Pontoon Payload Configuration

I'm doing a multi-day trip on a river that has rapids rated up to class III. I'll be using a Scadden Skykomish that will be loaded down with 100 lbs of gear plus myself at 185.

The weight is broken down as follows (weight in lbs):

grey pack 14.2
orange dry backpack 10.2
orange dry bag 7.2
blue food dry bag 14.6
blue sleep dry bag 14.6
side bag port 12.2
side bag starboard 10.8
rod tube 8.6
tripod 4.5
pump 1.5

I tried a couple configurations the other day on dry land and I'm wondering which setup, if any, you guys think would perform best.

Config #1 - Load everything on the back tray

Config #2 - Heaviest bags on tray, lightest up front.

Without trying either, I'm guessing #2 will work out better. Center of gravity will be lower with the weight distributed across the boat more evenly


You won't know until you sit in it on the water. I'd just load it however and adjust the frame back or forward to get a level ride. I usually have at least 100# on the back with dog and anchor so I move the frame forward. No rules stating the back strap has to be straight up and down.


Active Member
You can get a pretty good idea of the weight distribution by sitting on it in your driveway and seeing if the tips or tails of the tubes are higher. Adjust as necessary to make tubes level. You can always make fine adjustments to the balance on the river by scooting the frame towards the front or back of the tubes.
Come on, that boat has 600 pounds weight capacity according to the Scadden website - with you (185) and gear (100) you're not even halfway there! Load 'er up some more!

All kidding aside I would definately distribute some of the weight towards the front aka option#2. I have a feeling the boat will naturally balance better that way without having to play too much with the frame and how it sits relative to the toons. You'll also be a little less top heavy this way as well. Just make sure you strap your gear down well so you don't end up having a yard sale if you hit some tough stuff.


Not to be confused with freestoneangler
Just make sure you strap your gear down well so you don't end up having a yard sale if you hit some tough stuff.
I would do a hybrid of 1 & 2 by moving the front bags from the #2 pics to a position just behind you Scadden side bags. In that position, you can strap them right to the frame (see comments on this below) Flipping the cargo deck around so the big lip is in the back will help this work. Then as others have suggested, balance everything by shifting the frame fore/aft. However, I see a huge yard sale in your future if you strap your load down like in these pics. Maybe you just did this quickly for photos and planning but if not, here are a few tips to if you want to make your load even safer when the crap hits the fan. (if you strapped it just for pics, please ignore the comments below)

First, go buy a bunch of shorter rafting cam straps in 1 - 6' lengths. I'd figure 2/item and a half dozen extra - You can never have too many straps! Ditch or cut down all those long straps (and get rid of those straps with plastic buckles and huge ratchet straps). In a flip, your gear is going to pop right out from under them and they also present an entrapment problem. Each bag should have its own 1-2 straps, the strap should only be as long as needed to go around the item and the closest frame parts. If you do strap to the deck, there should not be a lot of open space between the bag and deck. In other words, put the big stuff back there or drill/cut a few holes/slots to run the straps through. I would also flip the cargo deck around so the big lip is in the back so it helps keep stuff on and allows you to run some dry bag straps to the rear frame bar. If that platform only has two straps that go to D rings, I would drill a couple more holes for more straps (possibly on/near the front small lip) and make sure the straps go around a frame piece, not to just to a D ring. You have a lot of cargo to depend just on 2 D rings. I am not thrilled with the way that spare oar is strapped down either as you are going to loose it and in order to deploy it in an emergency, it needs to be in one piece and easily accessed. (example: http://www.nrs.com/product/1425/nrs-spare-oar-keeper) I'd also put some tethers on your main oars, either with para cord or commercially available ones. http://www.nrs.com/product/1424/nrs-oar-tethers

When you close your drybags/duffles, you need to get as much air out as possible as it 1. helps prevent leaks when you flip as the pressure will cause the trapped air to find a way out and when it does, water comes in and 2. it enables you to strap it down more snuggly. Also, running straps under your tubes vs around the frame isn't a good idea. When you get to a big rapid, I'd also run a strap or two around each Scadden side bag as they are going to come off or open. Also consider buying a flip line as that boat is going to be hard to turn back over with that load. (if you've never used one, there are probably some videos online somewhere) I consider throw bags a must for class 3 (especially in remote settings) but they take practice and skill to use effectively (see previous posts on this). Be sure to keep a good river knife handy, preferably on the PFD that you are wearing.

But most of all, have a blast! I hope you have a fantastic trip!


Disregard my post..... ^^^^^^^^^ Looks like Freestone has done this before! ^^^^^^^^

A bit overkill compared to how I do things but that IS the way to set up for a multi day trip.
Thanks for the feedback. I did the drift with the boat in configuration #2. My partner, with the same boat and roughly the same payload, started out with #1 but switched over to #2 after a couple hours and said it was much better. The drift turned out to be a piece of piss so none of the shortcomings freestone pointed out ended up biting me but I'll consider them for future multi-day drifts. Actually what I'll probably do is get a proper raft with a cooler so I can eat solid food instead of barf-in-a-bag for a week.