Home > Canoe Types > How Much Weight Can a Canoe Hold? – Maximum Capacity Explained

How Much Weight Can a Canoe Hold? – Maximum Capacity Explained

Nicola Burridge
- If you buy via a link on this page, we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you. Learn more
- Read our review guidelines

Knowing how much weight a canoe can hold is an essential consideration for safe and efficient paddling adventures. 

The canoe weight limit indicates the maximum weight a canoe can safely carry, taking into account factors like its design, materials, and overall stability. 

You want to load your canoe with camping equipment or fishing gear and you want to know how much it can handle? We’ve got some examples to show you the total weight capacity of an average canoe, along with factors that could affect this total weight limit. 

Canoe Weight Limit - Pinterest ImagePin

How Much Weight Can A Canoe Hold?

The average 15 or 16-foot canoe will hold around 1,000 pounds of people and gear.

The average 14-foot canoe will hold around 800 pounds, give or take. And the average 17-foot canoe will hold around 1,500 pounds. 

The maximum weight capacity will generally increase as the length of the canoe increases.

Canoe Length (feet)Weight Capacity Range (pounds)
12400 – 600
14600 – 900
16800 – 1200
18900 – 1500
20900 – 1800    

12 Ft Canoe Weight Limit And Capacity

A 12-foot canoe will usually be a solo canoe. This means it’s designed to be paddled by one person, with the shorter length allowing for increased maneuverability. They can also be more suitable for smaller bodies of water.

Whitewater canoes also tend to be around this length (or often shorter) because of their ability to turn quickly and navigate bends with more control.

12-Foot Canoes With Weight Capacity:

14 Ft Canoe Weight Limit And Capacity

Many recreational canoes are around the 14-foot mark. Canoes in this category are often designed for either one or two paddlers, with enough space for a day trip or an overnight adventure. 

14-Foot Canoes With Weight Capacity:

16 Ft Canoe Weight Limit And Capacity

A 16-foot canoe is one of the most popular canoe lengths. Recreational canoes for family paddling are usually around this length. 

A 16-foot canoe will have enough room for two or three people plus a decent amount of gear for a camping trip. This is a versatile length of canoe that can be ideal for beginners and multi-day trips.

How much weight a 16-foot canoe can hold will vary quite widely between brands, models, and building materials.

16-Foot Canoes With Weight Capacity:

17 Ft Canoe Weight Limit And Capacity

Canoes in the 17-foot range are generally designed for multi-day touring expeditions. This canoe length can hold two or three people with room to bring along a lot of camping gear or other equipment. 

These are often considered long canoes, so they can be more suitable for canoeists with a bit of paddling experience behind them. The longer length can make them more difficult to maneuver if you’re a beginner.

17-Foot Canoes With Weight Capacity:

What Features Affect Canoe Weight Limits?

Loaded Canoes On The BeachPin

Length And Width

The length and width of a canoe will usually affect the carrying capacity of a canoe. The longer a canoe is, the more weight it is likely to be able to carry. Similarly, the wider the canoe is, the more weight it will be able to hold. 

This is generally because more weight can be distributed across the length and width of a long, wide canoe compared to a shorter, narrower canoe.

As well as having a higher weight capacity, longer canoes will also have more physical space to hold camping equipment, for example, as well as additional weight from more people or pets. 

Hull Shape

Canoe hull shape can affect how much weight a canoe can hold. Canoes can be found with a wide range of hull designs. These designs influence how the canoe performs on various types of water. 

Most canoes will usually fall into three categories of hull shape: flat bottom; shallow vee; and shallow arch. Canoes with a flat bottom are designed to be more stable on flatwater. The wider the canoe is at the bottom of the hull, the higher the carrying capacity.

This means, in general, canoes with more rounded bottoms, such as a shallow arch hull, will have a lower weight capacity than a similar canoe that has a flat bottom.

However, the wider the canoe, the slower it will be to paddle. It can also be more difficult to paddle a wider canoe solo because of the increased reach over the sides.

> How to paddle a canoe properly

Tumblehome hulls can offer a decent compromise, as these hulls are narrower at the gunwales for easy paddling and wider at the bottom for maximum displacement. Tumblehome canoes will usually have a higher carrying capacity than canoes with straight or flared sides.


Another factor that can affect how much weight a canoe can hold is the fullness of the canoe. Fullness is how wide the canoe is and, more importantly, how quickly it widens out. This is a key consideration in canoe hull designs.

This means how quickly the hull widens out along its length from bow to stern. Canoes with narrower or more slender bows and sterns will have a lower weight capacity than canoes that are wider at their bows and sterns.

Canoes that widen out quickly will tend to have increased volume and increased buoyancy compared to canoes that widen out gradually. More volume and added buoyancy will mean increased canoe weight capacity.

These canoes that widen quickly from bow to stern will also tend to be more stable and will generally ride up over waves and rough water. Gradual widening of the hull will tend to mean the canoe will cut through water rather than ride over it.


The materials used in the construction of a canoe can have some effect on its maximum capacity. 

Wooden canoes, aluminum canoes, and fiberglass composites will often have similar weight capacities to each other. Canoes made from these materials will generally be able to carry extra weight compared to most plastic, Kevlar, or carbon canoes. 

However, some plastic canoes can hold a lot of weight. In fact, the highest capacity canoe in our examples above, the Old Town Penobscot 174, is made from three-layer polyethylene plastic.

While some of these polyethylene canoes will carry more than average weight, they will usually weigh more than other types of materials. This makes them more difficult to carry, especially when loaded with canoeing gear. We certainly wouldn’t want to carry a loaded plastic canoe too far.

Canoe Performance Weight Limit

The maximum weight limit of a canoe is not always the most efficient canoe weight limit for the performance of the boat. Loading a canoe to its maximum weight capacity limits means it will probably not perform as expected.

As a real life example, if you’ve ever been paddle boarding and had a bunch of people on the board at once, then this effect on paddling efficiency can be easily demonstrated. The board will sit low in the water to the point where water is covering the top of it. And it’s a real effort for the paddler to move it.

A similar thing will happen if you overload a canoe or simply load it to the very top end of the canoe’s weight limit. You’ll find the canoe sits lower in the water which will affect the canoe’s ability to move when you paddle.

Loading a canoe with more weight than the canoe can hold will also affect the canoe’s stability. It will be more at risk of being swamped or tipping over.

So it’s best for your own safety not to exceed the maximum capacity and stick to the recommended canoe weight limit stated by the manufacturer. 

Some canoe manufacturers may not always state specific weight capacities. Some may offer general guidelines for recommended weight capacities or number of people. Others may provide information on how many days worth of gear the canoe can hold or whether it’s suitable for multi-day expeditions and canoe camping trips.

How To Calculate The Weight Capacity Of A Canoe

Family Of Four In A Small CanoePin

While there is no accurate calculation to determine a canoe’s maximum weight capacity, you can get a general idea of how many people a canoe can carry based on the average body weight of the paddlers. 

This won’t give you the maximum weight limit of the canoe, as most canoes will have a stated weight limit that is much higher than the result of this calculation.

Check out our guide on how many people can fit in a canoe if you want to know more. 

First you’ll need to know the length of the canoe in feet, the width of the canoe in feet, plus the average body weight of your paddlers.

Once you know the average weight of your paddler in pounds, drop the last 0, so that you have a two-digit number. For example, 10 for a person weighing 100 pounds; 15 for a person weighing 150 pounds; 20 for a person weighing 200 pounds. 

To calculate the maximum weight limit for people in a canoe (without gear), you multiply the canoe’s length in feet by the canoe’s width in feet, then divide by the average weight of your paddler (using the two-digit number you calculated a second ago). 

This will give you the maximum recommended number of people but not the maximum capacity of the canoe.

For example, 16.3 x 3.1 ÷ 15 = 3.

This means a maximum of three 150-pound people could fit in the canoe we used in our example – the Old Town Penobscot 164, which is 16.3 feet by 3.1 feet (16-ft 4-in. by 37.5-in.).

To get the weight limit, 3 x 150 = 450

So the suggested weight capacity using this calculation is 450 pounds. This is far less than the actual maximum weight capacity stated by the manufacturer, which is 1,250 pounds.

Canoe Weight Limits FAQs

Do Manufacturers Always List Maximum Weight Capacity?

No, some canoe manufacturers, such as Wenonah Canoes, don’t list a canoe weight limit on their products. Canoe weight limit is not always an exact science and can vary with different conditions. 

Can You Calculate Canoe Weight Capacity Yourself?

You can calculate a suggested maximum capacity for the amount of people a canoe can hold. But most canoes can hold a lot more weight than the result of this calculation. So in terms of calculating the maximum weight capacity of a canoe yourself, there is no exact calculation for this.

Is A Heavier Canoe More Or Less Stable On The Water?

A heavier canoe will typically be more stable on the water. However, you need to make sure you have even weight distribution and that the load is not too high on the deck. 

On the other hand, if you load the canoe beyond its maximum capacity with gear that is too heavy or unbalanced, this can make the canoe less stable.

What Happens If The Weight Limit Is Exceeded?

You risk tipping over or being swamped by waves or wake. It will also be more difficult to paddle a canoe that’s carrying more weight than it should.

Conclusion: Now You’re Ready To Canoe To The Limit!

As you’ll have discovered, different types of canoes have different weight limits. But the average weight limit of the average recreational canoe tends to be somewhere between 600 pounds and 1200 pounds

Remember, there are a few factors that can affect how much weight a canoe can hold, such as hull shape and size. 

So, if you’re looking to head out on a canoe trip with three to four adults and a lot of heavy gear, you might want to opt for two large, wide canoes to give yourselves the maximum amount of space and weight capacity.


Leave a Comment