Portaging a Canoe— on you head

Yesterday I installed a minicell saddle in my Yellowstone Solo. With the other bits of outfitting the boat probably weighs about 50 lbs. Today I carried the boat from the car to the lake (and back) by balancing the saddle on my head. I’ll almost never have to deal with long portages, and can’t imagine that I’ll have have to carry it this way for more than 50 yards or so. It wasn’t difficult. I feel fine. Is this safe, though? I have a part-time padded yoke I could use if I have too, but I don’t want to mess with it if I don’t have to.

Safe for my back and neck or not?

Not sure…can you put the gunwhale on your shoulder and your arm on that side will hold the thwart to keep everything steady? It’s like lugging a 50lb feed bad on your shoulder.

I can indeed.
I did the outfitting inside my house so the temps would be high enough for the contact cement to set. In order to fit the boat through the door by myself, I carried it on one should through the door and then to the car. I CAN do it, but I feel unbalanced (which also might not be good for the back) and then I had to go from that position to the roof racks (which was difficult.) With it on my head, I was comfortable, balanced, and it went on the roof racks smoothly.

I wonder how much weight those African women carry on their heads? Off to Google to find out. hmmm…

I think I’m safe
I found this: “Maximum permissible weight to be carried on the head by a male worker from eastern India is 30 kg.” (66 pounds.) Women in Kenya typically carry 20% of their body weight on the head. I also found someone saying women routinely carry 30 liters of water on their heads (about 64 pounds.) I think I’ll be okay.

I do it
regularly. I try to use my arms to take as much weight as possible while retaining balance. Encores about 60 pounds.

I’ve head-carried boats for 30 years,

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and while it isn't always pleasant, I've done it without side effects. (Well, at one time, I was getting a little buzz in my greater auricular nerve, but the docs could not find impingement on x-ray.)

WW OC-1s often must be headed because the solo pedestal does not allow placement of a portage yoke, and the weight of OC-1s may make a shoulder carry difficult. (Though I once designed a pedestal that included a portage yoke.) Decked c-1s have small cockpits that sometimes make shoulder carries harder, but the pedestal is in exactly the right place for head carries.

Having the boat on your head actually has a steadying effect when crossing rougher terrain. But use your judgement. Sometimes you have to put the boat down and drag it over bad spots.

Studies of energy expenditure of people carrying loads on their heads versus carrying loads in backpacks have actually shown that head carrying is more efficient. Millions of African women can't be wrong. (The men are too lazy to carry.)

The "throw" to get a canoe up on your head is similar to that used to get a portage yoke on your shoulders. Best to practice light and work up. And if you start to fall, be ready to use your arms to throw the boat off to one side, into some soft bushes.

I've head-carried boats up to 70 pounds up the quarter mile exit trails on the Chattooga. I've head carried boats up to 50 pounds for up to a half mile uphill. Not pleasant, but I prefer solo head carrying to tandem carries.

Greenlanders do!
Greenlanders carry their skin-on-frame boats on their heads or heads and shoulders. I’ve been doing it lately and it works well for me.

G in NC

I do head portages
And with the exception of it rubbing off my hair I have had no problem. ( unless bald bothers you )

Wear a hat
I wear a hat to prevent rubbing off my hair, make sure it’s not a ball cap with a button on top though.

RIT in the Frozen Four, Go Tigers!!

I wouldn’t take a chance
on heading it. Having just seen (a couple of months ago) an X-ray of my lower spine with compressed discs there’s no way I’d want the same in my upper spine/neck area. And no warning. Sort of like hearing loss. It’ll show up as you get older and then it’s too late. jmho.

Dont do it man, I just saw a special on The Discovery Channel…contrary to popular belief…once the human head is gone, it’ll never grow back! Sure, it’s likely that hands and arms could grow back…, we’ll wait for science to determine that one, but you got to protect your head man. Once it’s gone,it’s gone dude.

really :wink:

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I have had back issues in my past, 12 compressed vertebrae, 4 ruptured discs, 7 broken ribs, from a car wreck years ago, then getting broadsided a few years back gave me a case of whiplash and "traumatized" back. I find now that I'm relatively solid again and use my arms for support, head carries aren't an issue. This thread got me motivated today, and my second carry of my Encore (4 carries in 2 days, well actually 8...put-in 4 times/take-out 4 times) today, I left my electric bilge pump, dry bag and 2 paddles in my boat. Just saw an article on AMC site about using a tump line and portaging using your head, rather than shoulder area due to less issues with neck vertebrae.
Haven't lost my head yet, mind went long before I ever started head carries.

I will emphasize how much easier things are on the neck due to carrying weight on arms as well, though.

Yeah, when carrying my ~ 65 #
Mad River Synergy, I do use my arms to take some of the “bounce” off my head. And if I have to carry it a distance, I throw it up on the extension crossbar of my old Kelty Mountaineer backpack frame.

Fifty pounds and less is fairly easy, and my slalom c-1 is so light, heading it is nothing.