A Kayak terminology question

I’ve seen the terms low volume and high volume thrown around as I try to learn more about kayak design and the purpose behind it so I can understand my boat better. In a search, the best I found was a bigger person may prefer high volume. A smaller person may prefer low volume. On the surface, makes sense. Are there defining characteristic(s) that differentiate the two when applied to a kayak?



Low volume is quiet. High volume is loud.

Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’ll let the pros tell you about the boats.

@Sparky961 said:
Low volume is quiet. High volume is loud.

Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’ll let the pros tell you about the boats.

LOL. Well played Sir!

There is the size of paddler and volume of gear issue.

But also there could be the way boats are paddled. For example, the kayaks Greenlandsers used which roll so well are low volume.

White water also has different volumes depending on conditions. Creek boats, which more often drop off of big drops, use higher volume boats than river runners, which generally don’t go off the bigger drops. This holds for sea kayak rock gardening also - it is common to go for a higher volume boat to let you float over things.

Not much in the way of different volumes (at least by design) for rec boats or sit on tops.

What I think of is when a manufacture came out with a new boat it was sized for the average person. If the model was a success and there was a demand from larger paddlers a higher deck might be added. The boat could also be scaled down a bit for smaller paddlers if the company thought there was a demand.
They can be very subjective designations industry wide.

First you see it in fit. A small person will be swimming in a hi volume cockpit, may have a real problem managing the boat. A big person in a lo volume boat, if they fit to start with, may find some circulation cut off. And match of paddlers to boat affects performance. All boats have to get to a certain waterline to work their best. The location is a fuzzy thing in kayaks, but too small and you are above it. Too big and you are below it. Above can be inefficlient and a pita in wind. Sitting below it increases instability, which some like for the added responsiveness but will be more challenging. And it may be faster to set up a bow wake paddling forward.

Hi volume usually has a taller deck and wider cockpit, these affect how high up and wide apart the thigh braces are. If there are no thigh braces, it is a rec or rec type boat.

Thanks! So a lot could be individual interpretation and not a single defining characteristic?. I saw some descriptions of kayaks by manufacturers as being coined “hi” or “low”. They appeared to be the same boat in every way except a 1" difference in depth. 12" vs 13".

Whitewater play boaters typically pick kayaks with very low volume ends because they want to be able to easily submerge the ends, to execute acrobatic moves like cartwheels and loops. Squirt boaters have the lowest volume kayaks since they want to be able to submerge the entire boat, and keep it under water for a time.

Some boaters with large shoe sizes wind up having to go with higher volume designs just to allow enough room under the deck to accommodate their feet.

For sea kayaks, although there are no standard industry definitions, the boats are simply sized to accommodate different paddlers. A fairly recent trend is also to add an MV (Medium Volume) boat in the middle of the range.

For example, Boreal Designs Baffin models come in sizes 1 (LV), 2 (MV) and 3 (HV) with the length of each boat increasing by 6" , the width increasing by .25" and the amount of storage in the compartments increasing from 77 gallons to 88 and then 100.

P&H is another manufacturer that offers its Cetus in LV, MV and HV with similar changes in dimensions.

It’s a good thing that kayak makers have finally realized that not all paddlers are 165-180lb, 5’ 9" - 6’ 0" males, something the Inuit realized about 4000 years ago when they built kayaks to their owners physical dimensions.

@Sparky961 said:
Low volume is quiet. High volume is loud.

“WHAT DID HE SAY?! SOMETHIN’ ABOUT VALUMS!” (muttering as he feebly walks away with his cane) “Ya’ no count buncha drug head hippies…what’s this world comin’ to…”

High volume has more cubic feet of interior. Low volume has less. Actual definitions of how much CF is what is not established.

High volume tends to be “taller.” Thus a big shoe size might fit in a high volume boat. High volume tends to be a touring kayak. Thus you can get more stuff in the boat. A high volume boat may have a high rear deck which aids in getting coolers, packs, etc inside the rear compartment, but gives you lower back pain. (my boat some times) High volume might get more stable with a load than empty. High volume might be affected empty more by the wind.

Low volume boat tends to have lower decks, shorter. They can both have the same size cockpit opening 17x31 but maybe not as much leg room. Greenland boats are often low volume boats with lower decks. The rear deck on a Greenland boat might be just above the water to aid in rolling. Low volume boats tend to be “lighter” weight boats. Less materials less weight…

if you go to current designs web site or probably some others they also have descriptions of boats the make.

@wrz To repeat, the size of the paddlers defines the target of the boat design. Those higher decks for a bigger person. So yes there is a defining characteristic, the size of the paddlers for whom the boat is defined.

Someone alluded to, but didn’t state, that the distribution of the volume is also significant. Some boats are very pointy and have very low volume bows. Whatever rocker there is may not begin until a foot or more from the tip of the bow. These craft will tend to not rise to meet waves, but poke their way through, even if they may be wider at the beam than boats of similar length. Small changes in the distribution of the volume of the boat can have major performance affects. This would be easier to demonstrate with pictures (of boat designs in varied conditions), but I doubt that such a montage of pictures exists.