What has been your kneepad experience?

In my long ago youth, I put on anything a concrete finisher would wear and paddled in them. Now in my 70’s, I see that there are knee pads that glue onto the canoe. I think I’d like to try one of these for my trips on Class I and II water. Could some of you share if you use glue-ins and which ones work best.

Those who like to be able to move their knees around a lot in the canoe, such as freestyle paddlers, or those who simply don’t want to glue anything into their boats prefer large foam pads that sit on the hull bottom. The problem is on a river they may float away if you capsize. Most can be tied in on a short tether but then they trail out of the boat and may cause the canoe to bet entangled and hung up.

If you want to go cheap you can go to Harbor Freight and buy a set of their anti-fatigue foam floor mats, often called “puzzle mats” because of the way the individual 2’ x 2’ squares fit together. You can trim these to fit under the inwales of your boat is you want a large kneeling surface for you and/or your dog. https://www.harborfreight.com/4-piece-anti-fatigue-foam-mat-set-94635.html

I prefer a set of kneeling pads glued in place with contact cement (recommend DAP Weldwood flammable variety) that won’t float away in the event of an upset. There used to be a number of different designs especially intended for canoes but many of the vendors who sold these have disappeared and they can now be hard to find. But it is easy to just get some 1" thick minicell foam and cut out a rectangle of the desired size. I prefer to have a “bolster” along the inboard edge of the pad to keep your knees out in the chines of the boat where you want them for maximum stability.

Well, at Our Lady of Perpetual Devotion (I married into the “Mob,”, being somewhat of a temperant failure in John Wesley’s sobering theological approaches, although that Christian Brothers for Welch’s Concord wasn’t much of a " bloody" improvement - there goes those tinkling bells again!), I’ve gotta say that even with the Vatican Ii mods I’m still wearing out a heavy vinyl bolster and one set of hinges with all the up-down, down-up, uppity and gettin’ down genuflections my maybe-blessed knees are screaming in PROTESTant semi-fervor.

Oh. You mean in a canoe.

We’ll, I’m more like a ( forgive me Father Elmo, for I know knot of knees time two) kayaking butt-boater. But ( there goes that other “t”, like in “temperance”), when I need reflect upon that gnarly ledge, hole and wave that approacheth, I, like Reverend Pete (who has paddled through 10,000-more Valleys of the Shadow of Dunk than I shall ever), prefer those bonded in knee pads with retaining edge. (Damn Pete, I don’t know if that’s one of your old Blue Holes or Mohawks with all that shiny aluminum gunnel and thwart, but you could serve a sanctified host off that pristine grey bilge!)

However, for a nylon webbed-pew hunkering heathen like myself, who just also happens to invite a mongrel cur into the central aisle of The Church of Canoe, I’ve found that one of those vinyl-encased closed-cell floor mats, about 16"X28", the kind they sell for restaurant workers to avoid foot fatigue as they stand working in one place for long periods, to offer exceptional cushioning for both the dog and my occasional knelt beattitudes. It float’s, so retrieval is a possibility. I won’t tether mine. What with me and the canine associate prone (post the prayerful posture) to adventures in repetitive baptismal devotions, the less dangling loose ends the better.


Shaped minicell knee cups, as pblanc shows above with thigh straps, are usually used only by serious whitewater paddlers in whitewater canoes.

For flat water canoes, which can also be used on easy rivers, I have usually just glued in 1/2 inch neoprene, which is a little hard to find, or 1/2 inch foam cut to size from an EVA foam sleeping bag mat, such as this one:


You can just cut a rectangle from the mat in the size you want and keep it loose on the floor, removing it as necessary. Or, if you don’t want the hassle of the separate and (re)movable mat, you can glue the the foam to the bottom with contact cement. You can glue as one large pad if you will shift your knees a lot, or as two small knee pads if you won’t shift knees a lot.

Here’s a canoe with one big pad of sleeping pad foam glued in so I can move around left and right and fore and aft on my knees for pitching and heeling the canoe:

Here’s another canoe with two separate kneeling pads of neoprene glued in, in which I don’t move around as much and which allows bilge water to drain between the knee pads:

Hemlock SRT two pads

As far as knee pads DO IT. I was a Connecticut river trip years ago a got severely sunburnt on my legs, knees includes and ended up with huge painful water blisters. I had to kneel on them several times in the next 7 days. So, my advice would be sunscreen and knee pads. BTW, after 7 days my legs were black. If you need medical attention while on a trip, get it

I know two things for sure about knee pads.

  1. I love em, and have used many different set ups, all of which worked to some degree; some much better than others.

  2. A lot of paddlers don’t have any idea about how to outfit a canoe. I offer a couple of photos of a restoration project canoe I took on several years ago. The person who outfitted this canoe, should have paid someone who knew what the hell they were doing; because they certainly didn’t.
    Used some kind of structural adhesives; what a doofus!
    Took part of 3 days to clean up their mess.
    I usually enjoy the restoration process; this one I did NOT!!!
    I ended up with a pretty little Blackhawk


Blackhawk Shadow (before pics) #3


The end result…

Blackhawk Shadow 11.7 feet
After part of  3 days work
After 4 days effort