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

8/17/2015 3:16 pm  #1

Attach packs to canoe, or not?

So this is kind of embarrasing, but I have a very basic question: when you're out in the middle of the lake, is your pack supposed to be attached to the canoe, or not?


8/17/2015 3:31 pm  #2

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

Loosely.  Don't lash it in as you won't be able to flip the canoe back over empty of water in the event that you flip in deep water.  Tether everything to the boat with ropes that allow your gear to float free of the canoe so you can pull them back in once you are upright again. 
River paddlers will probably say differently, since your canoe is likely to be rescued in shallow water.


8/17/2015 4:36 pm  #3

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

It depends ... 

Most of the time we don't tie stuff in. Takes too long and most of it will float on it's own anyway. For the stuff that won't float, I know I'm taking a chance but tieing it into the canoe probably wouldn't be better because the last thing I need is non-floating gear dragging a swamped canoe down with it. 

I know from having tested it that the canoe packs and the barrel float even when full. On a whitewater trip, if we are running the rapids, then I would tie in the gear. In that case I'm counting on the packs and barrel to provide some flotation. On a lake trip we rarely tie any of the gear in. 


8/17/2015 5:24 pm  #4

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

Watch how fast your gear separates from you and your boat in high winds and waves if you're overturned.  I've never experienced it in a real life situation, but I've seen it when practicing or just horsing around with my kids.  I don't take it seriously enough either, but it only takes a few minutes to prepare in advance.  Attach a couple of short ropes to your thwarts with carbiners and you can lash anything in in literally seconds.  Maybe it's not that important if you avoid heavy winds and travel with partners, but if you solo, getting separated from your gear on a big, cold lake could be serious.  
As Rob says, if it's heavy, it's just an anchor and shouldn't be lashed in, but it's probably not worth having on a canoe trip in any event and is not likely critical gear.  Just my opinion.
My wife and I were kayaking on Georgian Bay this afternoon and even though it wasn't too rough, boat traffic made the waves unpredictable so I had everything I needed close by carabinered to the cockpit and extra water, etc. stored in the hatches.  It's harder in a canoe.


8/17/2015 7:09 pm  #5

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

I and the gang of people I normally go tripping with always tie in our gear.  Not tightly, but loosely.  I have a rope that is attached to the centre thwart and then fed through straps, etc., on all pieces of gear.  The end of the rope is then secured using a spring link.  The aim here is solely to prevent everything from potentially floating off all over the place and to help in gear recovery.

Not all those who wander are lost.

j.r.r. tolkien

8/18/2015 12:08 am  #6

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

DO NOT tie packs loosely with ropes! After having to pull someone who drowned from getting tangled up to shore , I will swear that any loosly tied packs are a very dangerous entanglement hazard.
Either tie in, or don't, it's a matter of choice. I personally tie everything in, because where I go, the odds of doing a canoe over canoe is next to nil, and if I go over, I'll need that gear.
Almost all gear will float, even an 80lb pack if it's waterproofed, and ideally, anything that doesn't should be in your pack. I found that over the years, more stuff was lost by dropping it, than in any upset.


8/18/2015 8:00 am  #7

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

Scoutergriz, I understand the risk of entaglement you mention in your post, and you raise a very important point.  However, I'm not going to backtrack on what I said in my post, but will clarify that when I mean "loosely" it is in the sense that items such as packs and food barrels are not 100% lashed to the thwarts and/or each other.  They can move around relative to the canoe and each other by, let's say 6 to 12 inches.  Under no circumstances do I ever have lengths of rope laying (or floating) around that could pose a reasonable risk of getting entangled.  (At least by my assessment.)

Not all those who wander are lost.

j.r.r. tolkien

8/18/2015 8:13 am  #8

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

I do what Jackpine does: loosely (but not too loosely) tie in everything. If my boat goes over, I'd rather deal with it being a bit more difficult to get it right side up than dealing with having my stuff float off or sink (nothing I have would be heavy enough to swamp the canoe but it may sink on it's own). 

If it's a small lake and there is no wind and no motorboats, we'll forego the tying in but we use a loop of webbing and a caribeaner and it's so simple and fast that it becomes just part of the motions of packing a canoe. 


8/18/2015 9:08 am  #9

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

On flatwater trips I don't tie in, I don’t know anyone who does and I don't remember seeing anyone before or after a portage tying in their stuff. Ontario canoe country routes in places like Algonquin, Killarney and Temagami are typified by relatively small lakes, lots of portages and pool and drop rivers. In these cases, it is highly unlikely that you would lose your packs in the highly unlikely case of a dump. Not impossible but highly unlikely x 2! To my mind tying in would be more of a pain than it is worth. It also makes canoe over canoe rescues a pain. If I did dump I would focus on the canoe first and gathering the packs second. Your packs will float for hours, and in most cases there will be a second boat or second person to help round things up.

If I was to tie in it would be on big water or in continuous current. Places where a dumped item could be swept many kilometres downstream. The closest thing to this in APP is the Opeongo River downstream of Victoria Lake. I would also consider tying in on big water like Geogian Bay or Lake Superior. In places like this, it is possible for your packs to get swept out to 'sea' never to be found again.

Shawn makes a good point about travelling solo. It would be easier to gather up your stuff if it was connected to your boat by a tether. As he says, trying to right a canoe with packs in it, solo or not, is nearly impossible. But, righting a canoe while packs are tethered to it can also get complicated. Notwithstanding the dangers of tethers as mentioned by Griz. 

In my case, solo, I only have 2 or sometimes 3 packs. There is a big pack behind me and a small 15 litre daypack in front. The small day pack is pretty much always binered to some cord on my front thwart. The third pack would be a barrel on a longer trip. Spare paddle is attached to the canoe with Velcro loops. Fishing rod is loose when in use. Otherwise it is attached to the canoe with Velcro loops. If I lose it so be it. Map case is binered to a pack. Ditch kit is mostly in the pockets of my PFD and on person.

If I dump I would try to flip the canoe so it was right side up. Then I would throw the daypack inside and swim for shore while towing the canoe. It is much easier to tow a righted canoe than and upside down one. It is even more difficult to drag an upside down canoe which is also dragging a couple of packs. My main pack and barrel will float for hours (days maybe). After pulling myself together I would go back out and find my one or two floating packs.

Tying in tight, tethering, not tying in at all. There is no right or wrong answer. I think the right answer depends on the people involved and the particulars of the trip.


8/18/2015 9:20 am  #10

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

Tethering packs with a little slack is one thing, tieing in with lots of slack is another. If they have enough slack that they can "float free" sounds like too much to me. The body I recovered was pinned by ONE loop less than two feet in length that wrapped around his ankle when he flipped (going by what I found) it was enough that his head couldn't stay above water. He was trapped partially under a swamped canoe, I don't know if it rolled first, but going by the amount of free floating gear, it was pretty obvious that the canoe had rolled at some time. But I do remember needing to cut that loop to pull him in.
In my ww training decades ago, one of the first safety lessons we were taught was "no entanglement hazards"


8/19/2015 5:30 pm  #11

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

Thanks all for the advice! Sounds like, as long as you pay attention to the possible risks, there is no real concensus on a definite answer to this question. I guess at least I haven't been doing wrong :-)

     Thread Starter

8/25/2015 9:12 am  #12

Re: Attach packs to canoe, or not?

When I first started tripping I would always tie down everything but after gaining some experience I started to forgo this unless there was rough water or I was tripping with a novice partner. My fear was of having a pack sink to the bottom with needed gear. Whereas a canoe pack will float a regular backpack will not. I've never really considered this before but this is indeed an advantage of using a canoe pack rather than a conventional backpack with waterproof stuffsacks for sleeping bag, clothes, etc.

Scoutergriz's point on the dangers of entanglement are certainly valid as her experience illustrates. So where the tethering method is used I guess it would be prudent to not use an excesive amount of line so as to minimize this risk.



Board footera

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