4 Effective Ways On How To Increase Weight Capacity Of Kayak

by Jason | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
4 Effective Ways On How To Increase Weight Capacity Of Kayak

There are many reasons you might want to increase the weight capacity of your kayak. Maybe you’ve put on some extra weight? Or you need to take more stuff with you on your touring/fishing kayak?

And now you’re probably wondering how to increase the weight capacity of your kayak.

Well, if this is the case, you’re in luck. I’ve laid out this article to give you all the information you need to increase the weight capacity of your kayak. 


Before we do that, I first want to explain what a kayak’s weight capacity is, what weight limit you need, and more.

So, don’t go anywhere:

What Is A Kayaks Weight Limit?

Okay, before we get into the article, it’s probably worth explaining a little bit about a kayak’s weight capacity. And there’s a good chance you’ve seen the term used before when looking at new kayaks.

The thing is:

You might not have paid much attention, which is a massive mistake on your part, or maybe you didn’t really know what it means.

When you’re looking at kayaks, you’ll probably find it known as one of these four different terms:

  1. Maximum Capacity
  2. Weight Rating
  3. Maximum weight Limit
  4. Load Limit

And it’s used by the manufacturer to let people know how much weight their kayak can hold and still stay afloat.

But why do they have it:

Ideally, it’s supposed to make your buying experience and the process of finding the right kayak for you easier.

The problem is:

Beginners have often found it quite confusing to get their heads around, and this comes down to two primary reasons:

  • Each kayak brand/manufacturer sets its own rules. In other words, there is no industry standard regarding how the maximum weight capacity is determined.
  • People confuse the weight capacity as an indicator of the paddler’s weight. The kayak weight capacity indicates the 200 lbs of load, which is slightly different (Don’t worry, I’ll explain later). In other words, a 200 lbs weight capacity doesn’t mean it’s suitable for a person of 200 lbs.

Luckily, there are three factors we can look at to help determine the weight capacity. And they are:

  1. The width of the kayak
  2. The length of the kayak’s hull
  3. And the water displacement volume

And these are the things companies/manufacturers tend to look at when deciding what weight limit to put on the kayak.

With all that being said, how much weight does the average kayak hold?

How Much Weight Does The Average Kayak Hold?

Before I start talking about what happens if you exceed the weight limit of your kayak, I think I should spend some time explaining the standard weight capacities of kayaks. 

Here’s the thing:

Different types of kayaks are built differently because they have to serve different purposes.

Yes, that’s right kayaks have their own weight capacity!

And because of this, specific kayaks will need to have a higher or lower weight limit than others. 

So, in this section, I’ve laid out four kayak styles…

… and we’re going to break them down to show you what you can expect when it comes to the weight limit of different kayaks: 

Weight Capacity Of Touring Kayaks

Touring Kayak

Touring kayaks, otherwise known as expedition kayaks, were designed for people looking to travel long distances over multiple days across the sea or flatwater rivers.

And for this reason:

You must be able to bring a lot of equipment with you; this could range from tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear, and much more.

Because of this, your kayak must come with a large enough capacity to hold yourself and all of this equipment without compensating for its buoyancy.

So, on average, you can expect a touring kayak to have a maximum weight capacity of 350 lbs, but this could vary depending on the brand/model.

Weight Capacity Of Sit-On-Top Kayaks

sit on top kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks are one of the favored kayaks for beginners. And it’s easier to see why; they’re wider, more stable, and have self-draining holes that help prevent the kayak from taking on extra water weight.

And one of the things that make sit-on-top kayaks stand out is the weight capacity they provide. 

They are full of air, which makes them highly buoyant, and feature a 350 to 400 lbs weight limit. 

Weight Capacity Of inflatable Kayaks

inflatable kayak

Inflatable kayaks have gone a long way since they first came out, and so has their weight capacity.

And this makes sense when you consider they are filled full of air. And this is why inflatable kayaks have the highest weight capacity in business. You can expect anywhere above 400 lbs of capacity.

To make things better:

Some of the more advanced models can reach up to 700 lbs, which is crazy when you think about it.

Weight Capacity Of Recreational Kayaks 

Two women kayaking

Recreational kayaks were designed for people to use on flat waters like lakes and slow-moving rivers. And because they are made for recreational use, they don’t have to carry a lot of weight.

And that’s okay because you’re not going to have to carry a lot of gear with you when you’re out paddling. 

On average, you can expect a recreational kayak to have a maximum weight capacity of around 250 lbs, give or take.

What Happens If You Exceed The Weight Limit On A Kayak?

Hopefully, by now, you’re fully aware that kayaks have a weight limit, but it can vary between brands, style, price, and many other factors.

The question is, what happens if you exceed the weight limit of your kayak?

Well, this is what we’re going to be talking about in this section. And there’s nothing stopping you from trying to go over the weight limit…

But these are a few things you might experience if you do try:

One of the first things you’ll notice is your kayak will sit lower than usual in the water. And this might not seem like a bad thing at first, but when it starts filling up with water and begins to sink, you’ll soon see the problem.

But this isn’t the only problem you might come into:

If you overload the kayak and poorly distribute the weight, the kayak will have compromised stability. And this can make the kayak feel very tippy and increase your chances of capsizing.

And here’s the thing:

Even if the kayak doesn’t sink and you don’t capsize, you’re still going to run into trouble. You’re going to find it extremely hard to paddle, it’s going to have terrible tracking, and it’s going to be harder to maneuver.

Now, I’m no stranger to pushing the limits to the max, but would I push the weight capacity of my kayak further than you should?

Hell no!

And remember, you might not sink the kayak as soon as it hits the water, but it will compromise your safety. This leads me to the next section:

So, How Close To The Weight Capacity Can I Get?

The last thing I want you to do is overload your kayak and have it sink to the bottom, and this is why I’m going to explain how far I feel you can push the weight capacity.

Here’s the thing:

If you’re a 200 lbs person, you might be thinking you’re going to need a kayak that can hold 200 lbs. But what if you need to bring extra gear on the kayak?

Okay, so you’re expecting to carry 30 lbs of gear. If you add that to your weight, you’ll be thinking a 230 lbs kayak might do the trick.

Well, unfortunately, that’s not the case!

You’re going to be too close to the edge for the kayaking to be functional. I try to operate at 40% under the kayak’s weight capacity as a general rule of thumb.

In other words, try not to go over 70% of the kayak’s weight capacity, and you should be good to go.

How To Increase The Weight Capacity Of Your Kayak?

Of course, I’d advise not to go over the weight capacity of your kayak. But, if you take these tips and techniques into account, you’ll be able to get a bit of a boost.

And of course, that’s why you’ve come to this page, so don’t go anywhere:

Find The Right Locations

Yeah, I know, it sounds strange just saying it, but changing your location is an approach you can use to increase your kayak’s maximum weight capacity.

And while this isn’t so much about increasing your overall kayak’s weight capacity but more about preventing overloading, it’s an important tactic to understand.

Here’s the thing:

If you’re paddling rough waters or waves are splashing around, it’s going to enter your cockpit. 

And if you’re heavily loaded, your kayak will be running lower than ever. And this is going to increase the chances of water splashing down into your cockpit.

As the weight of the extra water increases, your kayak will start to sink lower and lower until it eventually sinks.

So, what should you do?

Ideally, you should try sticking to calm waters to avoid taking on water. You could also try and paddle on saltwater because it is naturally more buoyant. 

Use Proper Paddling Techniques

Paddling on calm water is the only way to get by if you’re kayaking over its weight capacity. If you use the proper paddling styles/techniques, you’ll have a better time on the water if you’re overloaded.

Here’s a short video highlighting the proper technique for paddling a kayak:

Proper paddling techniques can help reduce the amount of water entering your kayak; thus, it doesn’t weigh you down further. Not only that but using the correct method will maximize your efficiency.

Think About Modifying The Design Of The Kayak 

One of the best ways to truly increase the weight capacity of your kayak is to modify it. But how do you do this? 

And the first place you need to start thinking about upgrading is the hull of your kayak. The kayak’s hull represents the function, which is making some upgrades that can significantly increase the weight capacity.

So, what can you do to increase the buoyancy of your kayak?

One of the most straightforward fixes is to add some extra airbags to the bulkhead compartments of your kayak. The additional airbags in your kayak will give you a little bit more buoyancy if you’ve overloaded your kayak.

Some people even try rigging their kayak’s airbags with helium instead of air to try and provide more buoyancy.

But there is a downside to adding airbags:

It will reduce the amount of storage space in your kayak, so you won’t be able to carry as much equipment with you. And this can be somewhat counterproductive if you’re trying to increase buoyancy to carry more gear.

Add Some Extra Gear To Your Kayak

Okay, I’ve already mentioned NRS infinity float bags increasing the buoyancy of your kayak, but there are other things you can add to your kayak to increase its flotation.

Check out the following video to learn more about the NRS infinity float bags:

And one of the best pieces of kayak gear you can use is called kayak outriggers:

They are primarily used to keep the kayak more stable, but they could also add a greater weight capacity and allow you to carry more gear.

And thanks to the extra stability, you don’t have to worry too much about the kayak feeling tippy if it’s been loaded incorrectly.

So, there you have it. There are four ways you could potentially increase the weight capacity of your kayak.

But with that being said, your best option is to find a kayak with a higher weight capacity that can carry everything you need without having to make adjustments.

Are Kayak Outriggers Worth It?

How To Increase Weight Capacity Of Kayak

I spoke briefly about kayak outriggers potentially adding a greater weight capacity to your kayak. But does that make it worth buying them?

Well, in my opinion, NO!

Outriggers weren’t designed to add an extra weight capacity; they were meant to focus on increasing the stability of your kayak. They do this by increasing the surface area of your hull, which is why people think it will increase the weight capacity of their kayak.

The problem is:

The added weight from your outriggers could actually erase some of your weight capacity, which would result in fewer gains.

And this is why I wouldn’t buy an outrigger to add a greater weight capacity. But, if you’re looking to add more stability to your kayak, then yes, outriggers are definitely a great option.

Check out the following video to learn more about kayak outriggers:

What Size Kayak Do You Need For Your Weight?

As I mentioned previously, the kayak’s weight limit is one of the most important things to consider when you purchase a new kayak.

And it’s easy for beginners to get confused when looking at all of these numbers, so I want to try and explain it to you.

So, what size kayak do you need for your weight?

Ideally, you should be looking for a kayak with a weight capacity of at least 125 lbs greater than your weight. 

And if you plan to carry a lot of extra gear with you, you should add that to your weight, too; this way, you’ll always be safe.

Another thing you should think about is reducing the manufacturer’s maximum capacity by 30%.

As we mentioned before, there’s no industry standard for calculating the weight capacity, so they can kinda make up their own rules.

And by reducing the manufacturer’s weight capacity by 30%, you give yourself an excellent safety barrier.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

I really hope this article has helped you understand how to increase the maximum weight capacities of your kayaks. 

And there are a few things I want to leave you with just in case you skimmed the article.

Your kayak’s weight limit lets you know how much weight your kayak could potentially hold. There’s no industry standard, so its reliability will depend on the manufacturer.

For this reason:

You should reduce the kayak weight limit by 30% to get a more accurate version and give you a safety barrier.

And finally, instead of trying to find ways to increase the weight limit of your kayak, you should try and find a kayak that has the weight capacity you’re looking for.

It’s not easy to increase the weight limit, and when you do, you usually sacrifice the performance of your kayak.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does A Kayak Weigh?

If you’re wondering how much a kayak weighs, you’re in luck. The average single-person whitewater kayak weighs around 35 lbs. And this will increase to 65 lbs when you’re looking at tandem kayaks, but overall, you can expect anywhere between 20 to 100 lbs.

How Accurate Are Kayak Weight Limits?

Unfortunately, the weight limits for kayaks aren’t always very accurate. And this is down to there is no industry standard for calculating the weight capacity of kayaks. For this reason, you should reduce the weight limit by 30%.

How Long Should Kayak Outriggers Be?

If you’re interested in adding outriggers to your kayak, you’re probably wondering how long they should be. And most people say they should be between 30 and 36 inches long for them to be effective.

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Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.