Portaging: thwart -vs- yoke pads

This week’s upcoming trip will be our first involving significant portaging w/the new canoe. We’ve been training for 2 months now by several times a week backpacking in our woods 2-3 miles with heavy loads (60 - 90 lbs. each) and I’ve test-carried the canoe with these clamp-on padded yoke pads that came with the boat. I’ve found I can carry a heavy backpack load for an hour easily on varying terrain but the canoe yoke pads dig into my shoulders really painfully.

So my questions:

would I be better off just using the center thwart alone and spread the weight across my neck and shoulders by doing so? how about padding the thwart? what are the edvantages of using the pads over the thwart & vice versa?

I have the pads centered close to my neck such that the weight is being borne in the middle of my shoulders. Would it be better nearer the outer shoulder?

I’ve been tempted by the Knu-Pac portage aid but have unable to dig up enough solid positive feedback to justify experimenting with that, so for the time being I think I’m going to stick to carrying with pads or thwart and gear in a small internal frame backpack.

So what do the rest of you that put your boats on your back recommend? What methods/tricks/secrets can you share?

yoke pads
I can’t think you will like wood alone. I like the “cup” shaped yoke pads. Mountain Man has them for about $25

have them, tried them
the clamp-on pads I have are cupped. Maybe I’ll try spreading them out a little away from my neck.

Mike, how was your trip from Low’s to O week before last? Was thinking about you mid-Saturday afternoon when the rain came through from the South. We had just entered the north end of Dead Creek Flow heading south when the nasty weather hit. Hope you stayed dry, but I suspect you were somewhere on the Oswegatchie by then.

Thinking of carrying through from Long Pond to Fish and then Clamshell this weekend. Then back through to Little Clear. Any idea if Clamshell-Turtle carry trail is still closed? Would have preferred to take out in Hoel. How much of a chore is it to get back to Hoel through Hatchery Brook?


Yoke and pads

– Last Updated: May-11-04 1:59 PM EST –

Our Wenonah tandem (55-60 lbs) came with a "standard" yoke that I found to be extremely uncomfortable, even for relatively short portages and with attempts to cushion it. I replaced it with a contoured yoke and pads from Wenonah -- MUCH better. The curved shape of the yoke keeps it off my neck, and the pads keep the canoe centered on my shoulders and help cushion the load. Balances well. I've since portaged the boat for as long as 2+ miles, and while I was glad to have it over, I wasn't in complete misery the whole way.

Unlike a pack, the weight or a portaged canoe rests on your shoulders (unless you are also using a trumpline), while a good backpack will transfer the weight to your hips -- a very different feeling. Don't adjust the yoke pads too close to your neck, or the load will ride uncomfortably on the sides of your neck. On the other had, spread the pads too wide and the canoe can slip off the side of your shoulder. Play arund a bit with the pad locations. You should be able to comfortably (a relative phrase, to be sure) portage your canoe with the equipment you have. Good luck.

The best yoke I have ever used is one we made out of 3/4 inch ash. We attached sling style pads. They are aluminum and nylon. Absolutely great. I have portaged short distances with no pad and do not like it. The sling stlye gan be bought for 50 bucks at Piragis.com

Tips, Tricks & Secrets
Tip #1: Get someone else to carry the boat.

Trick #1: Tell that person the canoe is easier to carry than the backpack because the weight is spread out over 16 feet, rather than concentrated around the bearer’s body.

Secret #1: Go slow. Take it easy. Get there when you get there. Double the carry. Enjoy the walk. The woods are lovely now. Wake Robins & trilliums are in bloom, along with trout lilies…and the fiddleheads are just beginning to emerge. Wear a head net.

Hey Charlie,
I buit my yoke with a deep cut out for my neck and I padded it with pipe insulation. That was to be a temp thing, but 3 years later it is still good I put the pads on my shoulders, on the muscle halfway between the shoulder bone and the base of my neck. Kate took the measurement of the spread. I laid that out on the yoke and drilled the holes. Felt good.

We did not get any rain on Sat. 3 hours to double the portage, it was a nice walk. I singled it last year and I missed how nice it was. Sunday up and out early in the rain. I had to drive the others back to Horseshoe lake so I could not look for you. Headed to Little tupper Fri-Sun. Mike

Pads or Tump
I suggest you go with these pads. http://www.gear4portaging.com/pages/332068/index.htm

or you could try the straight thwart and tump.


Portage pads
are a matter of personal choice. But here’s my $.02 on the subject. I like a contoured ash yoke that goes around my neck with room to spare. I like the typical closed cell foam 4" wide x 8" long x 3" thick pads that bolt or firmly clamp on the yoke. I like the spacing of the pads to be midway on my shoulders for a large target area when one man lifting a canoe onto my shoulders. The pads need to be exactly on top of the leather straps of my pack. Occasional falls on portage trails happen with a canoe on my back. I want enough width between the pads so the canoe won’t twist you down or worse in that circumstance. Some people like cup or sling type pads, I don’t especially on long portages. A one mile back country portage is about 45 minutes of back time for me. After a while on a trail it is so nice to be able to shift the canoe (and the balance point) slightly backward or forward on my shoulders at will. A rectangular pad will allow you to do that.

It has to do with what you’re used to.
I routinely carry boats up to 65 pounds balanced on my head, but I got used to this over 30 years. I bought a 48 pound Bluewater Chippewa, and recently carried it only 1/8 mile using its padded yoke. The pressure on my shoulders quickly became quite bothersome, and I’m sure I could have done the distance more easily if there had been a surface I could balance on my head. One solution is to put a head strap or tump line on the portage yoke, so as to transfer pressure to where I am used to having it.

I have not tried a Kanu Pac, but I have tried using my old Kelty Mountaineer with extension loop to balance the triple saddle surface of my MR Synergy. Worked OK and was pretty comfortable.

Walk at a good clip
Back when I would carry a 63 lb plastic boat and 40 lb pack, I used a standard should thwart with my special foam pad/seat cushion/bug swatter. I knew my pace was 10 minutes per 700 meters, so I knew how long I could go before I got there. It really helps knowing. Somewhere around 27-30 minutes, I couldn’t stand the shoulder pressure and would have to take a break. Moving the boat around helped.

Hey Mike,
Any chance you’re planning to carry over to Lila? If so, email me, I’d like to see if we could hook up to share vehicles for shuttle purposes. I’m hoping to choose a trip by the end of the day today, and Rock Pond-to-Lila is high on my list. Didn’t want to deal with arranging for a shuttle since we travel alone. Would be interested in talking to you if you’re gonna be taking out at Lila Sunday morning. Let me know. Otherwise will probably stick to original plan carrtying through St. Regis area.



– Last Updated: May-14-04 4:07 PM EST –

I prefer no yoke, and replace it with a regular thwart.
With two paddles rigged between two thwarts, I have the paddle blades on my shoulders, my head between blades and hands on paddle handles.
Very little pain with no padding, and very good control grabbing the handles.
There is a way to set thin ropes such that you can get the two paddles on anf off easily.
I guess there are books explaining it with pictures (quite sure it's in the books from the Mason's ).

It does work and no yoke no padding.