How Much Weight Can a Kayak Hold?

A person in a kayak on a lake

One of the most important factors that you need to consider when you are buying or renting a kayak is the weight limit.

Unfortunately, for most kayakers especially the beginners, the width and length options are the only things they consider.

When that happens, you end up with a kayak that is not sized properly for your weight. So that begs the question; how do you choose the right kayak based on your weight?

The rule of thumb when it comes to kayaks is to go for a kayak that has a maximum weight capacity rating of about 125 pounds more than your own body weight.

Another way to determine if the kayak is of the right weight capacity for you is to check for the maximum capacity rating of the manufacturer and reduce that by 30 to 35 percent.

If your weight and that of your gear fall below that of the reduced weight limit, then that’s the right kayak for you.

What Is Kayak Weight Limit?

When it comes to the weight limit of a kayak, this is the number that is assigned to a kayak by the manufacturer to help the paddler determine the right kayak for them.

The weight limit also helps you know what equipment as well as the gear you can bring with you when you go kayaking.

This number is indicated on every kayak and shouldn’t be ignored. The only problem? No set industry standard guides the numbering.

As such, every manufacturer uses their own standards which can be very confusing for paddlers.

Ideally, when we talk about the weight limit of a kayak, we are talking about the weight that the kayak can carry and remain afloat.

So, if a kayak’s weight limit is 350 pounds, it means that such a kayak can stay afloat while carrying a weight of 350 pounds.

Don’t get it twisted though. Just because the weight limit is indicated as 350 pounds, avoid loading the kayak to its weight limit because then it loses manoeuvrability and stability.

There are different types of kayaks that you can choose from depending on where you will be kayaking. At the end of the day, the maximum weight capacity varies from one kayak to another.

  • Recreational kayaks: 250-350 pounds
  • Touring kayaks: 350 pounds
  • Sit-On-Top Kayaks: 350 – 400 pounds
  • Inflatable Kayaks: Upwards of 400 pounds with some advanced models having a weight capacity of 750 pounds.
  • Tandem Kayaks: Since tandem kayaks are designed for two paddlers, they are longer and wider. This increase in hull size means an average weight capacity of 500 to 600 pounds.

Can You Increase the Weight Capacity of a Kayak?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions and for good reason. When you go kayaking rarely do you go without any gear.

So, to avoid going beyond the indicated weight limit capacity, it’s only natural that you might be wondering how you can increase the weight capacity of your kayak.

Unfortunately, there is no way of increasing the weight capacity of a kayak. What you can do is take measures to ensure that you remain floating regardless of the weight of the gear you are carrying.

Float foams, airbags as well as outriggers can help you remain afloat. If you are also worried about sinking due to your weight and that of the gear, the least you can do is go kayaking in saltwater.

Saltwater tends to have more buoyancy and hence you are likely to remain afloat even if you exceed the weight limit. At the end of the day though, your safety should be your priority.

So, ensure that you always stick to the stipulated maximum weight capacity!

How Does Paddler Size Relate to the Weight Limit of a Kayak?

The weight limit of a kayak as mentioned earlier is the weight that a kayak can handle to remain afloat.

Manufacturers usually indicate the weight limit on the kayak. So, if the weight limit indicated is 350 pounds, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a 350-pound paddler can kayak in it.

In such a case if you are using a sit-on-top kayak, the kayak will just be at the waterline and most of it underwater. What does this mean for you?

There is no way you can paddle such a kayak. So, concerning the weight limit indicated, when you are choosing a kayak, always minus about 30 to 35 percent for safe paddling.

As such, if the weight limit indicated is 350 pounds, your weight, if you are not carrying any gear, should fall below 262 pounds.

If you add gear, shoes, clothes, and other accessories, your weight should be about 230 pounds to be able to kayak safely.

What Happens When You Overload Your Kayak?

If you end up overloading the kayak or going beyond the indicated weight limit, the kayak will end up sinking lower into the water which can be dangerous.

This may not sink the kayak automatically, but it will affect its stability and increase your risk of capsizing or harming yourself, your gear, the kayak, and other people.

How Does A Kayak Perform When It’s Overloaded?

When you overload a kayak, there are a few things that will begin to happen. First, the cockpit will start taking in water.

This will not sink the kayak but it will add to the weight and eventually the kayak will sink even further into the water.

What this does is decrease the safety of the kayak. Even when you’ve just exceeded the maximum weight capacity by a few pounds, a kayak that is sitting lower in the water becomes susceptible to wind and waves.

As mentioned earlier, when a kayak is sitting lower in the water, water will start entering the kayak which exceeds the weight limit even further.

This is not a situation you want to find yourself in especially if you are far from home.

Even when you don’t become water-logged, exceeding the weight of the kayak so that it sits lower into the water, throws off its stability.

If you have exceeded the weight limit, any padding could end up capsizing the kayak. Generally, when the weight is poorly distributed the same effect will be felt at the stern and bow of the kayak.

Even when you haven’t exceeded the weight limit, it’s very important that you distribute the weight evenly between the stern and the bow of the kayak to remain afloat.

Why Does Kayak Stability Matter?

When you are kayaking, stability is of the utmost importance. Ideally, there are two types of stability that you need to be concerned about.

The primary stability refers to how you feel when you are sitting centered and still in the kayak.

Secondary stability is simply how the kayak feels when you are moving or leaning towards the bow or stern.

Overloading as well as the improper distribution of weight will affect both the primary and secondary stability.

At the end of the day, even if your primary stability is okay, your secondary stability could still be compromised if the weight is not evenly distributed.


Kayaking is fun whether you are kayaking in your own kayak or a rented one. When you are in the water, your safety should be your main concern which is why you need to concern yourself with the weight capacity of a kayak.

If your weight and that of the gear exceed what the manufacturer has indicated as the maximum weight capacity of the kayak, you might not be able to paddle the boat properly. Worst case scenario is you end up capsizing in the middle of nowhere. As such, always ensure that your weight falls below the kayak’s maximum weight capacity.

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