Swimming with camping gear

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Rabbit leg

Nov 9, 2016
UK and world
I do a lot of canoe camping on islands, mainly up in Scotland.
I also do a lot 'wild' swimming and would like swim out to some islands and camp the night. Much easier than transporting and preparing a boat.

Before I get lectured - I am an experienced swimmer. And I can swim about a mile in 9°C water in only my trunks. Not easy but refreshing afterwards. If it is warmer, then a lot further.

I have been trying to find a method to transport the gear. Maybe 6 or 7 kg.
Due to cold temperatures and distances, I have to swim fast in front crawl. Which means pushing a bag in front is out. So is towing a dry bag. It drags and jerks, I tried.

I was thinking about a foam body board for surfing (1 metre long) but that would be bulky to carry aound.

Has anyone done anything similar? Any SBS on here?
And no! I don't want a Packraft.

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Oliver G

Full Member
Sep 15, 2012
Melbourne, Derbyshire
Interesting problem, I've had a quick look on the OS maps and most of the islands in the lochs are about 100 - 300 meters from the nearest shore. one option would be to put your kit in a dry bag, properly closed with plenty of air in it and then coil a length of cord between you and the bag, swim out with the cord tied to a belt and pull it in after, 300 meters of paracord isn't going to weigh that much and bank line even less, I think 1kg of decent bank line is about 600m.

Your main risk would be entanglement so either carry a ligature cutter or use a quick release knot.

If you do lose the paracord in the water having a fixed float about 5 meters behind you will allow you to retrieve it if you have to cut lose and save swimming back to your kit if you're 90% the way over.

You're likely to be cold once you get out of the water and it will take a while to haul your kit over, have you got a towel you can strap to the belt while swimming?

Let us know what solution you use in the end and good luck.


Full Member
Nov 6, 2008
I've done/do my fair share of cold water swimming/immersion.

I think you hit upon the right idea with the foam body board with numerous well strapped in dry sacs.

I'm not going to suggest other things such as what you need to avoid After shock as you've already made it clear you are experienced.

I'd be interested in what you come up with as I've also wondered the same.


Oct 6, 2003
Would putting some high stretch elastic in the tow line help with evening out the jerking? Probably wouldn't be enough for a naked dry bag as I imagine there is too much drag, but the higher it can be made to sit, the better. Seems kind of specialized and I would be surprised if there is a ready made and inexpensive solution any less bulky than a body board. Maybe it would still work if you trimmed the board smaller? Not sure what happens when you cut into such things. If you want low drag the load has to be kept out of the water, so there will be a minimum size that will adequately float a 7kg load. Shouldn't be all that hard to calculate what you need.

300m tow line, I would think that something thinner than paracord would work fine, might even find something that floats.
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Full Member
Jan 11, 2011
What about customising a 10/25 Litre rigid water carrier? As long as it's airtight it should float high in the water. You could streamline it and increase its buoyancy to lessen the drag. As Chris said above, tow with a line with some elastic and use a waist belt or a shoulder rig rather than an ankle strap.
Alternatively, fly fishing line floats reasonably well but you might break it.
Interesting to see what you come up with.


Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
A mini canoe would be ideal :D but not sure if you can get that. Kayak playboat perhaps? They're 1.65-1.75 cm long and can hold all your camping stuff safe and dry, while being low drag.


Full Member
Sep 27, 2005
Oxfordshire and Pyrenees-Orientales, France
In my youth, I did something similar and understand the problems. I found towing the kit on a LiLo (blow-up mattress) reduced the drag problem as is is on rather than in the water I would guess that SaraR's idea would be an improvement as a lot of inflatable beach toys have come on the market since my youth. Not recommended in windy, open water conditions.
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Full Member
Jan 28, 2017
Body board might be bulky, but the cheap ones are super light and the resistance would be really minimal with 6 or 7kg on it. Could probably just cam strap a dry bag on it. Might even try it next time I'm out on the yak!
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Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
Kayak towlines are belts with a quick release buckle that has a cord with a plastic ball on the end to grip on and pull the buckle open quickly if needed. The reason is when towing another kayaker you might get into difficulty and have to let yourself go free for your own safety.

On the other end of the tow line, which leaves the belt from the back IIRC, is a floating rope length which has a shock absorber isolating you from the jerks caused by be what you're towing.

I do not know if such a thing would work but it might allow you to tow a floating drybag behind you. I think the absorbing part should allow you to cope with the towing issue you experienced. Afterall it's designed to tow a kayaker in the water and / or kayaks which would be more of a drag than your 7kg kit.

A quick Google came up with this link.

Retailer with towline stock


Nov 16, 2019
Vantaa, Finland
A shock absorbing elastic makes sense, it only functions well within certain mass and resistance combinations at any one "setting" and would have to be adjusted for others. Still, I don't think the window is narrow so one stiffness might work for all practical combinations.
Apr 3, 2020
my friend and I crossed a 150-2000m wide sea loch in the hebrides last month by placing our backpacks in a survival bag with as much air as we could get in it and twisted and tied to shut round the neck - large orange survival bag easily floated all my gear about 18-20kg (it was a multi day trip). we then had a rubber ring to swim with and towed the gear by a short (5 metres?) rope. Worked brilliant and would be good for short crossings. Main concern was currents but we calculated and timed appropriately. For safety we went for the flood tide, better to be carried inland than out to sea!

all the other solutions we thought of were too unwieldy to carry for the many miles of walking we were also doing either side of the crossing. we had the survival bag and rubber ring already, the latter was insurance probably not necessary but i'd take it again just in case. I wouldve camped and waited if there were strong offshore winds or currents and/or any significant swell.
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Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Mar 5, 2018
Swimming thin and tough cordage sells every good boat shop. Use more secure knots with it than you would usually use, they tend to open easier if you use swimming cordage. Splicing is the better way to use it.

(I really don't understand why neraly everybody mentions nearly always parachute cords here. Is this a survival forum for flying personal or what? :confused2: )

I guess an Ortlieb explorer drybag 60 litres will do the job, if not such kind of rucksacks they offer in larger sizes too.

The Ortlieb bags are made in Germany and welded together. Of course you can also take an Asian copy if you don't really need your stuff...


Obviously a large one swims better but is more wind sensible than a smaller one.
I never tried this, so I have no idea which size is needed. I think the faster you swim the larger can be the bag without disturbing the swimmer. But of course it's a question of wind speed. Pulling a rubber boat can become pretty uncomfortable if there is a bit of wind.

I would try out some kind of rubber line in between and use something like rucksack carrying straps. Lifeguard swimmers use such stuff. They just swimm out and get pulled back by the team.

I guess, the easiest and best (in all conditions) is to use the buoancy body like a large foam board, put the chest on it and use professional swimmfins.

Life guard swimmers can become pretty fast with usual airmats and swimmfins. I guess that works with an Ortlieb bag too.


Full Member
Dec 31, 2005
In and around the UK coastline I would strongly not recommend it. I’ve spoke to the guy here who was rescued

He was a fit young man who was unable to swim out of the currents and very nearly died. He tried twice himself.

Buy the packraft, get a canoe. I admire your intentions but unfortunately have come across people who have been unsuccessful in similar activities.

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