Paddle kneeling

For those who wilderness tip in a canoe and paddle kneeling, I have a question. Do prefer installed knee pads, or a portable one when portaging on longer trips?

Has to be carried either way.

For portaging, installed.
If weight were a concern, minicell knee cups are quite light.

kneeling pad
I’ve used both. All of mine are glued in now. As was said, minicell knee-cups add little weight. Plus it’s one less thing to remember to pack.

The only folks I wouldn’t recommend gluing down knee-pads for are those that sit better than 75% of the time…


I can’t think of any reason not to
install them? It’s just one less thing to worry about.


– Last Updated: Feb-03-07 3:32 PM EST –

minicell knee pads in some of me solos such as me MR Guide and OT Cascade, but not in me freestyle canoo dat ah' likes ta move around in an' de larger boats such as my Prospector dat ah' paddle Canadian style. Fer dem ah' uses a Bell T-pad.


Buy minicell floor tiles from Lowes
In the flooring section at Lowes or Home Depot, costs $16 for 16 square feet of minicel with 2x2 squares that fit together like a jig saw. Cut 2’ x whatever length it takes to fit bottom of of your canoe from gunnel to gunnel. Make it long enough to plant knees and ankles on the minicell. Smooth and soft for hours on your knees and ankles. Insulates your feet from cold water. Reduces wear and tear on canoe bottom from sand on your boots. When you portage the minicell stays in place. If it doesn’t just tack it at the middle with small squares of sticky back velcro.

At camp take it out and use it for kneeling at the stove or put it in your tent vestibule to sit on to take your boots off, or use it for extra padding under your thermarest, or for a seat against a tree in camp, or a dog bed, or???

When kneeling
I just use a loose piece of foam under my knees. When I portage, I lash it to a thwart. It doesn’t weigh anything so the balance isn’t altered. The foam deteriorates over time and needs replacement and I do not like the idea of peeling glued foam off the floor of my canoe. Foam also makes a good bailer.

Kneeling pads for tripping
When tripping in the Canadian Shield over the years I’ve seen many different set-ups. Some trippers don’t use pads at all, very few use full size kneeling pads and many use glue-in knee pads. When tripping we use loose kneeling pads, but instead of heavy full-size pads we use light-weight 1/2” thick yoga/exercise mats made of closed-cell foam so they do not absorb water - cut to fit as needed. Extra wide light-weight sleeping pads are basically the same as the yoga pads. Both are lighter and less bulky than most kneeling pads. Bell T pads work, but are heavier. The “puzzle-fit” floor mats also work but are heavier still. Both of the later are well suited for FreeStyle, but not so great for tripping because of the excess weight. For the yoga/sleeping mats I use Velcro straps to roll them up & hold them in place in the canoe when portaging. Though not as luxurious as regular full-thickness kneeling pads they sure beat the glue-in jobs for over-all comfort and utility. With a loose pad you can use it anywhere you want in the canoe (bow/stern/soloing) you also have the freedom to put your knees where you want (spread out, one in chine – one centered, or both in one chine with the boat heeled Canadian style). A loose pad means you’ll have cushioning where you need it, not just two small fixed spots. Loose pads also double as a nice soft place to sit at camp or while away from camp for a lunch break - wherever. They are a bit more hassle & weight than glue-ins, but well worth it in my opinion. Anyway, that’s what works for us - Randall

yoga pad vs. 1/2" minicell
Hi Randall, you made some good points so just out of curiosity I took my electronic scale and weighed my 2x4 1/2" minicell at 2.4 # and my 2x6 yoga pad at 1.8#.

So the minicell weighs 1 pound more, but gives me a lot more support and stays rigid in the bottom of the boat so I don’t have to mess with velcro ties and wrapping it around a thwart, just pick up the boat and go. Even in a capsize with the boat full of water the minicell stayed put with the 2" velcro tack at the bottom.

The minicell doesn’t wad up and move around in the bilge and I can spend an hour on my knees with the minicell, compared to probably only a few minutes at a time with the yoga pad which measures 1/4" thick. So for me the extra pound is worth it in comfort and portability. But then I tend to pack heavy and seek a little more luxury than some.

Say, how are you feeling these days? Hope everything is going well for you.


wide removable pad
I use an old Grade VI Kneebed. It’s a two-piece thingie with a wide, sticky pad for the knees in front and a smaller, slick pad for the feet in back. Long use has molded it to the shape of a solo canoe, and it is just the right length to tuck in under the gunwales, so when the boat is upside-down for portaging, the pad just locks in place. No need to tie it in, except for long downhill portages, when it might slide forward.

At lunch stops, it comes out of the boat and becomes a seat.

I think Charlie Wilson of Placid Boatworks has a new, possibly improved version. It looked a little heavier and might not be wide enough to tuck under the gunwales.

– Mark

Hi Andy
I cut down the yoga pad to fit rail to rail – it doesn’t move around, but it’s not stiff enough to stay in place. I never weighed one, but I know they’re considerably lighter than most pads I’ve used.

We’ve been going through a major “weight reduction” approach to tripping as we’ve taken on longer and longer portages in recent years. Last summer our longest was a 1½ mile carry up in Algonquin; there were a few other lengthy carries as well on that trip. As oldsters those long portages really beat us up, but we made it – and smiled large at the end. In preparation for that trip we (once again) did all we could to reduce weight. That’s when we found the yoga pads – very light weight. As my good wife is fond of saying “every once adds up to pounds”. Each year we attempt to take less and less weight.

FWIW, I’ve portaged some pretty good distances with a full size Bell “Kneeling Bed” (now discontinued). Now that’s a heavy pad! (but the best). The only thing heavier is one of those old school Grade VI pads – like carrying lead weights – and bulky beyond belief - but oh so comfy!

Anyway, for tripping I’m into ounce saving. For other situations where I’m not carrying everything on my back for miles I’ll use my big ol’ Bell and smile large. I love that pad – Thanks to Brian (Clarion) for finding it for me at BMO some years ago. The puzzle floor mats also work well. I see lots of Freestylers using them and yes, they are very comfortable and very inexpensive. AAA

As to my health situation… It just gets better and better each day. I’m thankful for the slack God gave me on that one! …could have been SO much worse. I’m walking 3 brisk miles daily and doing lots of belly building exercises. I should be back on the water very soon – a few more weeks tops. Hey, I should carry MORE not LESS! THAT would build muscle quicker! ;^) - Randall

closed cell foam
I just used a strip of closed cell foam made for backpackers to be used as a sleeping pad. Rolls up small fits in any dry bag if I need to portage.

glued in minicell foam. There are just a few positions I use kneeling in tripping situations so a rail to rail pad is not necessary.

Depends on where you are tripping. I do most of mine north of the 50th parallel where there are few maintained portages and blowdown is an everyday hassle. So for that reason I dont take an independent pad. I have even found out that for a couple of weeks trip I can do without the knee pads if I wear pants (that are usually toast by the end of the 200 km outing)

For at home freestyle I like one of six or seven pads I have. Some are HD puzzle pads that I use for student boats but a couple are heavy duty thick ones for all day classes. All have a minicell core and go rail to rail. The neoprene covering that allows squeak free weight transfer sure makes those puppies expensive.

Nylon skin keeling pad bulk sizes
Sweet Composites sells the nylon skinned kneeling pads for way less than Bell or the others