Outfitting canoes for multi-day class II

You’ve had a “heavy pack” sink?

– Last Updated: Feb-22-13 10:29 AM EST –

Since I've seen some really big, "heavy" packs floating like corks, I decided to see how much they'd have to weigh in order to sink. Using Duluth Pack's catalog specs for the volume of a #3 canoe pack (the #3 pack is the average size as canoe packs go), one can calculate that it would have to be loaded with more than 190 pounds of gear in order to sink, and just how are you going to accomplish that? I'm guessing, but I bet that if you stuffed the pack with a normal gear load and then tied three cast-iron Dutch ovens to the outside you might get it to weigh half that much (which of course means that it would still float really well).

Hmm, maybe you are talking about putting a cast-iron kettle in it's own pack? I never imagined that someone would do that. Such a pack would sink of course if not waterproof (though I bet a lot of them would float if waterproof), but it would be anything BUT "heavy".

It was bugging me so I looked it up.
Canoe Camping: An Essential Guide by Mark Scriver.

When we were on the San Juan, our
Maine Guides left it up to us about whether to tie our gear bags in the canoes. Probably they were reasoning that the rapids were relatively short, followed by just swift water, and that if bags floated loose, those waiting at the bottom of the rapid, like me, could snag them.

But with a scout group, I might have all of them tie the gear in, because I would not expect them to be as good at chasing loose gear as those in our party. And they might be a little more likely to swamp or flip.

not the only one
Mark is not the only person to make such a suggestion. This is an excerpt from “Canoeing: A Trailside Guide” written by Gordon Grant, a former head of whitewater instruction at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

“What about lashing all those waterproof containers into the canoe in case of a flip? There are two schools of thought on this. In one, all the gear is lashed in tightly so that there is no way it can shift at all. In the other, a single line is laced through the packs’ handles attaches them to the canoe at only one point – usually one of the thwarts. Although it seems to go against common sense, I prefer the second method for lake travel. There is no need for tight lashing as long as the packs fit fairly snugly in the boat. The purpose of the line is to keep your gear from floating away in the event of a flip. The line should be long enough that the packs will float alongside the canoe while you empty it of water. If the packs are securely lashed in, it is very difficult to empty the boat of water without unloading everything. Even in shallow water, lifting a canoe with packs in it is very difficult; having the packs lashed in makes gunwale-over-gunwale rescues improbable indeed.”

Note that Gordon only recommends this method for lake travel.

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Very helpful discussion–thanks!