5 Counterintuitive Ways To Increase Weight Capacity of Kayak

happy senior kayaker carrying inflatable whitewater kayak on a shore of mountain river in early spring

Kayaking is an activity that can be undertaken without having to spend too much money (except for the initial investment on the kayak). A kayak may seem small and unlikely to carry heavy loads, but there are a few ways to modify your kayak and improve its weight capacity. Strangely, sometimes adding a few things to your kayak can help improve its weight-carrying capacity. 

Here are 5 counterintuitive ways to increase the weight capacity of a kayak:

  1. Attach buoys to the sides of the kayak.
  2. Fill the hull with pool noodles.
  3. Use float bags.
  4. Stuff the hull with empty gallon jugs.
  5. Glue empty bottles inside the kayak.

While it may seem counterintuitive, adding some of these apparatus can actually make your kayak more buoyant. The rest of this article will show you how to increase your kayak’s load-bearing capacity, and we’ll start by briefly explaining how kayaks float.

How Does a Kayak Float?

Before diving into the methods to make your kayak carry more load, let’s start by understanding how kayaks float on water. A kaya’s buoyancy is the primary factor that determines its ability to float on water.

Kayaker paddling on the sea with a weight bag behind his seat

A kayak floats by using the buoyant force from the water it is floating on. While gravity exerts a downward pull on the kayak, the water pushes the kayak up, keeping the kayak afloat on the water’s surface.

Understanding the principle of buoyancy is crucial to understand how it affects a kayak’s weight-bearing capacity. 

According to Untamed Science, buoyancy is the force produced by a fluid that goes against the weight and size of a submerged object.

So, for example, let’s say the combined weight of your gear, your body, and your kayak is about 200 lbs (90 kg). For this weight to rest on the water, 200 lbs (90 kg) of water must be displaced. Two hundred pounds of water is a mere glass full in a lake or stream and perhaps a drop in the ocean. As such, it’s easy for a kayak to stay afloat on such water bodies.

To increase the weight capacity of a kayak, it’s essential to first increase its buoyancy. By increasing a kayak’s buoyancy, you increase the weight exerted by the water on the kayak, hence increasing its weight-bearing capacity.

Now that you have a rough idea of this principle, let’s look at how to increase the buoyancy of a kayak.

1. Attach Buoys to the Sides of the Kayak

The first method will require the following supplies:

  • A drill
  • A sawzall (reciprocating saw)
  • A wrench
  • A marker
  • Two tubes of PVC pipe roughly the length of your kayak
  • 4 PVC caps, one for each end
  • PVC primer and cement
  • 4 U-bolts
  • 8 Hex nuts
  • Teflon putty

You can buy all of the above at most local hardware stores or online. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to install these DIY buoys on your kayak.

  1. Using the U-bolts as a guide, mark each end of the kayak with two dots, where the bolt ends meet the kayak. These are markers for drilling holes.
  2. Apply primer and then cement to the ends of the PVC pipes and fit the caps on.
  3. Use your drill to puncture holes where the marks are on the kayak. Ensure you use the appropriate drill bit size and that the U-bolts fit into the holes you drill.
  4. Cut two openings in the cockpit (inside the kayak) directly adjacent to the drill holes using the sawzall. You’ll use this opening to access the U-bolts and tighten them.
  5. Now place the PVC pipe in a straight line on the side of the kayak so it’s directly on top of the two sets of holes you drilled on the side. 
  6. Slide the U-bolts over the PVC pipes and into the holes you drilled in the kayak.
  7. On the inside, thread the nuts onto the U-bolts and secure it in place with a wrench.
  8. Apply teflon putty around the holes to prevent water from seeping in while you kayak.

For those of you who prefer visual instructions for this modification, here’s a video showing you how to perform the steps outlined above:

On the other hand, if this method seems too complicated, you can purchase buoyancy modifications as well, like an outrigger for your kayak.

I would recommend the Lixada Inflatable Outrigger from Amazon.com if you’re going with external modifications. This gear is easy to install, highly portable, and comes with repair patches in case you need to cover a leak.

2. Fill the Hull With Pool Noodles

Inserting pool noodles like these in Amazon inside your kayak’s hull is a great way to increase buoyancy.

Pool noodles are readily available at most dollar stores (especially in the summer) or online portals. Keep in mind this method may be costly if you have a big kayak that can fit many pool noodles.

Before buying pool noodles, figure out how many you’ll need by adding the weight of your body, the gear, and the kayak. 

You need to put a certain amount depending on the buoyancy you’re looking for. To give you a rough estimate, one 4-inch (2.5 cm) pool noodle provides about 30 pounds (0.4 kilograms) of lift.

An excellent benefit of using pool noodles is that they prevent your stored gear from sliding to the opposite end of the hull, where it’s difficult to reach.

3. Use Float Bags

Float bags displace water that may seep into the kayak in the event of a leak, and it’s typically installed onto the bow and stern compartments.

If you’re looking for a great pair of float bags, I’d recommend the Harmony Float Bags from Amazon. They inflate and deflate quickly, hold constant pressure, and can be easily stored. You will need a minimum of two bags for them to work as intended.

Although float bags fill the space in the cockpit or bow of the kayak, you can place them inside the bulkheads to add buoyancy and increase the weight capacity.

While you could use regular airbags, float bags are designed explicitly for kayaks, and made from water-resistant material.

4. Fill the Hull With Empty Gallon Jugs

This method is probably the least expensive of the five ways mentioned in this article. To make this work, you’ll need as many gallon jugs as your kayak can fit inside the hull.

You can collect these jugs from a recycling plant or ask your friends and family to save theirs instead of tossing them out. It’s imperative that the jugs you collect still have their caps, which need to be super glued to the jug so water can’t seep inside.

The concept is the same as the pool noodle method. Keep placing water jugs inside the space in your hull until you can’t fit anymore. The additional buoyancy will be immediately noticeable, and your kayak should be able to handle more weight.

5. Use Smaller Empty Bottles

This process involves the same setup as the one mentioned above, except with plastic bottles of varying sizes. You must ensure these bottles are made of regular plastic and the caps should be glued shut.

The advantage with using this method is that it’s easier to fill the hull or bulkhead with plastic, compared to the jugs previously mentioned. By using bottles of different shapes and sizes, you can make efficient use of the space and fill it up to maximum capacity.

It’s also a good idea to use mesh bags to hold the bottles together so they don’t move around too much as you row. This way you can still shove them deep within the hull and they’re more likely to stay secured in place.

Finally, here’s another interesting video on making your kayak more buoyant. Enjoy!

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