You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?

3/05/2021 4:05 pm  #1

Portaging Pelican - how?

I'm upgrading from point-and-shoot camera to Four Thirds with couple of lenses and accordingly will have to move from small 1050 Pelican to a bigger and heavier 1150. The total weight will not be much, around 3-4lbs, but it won't fit any more in my pack's outside pocket (even if it fits I don't want that load to be positioned that far away from my back). I wonder how experienced photographers carry their gear? I prefer to single-carry portages when possible and a prospective of doing it with the Pelican in my hand is not something I'm looking forward to.


3/06/2021 10:40 am  #2

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

I've been using M43 for years. When I take it on a canoe trip, I carry a body, 3 lenses, 3 batteries. I also use a waterproof point and shoot or Gopro and batteries. For longer trips I bring a battery bank and chargers for recharging things. Not everything comes on every trip.

For many years I carried the camera and lenses in an Outdoor Research Horizontal dry bag along with a fleece, touque, gloves, rain coat, water filter, lunch etc. The lenses were kept inside home made Reflectix lens cozies. The camera with lens attached is wrapped up in the fleece. I can biner the horizontal dry bag to my pack straps and single portage. See an example of the single carry below or here .

The Relectix cozies protect the lenses and weigh nothing. But the camera wrapped in a fleece doesn’t always work and the camera kind of gets jostled around and beat up a bit. I don’t love that. Worse still is the inconvenience of getting the camera out of a sealed dry bag. And (maybe) having to change lenses. This takes time and I find I often miss the shot or don't bother taking the shot because it's a bit of a hassle. Pro tip (or hack tip), keep the longest lens you have attached to the body in your bag/case. Wildlife like moose, wolves and bears are the most time sensitive pics and require your longest focal length. You want this lens on your body and ready to go. Still, because of this hassle, most of my pics are taken with the waterproof point and shoot in my PFD pocket (then I get home and moan about the poor image quality).

A friend uses a similarly sized Watershed Duffel for his camera gear. This is a much better waterproof bag. It has a shoulder strap which lets him single carry portages with the Watershed Duffel kind of in front of one hip. It's awkward but not impossible. Same issue with the hassle of opening and closing the bag.

For river trips my camera gear is in a Pelican 1300 with pick and pluck foam customized perfectly for the camera, lenses etc. Much better protection and much easier to access. Flip two catches lift the lid and the camera is ready to go in seconds. It's possible to single carry shorter ports with the Pelican in your hand. But anything over 500 metres becomes a double for me. Larger Pelican cases can accept shoulder straps which might help.

There is no question that a properly closed hard case is a FAR FAR BETTER SOLUTION than a dry bag. In an accident last fall I lost a boat, pack and camera gear. The horizontal dry bag was retrieved 2 weeks after we lost it. The buckles had failed and everything that was in the pack was lost. Even if the buckles had stayed closed the contents of the bag would have been soaked in a matter of hours. The Pelican case on the other hand recirculated below a waterfall for a month before it was retrieved by a guide from Esprit Rafting. The outside of the case looked like it had been sandblasted. Everything inside worked perfectly.

Truth is, if the trip is demanding and requires single carries, I don’t bring either of these kits. Instead I bring a point and shoot and a Gopro. But, I’m turning 50 this year. I have knee and back troubles. My single carry days will soon be behind me, so having to carry a Pelican case on a second trip across a portage is OK for me.

Last edited by MartinG (3/06/2021 10:41 am)


3/06/2021 11:22 am  #3

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

Thanks, Martin, your advice is excellently thought through, as usual! Pictures and video are very helpful too. Judging by the video our portaging technique is almost the same, though my pack's bigger (somehow I always carry the biggest pack anywhere I trip; people do whistle when we pass each other on portages); also, I control the bow with a rope attached to a thwart in front of me, which I find easier than holding up a gunwale. Sorry to hear about your back issue; I might be in the same territory rather sooner than later, but not there yet.
I'd never risk putting a camera in a dry bag exactly for the reasons you'd stated: too complicated to open, not enough protection from accidental bump and could be catastrophic in whitewater.
But I wonder, regardless of its content, does this horizontal front bag help you to balance the backpack? A major problem with my huge GG Superior One is that if I put anything heavy in its front pocket, that load is positioned so far from my back that it acts as a lever, pulling me backwards.
Someone on another forum said they attach a Pelican under a seat for portaging. Depending on the box size it could be interesting. Not sure though how safe it is, considering lack of proper attachment points on Pelicans (besides a handle, of course). Probably some combination of bungee cords/chota ties could be secure enough.

P.S. And my Curtis's bigger than yours - it's Nomad.

Last edited by EddyTurn (3/06/2021 11:26 am)

     Thread Starter

3/06/2021 1:19 pm  #4

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

EddyTurn wrote:

But I wonder, regardless of its content, does this horizontal front bag help you to balance the backpack? A major problem with my huge GG Superior One is that if I put anything heavy in its front pocket, that load is positioned so far from my back that it acts as a lever, pulling me backwards.

I don't really notice it making a difference to balance. But I do pack very light. My main pack is only 70 litres and maybe 35 pounds at most. Sometimes I connect the horizontal dry bag to the pack straps. Sometimes I cinch it to the top of the pack. If I'm not carrying the boat I tend to cinch it to the top because it's just quicker/easier. If I'm carrying a boat it attaches to the pack straps.

I will always bring some kind of small pack with me on a solo trip. In my boat my main pack is almost always behind me making it hard to access. The small pack in front carries pretty much anything I might want to access while on the water.

That Nomad is nice boat! 


3/06/2021 1:48 pm  #5

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

Probably not the option you're looking for but I double carry and don't use a waterproof/pelican case. I use a Lowepro EX180 bag and attach it on top of my 20L barrel (it rests snug beneath the seat of the canoe while portaging). It has two loops in the back that I criss cross the buckles of my barrel harness through so it's completely secure.

While paddling I keep it at my feet, it's extremely easy to access and the bag itself keeps it protected from splashes / light drizzle. I keep a few kitchen garbage bags in the front pocket of the bag in case it starts to rain heavy.

I don't do any whitewater and am always careful loading/unloading at portages, so I'm not too concerned about major impact to the bag.

Trip Reports & Campsite Pictures

3/06/2021 5:47 pm  #6

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

trippythings wrote:

I use a Lowepro EX180 bag and attach it on top of my 20L barrel (it rests snug beneath the seat of the canoe while portaging).

This is obviously working for you. And you are capturing some fantastic images and videos on your trips. It would be a shame to lose those memories in a fluke accident. I think you are rolling the dice by not having your expensive DSLR in a fully waterproof container.

I have flipped my canoe on flat water trips twice that I can remember (might be more). I've dumped many times in rivers. I paddle with a couple of experienced trippers who have lost cameras by flipping when they least expected It in the most benign conditions. I think Peek on this board lost his DSLR because of something like this.

Shit happens.


3/06/2021 6:33 pm  #7

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

I don't disagree with you Martin (and thanks for the comment about my images/videos)... but my logic is that I have the camera out in the open all the time while paddling to take photos, so if one of those fluke accidents happens, a waterproof case won't do much when the camera is in my hands. If I used the camera primarily while at camp or on portages then I would use a waterproof case, but it's frequently out anyways while I'm on the water. Sometimes I only have a few seconds to get the shot if I see wildlife etc. so I like having it as easily accessible as possible.

Trip Reports & Campsite Pictures

3/06/2021 7:38 pm  #8

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

@trippythings: I'm with Martin on this one. In my experience flippy things happen on flatwater mostly when one tries something weird, like getting out of the boat at a slippery landing, not while taking pictures. I used Pelican for some years when I still paddled w/w and never had an issue on the water: it takes literally few seconds to get a camera out of the box or put it back - for comparison, it's less time than to open/close zip-lock style bags, like aquapack, for instance.

     Thread Starter

4/03/2021 5:54 pm  #9

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

EddyT if you end up looking for a bag like Martin’s I will save you some time. They don’t make them anymore.  I liked the idea of that bag for a number of reasons years ago but starting looking after it was discontinued. I ended up starting with a CCS thwart bag clipped to the front of my bag and a couple of years ago I moved over to a fully waterproof bike bag which works really well. Waterproof, tough, easy roll top access, and with 2 carabiners easily clips to the front of my bag.Plus I actually find it helps with balance.

Best thing I could find was a Ortleib Rack Pack bike bag. It’s horizontal in shape like Martin’s.

It would easily be big enough for all you camera equipment.

I’m going to try a completely different set up this year but not because I have any issues with that bag. Just because I have a serious gear problem. 😃

Last edited by ShawnD (4/03/2021 7:24 pm)

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.
 - George Washington Sears

4/04/2021 9:00 am  #10

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

and you might consider something like this ..

Hilltop makes a lightweight front clip camera bag.


We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.
 - George Washington Sears

4/04/2021 3:23 pm  #11

Re: Portaging Pelican - how?

Hi, Shawn, I think I'll try a Pelican case first - it definitely affords more protection than bags and probably is faster to close/open. Unfortunately, I don't have a gear problem yet (just an MFT with 2-3 basic lenses), but it also means that I can use a smaller case that would fit under the seat on portages. I'm a poor enough photographer and efficient portaging is more important for me than high-end photo equipment.

     Thread Starter

Board footera

LNT Canada is a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships.