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How Much Weight Can a Kayak Hold – Detailed Guide!

How Much Weight Can a Kayak Hold
Written by Jeremy Stevens
Last Update: August 14, 2023

Every kayak is supposed to have a weight limit. Usually, a recreational kayak’s limit is 250-300 lbs. For touring or sea kayaks it’s 350 lbs while sit-on-top kayaks have a higher weight limit – 350-400 lbs. Tandem kayaks naturally have the highest limit of all more 500-600 lbs.

You decide to buy a kayak, but you have no idea if that little blue kayak will hold your weight or gear. Then, after reading the information sheet for the kayak, you are even more confused.

Let’s look at how much weight a kayak can hold!

3 Things Determine the Maximum Capacity of a Kayak

Maximum capacity is the weight a kayak can hold and still float. It is determined by the following:

  1. Displacement (volume) – If the boat is fully submerged in water, the volume of water displaced by the boat would be the displacement volume
  2. Width is how wide the kayak is
  3. Length is how long the kayak is

How Much Weight Can a Kayak Hold?

Thumbnail Kayaks Weight Capacity
Touring Kayaks Touring Kayaks 350 pounds
Inflatable Kayaks Inflatable Kayaks 400 pounds (advanced models 750 pounds!)
Sit-On-Top Kayaks Sit-On-Top Kayaks 350 – 400 pounds
Recreational Kayaks Recreational Kayaks 250 – 350 pounds
Tandem Kayaks Tandem Kayaks 500 – 600 pounds

Calculate the Weight Limit of a Kayak

The manufacturer determines the weight limit of the kayak. Unfortunately, there is no standard in the kayak industry.

The weight limit tells the kayaker how much weight the kayak can hold and still float; based on this; they decide which kayak they will need.

Maximum Weight Capacity

We will use a bodyweight of 300 pounds + 40 pounds of gear for this calculation. The total load weight is 340 lbs.

Maximum weight capacity = Total load weight /0.7

340/0.7 = 486 pounds

Maximum weight capacity is 486 pounds

Calculate the Weight Limit Performance

Performance weight x Maximum weight x 0.7

486 x 0.7 = 340 pounds

What Your Gear Weighs

Is the total weight of all your gear plus the container you carry it in. Anything you carry on the kayak, including a cooler, fishing poles, and shoes.

Weight Capacity: How Close Is Too Close

Any weight closer than 2/3 or 66.6% of your maximum weight capacity will make your kayak take in water (sink!)

Going Over the Kayak Weight Limit?

  • Sits low in the water, not on it
  • Hull tips deeper into the water
  • Kayak fills with water
  • Possibility of capsizing
  • Poor kayak maneuverability
  • Harder to paddle
  • Unable to paddle in a straight line

Tips to Increase Your Weight Limit

You cannot increase the weight limit of the kayak, but there are things you can do to help the kayak float better while carrying weight.

1. The Right Waters to Paddle In

The best water for your kayak to float in is saltwater. Freshwater will keep the kayak afloat, but not as well as the natural buoyancy you get in saltwater.

2. Kayak Design Improvements

The longer the hull, the better it will track. Install a rudder or skeg

3. Use the right size paddle

Shorter paddles make paddling easier

4. Use the right designed paddle

a) Feather blades decrease wind resistance, making your stroke more efficient

  • the best beginner paddle.

b) Asymmetrical blades help the kayak track straight

c) Curved blades make your stroke more powerful

5. Paddle position

Hold the paddle with your elbows at a 90-degree angle with your hands a shoulders-length apart (putting tape around the handle of the paddle at a shoulder’s length distance will assure your hands are always placed where they need to be)

6. Practice your paddle strokes

7. Maintain good posture while kayaking

8. Do regular kayak maintenance

9. Float Bags Usage

These floatie bags (just like pool floaties, only these are bag-shaped) are filled with air and put in the back and front nose of the kayak to help it float in the water higher. They are also helpful if the kayak tips over and you need to get back in.

10. Kayak Outrigger Installation

An outrigger arm (stabilizer bar) goes across your kayak (the same size on both sides) with a floatation buoy attached to the end of each arm. Its only function is to stabilize the kayak. Adding an outrigger affects how you can maneuver inside the kayak.

11. Proper Paddling Techniques

The best paddling technique is to master the following five things:

  • Back up and slow down your kayak using a reverse stroke
  • Learn to paddle with an efficient stroke
  • Use a sweep stroke when turning your kayak
  • Move your kayak sideways using a draw stroke
  • Achieve an efficient forward stroke


1. What is dry boat limit?

Ans. Dry boat limit is the amount of weight the kayak can carry and still glide across the water quickly as you paddle. For the most efficient kayaking, you want the weight to be 50% less than the kayak weight limit.

So if the kayak weight limit is 400 ponds, your dry boat weight will be 50% or 200 pounds.

2. Can I use a two-person (tandem) kayak alone?

Ans. Yes! If you sit in the front of the kayak, it may be harder to steer, and the kayak’s nose may go under the water in rough water. If you sit in the back or bow of the kayak, the front of the kayak will rise up and out of the water, making steering very difficult. Since neither is better than the other, it is whatever you are comfortable with.

3. Where should the heavier person sit on a tandem kayak?

Ans. In good weather, you want the heaviest person in the back. In windy weather, the heavier person is in front, the weight makes paddling the boat easier.

About the author

Jeremy Stevens

Jeremy has been obsessed with bodyboarding and surfboarding ever since he was a kid. He always wanted to be part of this sport for his love of this sports. Having received his degrees in Economics, he had to change his track and eventually got himself into the watercraft manufacturing industry. As an insider he’s had the opportunity to monitor and keep track of the latest trends and designs.

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