Canoe capacity (lbs)

Just why is it that Wenonah does not give a clue as to the carrying capacity of their canoes? I have noticed that many other mfgr’s don’t have any reservations about this (Bell, Mad River, etc). I am taking our Spirit II on a week long canoe/camp/fish trip in a couple weeks and it would be nice to know just how close we will be to an overload situation. I guestimate our load to be at or under 650 lbs. Too heavy? I will do a trial run at this weight to see how it goes.


650 LBS , that would be a maximum
Although the Spirit II is one of the most seaworthy 17’ canoes out there, I would guesstimate that it would be dangerously sluggish with 650 lbs aboard. In lake waves a foot or less, it would be OK … but in larger waves, I would feel much more safe with a load of 550lbs or less. My Clipper Expedition (17’5’ freighter with narrow squareback and 36" 4 inch waterline width) hauls 600-700 lbs well in mild to moderate conditions, but it seems 25% (at least) more voluminous than the Spirit II hull and slower by about the same percentage. A better hull for that load would be the Champlain. The optimum load range for the Spirit is 350-550 in my judgement … still fairly safe in up to 2-2.5 foot waves with that load (and experienced paddlers).

The Spirit II has about 6" of freeboard at 900#s. With 650#s it should have about 9".

Wenonah is in a difficult position.
Mad River, and many other manufacturers, use the totally idiotic and unsafe 6" feeboard method to rate capacity. Wenonah knows this is a bad method. However, if they give realistic, functional figures for capacity, then stupid buyers say, “Well, I’m gonna buy a Mad River, 'cause those slimline Wenonahs don’t carry nearly as much.”

The 6" freeboard “rule” isn’t even good for comparing one boat to another. It is just a bad method. As big as Wenonah is, they are not in a position to replace a bad method.

Smaller companies, like Bluewater, have sometimes given estimates of the upper limit at which a tandem will still perform well. If one scans across what is provided by such companies, one finds that big tripping canoes can often handle 600#. For smaller canoes like a Wenonah Aurorah, maybe 500# would be OK. Compare that to the dangerous situation that results when a tandem is loaded to 6" of freeboard.

According to…
…the wenonah catalog, “a spirit is meant for two adults with lots of gear.” Also, “the champlain has a bit more capacity”. I am pretty sure that we would not reach 650 lbs total capacity but it’s the cooler/food that is the unknown. I should start weighing the gear I am taking and see where that leads me.


Old Town 169 Discovery …
… rated 1416 lbs. , ya think so ??? … I own one but I wouldn’t want to have to prove that number , but I’m sure it can hold a lot of weight and still be safe and manuverable , pretty deep draft …

For some of those OT Discovery models…
…that’s not the capacity, that’s the weight of the boat!

Spirit II capacity
It will carry safely all the junk you will be willing to load and unload during a trip. On a trip with portages, loads tend to be less, especially after the first trip. No one wants to make more than 2 trips across a portage, and 3 trips is suffering when you could be paddling or making camp. So how many trips would it take you to carry 300# of gear, allowing for a total paddler weight of 350#? It amounts to 6 50# packs and thats 3 gear trips for 2 paddlers.

I have done a lot of Boy Scout canoe trips, and as leader usually manage to get all the heavy troop gear.And i never have had 300# pounds of gear in my canoe. Of course on BSA trips there are not multiple coolers of beer, which some folks deem a necessity on all trips and add considerably to the load.

The true test for a trip is to load the canoe and paddle it. What is manageable for some paddlers is not safe for others. The canoe will tell you if the load is too much by the way it handles.


never had a problem with weight
capacity…you will run out of room long before you reach any “weight limit” if you confine your gear to below the gunwales. Unless you are carrying chainsaws and lawnmowers as the wardens do here.

I agree. If you cannot carry your canoe and gear in two trips across the portage, its too much.

lol …

Bell canoe catalog…
…has the freeboard & displacement listed at various loads, and then they list the optimum load limits. That is what I would like to see in the Wenonah catalog. I am only looking for a number to use as a guide. Total weight of paddlers in my canoe is around 450 lbs (pure muscle of course). We have done alot of camping but out of a 3/4 ton pickup or car so how much things weigh was never a consideration. I have been downsizing our camping gear but it needs a little more trimming still.

There will be no portaging on this trip to the Turtle Flambeau Flowage (WI)but I would like to not have to paddle back to the car and go into town for anything if possible.


bell’s numbers are nice
I especially like that they suggest an optimum load. That’s what I’ve always used as a guide for loading my bell.

As bad as I hate to say it, g2d is right on about wenonah, and others. The 6-inch freeboard line is not a good measure. I would think the 3 to 4 inch waterline number would be a better guide.

With a Spirit II or canoe of similar volume, you should be able to get your camping load to a comfortable level without having to buy titanium silverware, etc.

And if Eric says the canoe will handle 650, I’d take that to the bank, only after I’d tested it myself, of course. :wink:

We did 2 weeks in Quetico in a huge
18.5’ canoe, and I’m sure we didn’t have over 550 in the boat. Stuff did stick out over the 14" deep hull a bit, but the boat was not heavily loaded.

Why does carrying 650 pounds get to be an issue? This should come up only for kitchen-sink-and-lounger types, or for people taking multi-week trips deep into the wilderness.

Spirit II
You should be fine in the Spirit II, in fact, that’s probably a perfect trip for that boat. My husband and I hit the combined weights of 450 easily. We took our Spirit II and camped with a large hard-sided Coleman cooler loaded with food & drinks, a 4 person tent, cast iron dutch oven, clothes, heavy sleeping bags and pads, all into the Spirit II. Plenty O’ Freeboard. Not a prob…

Here’s our MN II last January… stuff above the guns are a plastic tarp, a chair, and a bag of trash. We ain’t little people… and we took a soft side cooler with drinks… AND it got down in the low 30’s so we had heavier sleeping bags…

Wenonah is in Minnesota. They make big strappin’ people up in da nort woods, so dey can survive the winter. The boats are made for those people, and that water. Have faith. :slight_smile: Better yet, have fun!

Placid uses weight displacements at
various measurements 2, 3 , 4 inch waterline plus 6 inch freeboard.

The 4 inch waterline I think is the most useful and I wish it were an industry wide standard.

That’s very helpful. But I still value
their opinion on how much a boat will hold without starting to wallow and push.

On the other hand, in whitewater kayaks, manufacturer opinions have usually been rather optimistic about how much a kayak will carry without handling poorly. I don’t know why I expect better of open boat makers in general.