One of the first things you should ask yourself before you buy a canoe is, “How much does a canoe weigh?” Because by the time you get a canoe out of the store, onto the roof of your car, and unloaded at home you’ll realize … canoes can be heavy. How heavy depends on several factors, and after more research than—by now, you know we do a lot of research, right?
Let me break down canoe weight for you.
How much does a canoe weigh? A typical polyethylene (plastic) solo canoe weighs 50 pounds (23 kg). Fiberglass 2-person canoes weigh between 55 and 70 pounds. Aluminum canoes weigh a little more than that at 60 to 75 pounds. Kevlar and other light composite canoes weigh about 20% less than similarly designed and purposed fiberglass canoes.
However, how heavy specific canoes are depends on several factors. So, by the end of this article, we hope to give you enough information to have a good handle on how much canoes weigh and why you should definitely care.
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Canoe Weight – Why You Should Care?
Simply put, unless your canoe’s left on the water year round, you’re going to have to carry or transport it back and forth, to and from the water. This is where canoe weight becomes an issue for most of us.
There are several ways to carry/transport a canoe. Each different method has its own issue with how heavy your canoe is.
Carrying your canoe – This will be the primary way you get your canoe in and out of storage, and that last hundred yards or, if you’re lucky, few feet to the water’s edge. Carrying your canoe upside down over your head by yourself will make a 50 pound canoe quickly feel twice that heavy. Even with multiple people. hauling a heavy canoe as short a distance as 100 yards will make it feel even heavier than it really is.
Portaging – This fun word isn’t so fun while you’re doing it. Overlanding (carrying) your canoe from one navigable waterway to another is called “portaging.” (The dictionaries say to pronounce it pôrdij, but most people say “poor-tahzh”) Regardless of how you say it, portaging your canoe’s weight from one place to another will make you wish you splurged and bought that Kevlar canoe.
Canoe Carts – There’s a reason someone invented this ingenious device—heavy canoes filled with lots of gear. Classic photos of people carrying canoes over their heads or cross-country “portaging” a canoe aside, canoe carts make heavier canoes much easier to get from point A to point B, especially if there’s some type of road or trail.
On Top of Your Car – So, you have to drive 100 miles in your Subaru Outback to get to the lake you want to paddle. Simple, just heft your canoe onto the roof rack, strap it down and get going. Not so fast… Will your roof rack hold your canoe’s weight? Can you lift a 50 to 75 pound canoe by yourself onto the roof of your car? What if you have a Chevy Tahoe? (That’s how high I have to lift canoes and kayaks and let me tell you—shoulders … hurting!)
Canoe Trailer – Ah, the luxury of backing your nice new canoe trailer down a boat ramp and sliding your heavy canoe into the water. No muss, no fuss, right?
Okay, I think at this point you get the picture. Most recreational and touring canoes are heavy enough that you need to carefully plan how heavy of a canoe you will be able to transport and store, given what you have to transport with, who can help you, and where you plan to store your canoe.
Canoe storage? Oh, I almost forgot. Depending on how heavy your canoe is, that will determine whether you can just mount a couple of storage bars to your garage studs or if you have to build or buy a floor-standing canoe rack for your heavy canoe. (Garage studs are only held to the top and bottom plates with 2 nails on each end. They can and do rip out if loaded up with too much side-pulling weight. Don’t ask me how I know that.)
Now, let’s look at what affects canoe weight.
Factors that Determine How Much a Canoe Weighs
Canoe Materials and Weight
Build materials significantly increase or reduce a given type of canoe’s weight. A 2-person plastic canoe will weigh more than a 2-person fiberglass canoe of the exact same dimensions. Keep this in mind when shopping “bargain” canoes, because plastic is cheap, but it’s also heavy.
This is why canoe manufacturers are always trying to come up with that next “new-best” canoe-making material. TuffStuff, Ram-X, Royalex are all examples of manufacturers chasing the holy grail of light, tough, and cheap. Sadly, you can really only get any 2 of the 3.
From heaviest to lightest, canoe material relative weights break down like this:
- Polyethylene (plastic) – Heaviest
- Wood Canoes – Heavy, but sometimes this is a tossup between wood and Aluminum.
- Aluminum canoes – Heavy, but doesn’t weigh as much as one-piece plastic canoes.
- Fiberglass/composite canoes – Fiberglass canoes are generally lighter than aluminum canoes.
- Kevlar and graphite canoes – Kevlar canoes are roughly 20% lighter than fiberglass canoes.
To keep things uniform, we’ll look at standard 2-person canoes to compare canoe weight between the following materials.
How Much Does a Plastic Canoe Weigh?
Most modern plastic canoes are made from sandwiching 3 layers of polyethylene together. Polyethylene and other plastic materials have made canoeing accessible to so many more people because of their relatively cheap cost and wide availability.
Yes, polyethylene canoes are inexpensive and durable but those both come at a different price—they’re very heavy.
So, how much does a plastic canoe weigh? I sampled the top 2 high-production canoe makers, Old Town and Mad River, and their two-person polyethylene canoes weigh an average of 80 pounds.
BEST USE: Family, fun, recreation, rentals and outfitters
POOR USE: Plastic canoe weight makes them a poor choice for portaging or if you have a smaller vehicle to transport your canoe with.
How Much Does a Wooden Canoe Weigh?
Early canoes were made from wood and bark. Today, cedar strip canoes are still custom made by individual manufacturers. This makes them expensive and heavy, but oh so beautiful.
Yet, add to that the fact that you’ll probably have to varnish your wood canoe once a year, and you might want to consider another material.
So, how much does a wood canoe weigh? The weight of a cedar-strip 2-person wood canoe averages 65 to 75 pounds. And a solo wood canoe’s weight will average 45 to 55 pounds.
BEST USE: Nostalgic purists who love to paddle calm lakes and apply yearly wood treatment.
POOR USE: Rocky rivers or places with rocky beaches.
How Much Does an Aluminum Canoe Weigh?
In the not so distant past, aluminum canoes were the most advanced canoes manufactured. Today, aluminum canoes are constructed of sheets of aluminum riveted together along the keel.
Though they require very little maintenance, aluminum canoes used to be heavy and slow on the water.
How much does an aluminum canoe weigh? A 2-person aluminum canoe weighs an average of 70 pounds.
How Much Does a Fiberglass Canoe Weigh?
Fiberglass canoes are made using layers of fabric cloth coated with resin. They’re usually layered by hand using a mold. Once hard, fiberglass canoes are stiff, lightweight and very strong.
How heavy is a fiberglass canoe? Fiberglass canoe weights average 65 pounds for a 2-person canoes that’s roughly 15′ long.
How Much Does a Kevlar Canoe Weigh?
How much does a Kevlar canoe weigh? Kevlar canoes weigh about 20% less than fiberglass canoes, at around 45 to 50 pounds for a 15′ 2-person Kevlar canoe.
Kevlar canoes are perfect flatwater tripping boats, with extremely high efficiency and very low weight that makes them easy to portage.
Canoe Passenger Capacity and Weight
In order to for a canoe to accommodate more people, you have to make it longer and wider. In doing this, you increase the weight beyond that of the average 2-person canoe weight of 70 lbs.
So, it follows that 2, 3, and 4-person canoes made of the same materials will be heavier than one person canoes.
Length and Width Effects on Canoe Weight
This seems somewhat obvious, but when you add length and/or width to a canoe you’ll add more build materials and thus increase its weight. And the reason manufacturers make so many different canoe lengths and widths are:
- To Increase Canoe Stability
- To Increase Cargo Weight Capacity
- To Increase Passenger Capacity
- To get better tracking and maneuverability
How Much Does an Old Town Canoe Weigh?
Let’s use a very popular canoe brand, Old Town Canoes, as an example.
Old Town canoes are made of exclusively 3-layer polyethylene construction these days, so they’re a bit on the heavy side. But boy can you load them up with gear!
So, how much does an Old Town canoe weigh? Old Town canoes average 55 pounds for a solo canoe, 83 pounds for a 2-person canoe, and about 93 pounds for a 3-person canoe. Their 3-layer polyethylene construction gives them a bit higher than average weight.
Old Town Canoe Weights:
- 49 pounds – Discovery 119 Solo canoe weight (solo)
- 56 pounds – Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman canoe weight (solo)
- 59 pounds – NEXT canoe weight (solo)
- 75 pounds – Penobscot 164 canoe weight (2 person)
- 79 pounds – Saranac 146 canoe weight (2+ person)
- 82 pounds – Guide 147 canoe weight (2 person)
- 83 pounds – Penobscot 174 canoe weight (2 person)
- 86 pounds – Guide 160 canoe weight (2 person)
- 87 pounds – Discovery 158 canoe weight (2 person)
- 91 pounds – Discovery 169 canoe weight (2 person)
- 78 pounds – Discovery 133 canoe weight (3 person)
- 89 pounds – Saranac 160 canoe weight (3 person)
- 113 pounds – Discovery Sport 15 canoe weight (3 person, square stern)