Solo Canoe Float Bag Rigging???

Ok…I sparked quite a conversation about the float bags a few weeks ago!

I got 48 inch bags…a bit of a compromise between the 36 inches and 60 inchers that people advocated. Also just bought a used boat that came with some brand new 54 inchers but I may not keep them. Have not decided.

Now…how do I rig these!

The guy who sold me the used boat also gave me a kit that had little hoop rings that you could rivet to the side of the canoe to through which to lace cord.

Since this is not a true dedicated whitewater boat, is there a better way without puting a couple dozen rivets in my boat or is this the best way to do it?

What about just tieing to d rings on the hull?



air bag cage
Most air bags have grommets at the corners that you could secure to D rings on the floor of the canoe. That will keep the bag attached to the boat, but water would get under the bags and float them up out of the hull without some type of cage or strap system that is laced over the top of the bags.

Most boaters use a “keeper strap” of 1 inch or 3/4 inch nylon webbing that runs over the top of the bag longitudinally from some anchor point in the stem area, to a D ring that is attached to the hull floor at the centerline at the point at which the inflated bag ends. Note that the length of the inflated bag is always less than the length of the uninflated bag, which is usually the advertised length. The keeper strap can be easily fashioned from flat nylon webbing (you could use tubular, but no need) and the appropriate sized nylon “triglides”. A carry handle or small D ring in the stem can be used as an anchor. If you have holes in the stem of the canoe for a “grab loop” you can run a short length of nylon parachute cord through these holes and tie it in a loop. The portion of the loop on the inside of the hull can then be used as an anchor for your keeper strap.

Even with D rings at the corners and a keeper strap down the center, your bags will still want to float up out of the hull at the sides. You could, I suppose, use a bunch of D rings positioned at intervals down the sides of the canoe as anchors for a series of straps that cross over the bag crossways, but this would entail quite a bit of unneccesary weight and expense. Virtually everyone constucts a bag cage out of nylon parachute cord (3 mm is plenty thick enough) with cord crossing back and forth over the top of the bags at gunnel level.

The black nylon gunnel lashing loops can be riveted to the undersides or sides of the inwales if they are aluminum. They can also be attached with screws to aluminum or wood gunnels. It is better to have the loops come off the bottom of the gunnels, in my opinion, rather than out from the sides, as you tend to bang your hands or body against them if they stick out into the hull.

You can also just drill small holes in the hull just under the gunnel line to accommodate the parachute cord. The holes are placed so as to have a cord pass over the bags at intervals of 4 inches to 10 inches or so. The holes are not really intrusive at all and this is the system that most experienced whitewater open boaters that I know prefer.

Drill holes

Previous post gives good description.

I advocate drilling holes right under the gunwales for ladder-rung type cross lacing. If you want flexibility to easily remove and install, tie short loops through pairs of holes on the same side, put the bags in, then run a line from side to side through the loops. Not too long on the loops, since they’ll be flopping around loose when the bags are not in.

Grommet tying alone is not enough. The grommets will rip off the bags under duress.


one way
Replaced rivets holding the aluminum gunnels in this boats

Depends on the hull
For a Royalex hull I would glue several (2 or 3) d ring patch’s onto the bottom just to the center of you bags and I would drill holes right under the gunnels 6" to 8" apart from the ends of the hull to the bag ends.

In a composite boat I’d screw padeyes (inchworms) along the gunnels if they were wood or rivit them if the gunnel was aluminum. and I’d glue webbing inchworms to the bottom.

Then I’d use cord to weave a bag cage.

I take my bags out before driving so I don’t like to tie them in. Just inflate them inside the cage and deflate to remove.

If you view this full size you can see the inchworms.


Caution !

– Last Updated: May-18-09 10:24 AM EST –

I use the drill holes in the hull for the lacing & keeper straps down the middle of the airbags, secured to D rings in the bilge method for installing air bags on dedicated whitewater canoes.

BUT, I am of the opinion that unless a person plans on keeping a non-dedicated whitewater canoe for "a long time", after drilling a bunch of holes in the will NOT bode well for that person when they decide it is time to sell that hull full of holes. Prospective buyers who have no need for airbags in a non-dedicated whitewater will NOT much appreciate all those holes!


Why would a person want to sell a boat?

Bagged out boat and resale
Any boat I bag out won’t suffer any additional decline in value because of holes being drilled. If I bag a boat, it’s going to have a lot of beauty marks on it in short order. If not, it never needed bagged in the first place.

Sell? Boat? Huh?


Why sell a boat?
If I sell a boat; it is usually because I have found a boat that I want more than the boat I am selling.

Not finding too many that I want more than those (18) I already have.

I am still looking however.


I have only 12, and am still filling out
my hand.

Only 12?
Lightweight :wink:


Mohawk End Bag Lacing Kit
First item under Whitewater Accessories

Not the cheapest option, but the bags come out easy by undoing the clips. I drilled holes under the gunwales for the lacing. Here it is in my Yellowstone:

Works out great because I don’t leave the bags in that boat. In my WW boat, I don’t remove the bags, so I did the full bag cage:

Directions from Mike Yee

Why would you ever sell a boat?

Finally - Photos of My Method

– Last Updated: May-19-09 5:33 PM EST –

I got fed-up with lacing a long skinny rope through holes in the hull. It takes just way too long. Here's my new method, which I've described before but never illustrated. It has the same advantage for speed of installation or removal of the float-bag cage as installing permanent loops below the gunwales, but the loops can be made to "disappear" and "re-appear" in seconds. If you ever portage through the woods, push under low-hanging branches, or use your boat for fishing, this works great (well unless you do all that stuff with the bags installed, and then your are out of luck). In other respects, it's just a lot "neater" than installing loops for easy threading.

The appearance of a very "coarse weave" for the bag cage in the photo is deceptive. Since the side-loops are fairly large, there's actually sort of a triple-diamond pattern of lines holding the bag down, and the overall spacing is actually about the same as with the previous method I used, which was four-inch spacing of parallel lines. If the bags were in place this would be more obvious.

One more thing: Ignore that white rope tied to the carry thwart. That's not part of the system, in case that isn't already clear.

Copy and paste the entire link:

“Oops, looks like you followed a bad

Having just very quickly laced in bags, I’d be glad to hear a verbal description of how you got your loops and lacing in even more quickly.

Maybe a "bad link"
I think it will work if you copy and paste the whole thing. I just tried it while not being logged-in to Flickr/Yahoo, and using the whole link worked, but clicking on the colored-print portion gave me the message you saw.

tie off???
Okay so if I drill the boat and lace the cord what is the best way to tie it off so that it is tight and then can still be removed?


tying off
The lacing need not be absolutely tight. As you inflate the bags they will tighten the lacing if it a bit slack.

Although there are many ways you can tie off the lacing, the easiest is a simple little “stopper knot” at each end. I use a figure-of-eight knot as it has a little more bulk. If you don’t want the little knot on the outside, you can drill another hole next to your last hole to bring the cord back inside to tie off.

The lacing will stretch a bit over time to the point where you will be able to untie the knot. If you really want the lacing to be taut, drill the second hole I was talking about, bring the end of the cord back inside the boat and tie it off to itself with a couple of half-hitches.

Knots for that purpose

– Last Updated: May-20-09 12:19 PM EST –

I personally don't care for stopper knots, except on permanent installations because they work themselves into a tight ball that can't be untied easily. I like things to be easy, so I alweys use "normal" knots, because even though they will never come un-done on their own, they will never jam up into something that can't easily be untied later on.

Oh by the way, nearly all bag cages use a longitudinal strap down the center of the bag in addition to the lacing. I just use a rope in place of the strap along the top center of each bag for the same "keep it simple" reason. That way I don't need to buy anything I don't already have, or mess around with buckles and stuff like that. Adjusting the tension of rope is faster than with webbing too, and since all it does is hold the bag down, it need not be anything specialized. In the photos I provided a link to in my other post, that white rope you can see on the extreme tip of the hull in one photo is the anchorage for one end of this lengthwise hold-down rope. Most people anchor it to the deck plate, but I anchored it to the hull. Either way works.

With the standard back-and-forth weave lacing, I include two holes in the hull where the lacing starts and where it ends. That way I can simply turn the line back on itself and tie it off with a regular knot, just as you would do when tying a line to anything else. Two half hitches can be tied on a line that is already as tight as you can make it without losing any tension in the process. A taughtline hitch will allow the length or tension in the line to be adjusted. At the "starting" end of the weave you could tie a bowline. You could tie a bowline at the finishing end too, and then let the air bags create the amount of tension in the lines that you want. The lacing does not need to be tight all by themselves. A little loose can be good, so that the bags bulge up above the gunwales a bit, giving the boat even higher floatation when it's upside-down than if they were flush with the gunwales, and greater reserve volume to compensate for when the bags get smaller once they become thoroughly doused with cool water (on a hot sunny day, the bags will get a lot smaller after a capsize into cool water).

The bags get smaller after a capsize into cold water. But they won’t look any smaller. That’s because air bags float on water. You will find that the water in the boat will layer under the bags and float them up as high as the bag cage will allow. The water will also try to float them back out of the stem of the canoe towards the center of the hull. That’s why you need a center keeper strap or line or whatever.

The bags will look full and taut but they will have an inch or two of water beneath them as well as water in the stem area between the hull and the bags.

Mike Yee has a nice system for constructing a simple bag cage that extends down into the hull at the center end of the bags. This requires two lightweight D ring anchors either side of center, in addition to the D ring anchor on the centerline at the end of the bag. This helps keep the bag stuffed into the stem when you get water in the boat. His site has already been referenced in this thread but here it is again:


Mike makes some of the best open boat whitewater outfitting there is, and I recommend it highly, but you don’t have to buy any of his stuff to use this system.