Recommend end bags for Mohawk Challenger

I was thinking about adding bags to my Mohawk Challenger canoe (Father of and similar to the Odyssey, 14 ft. solo tripper). I plan on leaving the cane seat in, but want to fill a good bit of the boats volume with flotation. I’ll be using the boat to learn solo river (simple whitewater) running and want to keep it a tripper. I don’t think a saddle would be worth it. I’d also rather rivet eyes into the gunnels rather than drilling holes into the royalex and threading retaining rope through them.

Any suggestions? I know Mohawk sells bags, but wanted to ask if there are any other options people recommend.



What do you mean? Garbage bags of Styrofoam shipping peanuts? Ping pong balls? Empty plastic liter jugs? Empty wine bags? Tire inner tubes?

Do yourself a favor and get the bags from Mohawk.

72" Mohawk Bags
The Mohawk bags I’ve bought are as good or better than the nylon Voyager and Harmony I’ve also had. They cost less too.

NRS bags were pretty beefy but they only sell a 57" end bag these days and it doesn’t look like the same bag from what I see on their website.


I too attached them to the gunnels
I used stainless screws to attach little plastic cable holders to the bottom of my gunnels. That method has worked fine for me so far for attaching the bags.

check Ebay and the like
I think I got mine on Just a generic set of Giam’s, but I bought two for just about the price of one. Then I got Anchor strips to keep them in. I think they look nice and have alot of use. I picked them up at Rutabega.


Strap 'em on and plunge in
I have the Mohawk bags in my Odyssey 14 and also did not want to drill all those holes. Mohawk sold me some extra web straps and clips they use to secure the bags fore and aft. I asked them to make web loops with female clips ready to bolt to the gunnels similar to their web yoke system. For each bag, I drilled and bolted three sets of female clips along the gunnels. I then clip straps across the bags. They work great to secure camping gear also and go on and off in seconds.

Go easy, fellah
I mean end bags (a.k.a. float bags), which is why the title clearly mentions “end bags”. Just asking if there are other valid choices besides what Mohawk has to offer, but it sounds like their bags are a good deal.

I’ve put to much work into fixing this boat up to resort to ghetto flotation.


If you put eyelets in the gunwales, you
weaken the gunwales. If you drill holes in the Royalex, you weaken the Royalex. My personal opinion is that it is easier to drill the Royalex, and weakens the boat less than drilling multiple holes in the gunwales.

Tommy, 72" bags?? I’ve used 30"
end bags in my MR Synergy for ten years without a problem. I wouldn’t even go to 60" bags unless I were to start running the Ocoee routinely again.

14’ boat - 11’ of airbag leaves 3’
of cockpit.

My Osprey is 15’ and I’d use longer bags if I could find them.

My theory is more airbag = less water in a dump. They also help some with windage.

But to g2d’s point smaller bags will still keep the boat reasonably high in the water when it’s run off without you. The main purpose of the bags being to protect the boat from pinning in that situation.


Your post wasn’t clear on that point. You asked for “any other options” and I listed a few I have heard of people using. No insult to you intended. Just a misunderstanding.

Again, as stated below, the Mohawk bags are your best bet.

Bag lengths…
Mohawk states that their 60 inch bags inflate to 51 inches and their 72’s inflate to 64 inches. Since my thwart to bow/stern measurements are just about 50 inches (14 ft. boat), I imagine the 60’s would do well leaving just about 5.5 feet of cockpit space . With only 1.75 inches of rocker, this isn’t a whitewater boat, but it has full ends that ride over waves pretty well and can be edged right to the gunnels to the point of taking on water without flipping. If 60s are enough to reduce inevitable bailing (when I fall out) and make the boat even more tolerant of my boneheaded desire to plow through wave trains, I’ll go with them.

The thwarts are riveted from the outside, so any lacing will require new holes. Since I just repaired the hull, I’m reluctant to introduce new penetrations. I like the strap and buckle idea; would three crosswise plus a lengthwise strap be sufficient to anchor 50 inches of bag? Or should I go with four? I figure if 8-10 small holes per end were going to make or break the vinyl coated aluminum gunnels, the boat is in a situation where it doesn’t have much of a fighting chance anyway. Fair enough?


Class of WW ?
What class of WW are you planning on running in “Ol Red”? II-III? It’s important to note what looks good when the canoe is floating may not work when it’s submerged, full of water and heading for a strainer or rock garden. There’s a lot of pressure on the bags to “pop out”. I would suspect a cage of two or three crosses of webbing. Every good outfitting job I have seen has had cross lacing at 4" intervals from the bow or stern to bag end and one or two longitudinals to the bilge.

Check out Mike Yees Outfitting:

Mohawk used to have installation instructions too but I am not sure they made the crossing.

Whether you attach to the gunnels or drill through the hull is your decision.

On the river
You want the bags to keep the boat floating as high as possible to prevent (hopefully) pinning.

I’ve seen what I thought were reasonably well secured bags ripped right out of a boat by the current.

I got my Explorer pinned good with 30" end bags in a class II drop. The bags stayed in but just wern’t enough to keep the boat from pinning. It was a chore for 3 of us to free it and left a nice crease in the royalex.

The longer I paddle the more I believe you can’t have too much flotation and you can’t secure it enough.

These days all of my royalex boats are drilled every 5" under the gunwales and laced with cord. I also use a minimum of two lash points on the floor in front of the bag.

Friday I managed to pin my Outrage briefly. I was able to climb out on the rock and, after a bit of a struggle, shift it to where the current took the bow and free’d it. I’m pretty sure that big, well secured airbags made the difference between a brief pin and a wrap.



“Ol Red”

– Last Updated: Apr-10-07 4:54 PM EST –

The standard reliable run around here varies from a non technical I+, II(III) depending on the level. Where I go from there is anyone's guess. About the time I picked up "Ol' Red", I was terminally bitten by a few fun river runs in my kayak. I didn't originally purchase the Challenger for anything other than flatwater and slow rivers, but it seems like a pretty competent boat for this largely incompetent paddler to learn in.

It isn't much of a stretch to go from "I'll drift down rivers" ---> "well, more interesting water would be fun" ---> "Adding flotation is a good idea" ---> "Might as well do it right the first time and cram huge bags in there". I could probably run 'er "as is", but where would be the fun in that? It's the engineer in me that makes it hard not to go overboard on these kinds of projects. Stop me before I mentally sketch up an automatic electric bilge pump system.

I have a ton of Seattle Fabrics "dive mesh" left over from another project and have considered making a retaining system out of that. Anchor points along the gunnels and dual D-rings on the hull at each end would make the ultimate bag and gear hold-down. It's a very tight, strong mesh, but I wonder if it'd unduly increase the danger of hangups. Any worse than cord zig-zagging across the bow, that is...

Mohawk still has pictures on their site showing the single strap and lacing. Just seems like there's a better way.


Ol Red
Didn’t you purchase the Challenger from incanoe (Kuhn)? If so Jeff was with me on the Upper Missinaibi several years ago with her. Handled

CII-III pretty good then. No bags, just trippin packs tied in.

I am currently paddling a M’hawk solo 14 which really doesn’t have enough shear for CII. I am planning on adding a spray skirt sometime.

dive mesh
I’ve seen bag restraint systems using similar (at least by description) mesh. I think it’s about the slickest thing around but I’ve never seen any for sale. I don’t know how old the ones I saw were.

Each was made of a double layer of mesh with a decent sized zipper running across the top layer - basically turning each into a large snug mesh bag for small items like gloves, splash top, etc. They were laced in around their perimeter using the same holes or eyes along the gunnels that traditional lacing would use.

The bags were locked it as tight and elegant as any other design I’ve seen. Anybody know who may still carry them???

Sup Hoz?
Yep, that’s my old boat and you’re right…she did pretty well in the WW we ran on the Missinaibi considering there was 2 weeks worth of gear aboard. Also was impressed with how well she did on the big lakes, especially on Missinaibi Lake in the wind. Still kind of miss that old boat. Lots of miles and lots of history. I’d say that for C-II bags aren’t really needed, but I’d definitely add them for C-III which holds true for any canoe. Someone (I think NRS) used to offer floatation tie downs that were glued in with Vynabond. I put them in an old OT Tripper I had and they held really well. I’m not sure they’re sold any more, but maybe gluing in some small D-rings would work. Just need to prep the area real well so they don’t pull off. Might be an alternative to drilling.

Lemme make a pair…
…and figure out how much it costs and I’ll sell ya the second set I make! My idea is zipperless, but adding a pocket for doo-dads or a spare paddle sounds like a good idea.


tie downs and question…
I have to say I kinda doubt my drilling vertical holes straight through my gunnels (and running a stainless bolt with kepnut to hold a folded section of 3/4" flat webbing every 6" or so on the underside to serve as tie-down points) did much to weaken the structural integrity of the gunnels. Just my opinion…

Aside from all that - here’s my question: Say you pull your boat out of a serious loss of verticality, or heaven forbid, you actually roll the thing; now you’ve got water wherever you don’t have airbag. What surprised me was how much water is up under those bags, sloshing around. My lacing was tight and my airbags full (not like they were ready to burst - but full). Any ideas on how better displace those gallons of moving ballast???