Fun and relaxing kayaking trip on a warm summer day sounds great, right? And, probably you think about renting or buying a kayak for your next adventure. However, when choosing the right kayak for you, there are several key considerations, and the kayak weight limit is one of them. Maybe the most important if you are a heavy paddler or planning to take a lot of gear for your trip. And, now the answer.
Every kayak has a weight limit and it varies according to its size, design, and purpose. It is not a set-in-stone rule, but most of the recreational, touring, and ocean kayaks have a weight limit of 250-450 pounds, most fishing kayaks have load capacity in the range of 350-550 lbs. Of course, tandem kayaks have a more generous maximum weight capacity of 500-650 pounds.
But what actually is the kayak maximum weight capacity?
What is a kayak weight limit?
The kayak weight limit is a key specification of every kayak that shows the recommended maximum load in pounds a kayak could carry and still stay above the water. This number helps the paddlers to choose the most suitable kayak for them according to their own weigh and the weight of all the gear they are planning to bring. But, more on that a bit later.
Actually, the manufacturers calculate the maximum load capacity of the kayaks based on their length, width, and height. The design of the kayak also plays a role. But here is the tricky part. There are no specific standards for the calculation of kayak weight limits so different manufacturers use different methodologies.
What happens if you fully load or overload a kayak?
Generally, utilizing the full load limit or overloading a bit your kayak does not mean it will sink instantly (but it can if you overload it enough). As we mentioned above the weight capacity shows the load limit at which the boat will still float. If we take a sit-on-top kayak as an example, it means that most of the kayak will be submerged. And, it becomes almost impossible for paddling. Highly recommended not to do it.
In general, if you meet or exceed the load capacity of your kayak you can expect really low performance. The kayak becomes unstable and it could easily tip over. In addition, overloading makes the yak very difficult for paddling and maneuvering. In addition, the yak will provide zero protection against wind and waves.
Before years we decided to cross a calm river with a tandem sit-in kayak. Great boat, indeed, Necky Sky II with a maximum weight capacity of 425-475 pounds. Stable, easy-to-paddle, and maneuverable with 2 paddlers on board. The issue was that we were three guys with some gear and the total of our weight was not less than 500-520 lbs.
The distance was only a few strokes, not more than 150-200 feet. We had PFDs. And, it seemed not so challenging task for experienced paddlers. Not exactly.
Actually, we didn’t sink. We even returned, but with two courses. I have never felt so uncomfortable paddling this yak. It was really hard for paddling and maneuvering was almost impossible. It was very unstable and two times we were ready to swim.
So, the performance of the kayak was terrible. And, I do not recommend fully loading or overloading your kayak. Maybe you will not capsize, but you will definitely not enjoy the kayaking trip. And, it is too risky.
Here comes the question of how to choose a kayak with an appropriate weight limit based on your weight.
Paddler size and kayak weight limit
So, you are now aware the maximum weight capacity is exactly a limit for every kayak. Actually, there are some debates on how much below the weight limit you should be in order to be in the safe zone and achieve ultimate performance. Some experts say 25%, others 35% below the maximum weight capacity. We would say that if you are somewhere between these two levels, it will be fine. But make sure that you include in the calculations your own weight (and your paddle partner in case looking for a 2-person kayak), the weight of the paddles, and gear you are bringing. In case you are looking for a fishing kayak, you should also add the fishing gear weight.
In order to easily understand the numbers, we will do the math with a paddler with a weight of 200 pounds and gear weighing 50 lbs. So, you should not look for a kayak with a maximum weight capacity of 250 lbs, you need a boat that could safely hold this load and keep good performance. Based on that, you need a boat with a weight limit of approximately 400 lbs. And, here is the calculation.
- Kayak weight limit: 400 lbs
- Subtracting 25%-35%
- Maximum weight for safe paddling and ultimate performance: 260 – 300 lbs.
Actually, it is pretty logical to ask if big guys can go kayaking if the weight limit of a kayak is reduced by 25-35%.
The short answer is YES. And, actually kayaking is a very good exercise for weight loss. There are excellent kayaks with generous weight limits, spacious and comfortable. So, they are really suitable for overweight and tall paddlers.
And, a quick final note.
Loading your kayak with only 65-75% of its load capacity does not mean your boat will stay dry. Kayaking is practiced in water and there is no way you can stay absolutely dry. However, keep in mind that less loaded is your kayak, higher it will stay on the water. So, less water will have in its cockpit. But it will never be fully dry.