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Price vs. Weight: The Eternal Truth

Posted by Darren Bush on 2/13/2013 to Canoe

It’s a well-known fact that in most things involving sports, lighter options cost more. Just ask any ballplayer who has broken open a corked bat in front of several million trusting fans.

But it’s more than a karmic cost—there’s what I call the Sosa Factor. There is a psychological advantage to lightness in the middle of a long portage, even if you’re carrying a pack that weighs more than your canoe or a kayak with 20 pounds of gear in the cockpit.

A glance at any price sheet will show you that there is a relationship between “light” and “pricey.” But what is the strength of the relationship between lighter and more expensive? For that I had to retrieve my geek hat from the closet and dust it off.

Back in my academic days I spent a lot of time staring at huge data sets and trying to make sense of them. I was doing statistical research, tracking large populations of subjects over time to see what changed and what didn’t. This required a quantifiable identification of the strength of the relationship between two things, like literacy levels and the likelihood of a subject ending up in prison.*

One way to quantify the relationship between two things is with a correlation coefficient. Simply put, a correlation coefficient of 1.00 means that if A goes up, B goes up proportionally, at an exact linear rate. If the correlation is –1.00, then B goes down proportionally. If the correlation is zero, it means there is no relationship between the two things and they are independent of each other. In truth, rarely are correlations 1.00 or –1.00.

I decided to calculate the relationship between weight and price in Wenonah canoes, just for yuks. So I grabbed three random tandems and punched it all into a stats program: The correlation coefficient was –.945, which is pretty dang close to –1.00. This means that for every pound a canoe loses, it costs a certain amount more across the population of canoes.

Kayaks are, well, a little more interesting. Price and weight are certainly related, but the correlation is much lower. My back-of-the-envelope analysis showed about –.70, which is still quite strong. But the philosophies of kayak manufacturers differ dramatically—some like heavier boats for more strength, some do not.

Interestingly, that’s about the same as solo canoes, which vary much more than tandem canoes in size and function. Solo canoes are sort of “honorary kayaks”—or the other way around, I’m not sure.

The bottom line is that weight is indeed related to price for canoes. I am currently looking at fly fishing equipment to see if the rule holds there too. Then it’s on to golf clubs, tennis rackets, and baseball bats, both corked (if I can find one) and not.

*It’s very high, trust me.

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