How to Calculate Canoe Capacity

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One of the best ways to tour the outdoors by water is in a canoe. Canoes are sturdy and can transport people and gear. When buying or renting a canoe, it is important to gauge your need with the weight capacity of the boat you are considering. All boats less than 20 feet require an official capacity plate that identifies the maximum persons and weight a boat can carry. Capacity is based on a complex math formula performed by a computer at your local boat commission. If a canoe does not have the proper capacity plate there is a simple formula that can you can use to approximate the maximum capacity of the boat.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape

  • Calculator

Calculating Canoe Capacity

Step 1

A canoe is measured from both bow to stern and at the beam to calculate capacity.
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Measure the canoe length and width with the measuring tape. Length should be measured from the bow (the front of the boat) point of the canoe to the stern (the rear). Width should measured from the beam of the boat. The beam is the widest part of the boat located in the middle of the vessel.

Step 2

Use the formula (Length x Width)/15 to calculate the approximate maximum number of persons suitable for a particular canoe. For example; if the length of the boat is 12 feet and the width of the boat four feet, then (12 x 4)/15 = 3.2 persons. The formula is based on an average weight of 150 pounds per person.

Step 3

Using the quotient from the example in Step 2, a 12-by-4 foot canoe can hold up to three people or approximately 500 pounds. Load your canoe with this total number in mind.