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"Tried and True" Outfitting for Extreme Whitewater Canoeing: Thigh Strap System

by Sammer Elias

Thigh strap insert Make your own, custom molded, semi-rigid, suspended, thigh straps. After much research and experimentation, I came up with a way of making my own thigh straps that utilized all the best existing ideas, along with some of my own innovations. Rigid straps are nice because they some what stand-up own their own, allowing easy, quick entry. But from a manufacturer they have a generic rigid form, that doesn't fit everyone's legs very well, and they have minimal adjustability. Suspending soft straps with rope or shock cord is also a good idea. But its hard to make it work well since they don't stay very open, or the pull of the cord enhances strap slippage. The system I came up with uses a combination of these ideas, and it works wonderfully.

Here is how I did it....
I used 2" tubular webbing, that I got from the local climbing store, for the thigh straps. In case you are wondering, you don't need any additional padding on the webbing, they are soft enough even on bare skin. I used 2" side release buckles as a quick release for the straps. They can be released either by squeezing the side levers, or by pulling up on the ends of the buckles. "Tri-Glides" were used to secure the straps to the anchors. Both the side release buckles (sometimes called "Fastex Buckles") and "Tri-Glides" can be found at most well-equipped backpacking stores like REI. I used 1.5" wide plastic strips that I found at a home improvement store to make the straps rigid. To do that, I first attached the thigh straps and their anchors in place in the boat. I got in and got things adjusted.

Then I measured how much length there was between the quick release buckles and the side anchors. Thatís where the plastic strips were going to go. I cut the plastic strips to their respective lengths, and rounded off the corners. While sitting in the boat, in the thigh straps, I heated up the plastic strips with a heat gun. When they got soft from the heat, I laid them over my legs on top of the thigh straps, and molded them exactly to my legs. When they cooled, I removed the buckles and slid them inside the tubular webbing. I used shock cord to suspend all the straps up. For safety, I attached all the shock cord with spring loaded cord locks(the ones you find on jackets). They connect the cords together, but if there is pull on the cords, the cords will come loose, which is good. For a better understanding of the whole set-up...take a look at the photos.

So with this thigh strap system you get custom molded, rigid straps, that stay open and hold their form when they are suspended, with a minimal amount of tension on the shock cord. In addition, all four straps cost about a total of $18 to make. Compare that with the cost of a set of four manufactured thigh straps.

Be sure to take a look at the photos for a better understanding of the whole set-up. Let me know if you have any questions, email Sammer

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