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So you’re a bit bigger than average but you’ve caught the kayak bug. Sorry to tell you this, but that bug isn’t going to go away! I was bitten by the bug to own a kayak several years ago and now have half a dozen of them in my garage.
After hundreds of hours on the water, I can safely say that kayaking is one of the best ways to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, especially for big guys and gals. It provides an option that is both low impact and extremely enjoyable. It is one of the few sports where, if you get too tired, you can just take a rest! And there’s no need to look around for a seat!
But, now we have to ask, what makes a good plus size kayak? Is it a 300 lb capacity? A 400 lb capacity kayak? What does weight capacity even mean in a kayak? Well, we’ll get to that! But first off, let’s breeze through our 5 step guide for choosing a plus size kayak so you can identify what you’re even looking for!
However, if you already know what you’re after, or simply want to upgrade, here are our top 4 recommendations for high weight capacity kayaks:
Our Top 4 Recommendations for Plus Size Kayaks
The 5 Steps to Choosing a Plus-Size Kayak:
1. Decide what you’ll be using your kayak for
What you’re going to use your kayak for plays a large role in choosing the type of plus size kayak need. Do you want to use it on little ponds? The ocean? For exploring rivers with your dog? For fishing?
We have recommended kayaks that will work decently well in all situations but, if you have a very specific purpose, you’ll need to shop for purpose-built kayaks. Just be prepared for a long search and a hefty price tag as all-around recreational kayaks for heavy people are by far the easiest to find and the best kayaks for the money.
2. Choose a kayak type
The main reason that you needed to decided on what you’re going to do with your kayak is to figure out the type of kayak you’ll need. While there are a ton of different types, we can group them into two main types: sit-on and sit-in.
Sit-on-top kayak are just what they sound like. An ergonomic piece of plastic that you sit right on top of.
Advantages of a Sit-On Kayak:
- Easier to get in/out of
- More storage space
- Standing space
- Space for a dog (two thumbs up here)
- Easier to get back on if you capsize
- Easier to fish from
If you’re looking for a recreational-use kayak, a sit-on version is your best option. You can get on/off easily, if you fall off you won’t have to bail out the water, and you can fit all sorts of gear for excursions around the lake.
Sit-in kayaks have a “cockpit” which puts you “in” the kayak. Your legs and feet slide up into the front of the kayak leaving you sitting slightly below water level.
Advantages of a Sit-In Kayak:
- You’ll generally stay drier
- Wind protection keeps you warmer
- Lower center of gravity can be more stable
Sit-in kayaks are the perfect option for people who are more interested in getting places rather than just playing on the water. If you want to stay dry and warm, and the kayak if more of a vehicle that a toy, you’ll be happiest sitting inside your kayak.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably be pretty happy with either kayak. My first kayak was mainly for fun at the lake with family and friends so we would spend the day switching off, jumping off the kayak etc. I also enjoyed taking my kayak down slow (non-icy) rivers and fishing from it. Because of this, I opted for a sit-on-top version. So decide what will work best for you.
3. Figure out what weight capacity you need.
I wish that figuring out weight capacity was as simple as “look at the scale then find a kayak that will support that weight.” It’s not. There are a couple of considerations which may drastically alter the weight capacity of plus size kayak you decide to get. They are:
- The weight capacity includes not only you but everything that the kayak supports in the water. Sure that includes you, but it also includes your paddle, your backpack, your dog, your fishing gear, your lunch, etc. It’s pretty easy to add 30+ pounds of gear into your kayak without thinking.
- Kayaks typically have a weight capacity rating from the manufacturer. However, what this rating means is not well understood by most people. In fact, that number is simply the max amount of weight that they kayak can hold and still float. If you weigh 500lbs and get in a kayak with a 500lb capacity you are going to have a really hard time getting anywhere. If you really want your kayak to be stable, paddle efficiently, and be drier, understand that the optimum weight capacity for a kayak is about 70% of the maximum capacity. So a kayak with a 500lb capacity could be used by a person who weighs 300 pounds and loads it with 50 pounds of gear.
Because kayaks can only be so wide (and not paddle like a soggy log) bigger paddlers will often want to look for a longer kayak. The more volume you have in the water, the more weight it will support. Longer kayaks typically have the added advantages of being faster, tracking straighter, gliding better, having more storage, etc.
4. Decide on a budget
When it comes to kayaking, there are companies that will take every penny you have. If you want a kayak with a motor and a 600lb capacity you can find one. But the truth is, there is a point of diminishing returns where spending more money will only get you a kayak that is marginally nicer. As a big guy, I’m typically the limiting factor for my kayaking expedition, not my kayak.
However, kayaks do not come particularly cheap, which is why we’ve recommended kayaks in 3 budget levels: budget (less than $500), best kayak for the money, and best all-around kayak for big people.
Don’t be intimidated by the cost of the high-end options. Unless your kayak really sucks and isn’t right for your situation, you can have just as much fun on a budget kayak as a really expensive option.
5. Buy it from Amazon
Believe it or not, the best place to buy a high weight capacity kayak is online. The main reason is that it is difficult to find a kayak specifically built for high weight capacity at a local store, and local salesmen are often totally clueless about the true weight capacity and the needs of big and heavy people.
Kayaks do get damaged in shipping sometimes so I recommend only buying from a large retailer (such as Amazon) where you can be assured of excellent customer service and if needed, a return.
The Best Plus Size Kayak for Heavy People on a Budget
It might come as a surprise to you that the best plus size kayak under $500 is actually an inflatable! I know it’s a surprise to me and I’m the one that decided it!
Finding a plus-size kayak with a high capacity is not a cheap endeavor and, as beginners, most people don’t want to sink their entire vacation budget on simply buying kayaks. If you knew that kayaking was for you, or you were only buying a single kayak, your might be tempted to spend more. But, for people who are just looking to get their feet wet or who need several kayaks (there are three kids in my family…) the Sea Eagle SE330 stands head and shoulders above the rest as the best kayak under $500 for heavy people!
Here’s what I love about it:
- It is the cheapest kayak on this list by a large margin! In all honesty, it probably won’t last as long as a molded kayak but I have friends who have literally had their inflatable for more than 5 years!
- It is made of heavy-duty Polykrylar which is extremely durable. If you do manage to puncture it, you can always patch it!
- It is much easy to pack that a regular kayak! Unlike the other options on this list, you can fit kayaks for a whole family in the back of your minivan! And once you get to the water? It is ready to go in 6 minutes max!
- It is rated up to Class III Whitewater runs which is probably more than you’d ever want to do in this kayak! (If you’re unsure what that means, just understand that this kayak is capable of taking care of business in some gnarly waters!)
- Possibly the best feature of all: it is rated for up to 500lbs! Who would have thought that they cheapest kayak on this list would have the second-highest capacity!
I don’t personally own this kayak but have two friends that do and have spent a decent amount of time in and around them. Because of that I can, without any issues, totally recommend them to anyone who wants to get into kayaking! If you want a kayak with a true 400 lb capacity, this is it! And, if you order from their official Amazon listing, it comes with a paddle, the premium seat, a carry bag, a foot pump, and a repair kit! Talk about a win-win!
So if this is the one for you, pick up one for yourself, your spouse, and all your friends today!
Best Kayak Under $500 for Heavy People
If you absolutely don’t want an inflatable, there are a couple of molded kayaks under $500 but none of them have quite the same weight capacity. However, the best of the bunch is Perception Sound’s 10.5′ Sit Inside Kayak. While the capacity is a bit lower, it is the best fishing/recreational kayak under $500 on the market! If you’re going to be somewhere with lots of rocks, and sticks (or maybe you want to fish from your kayak) then this is a great big man kayak on a budget.
- This kayak is a recreation ‘yak meant specifically for larger paddlers and is made with comfort in mind. It has an extra cushy seat for the best possible support and comfort as well quick-adjust footrests for tall/short users.
- It is well laid out with tons of features that make it friendly to both overweight users and beginners such as easy launching hull, lots of storage, drink holder, easy drain plus, options fishing attachments, and more!
- Not only is the sit-in design is extremely stable, but the oversize opening is great for overweight paddlers.
So if you are on a budget and want a hard molded kayak for heavy people, pick this one up! It’s not quite the 400lb capacity kayak which I wanted to be my bottom limit, but at this price, it’s 335-pound capacity is more than respectable!
The Best High Weight Capacity Kayak with a 400 lb Capacity
If you are looking to jump into a plus-sized kayak feetfirst, this is the best option! If you read my Best Fishing Kayaks for Big Guys you’ll know that this is the kayak that I personally own and absolutely love.
Vibe Kayaks is one of the biggest names in sit-on-top kayaks and, luckily for you and me, most of their models are kayaks with a 400 lb capacity or more! The Sea Ghost line is perfect for anything from streams to lakes to ocean exploration. In addition to its 425-pound capacity, here are a few of the features that I love about my kayak:
- First off, the seat is an absolute standout for me. Most sit-in kayaks leave me feeling like I’m sitting on a hard plastic seat…because you usually are. This seat, however, is more akin to a comfy lawn chair and I can spend a couple of hours straight in it before needing to stand up and stretch out (also possible in this kayak).
- When it comes to stability, speed, and comfort this kayak is the best of all possible compromises. It is responsive enough that I feel safe on a river without feeling twitchy or unstable on a large body of water. It tracks well and glides surprising well for a big man kayak which is extremely helpful if you want to avoid wearing yourself out too fast.
- It has a good amount of storage. While I wish it had a bit more on-top front storage, the area behind the seat holds enough gear for an overnighter if you’re going on a longer adventure.
- This may not be as important to you, but I hate looking like a bumbling fat guy and, when I pull this kayak out of my truck bed, everyone goes back to what they were doing. I don’t know if it just looks like I know what I’m doing or what but I will say that this kayak looks absolutely rad and I get stopped all the time so people can ask what the model is!
So, if you’re a big guy or guy who wants to get serious about kayaking (and maybe lose a few pounds doing it) then you’ll need to spend about this amount of money to really get going. While this kayak is above what I was willing to spend at first, I will say that it is worth every penny if you’re part of the plus-size crowd. Trust me, don’t get that Walmart kayak, you’ll regret it! Get this one instead!
The Best Ultra-High Capacity Plus Size Kayak
If you want to highest of the high weight capacity kayaks, the Sea Ghost 130 is for you. Take all the nice things I said about the Sea Ghost 110 above but add two feet of length and bump the weight capacity up to 550 pounds!
Now, with the extra length comes a bit more stability, a bit more storage, etc. but for all intents and purposes, it is the same boat. So, if you’re looking for a plus size kayak and none of the above will cut it when it comes to weight, this is your best bet without spending a mint!
And there you have it! The best kayak under 500, the best kayak 400 lb capacity, the best plus size kayak, and the best high weight capacity kayak, all in one place! Whichever one you choose, don’t forget to get yourself a well-fitting life-jacket and always be safe out there on the water!
Tips for Beginning Fat Paddlers
Because there are a ton of guides for beginner kayakers on the net, I won’t bore you with a full book. However, there are a few tips that I’ve picked up that I feel will be specifically helpful to other big and heavy people as they get out on the water.
- Don’t start off in super shallow water. The first time I got in a kayak I thought that I’d hop in from shore so that, if I slipped, I wouldn’t get very wet. Well, it wasn’t a plus size kayak and since I’m a plus size guy I went straight over the other side of the kayak, whacked my face on a rock (at the bottom of the lake) and split my knee open on a rock. If I could go back again I would be sure to get into the kayak where the bottom of the lake/stream/etc. was soft mud or I would get in from a dock.
- You will get wet eventually. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, eventually, you’ll probably part ways with your kayak and end up in the water. Have a plan in place for when this happens so you can avoid the panic and get back on track as soon as possible. I personally never kayak alone so I’m sure to have a backup plan if something goes wrong. Oh and keep your phone, wallet, and keys in a dry bag!
- Enjoy the journey. When it comes down to it, the best plus size kayak is the one that will get you out onto the water the most. Whether you buy the best sit on top kayak under $500 or the highest weight capacity kayak you can find, it won’t make any difference if it just collects dust in your garage. So get out on the water and, while you’re there, stop and smell the roses along the way! Happy paddling!
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