How much can a kayak tow? (Tips and tricks)

How much can a kayak tow? (Tips and tricks)
Photo by Drew Dau / Unsplash

Whether it's an emergency or you are looking to plan a kayaking journey, there are many scenarios where you would be looking to tow something behind you. Knowing how much you can tow with your kayak and how to tow it can be crucial for getting the most out of the situation.

In this blog post, we are going to look at what factors affect your towing ability and difficulty, what tips can you use to make it easier, and finally, we answer the question of how much weight can you expect to tow in your kayak.

In a hurry? Here is a quick answer to what you may be looking for:

When it comes to towing in a kayak, an experienced paddler may be able to tow up to 1 and 3 times their weight. However, there are many factors to consider such as the paddler's strength, how much weight your tow line can handle, how much drag there is, and the water conditions, to name a few. 
Table of contents

The factors that affect how much a kayak can tow.


The strength of the kayaker is one of the main factors that will affect how much a kayak can tow. If the kayaker is not strong enough, they will not be able to move the kayak through the water with the payload. Strength and endurance are key to being able to drag some weight behind you.

If you have some experience kayaking then towing 50-100% of your weight behind you shouldn't be too difficult since you've likely developed the proper muscles enough to the point where you can move the extra weight without much struggle. Beyond that, it may get difficult for you to gain momentum and travel long distances.

Water drag

Water drag will also affect how much a kayak can tow. Make sure that whatever you are dragging behind you is dragging as little water as possible since it can add a lot of weight to your paddle. If you must tow a capsized boat, try making sure it is right side up before attempting to tow it anywhere. Having it floating the proper way will make it much easier for you since there will be no water being dragged by the cockpit.


Weather can also affect how much a kayak can tow. If it is windy, it will be difficult for the kayak to move through the water since a lot of the energy you are using will be for navigating the giant waves.


Finally, the equipment that the kayaker is using will also affect how much a kayak can tow. If the kayak is not properly equipped with towing gear, it may be difficult to improvise a tow line. Having an emergency bag with a proper tow line will help with any emergencies you may have where you would have to tow another kayak back to shore.

Many tow lines on the market can be compact and can also support hundreds of pounds meaning you won't have to scrounge in case an emergency arises or improvise with some sub-par towing material (i.e things like shoelaces).

Tips and tricks for towing with a kayak

If you are in a position where you have to tow something in your kayak, here are a few tips that can help you.

Firstly, the hardest part of towing in your kayak is the acceleration. Trying to gain speed will take a lot of hard strokes but once you get to a comfortable speed, each stroke will get a lot easier.

Also, more paddlers mean more strength. If you know you may be doing tows, try going out on a tandem kayak with a friend. This will allow you to be quicker and stronger when towing.

Waves in the water can also make towing more difficult for you. Finding a path away from the waves, such as close to shore, can help you save a lot of energy.

Lastly, make sure that your equipment is good and that it is strong enough to tow. Having rope that is too thin or tying it to a weak part of your kayak means that you run the risk of losing whatever you're towing and also risk causing damage to your kayak.

The benefits of kayaks over other types of vehicles for towing.

While kayaks may not be the best vehicle for towing because of their size, you may still be able to take advantage of a few of its features and make the most of a situation.

First off, kayaks are easy to maneuver and great for small streams where larger boats may get stuck. This can be especially useful when towing back to shore since this may give easier access to safer landing spots that many larger boats may not be able to reach.

Kayaks are also great for when you are by yourself and don't have access to a boat with a motor. They can provide you with the flexibility to quickly arrive at an accident and are one of the quickest paddle boats you can operate by yourself.

Now, while using a kayak does offer these advantages, oftentimes, if you want to tow something heavy, using a motored boat or a larger multi-person paddle boat such as a canoe may be of better service to you since they are able to tow more weight.

That being said, kayaks can still be great for towing small payloads such as an equipment boat or other kayakers. As long as you have lots of energy and are prepared then you shouldn't have a difficult time.

How much can you kayak tow?

So, to answer the question you are probably here for. The weight that your kayak can tow really depends on your experience and abilities more than anything.

Any kayaker with a bit of strength and experience should be able to tow an extra kayak behind them without too much difficulty but it would require a lot on their part. So while it is possible to tow some weight behind you, anything more than 50% of your weight can really start to slow you down.

If you've got a lot of kayaking experience then being able to tow 2x your weight (or more!) behind you may also be in the realm of possibility but be prepared for a slow journey. Generally, experienced kayakers already have a good idea of their abilities and know their limits.

Of course, this sounds more like work than fun so I suggest trying to prevent any situations where a tow is necessary if possible.

If the purpose for you wanting to tow something behind your kayak is gear for an adventure, I would suggest you try and cram as much as you can into your kayak you can and if possible, do not tow anything. Having the weight in your kayak will make it much easier to transport than having it towed behind you. Otherwise, the same rules as above would apply.


While not always the best option, towing in a kayak can be a great way to transport another small boat in a pinch, and knowing your towing limits can be crucial to getting the most out of yourself and your kayak. If you are ever in a situation where you need to tow another kayak or some cargo, be sure to consider the many factors that come with towing in a kayak and be prepared for a big workout.

Happy Paddling!!