Load Distribution for Sea Kayak Trip????


I am making about a 50 mile trip this weekend in my sea kayak. I will be spending 2 nights on the river.

I have a Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 17 foot kayak. It has both a front and rear storage compartment.

I plan on splitting my gear between the two.

My question is this: should I put my heavier stuff in the rear or in the front??? In case it matters, I weigh about 185 pounds.

thanks for your help


I’d have to say split it up with the heavier gear in the rear compartment. Have you ever paddled a tandem kayak or canoe with a heavier person in the front? You lose a lot of maneuverability, and a boat that’s bow heavy just looks ridiculous moving through the water.

Generally speaking,
heavier gear closer to the cockpit. Keep the light stuff out to the ends of your stern and bow.

You definitely want to pre-load the boat and test paddle it before your trip to check trim and see how the additional weight affects your boat’s behaviour.

Pleasant waters to ya.


If you find your balance point empty…
and keep it at the same point when loaded you should be fine…

Close to you, and low
in the boat. You can lower the boats center of gravity and lengthen we water line with proper loading. Loading heavy stuff in the ends makes it much harder to maneuver. Since you can load heavy stuff closer in the rear (and or in the day hatch) you will end up loading with some preference there.

Test paddle yes it’s a must for a serious ocean trip. Would you try a 1000 mile bike ride using front panniers for the first time. I hope not. Yet the commitment on a sea kayak trip is bigger.

You will enjoy paddling that boat loaded. It will become super super stable, and weathercock less (if sanely loaded). I have spent a bit of time in a plastic Cape horn 17.

I second that
We have done many expedition trips, and when we load, we take a look at the yak in the water empty, and then as it gets filled with the gear we make sure it is equally balanced.

Someimes you can’t get it equal due to the various sizes of the gear, but you won’t be looking for speed, so if it is a little off, you probly won’t even notice the difference.

Cheers, and have a great trip,


close, low and 60/40
Keep weight close to the cockpit and low. I have also been advised that a ratio, in weight, of 60 rear/40 forward often works.

It is very important that you at least float the boat loaded before embarking to visually check if it is in trim and level. One camping trip, my wife neglected to do so and her boat was so lopsided that she spent the 3+ mile paddle constantly correcting - not fun.

If you need to quickly adjust weight distribution, water is usually the heaviest thing you are carrying.

I just did a lot of research on this…
I have had a situation with my kayak which made me do a lot of research on this. After about 2 months of a lot of reasearch, I can tell you this. The Paddle Wise web page did a “Discussion with the Expert” on boat trim and loading. Two points it really hit on are:

A bow heavy boat, will start out tracking straight, and then all of a sudden want to turn on it’s own. It is like a gust of wind hitting a motorcycle going down the highway. It is a really wierd experience. (I know.) If you load the boat stern heavy, it will want to wander from side to side, and you will have to make a lot of “course corrections’. This is right from their web page.

My reccomendation is to sit in your kayak without any other load. Have someone mark the hull Bow and Stern with a crayon mark where the water line is. Then make 1” marks up from the waterline and number them. When you load the boat, make sure you have it sitting on the same plane as it was when it was empty. If the bow sits 1" lower, make sure you have the stern loaded as to sit 1" lower also.

Bow and Stern trim can greatly effect the way your Kayak will track. You can check this out your self on the Paddlewise Web Page.

Have a nice trip!!


bow light=lee cock
Lee cocking=bad juju. If you can’t paddle into the wind, or cross wind, that only leaves one direction for you. Hopefully that’s where you want to go then. Better to balance the boat out.