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Why Kayak Weight Limit Is Important

A kayaks weight limit seems like it should be pretty straight forward right?  You see the weight limit printed on the boat or in the description and probably don’t give it a second thought. You may think that as long as the kayak can support your body weight, you are good to go.  Well, it’s not always that simple.

The weight limit is a significant factor to consider when you are in the market for a kayak.  Sure, you can factor your body weight, but what about your gear?  If you want to take a cooler, fishing gear, your dog, it all adds up.

Why is kayak weight limit important? Too much weight in the kayak can affect the stability and maneuverability of the kayak. 

Kayak weight limit

When you are looking to purchase a kayak, there are a lot of factors to look at.  You need to consider the boat’s length and width, how easy it is to get in and out, and what type of kayaking you will be doing.  The kayaks weight limit is also something you need to pay close attention to. 

The weight limit listed is the maximum amount of weight the kayak can handle and still float. So if you are looking at an entry-level recreational kayak with a weight limit of 275 pounds and you weigh 250 pounds, that doesn’t leave you much (if any) wiggle room.

Yes, the kayak will still float, but it will sit extremely low in the water and be very difficult to maneuver.  Plus, this doesn’t leave room for extra gear.  We will get into this more in a bit.

Different kayaks have different limits 

Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes, and they all have different weight ratings.  There are different lengths, widths, and volumes based on different types of kayaks and what the kayak is designed for, like whitewater or touring. 

Varieties of kayaks include some of the following:

  • Sit on top kayaks (click here for more information on sit on top kayaks)
  • Sit inside kayaks
  • Fishing kayaks (click here for more information on fishing kayaks)
  • Inflatable kayaks
  • Tandem kayaks

Within each of these categories, kayak weight limits vary.  Not all sit on top kayaks have the same weight capacity, same for other types of kayaks.

Kayak weight limit varies by manufacturer

Every company assigns its boats a weight limit, but there is no hard and fast rule for how this is accomplished.  Each manufacturer gives a weight limit based on specific criteria.  Another thing to remember is just because you spend more money on a kayak doesn’t mean you will automatically get a higher weight capacity.

Some manufacturers list a maximum capacity and a “working” capacity.  Think of the “working” capacity as the maximum amount of weight the boat can carry and maintain performance.

How to measure kayak weight limit

There is some clarity to the chaos of kayak weight capacity, and it’s easy to do, as long as you don’t mind a little math.  I am not a math guy, but thankfully I have a smartphone with a calculator, so even I can do this.

The weight limit you want to keep in mind is roughly two-thirds of the maximum capacity.  If you are looking at a kayak with a posted weight limit of 300 pounds, knock about 100 pounds off that (1/3), and you have a 200-pound load capacity. A 600-pound kayak weight limit would give you about 400 pounds of capacity.

This doesn’t mean you have to find a kayak with a really high weight limit, but it’s more of a guide.  If you are a 200-pound man, you need to keep in mind your body weight and the gear you will take along.  If you are planning to take a kayak cooler full of ice and drinks, or maybe you have a kayak anchor for fishing, keep in mind all this gear adds up. 

Depending on how you will be using your kayak (camping, fishing, or just cruising around) will play a factor in the weight limit you should look at.

What happens if you exceed the kayaks weight limit?

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Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

You can certainly have more weight in the kayak, and you can even exceed the maximum weight limit to some extent.  Remember that you will sit lower in the water, lose some stability, and it will be more difficult to paddle and maneuver. 

You don’t want your hatches, to get too close to the water, and have your gear get wet because the boat sits lower in the water.  Depending on water and weather conditions, you could even end up just rolling right over. 

Some kayaks will perform better than others when they are fully loaded or overloaded.  How you load the kayak and how the weight of all that gear is distributed also plays a role.

If you are kayak camping and you need to haul your gear to the other side of a small lake, and the water and weather are cooperating, you can probably load it up and go for it.  You just don’t want to dilly dally around and risk dumping your gear in the lake.  Of course, you want to stay within the manufacturer guidelines, but you may be able to push the envelope depending on the situation. 

Kayak stability

As if there isn’t enough to wrap your head around, here is some more food for thought.  When it comes to kayak stability, you have primary stability and secondary stability. Overloading your kayak can affect the stability. 

Primary stability is what most people new to kayaking think of when they think about stability.  You sit in a kayak and lean side to side a bit, you may feel pretty stable. This refers to primary stability, kind of how you feel when you are sitting on calm or flat water. When you lean too far, though, you can flip over.   

Secondary stability is how the boat reacts when it’s on edge or leaning on its side. This is evident when you are in choppy water conditions or at sea.  Just because your load feels secure when you are loading up and initially sitting still in the water (primary stability), you can still have poor secondary stability when maneuvering through the water. 

A kayak can have fine primary stability, but you may be in trouble the moment turbulence sets in.  This is especially true if your kayak is overloaded.

Kayak weight limit examples

Here are some examples of different models of kayaks and their weight limits.

Single

  • Pelican Trailblazer NXT – 275 pounds
  • Lifetime Teton Angler Kayak – 275 pounds
  • Vibe Skipjack 90 Kayak – 300 pounds
  • Old Town Canoe Trip 10 Deluxe Angler Kayak – 325 pounds
  • Perception Pescador 12.0 Sit-on-Top Kayak – 375 pounds
  • Ascend H12 Hybrid – 450 pounds
  • Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0 (pedal drive) – 475 pounds

Inflatable kayaks

  • Aquaglide Deschutes 130 – 400 pounds
  • BLACKFOOT ANGLER 110 HB – 400 pounds

Tandem

  • Ocean Kayak MALIBU TWO – 425 pounds
  • Ocean Kayak MALIBU TWO XL ANGLER – 500 pounds
  • Perception Tribe 13.5 – 500 pounds
  • Perception Rambler 13.5 – 550 pounds
  • Brooklyn Kayak Co. TK122 Angler 12-foot – 770 pounds

As you can see, there is a wide range of kayak carrying capacity and a wide range of price points too.

A couple of things to note here are that tandem kayaks can typically support more weight, which makes sense.  You have two people and more gear, so they are designed appropriately.  Also, don’t be fooled by inflatables; they can carry a large load too.

Conclusion

Kayak weight limit - why kayak weight limit is importantPin

I think a kayak’s weight limit should be just that, what it can carry.  There are many factors to consider when looking to purchase a kayak, and the weight limit is right at the top. An excellent place to start is deciding how you will use a kayak (camping, fishing, cruising around a lake), which will give you an idea of how much gear you need.

Then you can narrow down your search based on other factors, like length, width, included accessories, and price. Kayak weight limits are an interesting topic, and I hope you find just what you are looking for.

Steve Morrow Founder of Paddle About
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve is an avid kayaker and founder of Paddle About. When he is not on the water, Steve enjoys outdoor activities, including fishing, camping, and hiking with his family. Read more.