There’s nothing worse than capsizing your kayak or canoe in fast-moving water. Your boat can quickly fill up with water, and in some cases even sink before you get a chance to right it. Enter the kayak/canoe float bag.
These inflatable bags are easily mounted inside the bow and stern of your craft – adding a significant amount of floatation and preventing water from getting inside. This keeps your boat high in the water in case you capsize, and makes recovery in rough water much easier.
Most float bags are designed to fill the entire bow or stern compartment, so you’ll want to make sure you pick the right size and shape for your craft. I’ll break down some of the best kayak and canoe float bags on the market, so you can find the right one for your needs.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Kayak & Canoe Float Bags
- Best Overall: NRS Standard Kayak Floatation
- Best Split Kayak Float Bags: NRS Kayak Stern Float Bags-Bow/Stern Set
- Also Consider: Harmony Gear Long Bow Flotation Bag
- Best Canoe Float Bag: NRS Canoe 3-D End Float
- Also Consider: Harmony Gear 3D End Canoe Flotation Bag
Best Overall: NRS Standard Kayak Flotation
NRS makes some of the best whitewater gear on the planet – and this well-made urethane float bag is no exception. It’s made to fit in either the bow or stern of most kayaks without a center pillar. The 10-guage urethane material is ultra-tough and durable, and won’t leak or delaminate over time.
Three different sizes are available (small, medium & large), so you can easily find the right size for your kayak’s dimensions. They’re designed to fill the entire compartment, so make sure to measure your kayak before picking a size. Keep in mind that once you inflate the bag fully it will stay put, even if it doesn’t fit all the way to the into the bow or stern.
Like many other float bags, it comes with an inflation hose that allows you to fill the bag when it’s in position inside the bow or stern or your craft. Three included anchor points allow you to lash the bag in position in a variety of different ways. NRS backs the float bag up with a lifetime guarantee – so you can rest assured you’re getting a quality product.
- 10-gauge urethane material is ultra-tough and won’t leak or delaminate
- Three different sizes are available
- Designed to fit inside most kayaks
- Inflation hose for easy inflation
- Three anchor points for lashing in position
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Best Split Kayak Float Bags: NRS Kayak Stern Float Bags-Bow/Stern Set
Similar to the float bag reviewed above, this set of rock-solid urethane bags are ideal for increasing flotation and keeping your craft above water in hairy situations. The set comes with 2 bow bags and 2 stern bags, for a total of 4 separate float bags. They’re designed to fit on either side of kayak center pillars – so you’ll still be able to add flotation to kayaks with support pillars.
The 10-gauge urethane material is ultra-tough, and won’t leak or delaminate over time. Long 20-38” inflation tubes allow you to fill the float bags comfortably from the cockpit without removing the footrests.
Like its larger cousin, the split bags come with three anchor points – allowing you to lash them in position in a variety of ways. The bags are designed to fit inside most kayaks longer than 8-feet.
- Split float bags designed to fit around kayak center pillars
- 2 bow bags and 2 stern bags for a total of 4 float bags
- 10-gauge urethane construction is rock-solid
- Long inflation tubes for easy inflation
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Also Consider: Harmony Gear Long Bow Flotation Bag
This vinyl float bag makes an excellent choice when you want a well-made float bag without breaking the bank. It’s intended for kayaks between 10 and 13 feet long, but harmony also makes a smaller sized bag for shorter kayaks.
A twist valve on the inflation hose ensures a positive seal, while a high-capacity dump valve allows for rapid deflation. Two tie-ins are located toward the rear of the bag – so you can lash it down in several different ways. The tie-ins are isolated from the air holding cell, so an accidental tear will be limited to the anchor point.
The float is designed for the hull and will fit behind the footrests of most kayaks. Harmony also makes a similar bag for use in the stern – so make sure to get both if you want maximal flotation.
- Ideal for kayaks between 10 and 13 feet
- Twist valve on the inflation hose ensures a positive seal
- Two tie-down points for lashing down the float
- Designed to fit in the hull
Best Canoe Float Bag: NRS Canoe 3-D End Float
When it comes to canoeing, a good float bag can be just as valuable. These bags are wider and larger than most kayak floats, making them ideal for both the bow and stern of most canoes. They’re made from 70 Denier Urethane coated nylon – so you’ll have enough toughness to handle nearly any conditions.
The fabric is also abrasion and UV resistant – so you can paddle all day long without worry. Three tie-down points are sewn onto the outer material, so attaching it to your craft is a breeze.
The inflated dimensions are 30” x 18” x 29”, so it’s plenty large enough to fit inside the vast majority of canoes out there. Make sure to measure your canoe’s internal dimensions before ordering to ensure proper fit.
A large dump valve allows for quick and easy inflation/deflation, while an 11” long inflation tube allows you to inflate the craft from a comfortable position.
- Large canoe float bag fits both bow and stern of most canoes
- Ultra-durable 70 Denier Urethane coated nylon
- Three tie-down points
- 11” long inflation tube for fast and easy inflation
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Also Consider: Harmony Gear 3D End Canoe Flotation Bag
This handsome looking float bag is the perfect solution for most tandem canoes. It’s made from high denier nylon, making it significantly more durable and lighter than Harmony’s cheaper vinyl float bags. A high capacity dump valve allows for quick and easy deflation, while a short inflation hose has a twist valve to ensure positive pressure.
Tie in points on the nose and both corners allow for easy securing, while three different sizes allow you to custom fit the float to your boat’s dimensions. All the tie in points are designed to be separate from the main inflatable compartment, so in the event one tears off, your float bag remains undamaged.
Only one float bag comes with purchase, so you’ll probably want to order two to ensure even flotation throughout the canoe. If your canoe is over 15 feet long, Harmony recommends a center float to add even more flotation for big water tandem canoe trips.
- Made from lightweight and durable high denier nylon fabric
- High capacity dump valve
- Three different sizes are available
- Three tie-in points designed to be separate from main compartment
How to pick the right float bag
So how do you pick the right float bag for your kayak or canoe? While most float bags can be adapted to fit inside a variety of craft, you’ll want to be on the lookout for a few features when picking one out – let’s take a look at these in greater detail.
Float bags can be made from several different materials, but the most common are vinyl and urethane.
Vinyl is cheaper, less durable, and heavier than urethane. It’s used in many cheaper models and can be a good choice if you want a barebones bag without dropping a lot of cash.
Urethane, or urethane-coated nylon, is highly durable, fairly light, and cost a bit more than vinyl. My recommendation is to spend the extra money and go with urethane. These floats will last longer in rough conditions, and you won’t need to worry about forming a leak.
One-piece vs. Split Float
Most float bags are made from a ‘single-piece’ – meaning there is only one inflatable bag needed for your bow or stern.
Split-floats are designed for kayaks with support pillars that would prevent a one-piece float from fitting inside the hull. For these, you’d need 2 x split floats for the hull and 2 x floats for the stern for maximal floatation.
Some kayaks with built-in support pillars can still fit one-piece floats, you’ll just to measure the distance between the post and the end of the kayak, and ensure the float will fit.
You might not think the inflation hose would be all that important, but a short hose can be a pain to inflate. Look for a longer inflation hose in the 10-inch+ range, as this will allow you to inflate the bag comfortably while it’s in place inside the hull.
Lastly, you’ll want a float bag with strong tie-down points for lashing to your kayak or canoe. Weak tie-down points can rip off and even create leaks in the bag. Because of this, some paddlers don’t like to use the tie-down points at all, and will simply stuff the float bag inside the hull, or cover the bag in fabric and use bungees to keep it in place.
Check out my breakdown of the best kayak paddle floats for another key piece of emergency gear.