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Kayak Weight Capacity Explained

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Is weight capacity actually half of the stated value? Lots of questions and comments came in this week through YakAngler, Facebook and email. I’ve answered a few questions and had lots of discussions with people new and not so new to the sport of kayak fishing. The most frequent discussion this week was around weight capacity and/or how to avoid water in the kayak.

First, let me say this: kayaks will never be 100% dry. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a sit in, sit on or a hybrid. Water, especially in relation to scupper holes, will be around. It’s just how it is. Not to be glib but that is similar to going outside and not wanting to touch the ground. It’s just not reality. I can however offer a suggestion for those of you getting lots of water through your scupper holes and it relates to our other discussion. Let’s talk about weight capacity.

Pretty much every kayak lists a weight capacity. A common misunderstanding is the number and what it means. If a kayak lists a weight capacity at 350 pounds, that doesn’t mean a 350 pound person can paddle it. The weight capacity indicates the amount of weight a kayak can hold and still float. For a sit on top, that means it would be just at the water line so most of the kayak would be under the water. There is just no way you could paddle that. So if the weight capacity says 350, what is the paddler size that could paddle that kayak?

There is some debate on the actual number. A minimum number I like to use is 25%. You should subtract 25% of the weight capacity to ensure you are in the safe zone. You should be able to paddle the kayak and be fairly safe. 25% from 350 would be a person weighing 262.5 pounds or less. And that is only if you aren’t carrying any gear. Use a bathroom scale and stack your gear on it to get that number, add it to your clothed (with shoes) weight and include your waders if you’ll be wearing them. This would mean a maximum person weight of around 230 pounds if you pack a bunch of gear. You’ll have to check out your gear weight to know exactly.

But wait! There’s more! Just because you’re in the safe zone at 25%, it doesn’t mean it is dry, easy or efficient to paddle. To have less water coming in the scuppers and be more efficient when paddling (the kayak moves further per paddle stroke) you should look at a number closer to 50%. So for gear and a person to remain fairly dry and be efficient paddling, a 350 pound weight capacity would best be paddled by someone weighing around 150 pounds. That would give you about 25 pounds for gear.

That may be some new information for lots of folks. It may also explain why you are getting quite a bit of water in your scuppers if you have a sit on top. Scupper plugs can help but if you really want to be efficient (and less wet) calculate what you need for the weight capacity to be.

Entry level kayaks are often lower in the weight capacity. Make sure you check that number. For under a thousand dollars you can get into several different makes or models that have 450 pound capacities. And keep in mind, that’s purchasing new. Many folks can find great deals on used kayaks that are better made and with higher weight capacity. If you don’t know what you are looking for when you look for a used kayak, take a long time paddler. If they aren’t available, I’d be happy to help. Feel free to send me a message and I’ll do what I can electronically. Posting in fishing forums can also be a help. Many kayakers have gone through the process and can talk to you about key things to consider.

The most important thing though, before you buy, if at all possible, is demo, demo, demo!

Have a question or comment? Let me know! What do you guys want to talk about next week?

Read 44909 times Last modified on Wednesday, 15 July 2015 11:23
Chris Payne

I've been fishing over 30 years and the majority of my time on the water has been spent in Texas with the occasional trips out of state. In 2003 I bought my first kayak and a new era in my fishing life was born. I learned the ropes quickly about gear, paddling, fishing, packing, safety and got a degree from the school of hard knocks with a major in kayak fishing. I learned a lot of ways to not do something.

I love kayak fishing and I want to share it with as many people as possible. That's the bottom line. 

www.kayakfishingblog.com

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