I've been thinking about buying a canoe for a little while now. Growing up my family had an aluminum canoe so I've been looking at aluminum canoes in addition to the plastic canoes commonly seen in sporting goods stores. Today while looking at the canoes it struck me that the Osagian 17' canoe has very similar dimensions to the Old Town Discovery 169, and Old Town Penobscot 174. Both Old Town canoes have a capacity nearly double the 780 lbs. capacity of the Osagian canoe. The major difference that I can see is the Discovery is 2 inches taller and the Penobscot is 1 inch taller than the Osagian. I would be inclined to attribute the extra capacity to the height difference but Penobscot has 100 lb more capacity than the Discovery even though it is 1 inch shorter. This means that length is a bigger factor than height for Old Town canoe capacity.

Additionally the shape of the boats seems similar from a top view. Not that a couple of pounds weight would equate to hundreds of pounds of additional capacity but the aluminum Osagian canoe is lighter than either of the Old Town canoes. So why do the Old Town canoes have more carrying capacity? Is this just a meaningless marketing number so each company can claim whatever numbers they want?

I just found this Grumman aluminum canoe that has a very comparable capacity to the Osagian canoe.

  • What about the width (the beam but also the curvature)? A wider boat would be more buoyant and have more space, but would be slower. I've never paddled an Osagian but Old Towns don't exactly feel narrow (but I'm used to kayaks and rarely paddle canoes)
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 18:20
  • 1
    @ChrisH The Discovery has a 37" beam and the other two have a beam of 36" and they all look like they have essentially the same taper. Plus all of these boats are double enders. The Penosbscot and Osagian have the same beam but the biggest spread in capacity.
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 18:22
  • Do the different brands have any pronounced difference in the rocker? A flatter boat will displace more water, and thus have a higher capacity for crew and gear, than a round boat.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 20:49
  • @cobaltduck it is hard to tell from the pictures, but the Discovery seems to have a larger rocker comparatively to the Penobscot and Osagian. The Osagian and Penobscot both seem to have virtually no rocker, and like mentioned above have the biggest spread in capacity.
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 20:53
  • Its hard to compare capacity on those commercial canoes as every company goes at it in its own way. Its more useful to look for the weight necessary to raise the waterline of 1inch. Not every company will tell you that though. On the other side if you are not used to deal with canoes two pictures of different models would look the same even if there are good differences in form and volumes. The discovery is a much different hull than the other two dont do a straight comparison with them. The best thing is for you to try all of them, those numbers dont tell much. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 13:49

2 Answers 2


Agree with Charlie Brumbaugh

Manufacturer's figures are based on smoke and mirrors, bragging rights, and what someone thinks would be possible in good conditions. I tell you that loading a canoe with the amount of weight they declare is something that can be done only on a calm day.

I've run into one company that give the required weight to raise the water line inch by inch. (Clipper, I think...)

Rules of thumb:

A foot of extra canoe is added in the middle. The ends are the same. So the capacity goes up fast with increasing length.

Making it narrower doesn't decrease the capacity nearly as fast, but it decreases stability in a hurry. I took a 32" beam canoe, took out the thwarts, and cranked it down to 30 inches. Made it noticeably faster, and a lot tippier. Now this would also have altered the cross section of the boat, so it's not just because it's narrower.

Consider 15 foot canoe as a solo boat for a big person; as a tandem canoe for kids at the cottage, possibly a weekend tripping boat for average size people.

I liked the Discover series for tripping in Northern Saskatchewan. The 163 was good for the kids. 169 was good for most staff, and we had a big 172 for our ox -- staff member who was 6' 3" and 220 lbs.

Typically a canoe carried 2 people, 2 70 liter sealine personal packs, 2 sealine group gear packs. Personal packs were typically about 30-40 pounds. Food packs could be 80-100 at the start of a trip. So 280 pounds plus people. If people was a pair of 120 pound grand 9's, you got 520. More often it would be a 150 pound senior and a 120 pound shrimp. Play with the numbers. It's hard to get above 600.

We were out for 2-3 weeks at a time. Figure 2 pounds dry weight food per man day, to increase it by another 2 weeks would be 14 days * 2 people/canoe * 2 pounds/day = another 56 pounds per canoe. (The non-personal packs also included fuel, stove, kitchen tarp...)

The 163's were ok, but less than nimble until we ate down the food. I preferred the 169's. The 172 was also a pig.

I've also owned an 17 foot clipper tripper, but I never did a long trip on it. But it was FAST.

  • My thought is to get a 17' aluminum canoe. My planned use is mostly for paddling around in lakes an streams with the wife and two young children. maybe some fishing, but mostly just sight seeing. We might take some weekend trips occasionally as well. I was never really concerned that any of these canoes could carry the weight. I was mostly shocked at the disparity and putting 3/4 of a ton in a canoe seemed excessive anyway.
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 3:47

It could just be a difference between how the companies calculate it.

From an article about kayak weight capacity,

There's no industry standard for determining the maximum weight capacity of a fishing kayak. Every company approaches the question a little differently. The more you dive into the numbers, the more it is obvious.


While every manufacturer assigns a weight capacity to its designs, it isn't truly a hard and fast rating. Working weight capacity is dependent on water and weather conditions, the user's experience level, load distribution, and the user's fitness and agility level.


  • So it is just a marketing tool then.... That's a bummer
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 21:56

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