Why does no one use float bags on wilderness river tripping canoes?

It seems like almost no one uses float bags on wilderness canoes. I understand that they take up space which might be used for gear, add some weight on portages, and reduce visibility on portages. Are there any other reasons why they are not used? It seems like a worth while addition if they fit with your load out. I have had times I wish I had them, and feel like they would be useful. I’m more concerned about self rescue or simply survival in lakes more so than use for rapids, though I wouldn’t mind the benefits there as well. What are everyones thoughts on this. I’m more concerned with use in solo canoes than tandem.

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most of the time there simply isn’t room for gear and float bags, though some folks use short end bags that they can leave in with gear- a buddy of mine paddled a solo ww canoe (mohawk xl 13) down the middle fork of the salmon and used an air bag. In my decked c1 I took out the float bags to make room for gear. Gear lashed or wedged in tightly can actually add flotation since it is displacing water. In ww a bilge style water pump is needed to drain an open boat packed with gear. You might try a controlled swamp with the gear in your boat. See if you can climb back in and paddle it to shore sittling on the bottom of the boat using a dumbbell stroke without adding additional flotation. We used to practice this for lake paddle rescues. It worked better in aluminum canoes than the abs boats (old town trippers) which had a tendency to roll back over.

People do trans America crossings on light touring bikes and carry all the gear they need. Although food and water can be picked up as you go every day.

I have flotation in both ends 4’ of my canoe and I think I could travel light and still pack calories and water for a reasonable trip with bike or backpacking gear.

I’m far from sure of this though as I’m still new.

All I know is I wanted flotation before anything else in a solo boat for both me and the boat. The rest is a puzzle to be solved.

I’m not a particularly light packer, so when I’m tripping in my solo boat there isn’t a lot of room for float bags. I suppose I could put a couple of small bags in the ends, but I usually put gear there as well.

Loaded and ready to go

To me float bags are there so the boat floats higher and is less likely to pin on rocks if you dump in a rapid. If you are in a rapid where that is a real possibility, the question is should you be running it in a loaded boat. There are times when it is unavoidable, but I would want to have a crew there in case the unthinkable happens. I’m not sure small end bags would do much to help anyway in a boat loaded with gear (at least my boat loaded with gear).

Lake travel is a different question. I suppose float bags might make it easier to flip the boat over if you swamp, but even if I could get the gear out of the boat, get the boat upright and bailed out, I still can’t get back in my solo boat alone in open water. For me, self rescue in the middle of a lake isn’t a possibility anyway, so once again I need a crew along if the unthinkable happens.

I do have friends who paddle small tandems solo, and they have put ends bags in the boat while tripping. If there is room there is no reason not to.

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I use short end bags designed for tandem canoes in the ends of my solo canoe when river tripping with gear. You really want to keep the stems of the canoe as light as possible so you don’t want gear there anyway, at least not heavy stuff.

Most packs and dry bags have enough trapped air to float. Barrels certainly do. Some gear is heavier than water however, such as aluminum folding tables, etc. But on balance gear secured within the hull is adding a bit of flotation.

Your dunnage acts as float bags in a loaded canoe on an overnight trip.

What ppine said. Also if you are carrying water, you can fill the containers half way etc. In an upset you have air and any water is neutral.

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I feel like if you are close to land and not constantly taking on water or at a higher risk of capsizing (like in heavy ocean or large lake waves, or in decent rapids) then it’s not a big deal because you can drag yourself to shore. In this cases listed, id expect floatbags tho

I have a Nova Craft Prospector 16 in SP3, which is polyethylene and actually 15’4" long. I’m thinking of putting float bags in that. I might just end up with smaller ones, at least for now. I’m not a light packer by any means but I feel like I have enough space tomfit them in. The boat is new though and i haven’t done any tripping in it yet so I’m not sure how everything will fit together. I really feel like there are a lot of advantages to them. It just seems weird that they are uncommon.

You do not need to inflate bags to their full capacity. I use the bag cage to contain both gear and bags. If the gear takes up more room than the fully inflated bags allow, just inflate them as much as the gear permits.

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That sounds like a good way to do it.

I see no need on lakes. I do most of my tripping lake to lake… I have dumped a solo in Lake Superior and it did not sink nor get away. I can think of several drawbacks with bags. A not inconsequential thing is portaging. AIr bags can get punctured bushwhacking and the lacing tangle with branches when climbing or pushing the boat over fallen trees.

Flatwater solos have float tanks built in and the water volume that may displace gear bags that are loose is less consequential because of the lack of danger of a wrap. Dry bags that are used in flatwater contain a fair bit of air even when you try to purge them… On my Superior Dump I just had to round up the bag and the barrel. I stay pretty close to shore as getting back in can be a big issue totally solo.

I do, in my Wenonah Voyageur.
Not a lot of room left, so I use a smaller size.
I just ordered a North Star Northwind and the guy I ordered it from almost insisted I get rigging for float bags. Said I’d need them, and to say he’s an experienced paddler would be an understatement.

There is usually not enough room for float bags, especially if its a multi-day trip. My two large duffle dry bags and cooler as my personal gear plus my trip leader gear, Rescue Kit, First Aid kit and usually whatever pottie we have to carry (the EcoSafe takes up a lot of room) and I am full. This is especially true when you have a trip where there are only two or three canoes and 10 kayaks as someone is always asking if they can stick something in my boat. Oh and don’t forget the trash bag. I do have a full skirt for my OT Kennebec which I take if it is going to rain or there is an significant WW. I have a small pair for my Morning Star, but I seldom use them.

I generally hold with those who don’t see the need for most of the river tripping that I do. My gear is tied in and I am on most trips very conservative in my paddling and on my choices. There are trips such as the Dog where I was in a dedicated WW canoe (Dagger Rival) an it was fully bagged with the packs wedged against the bags. Here are three fully bagged open canoes portaging one of the falls on the Dog:

On the Batchawana we didn’t see a need for air bags: