Canoe weights are probably one of the very first considerations most canoe buyers have and it should be high on your list of canoe features to consider. Weights for canoes vary drastically from around 20 lbs to over 100 lbs and it could be the single factor that disqualifies a canoe from purchase.
Most 16′ – 18′ Kevlar canoes (arguably the most popular style) weigh between 50 lbs and 70 lbs. Polyethylene or plastic canoes of the same length weigh 80 lbs – 90 lbs, while Whitewater canoes made of tough T-Formex or Royalex weigh about 65 lbs for a popular 16-foot model.
There are so many more variables that determine weight, and some of them may not be important to you while other factors will be a “make-or-break” issue.
After 40 years of paddling, I’d love to share with you what factors you’ll want to consider to get the canoe that is the lightest, toughest and most appropriate for you!
Factors That Affect Canoe Weight
As with most things in life, when you gain an advantage in one area, you’ll lose in a different area. It’s the same with canoes. To get a lighter canoe, you’ll have to make sacrifices in other areas like durability. If you want a canoe with a great price tag, you’ll probably sacrifice both weight and toughness.
Let’s take a look at some factors that affect canoe weight and why they differ in price.
1 – Construction Material
The biggest factor that determines canoe weight (all other factors being equal), is construction material. The heaviest material for canoe construction is usually plastic or polyethylene. Canoes made of this material generally lack any advantage at all over their peers made of any other material.
The big attraction for plastic canoes, however, is their unbeatable price tag. They can be several times less expensive than a Kevlar or T-Formex canoe while appearing to look just as capable and aesthetically pleasing.
On the other end of the spectrum are Carbon canoes which very few people own and they are not typically seen in most consumer models.
A 16-foot Carbon Fiber canoe weighs around 33 lbs and is very tough and durable. This material offers the best of everything in terms of lightness and toughness, but as you can imagine, its downside is a very hefty, premium price tag.
The difference between Carbon canoes and plastic is significant since a 16-foot plastic canoe weighs close to 75 lbs while a Carbon canoe is less than half that weight at 30 – 33 lbs.
Most canoes fall in between the two extremes of plastic and carbon. Examples would be Royalex or T-Formex, fiberglass, aluminum, wood, and Kevlar.
2 – Size of Canoe
Every foot in size affects canoe weight significantly when the canoe is made from polyethylene. An Old Town 14’7″ GUIDE canoe weighs 74 lbs while an Old Town 15’8″ DISCOVERY canoe weighs 80 lbs.
However, in the category of Kevlar, usually, a 1-foot difference brings about a 1 lb difference in weight.
Solo canoes weigh less than tandem canoes based on their narrower beam (width) and often their slightly shorter length.
Of course, the issue of size is not limited to length, but in fact, width and depth are important factors that can increase or decrease the weight of a canoe.
3 – Construction Options
Options on a canoe can change weight significantly and each option affects the weight in a different manner.
Also, each manufacturer has different options that change weight characteristics. And each canoe maker’s options change weight differently from another manufacturer and even from one model to the next with the same manufacturer.
For example, a popular option on most canoes is to switch the standard aluminum gunwale/trim to a wooden trim option. This makes the canoe look much nicer, richer, and more inviting, but it increases weight and maintenance responsibilities.
On an average canoe in the 15′ – 18′ range, wood trim will cost $400 – $500 more than aluminum trim and will increase weight by 3 lbs – 6 lbs.
Other options that affect weight are items like seat style and the number of seats, yoke style, integrated foot braces, and spray skirts. This is only a sample of nearly endless options offered by various manufacturers.
If you’d like more detailed info on canoe issues like length, weight, capacity, etc. CLICK HERE or click the photo below for an article I wrote on various canoe lengths and how length affects performance.
Why Does Canoe Weight Matter?
Overland Carries and Portages
The most obvious reason for canoe weight being a huge factor in determining which canoe you’ll buy is that by their very nature, canoes are crafts that will need to be lifted and carried very often.
I’ve written an article all about CANOE CARTS and how they may help alleviate some pain associated with carrying canoes over portage routes.
On a canoe camping trip, that may mean lifting and carrying a canoe several times a day for potentially a mile or more … EVERY DAY! This is the joy of portaging, and it’s one of the main attractions to the activity of canoeing in the first place!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about how miserable a canoe trip was simply because of the excessive weight of their canoe. Stories abound about how paddlers dread approaching a portage trail because the “fun” part of the trip is over, and now the drudgery and strain begin.
Mounting on Car
Your canoe’s weight will matter as you approach your vehicle to attach your canoe. If you have a pickup truck, van, or large SUV, you’ll soon realize that plopping your canoe on top is no small task.
You’ll have to learn how to MOUNT YOUR CANOE on your particular vehicle safely (for you, your vehicle, and your canoe … not to mention others around you).
If you have a car, THIS ARTICLE will help!
I’ve written an extensive article on best practices and ideas when it comes to storing your canoe. See the article HERE.
Once your trip is done, you’ll need a place to store the canoe. One of the best places would be in your garage. But most homeowners can’t afford the space along a wall or on a stand in the middle of their garage to store a canoe, so the best option is often to hang the canoe from the ceiling or to build a wall mount.
In either case, good old-fashioned muscle will be needed to complete the job of storage, so the lighter your canoe, the less offensive the task of storage becomes!
My sincerest advice to you, after paddling for over 40 years, is to get the absolute lightest canoe possible for lake trips. As little as $1000 over the span of a lifetime can be the difference between torture and bliss!
I know this firsthand and it’s a word to the wise!
If You Wonder Why Weight Matters So Much, Get This!
How Much Does a 16-foot Canoe Weigh?
Arguably the most popular canoe size for most paddlers is a 16-foot canoe that can be used for both tandem and solo paddling.
On average, a 16-foot canoe weighs 68 lbs. However, the range of weights is pretty wide from under 50 lbs to nearly 80 lbs.
Here’s a chart with a quick look at various average canoe weights for a 16-foot canoe;
|Plastic (Polyethylene)||75 lbs|
The Experts “Weigh In!”
Times have changed over the years and mostly for the better as it pertains to canoe construction quality, weights, durability, and so on.
In his book from 1997, canoeing expert Gordon Grant says this of carrying his canoe over a portage:
I would venture to disagree with Mr. Grant on his assessment that an 80-pound canoe is not that bad.
By today’s standards, an 80 lb canoe is considered low end, brutally heavy and only those poor folks that can’t afford a “better” canoe will be stuck with something that weighs 80 pounds.
My back (specifically my spinal column which has no need of any help to compress!) tells me to find the lightest canoe possible.
I’m a big fan of a statement I found in the official handbook of the British Canoe Union;
- Remember that the size of a canoe (length, width and depth) along with materials and extra options will affect canoe weight.
- A general average weight range that you can expect to see for a tandem canoe would be 50 lbs – 70 lbs.
- Weight matters because you’ll be regularly carrying, car mounting/dismounting and storing your canoe, and you’ll appreciate lightness in all those situations.