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Thread: Bushcrafting With An Inflatable Canoe

  1. #1
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    Default Bushcrafting With An Inflatable Canoe

    Aye Up,

    Well, as this is my 500th post I thought that I would put something up informative so here goes.

    It was the recent thread posted by Woof re the Aquaglide inflatable canoe which has prompted me to post this.

    I’ve owned a Sevylor Colorado canoe/kayak which looks very similar to the Aquaglide for more than five years now and have used it on the sea and for several river-camp trips.

    Image 1..jpg

    It has proven to be a very useful purchase occasionally extending my bushcraft activities by giving access to quiet river bank spots (and an island) and on one occasion to a land-side inaccessible beach. And it is great fun.

    I was actually in the process of upgrading the storage/portage method for the Sevylor (An additional waist belt on the kit bag ruck to aid portage) when I saw Woof’s post.

    First off – is it a kayak or is it a canoe? – if it bothers you, look up the definitions, irrespective, the info here is based on experience so it applies whatever you decide to call it.

    I originally bought the Sevylor as a ‘leisure craft’ for use at the coast but after the first family barbeque ‘exped’ to a deserted beach I saw further potential.

    IMHO, as well as the storage situation, the beauty of the inflatable over a rigid is that you can ‘go solo’ in the truest sense of the word as will become apparent.

    But, just to put the record straight from the outset I wouldn’t recommend the inflatable canoe/kayak as a regular sea-going craft as per the pukka-gen sea kayaks, perhaps only for relatively short, relatively calm water trips on the briny – sheltered bays as Teamgrizzly puts it.

    As a river going, ‘exped’ craft however I would place the inflatable ahead of the rigids.

    At a guess I would say that the biggest concern of someone pondering the choice is – confidence!

    Confidence that –

    An inflatable won’t be easily ripped due to underwater obstructions;

    An inflatable won’t sink like a stone if holed.

    I used to use inflatable recce boats in the military and they were dragged up and down river banks, thrown still inflated onto the tops of panzers with little consideration and they hacked most of the abuse no problem. My Sevylor is of a similar weight of material – possibly better!

    If I recall correctly an earlier Sevylor advert showed them being used on (mild) white water, water courses and don’t forget that white water rafting is usually done with inflatables so there is a precedence set. Sometimes that ‘give’ in the hull can be advantageous.

    (As a former white water canoe instructor I’ve broken more fibre glass and polypropylene kayaks than inflatables!)

    My Sevylor has three main air chambers - each side tube and the floor, so I would have to puncture all three simultaneously to sink it. One hole in a rigid and I’m sunk!

    On the Sevylor all of those air chambers are individual, internal removable ‘bladders’ protected by the outer Cordura hull and deck sections so if one were to ever become totally un-repairable, it alone could be replaced and not the whole craft written off. (Again check this on the Aquaglide Woof).
    The seat cushions in the Sevylor are also inflatable and could serve as buoyancy aids in an emergency. .

    The rigid craft tends to cut through and glide over the water, the inflatable 'ploughs' and glides to a lesser degree - if you get the pressure correct (I slightly over inflate above the manufacturers recomm).

    Steering and trim-wise with the ‘kayak’ you use your knees and hips as well as your paddle – with the inflatable it is a combination of the hull exterior mouldings, the skeg and the paddle and is much easier to keep on track.
    Teamgrizzly is correct about the paddle stance, I find it is slightly higher and wider in the inflatable but different again probably for a Canadian style canoe.

    On the subject of paddles, I find that a split-able one is better for portage and stowage and arguably for use Canadian canoe style should one of the blades be broken. (I just can’t let go of my old white water blade though!)

    Be aware though that if you are using the inflatable solo you need to get the trim correct fore-to-aft otherwise the front can lift too high out of the water and become quite affected by the wind and any underwater ‘bumps’ are presented further along the hull (towards you!) which could make for more likely hull damage. Plus you can't see ahead of you as well. I place most of my camp kit towards the front in a large dry bag secured to the hull fixings which I find helps.

    The main (damage) dangers with an inflatable are at least fourfold:

    (i) Avoid stepping into it at all and especially in too shallow water. You may focus too much pressure on the hull over an unseen pointy object beneath the craft. I opt for below knee depth and sidle into the craft backside and leg first.

    (ii) If you put ashore be alert for –

    Pointy foliage – thorns, low branches etc;
    Pointy stones; pointy litter – metal and glass;
    Pointy equipment – knives, saws’ forks; axes etc;
    Hot items – barbeque/fire embers – pots/mugs/cigarettes!

    The (iiird) danger aspect comes with what I believe makes the inflatable the true solo river-camp option – instances where you might have to move the craft overland – portage.

    Other than over relatively short distances, moving a rigid craft overland alongside or between water features and whilst carrying your camp kit might prove problematic if you are solo. (Or even travelling to and from the water feature). Try taking a rigid on a bus or a train!
    It is also a further occasion where you might inadvertently puncture the craft.

    A good length of rope as a bow painter (tow/tie rope) is a must so that you can if necessary, bank-tow the craft over a shallow or a potentially beyond-your-experience section of a river so that you don’t have to carry it overland or risk a capsize.

    But if you do have to portage:

    Note that although the Sevylor is an inflatable it is still fairly bulky and reasonably heavy
    (My Sevylor weighs approx 40lbs (18kgs) – craft/seats/pump/repair kit.

    Image 2..jpg Image 3..jpg Image 4..jpg

    (note wheels in image 4 purchased after first accompanied river outing but most useful at the coast!).

    Moving that plus a 72hour camp kit - 15lbs-ish (7kgs) (total 56lbs-ish) could be quite a task solo. (56lbs – now why does that ring a bell )

    Image 3..jpg PLUS image 5.jpg

    The next aspect is quite relevant if you are thinking of solo river-bushcrafting (Woof!).

    The Sevylor came with a very lightweight nylon bag with handles on it, mainly for storage and short distance-only carry. I’ve replaced this with a canvas, 120l German Army surplus kit bag with integral shoulder straps.

    Image 6..jpg

    I advocate that you should always carry the inflator pump and a comprehensive repair kit (not just the supplied one!) in the canoe. The craft only takes a bit of grunt and 20-30 minutes to inflate.

    I also recommend making sure that everything in the canoe is attached to it in case I flip it so that everything stays together and is more easily recoverable. So check that Aquaglide for anchor points on the hull and an attachable mesh storage bag Woof.

    Now I can fit the deflated craft and seats plus the pump and my ‘rationalised’ 72 hour camp kit in the same container and manage both a to-and-from water, train/bus journey and when necessary slightly longer portages between river sections.

    Image 7..jpg Image 8..JPG

    After use I have always hosed down the craft with fresh water, dried it off thoroughly, de-creased it as much as possible and then rolled it up for storage as opposed to folding it in order to avoid sharp creases which might result in damage. None apparent yet so the method must be working.

    The kit bag also provides better protection against the fourth danger - whilst the inflatable is in storage – where in my experience most damage to one can occur (those recce boats for instance!).
    Craft deflated, pointy objects are less likely to bounce off it, more likely to be pressed for a long duration against it etc.

    I once stored a styrene surf board in my shed – when I came back to it the following year wasps had chewed it up and made a rather fetching construction of their own on it!

    Above all use life jackets and don't commit yourself into situations on water that you are unsure of - if in doubt walk/tow it or portage around it.

    Well, that’s my day off over with – I hope that some find this useful. Back to that waist belt modification on the ruck now.
    Free-State Yorkshire Now!

  2. #2
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    This may sound strange but as you were an instructor ... if someone came to you for lessons but couldn't swim would you advise them not to take it up ? I can't swim at all well myself but always hanker after trying a little inland kayaking

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    Aye up,

    If you mean would I advise you not to take up canoe-ing 'cos you can't swim - no not at all, but I wouldn't put you straight into one and especially not into a white water style kayak with enclosed cockpit.

    I would build up your confidence in open water (still, then moving) in a wet suit and an appropriate buoyancy aid to get you 'swimming' first.

    Once that was achieved I'd take you in an open canoe/inflatable kayak.

    I used to do exactly that with youngsters who were weak swimmers culminating in them having the confidence to jump into small sections of white water before they got into a canoe. That was back in the Forces though - I'm not sure how our crazily risk averse society would view that now!

    Think about this - when people apply for a ticket on a cross channel ferry are they asked if they can swim? I never have been. Why might that be - over confidence that their ships won't sink or confidence that if it came to it correctly used safety equipment will keep people afloat?
    Free-State Yorkshire Now!

  4. #4

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    Very interesting post, thanks for taking the time to knock that together. I must admit that the idea of an inflatable canoe is something that I have been toying with for a few years now. I have even been looking at the collapsible canoes (Wayland etc), but seriously expensive! I may just need to take the plunge. Anywhere that you recommend particularly within the uk for 'Bushcraft canoe' possibilities?

  5. #5
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    Thanks Jaeger for a really useful review / advice thread. It's good to hear what an experienced kayaker makes of the Sevyor. Do you have any experience of their two person models? I'd like to be able to take my lad out with me but I'd also like something that is usable solo. I know you can move the seat to suit but how do you think a two person model would handle solo?
    Thanks for any advice.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaeger View Post
    Aye up,

    If you mean would I advise you not to take up canoe-ing 'cos you can't swim - no not at all, but I wouldn't put you straight into one and especially not into a white water style kayak with enclosed cockpit.

    I would build up your confidence in open water (still, then moving) in a wet suit and an appropriate buoyancy aid to get you 'swimming' first.

    Once that was achieved I'd take you in an open canoe/inflatable kayak.

    I used to do exactly that with youngsters who were weak swimmers culminating in them having the confidence to jump into small sections of white water before they got into a canoe. That was back in the Forces though - I'm not sure how our crazily risk averse society would view that now!

    Think about this - when people apply for a ticket on a cross channel ferry are they asked if they can swim? I never have been. Why might that be - over confidence that their ships won't sink or confidence that if it came to it correctly used safety equipment will keep people afloat?
    Thanks for that, I'm daft enough to jump into anything as a challenge Will have a look into it locally !

  7. #7
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    I've had a Develop Colorado and use it for the same purposes. I concur with all you say. As to whether it is a canoe or a kayak, I define it by how I am using the paddle. Double ended = kayak, single ended = canoe. Mine can change from one to the other in the course of a single journey.

    As I write this I am in my camper van with the Develop in the back on the way to the Mediterranean, but it may well get a dip in a French river on the way.

    I made a trolley to portage with mine that will take the canoe-kayak either inflated or deflated.
    The older I get, the better I was.

  8. #8
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    Auto correct has dementia. For develop read Sevelor.
    The older I get, the better I was.

  9. #9
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    Aye Up,

    Lord Poncho - you are welcome. I too like the sound of collapsible canoes (had the opportunity to 'rescue' one way back in the military and let it go! doh!) I've made fibre glass canoes in the past and did consider having a go at a timber and canvas one but never got around to it. I still think that at present, off-the-shelf, the inflatable gives the best solo option. Re rivers - The last stretches that I did were the River Wye from Wintours leap area south and the River Severn north of Shrewsbury ('downhill' on each occasion of course! ) Down your neck of the woods I would look at the upper sections of the Thames. And don't forget the canal network - there are some great country sections on most of them.

    Herbalist1 - Thanks. My Sevylor IS a two person (2 x 90kg). I have used it solo several times. One of the aspects of inflatable canoe/kayaks is that whilst the outer dimensions may be similar to a Canadian style canoe the inner (due to the width of the air tubes) is considerably narrower and so you don't feel overwhelmed.
    I sit in the rear seat moved slightly forward (they velcro and strap so there is adjustment) and place my camp kit in the frontseat.
    I have also used it at the coast with my better half in the front seat and grandson when much younger at the prow (nautical term ) as together they didn't equate to 90kgs! Either the Sevylor Colarado or the Aquaglide Chinook (latter assuming same spec) would suit you + a.n. other.

    Mikehill - Go for it. Here is a potential route if they still exist - Army Cadet Force - Combined Cadet Force - Scout Assoc. Make an approach to the adult instructors and tell them your situation - they may help you out or at least point you in the right direction.

    Oldtimer - 1. Thanks for the compliment. 2. I like your definition. 3. You jammy B*%$£!
    Free-State Yorkshire Now!

  10. #10
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    Many thanks for the post Jaeger. I've been toying with the idea of an inflatable canoe for when shuttles aren't really a practical option, and also for a bit of light WW (my canoe is carbon/kevlar and mild bumps on rocks and the bottom pain me much much more than they do the canoe).

  11. #11
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    Thanks Jaeger for the feedback - that's helpful, just what I needed to know.

  12. #12

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    excellent thread, delving deeper into this tomorrow!

  13. #13

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    Reminds me to dig the inflatable kayak out of the barn where it's sat for a few years. Have some areas round here I could explore with that.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Lord Poncho View Post
    Very interesting post, thanks for taking the time to knock that together. I must admit that the idea of an inflatable canoe is something that I have been toying with for a few years now. I have even been looking at the collapsible canoes (Wayland etc), but seriously expensive! I may just need to take the plunge. Anywhere that you recommend particularly within the uk for 'Bushcraft canoe' possibilities?
    I picked up an Ally folder from a guy on here a while ago. I've only had it out a few times as it's 16'6" and I'm a learner doing solo and using the clubs smaller canoes but when tandem compared to similar sized canoes that the club has it's fantastic.
    Takes a bit to put together but once made it's a nicer paddle. Also half the weight!

    They aren't cheap either but not the same sort of price that I winced at after searching for "wayland canoes".

    Cheers
    Grebby

  15. #15
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    Aye Up,

    I’ve just completed one of the mods to the ruck-bag – the addition of a panel of self created molle so that I can securely attach a half decent waist belt. (Hand sewing through webbing reinforced canvas was a real challenge and involved needle, thread, pliers, about 6 hours and tons of patience – (and beverages!)

    Canoeruck1a..jpg Canoeruck2a..jpg Canoeruck3a..jpg Canoeruck4a..jpg

    Even though I only intend to carry the kit over short, portage distances I can already tell that the ruck-bag is going to be a vast improvement over the original holdall. A lot of the weight is now transferred to the hips and both hands are kept free.

    Canoeruck5a..jpg Canoeruck6a..jpg Canoeruck6b.jpg

    One aspect of that original holdall which I do believe has the edge over the ruck-bag is that the former was waterproof. Waterproof? You might challenge, why would a canoe carry bag need to be waterproof?

    Consider – craft off the water – deflate - into holdall/ruck-bag – into vehicle – or on yer back. Whilst the underside of the Sevylor is rubberised Cordura, the upper is raw Cordura and it does retain a small amount of water, so will the inside of the craft unless you swab it out. A wet car boot - or worse – water dripping onto the backs of yer legs during portage might be things to avoid.

    With that in mind I’m thinking of PU coating the inside bottom half of the ruck-bag.

    Now whilst all of the above might seem a bit too much for some – there may be an easier though quite a bit more expensive route which I pondered when initially looking for an alternative to the original holdall.

    It comes in the form of – The North Face base camp duffel – extra large, capacity – 132 litres. (They do come in other colours!)
    I haven’t physically tried to fit the Sevylor and camp kit into one but the size certainly looks promising. Of note though is that you would still have to cobble up a waist belt.

    Canoeruck8a..jpg Canoeruck9a..jpg

    The German surplus naval sea sack that I have used can be had for about twenty quid. The choice is yours!
    Free-State Yorkshire Now!

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