portage packs

Related to another thread I have here…opinions on the many portage packs available for both short and long carries. Granite Gear’s Immersion looks like a winner but pricey. Sealline’s Boundary Packs also look good and are priced better. Knudsen’s EZ pack side loader is a great practical idea but a monster. Thoughts on these and others are appreciated.

I go for the pricey stuff
as its a better value over the long haul… Now I did carry the Seal Line Boundary 115 over a three mile portage and it was not very fun. Its OK for shorter…Have to admit that I have had it for fifteen years and its seen over two hundred canoe trips and finally the buckles ripped through so it gave me lots of service.

For solo trips of two weeks I use a 30l barrel with a Ostrom Voyageur harness and a Woods Mason Pack that is about 90 liters. The Woods Packs might be available still thought the company ceased business last year.

This year we got a Cooke Custom Sewing Guide Pack and an Ostrom Liner to waterproof it from the inside. The liner is quite a bit bigger than the bag on purpose. With the Boundary Bag (Seal Line) we always tended to overstuff it so if we dumped it leaked. We travel where this can be more of an emergency than an inconvenience,so when that pack died I had already used the Mason Pack with the Ostrom Liner (I can fold that liner so water tight you can play football in the water with the pack)…So far we are happy with the arrangement.

We find that a relatively stiff back panel and a good hip belt as well as a good sternal strap are essential. Sometimes a tump on the packs would be nice and I do have one on the Ostrom barrel harness. It comes in handy when I stack stuff on top of the barrel

portage packs
Not sure if you are planning a solo trip or if these are portage packs you are getting for a tandem canoe. You need to plan accordingly if these packs will be used in a solo canoe. Solo canoes may have narrow gunnel width so you need to be sure that the packs you buy fit where you want them in the boat. You may need to buy 2 small to moderate sized packs (or a pack and a barrel) to distribute your gear weight both in the bow and in the stern in order to keep the canoe trimmed correctly. You should also consider what is the maximum weight you would want to carry on a portage. Maybe it makes sense to carry the canoe and a small pack on the first trip across and get the rest on the second.

I use the Granite Gear expedition series portage packs and highly recommend them. They are the most comfortable packs I’ve used, even when I’ve stuffed up to 60 lbs in a Superior One. I do not own a GG Immersion portage pack so I can’t comment on how it performs. But I can tell you that if I had one on a wilderness trip, I would still use a liner inside, and stuff that needed to be kept dry would still be in dry bags until I was sure that the laminated material the pack is made of would not wick water on a rainy day when the pack is sitting in water all day long in the bottom of a canoe.

We like the NRS "Bills Bags"
they are a large dry bag with back strap carry straps and also have a side carry handle.

Nice and easy to use.

They are waterproof and also make great seats at the camp site.

They are not low slung though!



I will add that I both solo and tandem
my pack collection is 30 and 60 barrels and the Ostrom harness (it fits both…thankfully for that price). We only take one or the other on any given trip.

The packs: either one will fit in my solo boat. My solo is a Swift Heron which is 26 inches wide at the gunwales (its got beefy wood gunwales, thats not the stock measurements…we destroyed the aluminum rails). Compression straps give you some measure of adjustability on the packs. I do prefer the Mason pack as I dont need any more room for solo.

The other thought about pack liners versus waterproof packs is the liners are less exposed to damaging items… catch a pack on a screw and you could have a problem…I have evolved to liking clean exteriors without things to hang up on anything.

Also make sure your pack can be picked up by grab handles. One at the back top, one at the top on each side and one ont he back bottom are very useful.

I use
My wife and I use 3 packs on multiday trips in the BW some of which have had mile plus portages. One is a big Duluth back that carries a lot of stuff. Tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tarp and cord, bug net, camp shoes, hatchet, folding saw, small tackle box. The second is a backpack I use for my 30 L barrel. The third is a smaller (long weekend type) backpack that carries clothing, extra fuel bottle in a pocket, and misc stuff. This one we use as a day tripping pack when base camping. We double portage enjoying the woods. I carry the canoe and the Duluth pack, wife the others. We pack almost everything in the bags. The Duluth pack is heavy when loaded, but its not having a hip belt doesn’t bother me. We hand carry only fishing rods and paddles (you can lash these in the canoe if you like - I figure I have free hands when carrying the bags so why bother lashing - unless there is hand/knee scramble type portage then I lash). This has worked for us for several years. Depends on what you let bother you. Get good quality packs, but don’t over think bells and whistles.

dont mean to hijack this at all
but a major shortcoming of a Duluth pack is the lack of a hip belt…sometimes.

If you are in an area that you have to hop side to side to miss waist deep holes the lack of side to side stability will knock you over.

We were up near the Albany River(that feeds into James and Hudson Bay) this June with portages mostly flooded and hopping from one side to another (while facing forward) -in the search of dry footing was really hard with a Duluth Pack. I wound up doing more than one face plant in the alders…and couldnt get up!

(we were on a portage maintenance team and those packs were about 55-60 lbs)

However for uphill the tump on a Duluth is excellent!

Granite Gear Immersion is a fine pack. I used to use two Woods Mason packs with plastic bag liners. Now I have two Immersion packs, they pack and carry easier, weigh only a few ounces more, and no fuss with an inner liner. I also use the Granite Gear thwart bags and they clip easily to the lash tabs on the pack. The tabs on a Bear Vault fit the Immersion tabs, too. The Immersion is not much bigger than the Woods Mason, but has a better harness and support system. The Woods Mason is no longer being made.

The Seals Boundary Pack is okay for short hops. I use one for day trips. It’s a … on portages.

The Knu pack I’m not familiar with, but I long ago ruled out the practicality of the Knu pack portage system.

Barrels are always an option, I have a 30L with Headstrong Harness. The barrels are heavy and awkward. A good harness is expensive. However, barrels are raccoon and mouse proof, and make a good table or seat. I carry everything that has a smell in my 30L, including cookware, toothpaste and bug dope.

For extended solo tripping a Granite Gear Immersion, 2 Granite Gear thwart bags and the 30L barrel are enough. A lot of my tripping is in areas where bears are hunted heavily so are not a problem in camp. In fact, I’ve seen only two bears in 10 years, in areas where dozens are killed each year in hunting season. Shorter trips where bears are a problem I leave the 30L home and pack dehydrated food into the Barrel Vault. It carries enough for a week-long solo.

well the Immersion is a little more
pricey than the Mason was!I got mine for forty five bucks and its been a great pack for the six weeks I have used it in the boreal forest.I got it somewhere in Ohio…but never mind its not being made any more…

I still believe in double dryproofing so there are a variety of systems. I dont depend on a single roll down bag and everything that is useless when wet gets drybagged in a Sea to Summit drysack. plus in the waterproof sack liner…they slide very easily into any pack and its more insurance.

Just bought
a woods whitewater it was a good price and seems like a nice pack.

I’ve used a few. My favs are a Northwoods pack with a custom waist belt from Duluth Pack, a medium sized Cooke Custom Sewing pack, and the Sealline Boundary Day 35.

I use the 35 for trips up to five days. My gear list is here: http://www.nessmuking.com/35day2.htm

I wish that Sealline would make a 45 or a 50 the same way they do the 35, because it would be the perfect size for light and fast trips. The 70 is just too big and uncomfortable.

Frost River
I bought a Frost River Old No. 7 for a recent, and my first, trip to the Boundary Waters. Besides the shoulder straps, it has a waist belt and a tump line. To my surprise, I found the tumpline to help considerably, and my neck was not stiff and sore the next day.

For a smaller (1700 cu. in) pack, I bought a German ruck sack for about $20–you can’t beat the price. It’s heavy canvas, not leather straps, but a water resistant bottom and top, and it has a waist belt. I haven’t used it yet, but will take it on day trips or maybe use as a food pack.


Solo canoe packs
What DuluthMoose says about packing for a solo trip is absolutely correct; I saw something last weekend at Rutabaga that speaks directly to the point and provides a most elegant solution. Ostrom has come out with a Solo Canoe Pack that is actually two packs in one. It is carried as a normal pack would be (and looks like one), but before it is put into the canoe it unsnaps (horizontally) into two different bags. These are placed (somewhat obviously) forward and behind the paddler. They fit great in a narrow solo and can be easily moved with your paddle to adjust trim. A bit pricey ($239, I think) but, like all the Ostrom stuff, it looks to be pretty much bomb-proof and comes with all the attachment points one could ask for. A super new product that every solo paddler I know will probably lust after…

I have an Oasis canoe pack and it’s great! 100L with a roll top that adds 15 more, full internal style harness,lift handles top and bottom front, lift ears at the top, lashpoints, compression straps and a front pocket. It’s not waterproof,but I didn’t want that- i use drybags for clothes, food and sleeping bag, and don’t care if the tent’s wet or not

We bought a large Watershed bag
for the guitar and uke. It has done well so far. We avoid portage so our hauling is minimal. We have some Sealine Boundary packs and some smaller dry bags to spread the load. We travel in Mowhawk solos.

Portage packs
Granite Gear packs are well made, we have a couple and they’ve served us well. As I recal they’re the Superior and Quetico packs. We lined them with large plastic bags available from Piragus. The GG Immersion pack looks good as well and would not require the added liner bag. But it doesn’t have the little pockets on the sides like some other portage packs so the side cinch straps can’t be used (as efffectively) for hauling things like tent and wing poles. That missing feature takes them off my “wish list”.

There’s another pack that hasn’t been mentioned in this thread yet and it’s worth looking into if budget is a concern. Check out the Chinook Chemun portage packs available online or at some Canadian paddle shops direct (maybe in the States as well??). The Chemun pack is very inexpensive (compared to GG packs) but is pretty well made & usefull. Lots of good featured for the price.

We have piles of packs and bags ranging from NRS dry duffles & Bill’s Bags to SeaLine packs. Some we use for local day trips and some are used for true portaging with long carries. In my opinion a well designed set of shoulders straps and a padded waist belt are key to “real” portage packs. If they can’t be strapped on securely they’ll flop around and be a PIA on tough portage trails. Get the real deal for portaging - it’s money well spent and will last a lifetime.

Granite Gear Quetico
is what I have. Quite pleased with it. I use an Ostrum’s roll-down liner, which can be pulled from the pack and taken into the tent for convenience.

One neat feature of the GG packs is that it is possible to reach your arm down through the back pad sleeve, grasp the middle of the waist band, and pull it up to the shoulder strap attachment point. This will stow the waist belt halves when not needed.