If we’re being honest, kayaks have maximum weight capacities for a very good reason. They exist to dissuade you from overloading your kayak to a point where it’s no longer maneuverable on the water.
While we don’t want to encourage you to test their limits, it’s also important to know that most kayaks simply won’t sink straight away if you put 5 or 10 pounds more than their weight capacities in them.
But for kayak anglers or those of you that are interested in long-distance kayak touring, the question of how to increase the weight capacity of a kayak may very well arise.
We’re here to give you some important information on whether it’s possible and, if so, how to do it safely.
We’ll also provide some interesting insights into how kayak manufacturers may arrive at the weight capacities of their kayaks. So, without delaying any further, let’s hop into it!
- How To Increase The Weight Capacity Of Your Kayak?
- A Little More About Kayak Weight Capacities
- Best Kayaks For Bigger Folks
- Final Thoughts
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How To Increase The Weight Capacity Of Your Kayak?
While we recommend being very careful when implementing any of these techniques, there are indeed a few effective ways to increase the weight capacity of a kayak. Let’s detail each of them and explain a few of their pros and cons before we go any further.
Location, Location, Location
There’s a good possibility that you’ll be surprised by our first suggestion, but one way that you can increase the weight capacity of your kayak is to change where you paddle.
But, to be honest, this technique is actually more about minimizing the negative impacts of overloading your kayak than it is about increasing the actual physical capacity of your kayak itself.
As you might imagine, paddling on rougher waters with larger waves is going to cause more splashing water to enter your cockpit even if you’re not loaded down to capacity. If you are, that’s going to increase the amount of water splashing into your kayak.
As your kayak’s cockpit fills up, you’ll be getting dangerously lower and lower in the water and the odds of having to bail water out or abandon your kayak altogether is going to increase.
So, it should go without saying that you’ll be able to get away with putting more weight in your kayak if you always stick to calm, flat waters.
In addition to that, you should also consider the fact that saltwater is naturally more buoyant than freshwater. So, if you’re intent on living life close to the edge of your kayak’s weight capacity, calm, flat coastal waterways might be your best bet.
Learn Proper Paddling Technique
In addition to being more mindful about the locations you choose to paddle in, learning proper kayaking techniques can also help you out when your kayak is loaded down close to, or over, its maximum weight capacity.
The proper paddling technique will decrease the amount of water that enters your kayak’s cockpit. It will also help you maximize the effectiveness of your paddle strokes so that you don’t get tired as quickly.
Minimizing fatigue is never a bad idea if you’re heading out in a kayak that you already know is overloaded. That way you’ll have the energy you need to lug that big, heavy kayak back to shore at the end of the day.
Alter Your Kayak Design
If you really want to spend some serious time to increase the weight capacity of your kayak, you can explore altering the design of your kayak itself. In doing so, the main area of your kayak to focus on is the hull.
Kayaks are built for very specific purposes and the design of their hulls reflects those purposes.
For example, many of the best fishing kayaks feature pontoon (also known as ”˜tunnel’) hulls because this hull style is generally the most stable when your kayak is still or when you’re standing up to fish.
On the other hand, most of the best touring kayaks feature hulls that are super narrow and planed in a deep V-shape. These kayaks are a little less stable and buoyant than the former style because they’re meant for speed and efficiency over long distances.
While some intrepid DIYers have explored revamping the entire hull design of their kayak, the reality is that you’re probably better off buying a new kayak with a higher manufactured weight capacity.
Otherwise, tampering with your kayak’s hull can severely compromise its integrity.
Of course, an easier alteration is simply to add airbags in one (or several) of the bulkhead compartments of your kayak. This can add additional flotation so that your kayak can handle heavier loads on longer trips.
Interestingly, some experienced kayakers have even experimented with filling their airbags with helium (instead of oxygen) to further increase the flotation of their kayak. While this particular video demonstrates how to install airbags on a whitewater kayak, the technique can be used for other types of kayaks as well.
Get New Equipment
As I just suggested, certain pieces of kayak equipment can also help you increase the weight capacity of your kayak.
While I already mentioned how you could use something like these NRS Infinity Float Bags, there is one other piece of equipment that you might also find helpful.
Kayak outriggers are made primarily to help you keep your kayak more stable. But stability can be even more important to maintain when you’ve loaded more gear than recommended into the storage compartments of your kayak.
The reality of both of these pieces of equipment, however, is that they’re simply meant to keep you afloat.
While having them will help your kayak from sinking more than if you didn’t have them, they won’t directly increase the weight capacity of any kayak.
However, the good news is that there are plenty of kayaks out there that are specifically designed for people of all shapes and sizes.
So, in our final section, we’re going to suggest a few awesome kayaks that will make it hard to ever exceed their weight capacities.
A Little More About Kayak Weight Capacities
While it’s unlikely for even the cheapest and worst-manufactured kayak to sink within seconds if you load it down past its capacity, it’s also not a recommended strategy if you’re really trying to make the most of your time on the water.
If you’re paddling a sit inside kayak, for example, exceeding the weight capacity can cause water to enter the cockpit and, eventually, sink your entire kayak.
And even though the straits aren’t as dire with a sit on top kayak (because of the scupper holes), exceeding the weight capacity can still severely compromise the performance of any kayak.
So, How Close To The Weight Capacity Can I Get?
It’s also important to know that it’s not a smart idea to load your kayak right up to its maximum weight capacity either.
Generally speaking, most kayak manufacturers actually would prefer if you don’t get anywhere near the maximum capacity for their vessels.
As a rule-of-thumb, we recommend trying to keep your weight and the weight of all the gear you load into your kayak below about 70% of your kayak’s listed weight capacity.
Allowing a 30% margin between the weight that you place in your kayak and your kayak’s posted capacity will allow you to keep the gunwales above water level at all times.
For example, let’s say you just purchased a new kayak for river fishing that has a posted weight capacity of 500 pounds.
By the math we mentioned above, then, you should try to keep the combined weight of your body and your fishing gear below 350 pounds if you want to maximize the performance and effectiveness of your kayak once you’re on the water.
How Can I Tell How Much My Gear Weighs?
The hard part about making sure you stay under that 70% threshold is keeping track of how much all of your kayaking gear weighs. And, over time, trust us when we say that you’re likely to accumulate more and more gear as the years go by.
In lieu of placing each separate gear item on a traditional scale at home (and then adding all of those weights manually), we’d like to present a reasonable alternative.
For starters, every experienced kayaker should have at least one large kayaking dry bag in their collection of accessories.
If you have more, that can be great too because you’ll want to load all of your kayaking gear into one or two large dry bags or waterproof duffel bags.
From there, you can get yourself one of these handy hanging game scales that are more popular for weighing game or checking how heavy your pack is before a long backpacking trip.
This will give you a much more manageable way to weigh your gear on the fly before you overload your kayak. It will also be handy for re-checking your gear weight after resupplying on a long-distance kayaking trip.
Best Kayaks For Bigger Folks
For this section, we included only kayaks with a maximum weight capacity of at least 500 pounds. We also chose several for different purposes so that (hopefully!) you’ll find one that suits your paddling preferences!
This kayak is loaded down with useful equipment, including an instant reverse pedal drive and a rudder system for easy steering. The pedal drive system allows you to keep your hands free if you like to fish from your kayak.
It also boasts three waterproof storage compartments and a total of three built-in fishing rod holders, and the rear open storage compartment gives you plenty of space to load this kayak down with extra gear.
The cool part about this inflatable kayak is that the inflatable kayak seats are adjustable and removable. So, even if you don’t have a partner that wants to paddle with you on a particular day, you can adjust the setup in the cockpit to accommodate a single paddler.
This inflatable kayak is also built with a high-pressure drop stitch floor that can be inflated to pressures up to six pounds per square inch (PSI).
This makes the hull more rigid and allows the kayak to perform much better than most other inflatable kayaks on the market these days.
The last kayak on our list is another great tandem option for two paddlers, and this one has the highest weight capacity on our list at up to 770 pounds. The Brooklyn Kayak Company TK122U Tandem kayak also measures 12’8” long and 34 inches wide.
This kayak is a little bit on the heavier side with a dry weight of 74 pounds, so you may consider getting a quality kayak cart, wheels, or trolley if you opt for this model.
But it does boast super comfortable aluminum-framed kayak seats with a mesh backing that helps to keep you cool on those hot summer days.
It also comes with two adjustable aluminum kayak paddles and the kayak itself boasts a total of four built-in fishing rod holders.
It also features two waterproof storage hatches in the cockpit and an additional open storage compartment at the stern that’s secured with bungee rigging.
The Brooklyn Kayak Company TK181 Tandem kayak is another fishing kayak, but this one is built for two. It boasts a maximum weight capacity of 595 pounds and it has two waterproof storage hatches that are located right in front of each seat in the cockpit.
This kayak is 12’8” long, 34 inches wide, and has a total weight of 68 pounds. While it only provides two dedicated kayak seats, there’s actually an optional third seat at the center for a small child or a furry paddle companion.
There are also a total of four rod holders that are mounted flush with the deck of the kayak, and there are an additional three articulating rod holders that are perfect for keeping a line (or three) in the water while you’re paddling.
The Brooklyn Kayak Company RA220 Solo kayak offers a maximum weight capacity of 550 pounds and the kayak itself weighs 68 pounds. In terms of dimensions, this kayak is 11’6” long and measures 34 inches wide.
You should start to notice a theme here because many of the best kayaks for larger guys and gals are also designed for kayak fishing. This one is no exception with a large stern cargo area for storing a fishing tackle box or other kayaking gear.
This kayak also includes a hull-mounted rudder system that you can control using pedals in the cockpit. This allows you to save energy by steering with your feet rather than having to constantly correct course with additional paddle strokes on one side of your kayak or the other.
If none of those kayaks we mentioned above sounded particularly intriguing to you, we’d recommend checking out our full comprehensive review of the best kayak for big guys and gals!
If you’re more of a visual learner, we recommend checking out this useful video on techniques for increasing the weight capacity of your kayak!
We believe that one of the best things about kayaking is just how inclusive of a sport it can really be. So we hope you’ve enjoyed this article and, hopefully, found some insights that will either help you alter your existing kayak or find a new one altogether!