Two Red Canoes

Camping and canoeing resources.

Installing End Bags in a Tandem Canoe

The following steps illustrate how to install end float bags into a tandem white water canoe. The canoe used in the following illustrations is a 16'6" Royalex Evergreen Starburst.

My total cost to outfit the canoe with two end bags was approximately $250 after taxes.

Materials and Costs
Northwater Air Bag Lash Kit (w/out hardware) $40
  • 3mm Black Nylon Cord (50')
  • 3.5" x 5" vinyl anchor with 1" lightweight D-ring (x4)
  • 3.5" x 5" vinyl anchor with 1" lightweight D-ring + side release buckle anchor (x2)
  • 1" Webbing for Center Straps (x2)
Additional 3 mm Black Nylon Cord (16') $4.00
Voyageur 3D 30" Nylon End Bag (x2) $75.00 each
8 mm nylon rope (5') $6.00
quick release link (x2) $5.00

Tools Required
  • pencil
  • lighter
  • drill
  • 5/32" drill bit
  • 1/2" drill bit
  • tape measure
  • knife
  • 150 grit sand paper
  • eraser
  • masking tape
  • paper drywall tape
  • 1" utility paint brush
  • contact cement (waterproof - NOT water-based)
  • contact cement thinner
  • cloth/rag


Repeat the following instructions for each end of the canoe. If your canoe is symmetrical - as was mine - you can re-use the templates on the second end.

Step 1: Grab Loop

Decide where your grab loop hole will be drilled. Use a piece of paper to create a template. First draw a centre line on the piece of paper and fold along the line. Use masking tape to tape the paper on the end of the canoe so that the centre line is, you guessed it, centred and the two corners of the paper just meet the gunnels. On one side of the paper mark an X where you want the hole. Remove the paper, fold along the centre line and then punch a hole through your X so that it goes through both layers of paper. Re-tape the paper onto the canoe and mark the location of the holes on both sides by making a pencil mark through the hole. Note: On my canoe I finally chose to make the hole on my template at 65 mm from the centre line and 30 mm from the top edge of the paper.

Drill a 1/2" hole on each side.

Cut a length of 3mm nylon cord (about 13-14" will do depending on where your grab loop hole was drilled) and insert through holes and tie off as tightly as you can on the outside. This cord loop will later serve as a place to tie-off the webbing and the centre strap.

Rotate the nylon cord so that the knot is on the inside of the hull.

Cut a 30" piece of 7mm or 8mm rope (colour coordinated to your canoe of course) and insert the ends through either side of the canoe. Inside the canoe tie the ends together using a fisherman's knot.

The finished grab loop will look like the picture above.

Step 2: Webbing

Start by inserting your air bag into the canoe and blowing it up approximately 3/4 of the way. Make sure the narrow end is pushed up as far into the canoe end as it will go. On the gunnels, mark with a pencil where the air bag ends. For a 30" air bag this will be approximately 33" to 36" from the end of the canoe. Cut a peice of drywall tape approximately 6-7' long and mark the center of the strip of paper. Use masking tape to secure the drywall tape onto the canoe hull with the center mark at the very front of the canoe and the paper strip extending along the canoe just below the gunnel.

Pick a side to start. Starting at the end of the deck plate, make a mark on the paper tape every 4" until you get to the point where you marked the end of the air bag.

Remove the paper tape and fold at the centre line. Starting at the SECOND mark, make marks on the 2nd side to line up with the marks made on the first side. Add one additional mark on the second side 4" from the last mark. (The 1st mark is not needed since we will be weaving the cord back and forth. The last mark 4" beyond the end of the air bag is needed to tie-off the end of the nylon cord.)

Re-tape the drywall tape to the canoe hull and use a pencil to make a mark on the canoe hull just below the gunnel at each of the marks on the paper tape. Note: Depending on where the short thwart near the deck is on your canoe, you may need to make a minor adjustment to the location of one of the holes. In order to prevent one of my cord crossings from being too close to the thwart I simply moved one of my holes over about 3/4-1".

Using a 5/32" drill bit drill the holes where you made the pencil marks.

Starting from the inside of the canoe at the first hole nearest the deck plate, weave the cord through the drilled holes. Give yourself enough extra cording so that you will be able to create 3 evenly spaced figure-eight loops on the last crossing.

Tie off the end of the cord using a strong stopper knot. I ended up using a figure-eight on a bight to provide a loop from which I could later hang a carbiner for use as a convenient place to secure a small piece of gear - a small camera case for example. (Alternatively, to avoid an extra hole on the 2nd side, you can bring the end of the nylon cord backwards and then through the second last hole. The 2nd last hole may need to be a bit bigger to accomodate two cords going through it. I liked the look of the outside of the canoe achieved by using the extra hole method.)

Create the 3 evenly spaced figure-eight loops on the last crossing and then tighten all the crossings of cording by working your way back towards the end of the canoe. Tie the end of the web cord onto the cord loop cord created earlier.

Next we want to use a length of cord to run lengthwise along the canoe from the stern (or bow) to the end of the webbing already created. You'll need to start with about 7' of 3mm cord on each end. Feed each end of the cord through the two grab loop holes. The grab loop from the front will now look as illustrated above.

Weave each end of the cord lengthwise along the canoe through the cord crossings until the end of the webbing. Wrap the ends around the outside loops (or go through the loops) and then tie the cord onto itself using a tautline hitch. Trim excess as needed.

Secure the end of your centre strap to the original cord loop and weave it length wise along the centre of the webbing, through the centre loop and allow the end to hang for now.

Step 3: Anchors

Cut a length of drywall tape such that fits along the inside curve of the hull from gunwale to gunwale at the point where the webbing ends. Mark the centre of the tape and then mark at the dividing point of each half. Secure the marked drywall tape to the hull using masking tape.

Use a pencil to trace the outline of the vinyl patch anchors centred on the marks you've made on the drywall tape. You can choose to line the outside edge of the anchors even with the webbing (as illustrated above) or centre the anchors directly beneath the line of figure-eight knots. I chose to centre the vinyl pads directly beneath the webbing.

Use 150 or 200 grit sandpaper to slightly rough up the vinyl where the vinyl patch anchors will be glued. After sanding clean the surface using contact cement thinner.

Brush a thin even layer of contact cement in the anchor outlines and on the back surface of the anchors. Make sure you go right to the edges (or even a couple millimetres beyond).

Let surfaces with contact cement on them dry for 15+ minutes.

When dry, carefully place the vinyl patches into position and apply pressure over the entire surface area to remove any air pockets and make sure there is a good bond.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

The final step requires an 8' piece of 3mm nylon cord to create an "M" pattern at the end of the air bag. Tie one end to one of the outside anchors and then loop the cord through the figure eight loops and anchors to form an "M" shape.

To make it easier to put in and take out the air bag the cord should be connected to the middle anchor using some sort of quick release link or carabiner.

Congratulations! You're done.

Consider now installing knee pads and thigh straps.