Canoes VS Kayaks: How Do They Differ?

Canoes vs Kayaks

Canoes vs Kayaks

Abigail Scott

Abigail Scott
Mother, Professional Kayaker, and Software Engineer

Updated on 12/6/2022

Since thousands of years ago, people have used canoes. We don't know how long canoes have existed, but archeologists recently found remains of a dugout canoe dating back 8,000 years, so it's likely they've been around much longer than that. Compared to kayaks, which have been around for only 4,000 years, kayaks have been around for much longer. Whether used recreationally, for fishing, or as a means of exercise, these two types of boats are excellent pieces of equipment.

Given they are technically similar (sit-inside kayaks and canoes most resemble each other), let's look at what makes them different, how they differ, and why you might choose one over the other.

See Also Kayak & Canoe With Motor: Outboard Buying Guide.

Kayak VS. Canoe

In many ways, kayaks and canoes differ from each other. The following differences stand out:

The Boats Are Different No. 1: The Design

These boats share the most similarities and the most differences. Kayaks are usually smaller than canoes and designed with wide frames and open tops; they are similar to sit-on-top kayaks. On the other hand, canoes allow you to carry more people and more gear than kayaks do. In contrast, kayaks are much sleeker and take up less space.

The most common type of canoe is known as "Canadian" or "recreational" canoes. Boats of this size are typically 13 to 17 feet long, have tall sides, sit higher on the water than kayaks, and have enough room inside for the paddler to sit either on benches that run the width of the beam or kneel on slats. With kayaks, the top is closed, which is not the case with canoes. There are sit-on-top kayaks with an open top, but the sit-inside kayaks resemble the most a canoe; the most significant difference is that the paddler sits inside an enclosed cockpit.

What's Better – A Canoe or a Kayak?

Getting Into The Boat: Difference No.2

Getting into a canoe is much easier than getting into a kayak because they are open vessels. A kayak is easy to get into since you have to step on board. Stepping into a boat is much easier if you use the boat's sides or the dock to steady yourself.

On the other hand, it takes impressive technique to get into a kayak. It is necessary to carefully slide your legs into the cockpit while maintaining the balance required to prevent the boat from tipping over. Canoe users are also required to retain this balance, but it's not as challenging as it is for kayakers. Despite this, it is difficult to argue against the comfort provided by a kayak once you're inside. In this way, many kayaks are snug and quite comfortable; some even include backrests on the seats. In contrast, canoes don't have such a luxury. If you are lucky, there are benches on board.

Canoes VS Kayaks - How To Paddle: Difference No.3

The rubber meets the road here. Because canoes are heavier and bulkier, they require more effort to paddle than kayaks. Since these paddles are shorter than those of a kayak and have a single blade, unlike those of a kayak, paddling a canoe often requires two people.

At the top of the paddle is a "T" knob, and at the bottom is a blade. The T knob is used with one hand, while the middle finger works with the other hand. Pushing down on the paddle with both hands propels the canoe.

However, you need to do the same thing on the other side of the boat if you want to keep your canoe tracking straight. Either that or you need a partner who paddles the same way but on alternate strokes. Synchronizing is much more complicated than it appears.

Kayaking, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward. Kayak paddles have two blades, and because kayaks aren't typically as wide or bulky as canoes, all you need to do is grip the middle of the paddle with both hands about two feet apart, then dip each blade alternately into the water.

Paddle Canoes vs Kayaks

Paddle Canoes vs Kayaks

Kayak Or Canoe?

Many personal biases come into play when deciding between two things that offer similar services. Considering both advantages and disadvantages is the best way to proceed.

Canoe Advantages

  • Their width makes them more stable than kayaks.
  • You can quickly enter and exit them.
  • They usually carry a lot more gear and provide more space.
  • Get a better view of the surroundings and stay drier by sitting higher up on the water.

Canoe Disadvantages

  • You are exposed to the elements in an open cockpit.
  • It is less efficient than a kayak.
  • Transporting, paddling, and maneuvering requires more energy.

Kayak Advantages

  • This paddle is designed for efficiency and requires less energy to paddle and transport.
  • It is better suited to water activities.
  • Sit-inside kayaks offer protection from the elements.
  • They also provide dry storage space.

Kayak Disadvantages

  • Entrance and exit are more difficult.
  • Stability on the water is less reliable.
  • Gets wetter because it's closer to the water.
  • Gear space is typically limited.

Choosing Between A Canoe And A Kayak

What you value most will determine what you love most. How important is speed to you? A kayak is for you. You can't go wrong with the Malibu Ocean Two for any experience level. Would you rather haul more gear around the lake and take leisurely paddles? Canoes are the best method.

You can pick either one of these boats; the choice is yours!

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