
Adults who accompanied the troop on those trips received the same training.
NO training; NO GO!

On the river the lead, center, and drag canoes were always manned by at least one adult, and all 3 of those boats had rescue gear available.
The scouts got a lot of boat recovery practice; assisting other paddlers who had "no" training.
The scouts were not allowed to "play games" while paddling; that was for break time. Not staying on schedule resulted in no breaks. I took most of the responsibility away from the adults; gave it to the scouts. They dealt with it just fine, after they learned the concept of receiving "natural consequences" for unacceptable/unsafe/childish behavior.
In many cases, the scouts handled things better than some parents who participated in the outings.

Scouts were broken down into food groups, and were responsible for their own meal cooking/cleanup.
Each food group had their own area when camping.
Food prep for the outings was done by the scouts.
Scouts inspected all campsites every morning for cleanliness/no gear left/fires out, before departure.
Scouts inspected all canoes for proper rigging every day before putting on the river.
Scouts assured that canoes maintained distance between each other while on the river.
Any canoe capsizing resulted in all canoes stopping & preparing to assist, if necessary.

Made my trip & theirs a lot less hassle, and a lot more fun, in my opinion.
I used the same methods on backpacking, caving, rockclimbing/rappeling, and Philmont trips.

Kids don't learn much (except irresponsiblity) when adults make all the decisions, do all the work & accept all the responsibilities.


I can’t picture what you’re suggesting.
Also, standard drill for emptying a gear-loaded canoe is to get it to the bank and roll it. Gear removal may not be necessary.

A hand pump will help remove water from a gear-loaded boat, and rolling will remove the last water.

If a canoe is too delicate to be rolled with gear in it, that canoe shouldn’t have been used on that river. Trippers and Alumacraft, no problem.

Second the Safety Afloat & Paddlecraft
Safety, and Safe Swim Defense, as good learning activities over a weekend before your trip. I’ve helped teach this program to Leaders and Senior Scouts in our and nearby councils. May become mandatory for Leaders soon. R

Am I the only one who thinks that
… chasing floating gear bags on class II only ups the fun factor?

(only half kidding)

I read a book last year
about canoe camping and the author recommended tying a rope to a thwart, running it through all the bags except for one, then tying the other end to that one. His argument was boat recovery and water extraction would be much easier without a boat full of gear and the gear would still be easy to recover when things settled down. Haven’t tried it because I generally canoe camp where boat recovery is extremely unlikely to be necessary, but…

tethering packs
Might be a reasonable idea for flat water trips as it allows easily getting the weight out of the boat to allow a boat-over-boat rescue to be done if a capsize occurs some distance from shore.

Probably not a good idea for river tripping as the tethers can pose an entanglement hazard. Most river tripping is done close enough to shore so that the most reasonable thing to do is to get the boat to the shallows by shore, get one stem up on the bank a bit, and invert the boat to empty it.

Horsing a capsized canoe to shore towing a string of packs tied to it out in the current is a lot more difficult than if the gear is secured within the hull. It also negates the beneficial effect of the buoyancy of the packs providing flotation for the canoe.

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Can’t recall specifically,
but I think his point was that the boat and paddlers would be well downstream of the lighter packs, in which case entrapment wouldn’t be as much of a concern. However, as you said, if the packs remained in the boat they would displace water which would be helpful. Think I’ll just continue with my cam strap X.

Free floating packs(anchors)

– Last Updated: Feb-21-13 2:16 PM EST –

Tying a rope to a thwart, then tying the rope to a string of packs which float free if the canoe capsizes can easily result in "boat entrapment".
If one of the packs gets caught on a boulder or strainer, the canoe may continue downstream until it reaches the end of the rope end attached to the thwart. Then, if the water flow is strong; the thwart used as an attachment point may snap from the combined weight of gear, canoe, and water in the canoe. Wood gunwales may also be damaged, as thwarts are attached to the gunwales.Seen it happen.

I personally like for my packs to remain secured inside the canoe, and ideally kept below the height of the gunwales. I will tie very small items(sponge, canteen, pump, etc.) to the thwart in front of me, on a short line that presents little to no entanglement issue.


Makes sense.
As I said, never tried it and can’t imagine I ever will.

It could have been by Bill Mason

– Last Updated: Feb-21-13 8:42 PM EST –

In one of his early books, Bill Mason recommended a tether system like what you describe, but some years later he changed his mind, and if I remember correctly, he came to the conclusion that tying packs securely in the boat was a better method. He wrote about changing his method in a later book. Since a lot of people go by what he wrote, even a recent book might recommend the same as what's in an early book by Mason.

its like fast food
quick and convenient. Here’s how its done in a flash.

1} clovehitch on center thwart

2} atttach one trailing end with a bowline to a packframe or packloop

3}attach other trailing end with a bowline to other pack.

4}set packs frame side down, tuck extra rope under the packframes.

It will keep you from losing you packs in the event of an unexpected capsize.

A heavy pack- like a kettle pack will sink like a heavy anchor- it should always be lashed in

in whitewater, whitecaps, or other rough conditions all packs should be lashed in.The packs provide extra flotation and the rope hazard is minimized by lashing. However, it is a pain in the butt to unlash to drain boat completely- which is sometimes necessary.

all packs should be goose necked with liners. Trash compactor bags and heavy duty rubber bands work well for this.Poor man’s dry bag!

That’s how I did it in the boyscouts. Worked well for me.

if you let the gear remain loose on the
San Juan you will have a heck of a chase. Tethers are risky because of entrapment risk.

You are right to tie in. Yes rescue is harder but not impossible if all the gear is below the rails. Please I hope you are not using seat backs…those are a huge impediment.