Securing Camping Equipment yes/no

On a resent Boy scout canoe trip down a gentle river (< Class I), a scout master insisted that the scouts should not tie in there equipment, as this would make for a more dangerous situation should the canoe capsize. He contended that the additional weight of the equipment secured to the canoe would be hazardous and it would be better if it floated away and was recovered later. This is completely contrary to what I learned, when confronted the Scout master, he insisted it was a matter of opinion and we should “Agree to disagree”.

Can you give me advice or lead me to resources as to weather or not it matters if equipment is tied in.

Our scout canoe flipped in 50°F water with the bags well strapped in. Even rolling the boat to drain the worst of the water, the boat was quite heavy and we untied all the bags to fully empty out the boat. Plus the scouts had to get some warm dry clothes on, which took some time also. I recommend not tying in, but only have 3-4 bags to float off, not 15 little bags where several will be lost forever.

Another issue, if you have to portage, is landing and launching. A group with bags tied could take 45 minutes to offload and clear the area down the trail, with a repeat on the other side.

I’ll second that. In general, I think I’d prefer to have the gear secured inside the boat. My reasoning is that it will help keep the boat afloat and you have a better chance of recovering the boat and all the gear, including that change of warm clothes the boys need. On a river, you probably need to get the boys and the boat to the side before you can drain the boat, and at that point the weight of the gear in the boat can be dealt with. A boat full of gear and water weighs less than a boat full of water, so it is no harder to get to the side with the gear secured. If everything floats away in a capsize, the leader’s problems are compounded because of the greater number of moving pieces. If he divides the group to support the rescue and chase the gear, the group gets spread out, command is more difficult, and it goes downhill from there. If he doesn’t, gear is lost, possibly gear needed to shelter or warm the capsized paddlers, although lost gear is not the biggest problem if others in the group can make up for it.

A possible reason to not want the gear secured is if you are boating in situations where a boat-over-boat rescue scenario is plausable, like on lake. On the lake, it may be impractical to get the capsized boat to the side, and very difficult to empty the boat if it is securely loaded. Gear that floats away is not as pressing an issue as getting the paddlers out of the water, and probably the gear can be tracked down by letting the wind blow the boats until you catch up to the gear.

On the river you describe, I favor securing the gear. Perhaps the leader had his reasons. Might be worth a discussion.


different opinions

– Last Updated: Sep-12-09 6:46 AM EST –

This issue has been discussed here and there are differing opinions. On trips on gentle rivers and lakes, I generally secure the 2, or 3 packs I have in the boat with a single tether line, to prevent them floating away in the event of an upset.

Others feel strongly that having packs tied to a tether constitutes an unacceptable risk for entrapment by getting tangled in the line, which I personally feel is a nonissue for this type of water, but would certainly be the case for rivers with fast water.

Those who don't like a tether usually secure the packs into the hull with some manner of lashing or straps so that they stay in the hull if the boat capsizes. Packs generally do provide some degree of flotation, especially if they have a waterproof liner bag inside.

The downsides to doing this are the greater time it takes to load and unload the boat, and the greater difficulty encountered if one needs to do a quick "lift-over" of a downed tree or suchlike, or empty water out of the boat, but most importantly, the near impossibility of carrying out a boat-over-boat rescue without completely releasing the packs in the boat.

In the event of a capsize on a sizable lake a significant distance from shore, a boat-over-boat rescue is usually the most practical way to quickly get the boat emptied and its occupants out of the water.

It depends who you’re with too
Half the guys I paddle with are happy as a Labrador Retriever if they can chase down and recover a piece of floating gear, myself included. But if paddling by myself or with just one other person, I’m probably going to tie everything in.

gentle water
I tie in things that sink and are worth $, except for glasses, cell phones and cameras DUH (a little levity). Other stuff is in big bags that float and aren’t going anywhere anyways on calm water. Nearly always have a small end airbag in the canoe so at least one end will float. As Big Steve Spenser would say…my .02 cents :slight_smile:

There is no consensus on this
I prefer everything secured inside the boat. IMO loose gear gets lost and loosely tethered gear becomes a sea anchor.

For very good reasons already put forth above others have differing opinions.

I think your associates “agree to disagree” is a sound recomendation.

Agree with everyone else here, but NOT…

– Last Updated: Sep-14-09 4:16 PM EST –

...with that particular Scout Master. The other posters have clearly stated why tied-in is best in some situations and not tied-in is best in others. Everything the previous posters have said is logical and correct in my estimation.

The scout master, on the other hand, was completely wrong when he said "the additional weight of the equipment secured to the canoe would be hazardous". In actual fact, a swamped canoe with gear lashed in is LIGHTER than a swamped canoe without gear, for reasons several previous posters have already described. Also, has has been pointed out, a swamped canoe with gear lashed in will float higher in the water and be easier to drag to shore.

So I concur that whether or not to lash in gear depends on the situation and sometimes on personal preference. In the situation described by the original poster, it would be okay to use either method depending on how much you like or don't like to chase floating stuff, but the REASONING used by the scout master for his particular choice was wrong.

Tied In
We talked about this over on Adventure Canoe

I prefer to tie my stuff in on a long line. It comes out and can be cut/untied and hauled to shore separately.

Tied in tight would however displace more water and thus make the boat lighter. hmmm.

Most of the rivers I paddle would take several miles to retrieve all of the gear if it were left to just float away.


I would keep
my gear with me secured in the canoe.

But, in a situation like this I would just go with which ever way the trip leader wanted.

Don’t sweat the little stuff.

Paddles (extra) secured with velcro and everything clipped in with carabiner and tie down. MUCH easier than retrieving stuff after a dump. Don’t worry about entanglement as I have my knife on my vest where I know it always hangs. WW

Secure it all in
Unless you are absolutely certain that you won’t capsize.

Are you absolutely certain you won’t capsize ?


Jack L

One Long Line…

– Last Updated: Sep-16-09 10:08 PM EST –

...with everything attached to it - you can let the line go if it's interfering with canoe recovery. Leaving stuff loose runs the risk of losing gear. Short version - if you can't do without it, attach it...

BTW - the fact that a scout master insisted on it doesn't cut a lot of ice with me - a couple of the biggest blowhards about outdoor skills I've met have been scout masters, and they wouldn't be able to start a fire with dry wood if they had kerosene and matches :->))