Doing The Legwork: How To Portage A Kayak?

how to portage a kayak

Last updated on September 10, 2022

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There are several unexpected things that you might encounter while kayaking. For example. you’ll stumble into a portion of a river that a large piece of wood blocked. More so, it’s also possible that you’ll see a low head dam up ahead. Regardless of what kind of obstacle stops you from kayaking peacefully, there are times when the most practical thing to do is to head towards the bank and go around.

Proper portaging becomes handy during such times. Sometimes, you have to do the legwork and carry the kayak instead to find a better spot.

Let’s talk about how to portage a kayak for a minute. I’ll define what is portaging, why portage, essential things to know for portaging, and how to portage.

What Is Portaging?

Portaging is the act of transporting a kayak through dry land. Usually, Kayakers carry the kayaks on their shoulders to portage. Nevertheless, there are tools that can make portaging easier such as a kayak trolley. Not all kayaks can be portaged though. You may only opt to portage kayaks that weigh 70-80 pounds.

Kayaks that you can portage are fiberglass or plastic sit-in kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks, tandem kayaks, and fishing kayaks. Inflatable kayaks can be portaged but it’s better to deflate and inflate them again once you’ve found a better spot.

Why Portage?

Portaging isn’t that easy. You have to bear the weight of the kayak on your back and shoulders. Even if the kayak is light, expect that your muscles will feel a bit tired or fatigued. So why portage if it sounds like a hassle? Certain situations force you to portage the kayak. For example, it’s better to portage the kayak to go around a low head dam. Also, it’s better to carry the kayak to avoid an obstacle at the river than ram it. Lastly, you might have to portage if the spot that you’re kayaking becomes rather unpleasant or full of other Kayakers.

Essential Things To Know When Portaging

Use Your Shoulders and Back

Never attempt to portage a kayak by lifting it with your hands. Transporting the kayak with your hands will focus all of its weight on your arms. This will make paddling more strenuous the moment you continue to ride the kayak. Worst, you might even feel pains in the hands, arms, and wrists.

Use your shoulders and back instead. The shoulders and back support each other very well. This is why they’re ideal for carrying heavy things for a short period of time. Furthermore, the shoulders have a thick layer of muscles that may act as a cushion so that the kayak won’t hurt your shoulder bones.

Consider Using A Kayak Trolley

You shouldn’t forget to bring a kayak trolley when kayaking in locations that might risk you to portaging the kayak. There are small foldable kayak trolleys that you can tie on the hull or stern of the kayak. A kayak trolley is handy. To portage, all that you have to do is to pack your things in the backpack, load the kayak on the trolley, and pull it as you walk.

Shoulder The Kayak At The Cockpit or At The Center

Portaging the kayak is very tiring if you disregard balance. Balance is important because it ensures that the weight of the kayak is evenly distributed while you’re carrying it. It might even help with dissipating some of the excess weight that the kayak has. Carrying the kayak in a balanced manner is very easy. All that you have to do is shoulder it at the cockpit or its center portion. By doing this, you’ll find it more comfortable to tread while carrying the kayak.

Dry The Kayak Before Portaging

A wet kayak is a bit heavier than a dry kayak. That’s why it might be practical to let the kayak dry a bit before you portage. Water doesn’t make the kayak necessarily heavy. However, the slight increase in its weight, due to wetness, is enough to make portaging a hassle.

Seek Help

Seeking help is an option if you’re kayaking with other people. It’s possible that other Kayakers will also avoid an obstacle by portaging just like you. That said, it’s wise to wait and ask them to help you portage the kayak. Of course, you have to return the favor and help them portage their kayaks as well.

How To Portage A Kayak: A Step By Step Guide

Follow these steps to portage a kayak without any problems:

  1. Head towards the bank and haul the kayak out of the water. Don’t forget to place the kayak in a position where it faces the direction of the pathway that you’re about to walk on.
  2. Stand beside the kayak and reach for its cockpit. If the cockpit of the kayak is placed at the stern, locate its centermost portion, and reach for it.
  3. Grab the opposite edges of the cockpit or the centermost portion of the kayak. After doing this, lift the kayak and turn towards the direction of the pathway.
  4. If you’re lifting the kayak by the cockpit, ensure that your head and back fits inside. Also, you can opt to rest the kayak on your shoulders and back if doing so doesn’t disrupt your field of vision.
  5. Before starting to walk, try to ensure that you’re legs and shoulders aren’t trembling. Trembling legs and shoulders mean that you can’t bear the weight of the kayak. If this happens, don’t push through with portaging and seek help.
  6. After ensuring that you can bear the weight of the kayak, start walking slowly. Take care of your footing because a slight slip might lead to fractures or bruises.
  7. Finally, don’t forget to take short breaks. Put the kayak down. Just follow the steps that I mentioned from the beginning to start portaging again. If it’s your first time portaging, consider taking a 20-30 minute rest.

You may watch this video to watch how to portage a kayak firsthand.

Summing It Up

Portaging is an aspect of kayaking that’s never fun. Nevertheless, expect that you have to do it sometimes. That said, portaging isn’t something that you’ll always do. Even so, preparing for it won’t be bad. Doing exercises that improve your muscle strength, stamina, and endurance aren’t bad. Of course, follow the steps that I taught here and everything will be fine.

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