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Bow Air Bags

Today iboutdoor gives advice on protecting your investments…

It’s all pretty simple maths.

Every litre of water weighs a kilogram. Most average-sized river runners have a volume of roughly 250 litres, or more. Therefore, a boat full of water weighs somewhere in the region of a quarter of a tonne. This is why we use airbags, to displace as much of that water as possible.

In the event of a swim, air bags take up the space that water would otherwise get in to, making the boat lighter and easier to rescue. A chaseboater will find it easier to flip over a boat with air bags in, easier to shunt to the side and far lighter to haul out of the river to empty it. Most people will already be using a pair of stern air bags. I use the 35L Palm Infinity split stern bags in my Everest – effectively making it 70kg lighter to rescue.

The other advantage of air bags, is that they make your boat float higher when it’s full of water. This makes it (hopefully) less likely for your boat to become damaged by rocks, on its unmanned descent of the river. It also makes it easier for the chaseboater to push the boat to the side using their own boat. You can see an example of this here, as I give up on rescuing an un-bagged boat in Dubai. Notice how the water-logged kayak sinks underneath the one that I’m in… Lastly, the more weight the boat has in it when it collides with a rock, the more likely it will be damaged. Air bags give your boat a fighting chance at least.

There’s a lot of empty space in the bow of a kayak and many people forget about this:



Some manufacturers will place a foam buoyancy block in front of the footrest, running from the center pillar to the end of the boat. This helps the boat keep its shape and takes up some of the volume. However, not all boats have these. This causes a tendency for the kayak to float bow-down when it is full of water, exposing the front of the boat to being hit by rocks. 

Enter the bow air bag:

Palm infinity heavy duty airbag 12LA pair of bow air bags will help the front of the boat float higher in a swim and also displace roughly another 24L of water. 

2 x Stern air bags @ 35L


2 x Bow air bags @ 12@

= 94kg less weight to try and move when rescuing a boat.


I use the Palm 12L Infinity heavy duty bags and would recommend them for any river boat, regardless of manufacturer.

In they go:



I removed the center pillar in my boat to do this, as I was doing some work on my foot rest as well, but this isn’t strictly necessary. The photo above shows how they take up some of the volume in front of the footrest. I then deflated them and put the the footrest back in place:



By running the tubes underneath the footrest, you can then set the length of your footrest and re-inflate the airbags accordingly. This also allows you to check on their condition in future without taking out the footrest, or top them up as necessary. 



All finished and ready to hit the water.

By using air bags, you’re protecting your boat as much as possible against damage in case of a swim and your chaseboating friends will thank you for it…

Too poor to buy airbags? Why not make your own…



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