Obsession with weight

I picked kayaks as the category, but this could really go with any category.

I am wondering why some people seem to have an obsession with getting weight of the boat down. Serious question. Inflatable kayakers worry about getting another two pounds off the boat weight even though their boats weigh 1/3 of plastic boats who paddle alongside them. Plastic boat owners try to get other materials that are lighter, but often more brittle (like fiberglass - not good for my rocky rivers).

Once in the water, does an extra pound or two here or there really make a difference?

  • Big D

    p.s. I totally get the need for decreasing weight in the paddles, or if there are long portages involved. I’m talking more about on-the-water performance.

A rigid hull is a faster hull, but given
the same paddler in the same boat of different materials, probably little difference.

I bought a 30 lb boat because my back and shoulder objected to lifting heavy plastic boats over my head.

It always takes more energy to move more weight.

Doesn’t matter what it is, a boat, a bullet, an airplane.

1 Like

Reduced weight generally for getting to
the water, or from it. The difference ON the water is going to be pretty negligible and probably not even noticed by the average paddler. This is canoes too.

I actually dislike the uberultralight trend. People are making boats these days that just aren’t going to hold up.

weight of boats

– Last Updated: Nov-27-08 5:30 PM EST –


You don't give your age, but I'll dare to guess from you statement of canoeing for a couple of decades-I will hazard a guess of late 40,s or early 50's. If I'm correct with that guess I'll then venture the following statement: if you wait about 15 years you will understand the weight obsession.

I used to be very strong, both from being a HS and College athlete and from carrying furniture as a summer job for 12 years, Now at age 63 I am experiencing the muscle/strength loss that is an inevitable part of aging. That muscle loss is compounded by shoulder damage from a fall on ice while hiking. The surgeon did a remarkable job of repairing my shoulder in a three hour surgery. However, any repaired/replaced joint is not as good as new and anyone telling you that is unaware of their body or lying.

Because of both the age related muscle loss and the repaired shoulder, I am obsessed with kayak/canoe weight as I intend to paddle for decades to come. If you can haul heavy kayaks/canoes continue doing so. When the day comes that you cannot do it anymore, join the light weight canoe/kayak club and continue paddling.


1 Like

it’s my bag, baby
I worry about two main concerns, the cost, and then how light can I get it. That is, if it is for me. Now I will put on the pounds for the family stuff. I want the kids to bash rocks and drag it ashore and drop everything they touch into it. I want them to use the boats so they like them as much as I do, so they need to use them.

I really enjoy my ultra light when I move it around in storage and gteting to and fro (as mentioned above). That would be why I dropped the extra money on it to drop the extra pounds. I know that a boat is a 15, 20, 30, 40 year investment. I am young but I won’t always want to lift up 60 or 80 pounds (being helped or not). So dropping it down to 40 pounds sounds pretty nice.

As far as gear, I KNOW that is just weight in the boat or weight on me moving it. I want clothes to be ultra light and minimally packed. I want light weight bags and packs and cookware and anything I might take. I will diet to try to get a few more pounds off for a trip if it has a hike in it.

I guess to sum up all this babble it is about personal needs and wants. Many people don’t need child proof gear that will take a beating. Where are the compromises you are willing to make in your chosen purchaces? Look at your computer, your car, your home. Where do your needs, cost, and quality converge? What are you willing to decline to gain something else?


Lighter, Faster, Cheaper
You can only have two.


True, weight mostly affects loading, unloading and carrying to and from launch. Also, many lighter/ultra light craft are more delicate.

However there are exceptions if you look hard enough. The Placid Boatworks canoes are strong and light. My Rapidfire is 32lbs (It’s heavier than production due to wood changes I made). They now build it with infused gunnels at about 26 lbs. I just bought a used Tideline 19 kayak (now out of production) that is 41lbs and still stiff in it’s construction. There are a number of other light but strong canoes and kayaks. Light weight craft that are still strong exist, you just have to search beyond your local Box store.

The big issue with light and strong craft is that they are expensive. You trade $ for low weight as the materials used and the considerable more time needed in construction have an effect on the price.


If Whitewater
If whitewater, extra weight = slower response = might not make the “must make” eddy.

An extra lb or 2 might be the straw that breaks the camels back. Not then and there, but later in the shower after lifting the boat to a rack, you reach for the soap and POW, the back muscle spasms and the spine goes all wacky and a month later you have spent enough at the chiropractor to buy the next boat.

I don’t really know what I’m talkin about :slight_smile:

is noticeably better in a lighter craft, but once up to speed I cannot tell much difference.

This obsession is not just boats, of course. Backpackers sometimes drill holes in their toothbrush handles, and biclylists spend hundreds of dollars to shave ounces of weight.

The funniest weight shaving story I know happened one of my friends told another that the cheapest and easist way to shave some weight off his bike was to go on a diet.

It hurts less to lift, carry and move
around a heavier boat. The difference between a 55 lb boat and a 45 lb boat seems quite significant to me and the difference is even greater when I drop from a 45 lb boat to a 30 lb boat.

Of course, the 55 lb boat is less likely to get blown around than the 30 lb boat after you set it on the ground to go back to the car to get more gear.

Yes, it does exist
CEW’s infused boats are a great example. But when you’re talking PBW or Tideline, you’re talking about small shops operating at the very apex of craftsmanship and laminate engineering. It’s out there, to be sure.

But for every light AND strong, there is a Bell Kevlight, or a Wenonah graphite, etc. Some of the newer uberultralight kayak hulls are probably too light, IMHO, as well.

Wonderful responses
Thanks. I am a recreational paddler. I don’t much care how fast I get downriver so long as I’m off before dark (most of the time). So speed didn’t enter into my thoughts. I don’t paddle in water above a class 3, and that’s not a class 3 river but a river with a lone class 3 hanging out here and there, so I didn’t consider the “must” moves. I am 43, but I have abused my body sufficiently to understand the issue of lifting, and the increasing slowness of recovery after “a certain age”. That’s why I bought a trailer for my 110# fishing canoe. Wheels connected to a motorized vehicle is even easier than lifting.

Nevertheless, these are all good reasons. I was trying to get it. I used to be a backpacker, but got tired of carrying my hosue on my back, and I used to be a bicycle racer, so understand the compulsion of weight when acceleration and sustaining speed are issues. I now weigh 90# more than I did when I was racing, so I’ve got that whole “easiest way to reduce weight” down. That’s why I was wondering. I have so completely gotten over worrying about an ounce here or an ounce there. I didn’t worry about it packing anyway. I used to take fresh vegetables and a percolator for fresh brewed coffee. Even at the expense of not carrying a tent.

  • Big D

Simple answer to your question:

Put the same engine, (paddler) in two of the exact same model boats, but make one out of heavy plastic and the other out of lighter weight composite material,

and he will go farther and or faster in the composite boat



Ok, from an inflatable kayaking perspective (since you mentioned it) the issue of weight really has more to do with being able to use the boat to its full capabilities. One of the primary advantages of an inflatable is portability. The more the weight goes up, the less portable the boat is and you’re starting to erode its advantage, and it starts become less suitable for things like hiking into a lake, or packing it up to take on the plane for vacation.

You got that right
"The funniest weight shaving story I know happened one of my friends told another that the cheapest and easist way to shave some weight off his bike was to go on a diet."

The difference in weight between my aluminum road bike and the latest and greatest carbon fiber road bike is less than the weight I put on last winter.

I don’t sweat bike weight – I use them to run errands, so I can be seen with a backpack full of groceries on one of my bikes quite often. Sometimes it weighs more than the bike does. I need to get a trailer.

you answered your own question:
“Once in the water …”

People who volunteer to help me carry my boat only volunteer once. They don’t ever say anything, but I always get that look. People who like light boats aren’t concerned with the weight of the boat ON the water, but off.

It’s a matter of degree
In my little 12-foot packboat, I can feel a very definite difference in performance (in terms of responsiveness to the oar strokes) if I throw 15 pounds of gear on board. I’m not saying it makes the boat substantially more difficult to move with just 15 extra pounds, but I can sure tell the difference. An extra 30 pounds makes a big difference - still plenty manageable to be sure, but impossible not to notice. So, if the boat weighed 15 more pounds to start with, adding 15 pounds would put at this higher level of performance decrease instead of the first. Smaller changes in boat weight would lead to smaller differences. Where does one draw the line regarding weight reduction? For a racer, a couple of pounds would certainly matter. For the rest of us, probably not, but I’ve yet to hear of a case where someone chose to buy one boat instead of another on account of such a small weight difference, so I’m not sure the question regarding a difference of couple of pounds is the one to ask.

If 2 pounds was going to be…
…the difference between making the eddy or not, you

weren’t going to make it anyway.

But I’m guessing you knew that.

There are no light boats
There are no light boats at the end of the day !

And as for inflatables,weight becomes more important all the time if you want to fly it along on vacation or pack it in somewhere.