So I am in the market for my first kayak (and, given how scarce they are right now, even on the used market, I'll probably still be in the market by the Spring...)
Anyway, I have a question about weight capacities. I am 6' and 220 pounds. Add a few pounds for clothing, 5 or 10 pounds for various items in the dry sack and let's call it a 240 pound load. (I'm in Illinois and will only be going one slow rivers and still lakes - so purely recreational)
Is it safe to get a kayak that's rated for 250 pounds or should I look for 275-300?
I guess what I am really asking is whether the capacity is the absolute maximum and you really should leave a 10/15/20% safety net or is it fine to go right up to the stated capacity? My gut says leave at least 20% but I don't want to end up getting a "school bus" that's too slow moving because I was overly cautious.
The more "reserve capacity" you have, the better. it would be a good idea to test paddle your purchase to see if its speed and other characteristics are suitable.
Hikermor"s Law: Whatever load capacity you select, at some point, you will overload your craft.
You've pretty much confirmed my thoughts, too. Having some extra room/weight available leaves me with options.
This is a great topic and a question that I bet a lot of people are curious about. Thanks for asking!
The weight ratings on kayaks are based on two factors that are related but also differ slightly: safety and performance. In terms of safety, when you exceed the weight limit you begin to have a greater impact on the stability of the kayak, increasing the risk of tipping over and/or taking on water. It is an important consideration that if you go above the listed weight limit of a kayak the manufacturer says that you are pushing the limits of the margins of safety in the design of that kayak.
Additionally, it is also important to consider the performance of the kayak, which is probably has less margin for impact on your paddling experience. An overloaded kayak will move slower, be more difficult to turn, and could even put more strain on your body as you paddle. That is to say, a smaller kayak that is above the weight limit could move slower than a larger kayak with a higher weight threshold. Ultimately, however, the design of the kayak is likely to have more of an impact on your speed and maneuverability in the water. Personally, as a bigger guy (315#) I find that 12 foot kayaks are a really good compromise of performance, stability, and maneuverability for someone my size. I enjoyed paddling my Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 (weight limit of 325 lbs) in lakes and rivers in Alaska for many years. Even when I overloaded the weight limit by adding one of my kids to the cockpit, it was enjoyable to paddle.
Hopefully this helps, let us know if you have any other questions!
Thanks, it helps a lot.