How to Add More Buoyancy to a Kayak

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When a kayak without adequate buoyancy capsizes, any water that it fills with weighs it down and causes it to either sink or float just under the surface. In an offshore situation, a water-filled kayak makes rescue difficult even for well-trained paddlers. Adding in cold and rough water could result in death. That's why instructors stress the importance of adequate buoyancy. To add extra buoyancy to your kayak, use flotation bags. Flotation bags fill with air, and the air keeps the boat floating.

Items you will need

  • Bow flotation bag

  • Stern flotation bag

Open the inflation valve on the bow flotation bag. Partially inflate it until you can easily push it from the cockpit to the front of the boat. If you inflate it too much, it will jam before it gets all the way forward. Inflate it too little and it will feel like pushing a wet noodle -- it won't go anywhere.

Push the bag completely into the kayak.

Inflate the bag until it fills the compartment completely and wedges itself into place. Because a kayak has a deck that protects the bag from waves, it won't come out when inflated fully. Close the inflation valve tightly after blowing it up.

Repeat for the stern.


  • As the temperature changes, both air and water, air condenses or expands, which changes the inflation level in your flotation bag. Check it before each paddle and adjust the inflation as needed.


  • Size the flotation bags correctly to maximize the buoyancy. Buy a stern bag that fills the entire stern compartment from the stem to the back of the seat. In the bow, buy it long enough to run from the kayak's tip to your feet.