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Thread: Best Way To Pack A Canoe

  1. #1
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Best Way To Pack A Canoe

    I am taking a canoe trip in the Noatak Preserve for 13 days in August. We will be taking more weight than usual due to the length of the trip. What is the best way to load a canoe and still keep it maneuverable. Any tips would be appreciated. Also, what is best way to store gear. Dry bags, portage packs, etc... Thanks for any ideas.

  2. #2
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Canoe Expedition tips

    Dan,

    Here are some basics:

    1. Keep the load low. Canoes are notoriously tippy, and even more so with a high CG (center of gravity). Inflatable canoes are more forgiving in this area, but you have to be cautious with all of them. Heavy items on bottom, lighter stuff on top.

    2. Secure your load. If your boat doesn't have tiedown points, install them now. If you don't tie your load into the boat, you'll lose things if you capsize.

    3. Dry bags. Anything that you want to keep dry must go in a dry bag. I use the ones made by Northwest River Supplies; they make several that would work well on a canoe trip. Go with smaller, longer bags that fit in your boat rather than big bags. Longer bags are problematic because you're constantly digging for the stuff at the bottom. Go with waterproof duffels to get away from this, and pack your items in smaller nylon stuff sacks before loading it in the dry bag. Then, you just need to find the right stuff sack instead of emptying the whole dry bag.

    4. Packing your boat. If the water is shallow and you're in an inflatable canoe, pack crushable items on the bottom to prevent floor damage. Normally in a conventional raft you would suspend your load off the floor on a mesh cargo platform. But I don't recommend this in an inflatable canoe, because it raises your CG. Load on the floor, but put soft stuff down there to lessen the chances of impact damage if you float over a rock.

    5. Use enough boat! If you haven't decided on a boat yet, and you're dead-set on a canoe, you might have a look at the SOAR Pro Pioneer or the SOAR Canyon. Both are larger canoes and will carry a big load. Still, the lighter you pack, the better your performance on the water (and the less tired you'll be after a day of paddling.

    6. Rowing Setups. If you're going with an inflatable canoe, consider using a rowing setup like Kent Rotchy's Oar Saddles. Rowing is WAY more efficient than paddling, and the Oar Saddle will do a nice job for you. Alaska Raft and Kayak in Anchorage also makes small rowing frames for canoes, that integrate a foot brace, seat, and oar stands into one unit that offers excellent performance.

    If you're still looking for an inflatable canoe for your trip, you might have a look at an article I wrote a while back, comparing various types of inflatable canoes. It might be useful for you.

    Hope it helps!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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  3. #3

    Default how to pack a canoe/packs

    All good advice above.

    I would take a minute to read the below page, good advice from a seasoned traveler...

    http://www.piragis.com/cliffjacobson...nnotesv32.html

    If there are minimal chances of overturning, I would recomment against the dry bag approach. They work great for a while, but once punctured, they are useless, and they are a pain to pack and stuff things in. I ususlly take Cliff's advice and pack all my gear in various nylon sacks which act as abrasion liners. These then go into a very large 6mil plastic bag that is sinched shut with cord. That is the waterproof layer. That then goes into a Cooke Custom Sewing canoe pack that is very resistent to abrasion. Any large duffle will do for river trips becacause portaging is usually minimal and short. This system allows the inner waterproof liner to be sandwiched between two abrasion layers for protection. If you get a proper canoe pack, it will sit low. I have two of the mentioned packs I got used for half price from here...

    http://www.canoeit.com/catalog.cfm?CatID=OEU

    or you can check out the new ones at www.cookecustomsewing.com.
    These packs are hand made and will last virtually forever if taken care of. Duluth pack also makes great canoe packs, but are more expensive and heavier.

    I've tipped once with this system in place and the bags floated for a quater mile and everything stayed dry. Just make sure you know how to tie a decent knot when closing the waterproof liner.

    Have a great trip.

    tkurk

  4. #4
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Further notes

    Quote Originally Posted by tkurk
    All good advice above.

    I would take a minute to read the below page, good advice from a seasoned traveler...

    http://www.piragis.com/cliffjacobson...nnotesv32.html

    If there are minimal chances of overturning, I would recomment against the dry bag approach. They work great for a while, but once punctured, they are useless, and they are a pain to pack and stuff things in. I ususlly take Cliff's advice and pack all my gear in various nylon sacks which act as abrasion liners. These then go into a very large 6mil plastic bag that is sinched shut with cord. That is the waterproof layer. That then goes into a Cooke Custom Sewing canoe pack that is very resistent to abrasion. Any large duffle will do for river trips becacause portaging is usually minimal and short. This system allows the inner waterproof liner to be sandwiched between two abrasion layers for protection. If you get a proper canoe pack, it will sit low. I have two of the mentioned packs I got used for half price from here...

    http://www.canoeit.com/catalog.cfm?CatID=OEU

    or you can check out the new ones at www.cookecustomsewing.com.
    These packs are hand made and will last virtually forever if taken care of. Duluth pack also makes great canoe packs, but are more expensive and heavier.

    I've tipped once with this system in place and the bags floated for a quater mile and everything stayed dry. Just make sure you know how to tie a decent knot when closing the waterproof liner.

    Have a great trip.

    tkurk
    Kurk,

    The article is pretty accurate for many canoeing areas in the lower 48 states and parts of Canada, however on many Alaska rivers if you don't secure your load, you'll lose your stuff. Especially if it drifts into a logjam (see image below). Whatever doesn't sink (rifles, optical gear, heavier food items, etc.) ends up pinned in the logs or sucked into the jam so deep you cannot get it out.

    I like the idea of gluing additional D-rings in; that makes a LOT of sense.

    Have you had any problems with the cordura or canvas material absorbing water or dry-rotting at the seams? I know that used to be an issue with those materials. I've had better luck with regular PVC dry bags. A properly sealed dry bag will float for weeks without leaking; probably longer than that.

    A note on dry bags- don't ship them as primary protection when you travel by commercial carrier. Pack them inside large duffel bags, such as the big Cabela's duffels. Otherwise, they can become torn in transit when they come into close contact with jagged metal, passenger's luggage, and the like. I've had some of my bags ten years and longer and never a hole.

    Just my take.

    -Mike
    Attached Images Attached Images
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  5. #5
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default Clear sided dry bags

    You can now purchase the Dry bags with a clear window running the full length of the bag. This is so nice when you need something and don't remember the bag it was placed in or how deep in the bag it was placed.. Also your pilot will love the smaller bags vs. the big dry bags. These smaller long ones fit better into places in the plane. Also as mentioned above, deck or tie in all your gear.. even when the river is class 1.. Class one gets alot of people. Any moving water has amazing power and can destroy your trip in about 3 seconds... a Sweeper or strainer, a rock you didn't see etc. As mentioned before you need to get the weight as low as possible in your canoe and in the center. Make sure you don't have anything attached to your canoe that would hang you up if you do flip. ( I had a customer get hung up on a fishing pole holder when the canoe rolled and it was spooky for a minute as he struggled under water to get free.. leave room for your legs to change position. If you want to kneel, or sit. make sure you have the room to adjust.
    They make great camera's now (digital) that are good for 10ft deep in water situations. I have several of my customers that have lost many hundreds of dollars in camera's and lenses because water got to the working parts. Last year a Photographer from Austria lost a $5,000.00 setup when he rolled his canoe on class one water..
    Have the time of your life.
    Max
    www.alaskacanoetrips.com

  6. #6
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Excellent!

    Max,

    I completely forgot about the clear ones. Excellent tip! There are various types of clear ones out there..

    -Mike
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 05-24-2006 at 19:19.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

  7. #7
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Default

    One item I lake to take for storing gear on a canoe is a plastic 5 gallon bucket with gasket sealed lid. Rigid for food storage, and doubles as a camp seat and the lid doubles as a cutting board.

    For rifle storage I use a softcase inside a Kolpin rifle drybag.

  8. #8
    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Default Keeping the bow slightly higher

    Aside from all the other good advice given, I'll add just one more important aspect to packing a canoe: Load it so when the passengers are seated that the bow is slightly higher than the stern. That's the key to good maneuverability. A canoe that rides horizontal in the water isn't nearly as easy to steer as one in which the bow rides slightly higher. One that is bow-heavy is even worse. This is with hard-shell canoe...I've never used an inflatable.

    We use five-gallon buckets as well. Only problem is they don't pack very well in the canoe. You can buy the more expensive lids that have screw-off covers with gaskets; they're the cat's meow for quickly opening and closing bucket.

    Mark

  9. #9

    Default packing

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan
    Kurk,

    The article is pretty accurate for many canoeing areas in the lower 48 states and parts of Canada, however on many Alaska rivers if you don't secure your load, you'll lose your stuff. Especially if it drifts into a logjam (see image below). Whatever doesn't sink (rifles, optical gear, heavier food items, etc.) ends up pinned in the logs or sucked into the jam so deep you cannot get it out.

    I like the idea of gluing additional D-rings in; that makes a LOT of sense.

    Have you had any problems with the cordura or canvas material absorbing water or dry-rotting at the seams? I know that used to be an issue with those materials. I've had better luck with regular PVC dry bags. A properly sealed dry bag will float for weeks without leaking; probably longer than that.

    A note on dry bags- don't ship them as primary protection when you travel by commercial carrier. Pack them inside large duffel bags, such as the big Cabela's duffels. Otherwise, they can become torn in transit when they come into close contact with jagged metal, passenger's luggage, and the like. I've had some of my bags ten years and longer and never a hole.

    Just my take.

    -Mike
    Mike-

    Yes, I agree that securing your load is a necessity on most trips up here. I just think security and accessability should be taken together in order to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. In my case, I use the packing system described above and use

    straps under and over the twarts to make a kind of webbing system that keeps all gear in place if overturned. The packs cannot slide out from under the twarts because they are too big and the webbing is placed close enough together to not allow anything to escape. I also clip the pack shoulder straps over the twarts for a back up. This is quickly undone and redone in order to portage gear in the case of logjams or other obstacales.

    The long term durability of the packs, both cordura and canvas, really depends on how you treat them. Dirt and grime are the main things that wear away packs over time. I usually give them a good cleaning each season and oil any leather straps to keep them flexible. I haven't seen any rotting. Tears can be easily patched, and really only affects the looks of the pack, not the function. Yes, PVC can be patched as well, but that hole will affect the waterproofness of the packing system.

    I think the main advantage of using canoe packs instead of PVC packs is accessability. The PVC packs seem to resist sticking one last thing in there, while the canoe packs have a large flap that almost always allows more to be put in there. This is nice when the weather is constantly changing and you keep changing layers of clothes. The PVC bags reqire you to unbuckle, unroll, find the layer you need, and then reroll, and buckle, and resecure. The canoe packs allow things that aren't needed to be kept completely sealed and waterproof simply slipped under the flap. This is a nice place
    to keep things such as rain gear, extra layers of cloths, and snacks. All that is needed is to slightly loosen the strap webbing securing the load, reach under the flap, and grab what you need. All buckles stay snapped, with possibly only a little loosening of the tension. The waterproof liner stays waterproof through the entire thing.

    As always, the packing system really depends on the river being paddled. If no portages are needed and lots of whitewater expected, the PVC packing system with everything tightly secured may be best suited. If the river has log jams and only small rapids, perhaps traditional canoe packs are more suited.

  10. #10
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    Default pack

    look up www.duluth.com its a pack company for canoers. it helps carry the canoe. i put a visqueen bag in mine so everything stays dry. its the best thing for the canoeist ever invented

  11. #11

    Default Packing

    I agree with most of what is here. I can't hold it against a traditionalist that likes the old Duluth Packs, but I prefer dry bags. I get too easily annoyed by digging through layers of plastic that take up extra space in a pack. I often use large zip locks as an alternative to nylon bags for clothes. Either system works though.

    I usually pack for a canoe trip about the same as I would for a backpacking trip. Light is good. During the summer my wife and I can get by with one sleeping bag that zips to a modified sheet that also has loops for a couple mattress pads. That saves a lot of pack space and weight. We also use a collapsible nylon water bucket that you can get cheap at Sportsmenís Warehouse.

    I agree that under most circumstances you should try to get your weight as even as you can side to side and front to back. One exception though is if you are going into the wind. In that case it helps to be a little bow heavy. There are wide spots on the Noatak where you could face this situation in a big way. Alternatively, if you are generally going with the wind, you may want to be a little stern heavy.

  12. #12

    Default pack company

    Quote Originally Posted by bboy
    look up www.duluth.com its a pack company for canoers. it helps carry the canoe. i put a visqueen bag in mine so everything stays dry. its the best thing for the canoeist ever invented
    I believe he means http://www.duluthpack.com/


  13. #13
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Thanks

    Wonderful Suggestions. Thanks Alot Fellas.

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