Is There a Weight Limit for Kayaking? Limits For Every Kayak Style | Actively Outdoor (2022)

No matter your shape or size, there will most likely be a kayak that’s right for you out there. Finding the correct kayak can be the tricky part. The first rule of kayaking should probably be “don’t sink your kayak”. After all, a kayak below water is not very useful. Before buying a kayak, you might then be asking yourself, is there a weight limit for kayaking?

Do Kayaks Have A Weight Limit?

Is there a weight limit for kayaking? The weight limit for kayaking will be different for every kayak. It’s important to determine what kayak weight limits you will need before buying one for yourself.

Generally, adding your total body weight along with the weight of any gear you have on board should not exceed 65% to 70% of the kayak’s maximum capacity rating.

General kayak weight limits might follow these examples:

Standard Recreational Kayak

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A standard recreational kayak is made for flatwater lakes and calm rivers. They will consist of the sit-in and sit-on-top types most commonly. A recreational kayak is simple and easy to control. Because these kayaks are made for calm waters, they will normally have a lower weight limit.

General maximum capacity for recreational kayak: 250-300 pounds

Touring Kayak

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Touring kayaks are sit-in types that are sleeker and are more able to be controlled in rough waters. A touring kayak will be longer and more efficient for a long trip.

But how much weight will they hold? Since the touring kayaks are made to increase lift in rough water they are made with super-lightweight composite material that also gives them a boost in maximum capacity over their recreational counterparts.

General maximum capacity for touring kayak: 350 pounds

Sit-on-top Kayak

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A sit-on-top kayak is almost like a standard recreational kayak and holds a similar amount of weight. However, the sit-on-top versions do tend to hold a little more weight because of their sit-on-top design.

General maximum capacity for sit-on-top kayak: 350-400 pounds

Tandem (2-person) Kayak

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A tandem or 2-person kayak will hold the most weight, and for the obvious reason of transporting two people. These kayaks are mainly sit-in-style and longer to accommodate two paddlers.

General maximum capacity for tandem kayak: 500-600 pounds

How Much Weight Can a Kayak Hold?

Unfortunately, every kayak manufacturer approaches its maximum capacity rating a little bit differently. There is no uniform standard. So, pay special attention to maximum capacity before buying a kayak.

But what is this maximum capacity rating and how is it determined? Finding out if there is a weight limit for kayaking will depend on this maximum capacity.

The maximum capacity of a kayak will mean the most weight the kayak can hold without going below the waterline, or still being able to float.

Other names you might see for the maximum capacity rating are:

  • Max weight limit
  • Load limit
  • Weight rating

The reason why you don’t want to exceed 70% of this maximum capacity is that trying to maneuver your kayak when it is essentially at the waterline makes it very unstable and difficult to use.

Most kayak manufactures realize this, so they have come up with another weight limit that makes more sense. This is called a working capacity.

What is the Working Capacity of a Kayak?

The working or “performance” capacity of a kayak is the most weight that the kayak can hold while still maintaining its performance. You can say that the rule of thumb that was given for determining a kayak’s weight limit (no more than 65% to 70% of the maximum capacity rating) is the kayak’s working capacity.

What many people may not be considering when selecting a kayak and looking at weight limits is the weight of any additional gear they might bring along.

For example, you might bring a cooler full of ice and water, a dry bag, or a fishing pole and tackle box. Any gear like this should also be taken into consideration when determining which kayak and which working capacity will work for you.

Let’s look at a real-life example of this. Let’s say the maximum capacity rating of your particular kayak is 300 pounds. At 70% of the maximum capacity, you’d be best to not exceed 210 pounds.

So, counting your own body weight at 185 pounds, you only have a maximum of 25 pounds extra for gear and anything else you want to bring onboard. 25 pounds seems like a lot, but add a tackle box, fishing pole, life jacket, paddles, a cooler, and a bag of ice. Now you’re probably getting close to that 70% threshold before performance becomes an issue.

These are all considerations that need to be made when selecting the appropriate kayak.

How to Increase Weight Capacity of a Kayak

Unfortunately, there really is not a way to increase the weight capacity of a kayak over and above the maximum capacity rating. However, since the main goal is to keep your kayak above water, there are ways to increase the buoyancy of the kayak and offset some of the additional weight.

Use the Kayak in Saltwater: Saltwater naturally causes objects to be more buoyant than in freshwater. Even if you have more than the recommended weight, paddling in saltwater instead of freshwater can help alleviate the problem of too much weight in your kayak.

In fact, saltwater has 1.6 pounds more buoyancy than freshwater. So, while this won’t give you much wiggle room, it will keep you dry if you’re already near the maximum capacity.

Paddle More Efficiently: Again, this won’t necessarily increase the weight limit, but it will help to stabilize your kayak when you’re near the maximum capacity rating. As described earlier, any kayak will become more unstable the closer you get to the maximum capacity. Using lightweight paddles and the correct paddling techniques will help to stabilize a weighed-down kayak on the water.

Use float bags: Float bags can be used to help your kayak float higher in the water when overturned or to displace water in the kayak. Unfortunately, float bags are not designed to increase the weight limit of a kayak, they are important to have on-hand if you fear overturning because of excess weight in the kayak.

Use a kayak outrigger: An outrigger can be a good option to stabilize a kayak. This is especially true when you’re already riding near the waterline because of performance or working capacity issues. It’s fairly difficult to tip a kayak when using an outrigger, as shown in the below video.

How Accurate Are Kayak Weight Limits?

Trying to determine how accurate a kayak weight limit is can be a tricky subject. This is because there are no set industry standards for weight limits and how they are calculated.

The best way to make sure you’re covered is to choose a kayak that has a maximum capacity rating that is at least 125 pounds more than your current body weight. The more, the better.

The other method is to use is the 65% to 70% rule for the total weight we’ve covered earlier. You’ll be thankful to spend a couple more on a higher capacity and stay dry in your kayak.

Weight Limits for Popular Kayak Brands

Aruba 8 SS Kayak Weight Limit

Capacity: 260 Lbs. (118kg)

Recommended Working Capacity: 182 lbs (82.5kg)

Bali 10 SS Kayak Weight Limit

Capacity: 250 Lbs. (113kg)

Recommended Working Capacity: 175 lbs (79kg)

Trophy 126 Kayak Weight Limit

Capacity: 300 Lbs. (136kg)

Recommended Working Capacity: 210 lbs (95kg)

Pelican 8 ft Kayak Weight Limit

Capacity: 300 Lbs. (136kg)

Recommended Working Capacity: 210 lbs (95kg)

Vertex Kayak Weight Limit

Capacity: 260 Lbs. (118kg)

Recommended Working Capacity: 182 lbs (82kg)

Eclipse 102 Kayak Weight Limit

Capacity: 295 Lbs. (133kg)

Recommended Working Capacity: 206 lbs (93kg)

Final Thoughts

It’s never really a good idea to overload your kayak, even if you are planning just to get out and go for a leisurely paddle in calm water.

Riding low to the waterline will make maneuvering harder and less efficient. Plus, nothing can ruin a day out on the kayak like ending up soaking wet and trying to roll a kayak that’s taken on water.

So, is there a weight limit for kayaking? Before selecting a kayak, it’s important to think about your specific uses for the kayak. This way it’s easier to estimate the additional weight you’ll be adding when you pack up your gear and head out with the kayak.

Following these general guidelines, we’ve outlined will make sure you stay dry and comfortable with your new kayak.


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