Kayak Vs Canoe: Which Side to Take? 

The question is as old as histories of the two types of paddling itself. And in the process of enjoying them, a lot of people couldn’t help but wonder what the superiority of one over the other is. This conflict has generated

Which one is the best? Which one is more fun? And what are the differences anyway?

The last question is the most popular that is asked by beginners who first step into paddling. And, it is actually by the differences between the two of them that answer the rest of the eon-long fight between the followers of either.

The differences

We can only talk about the general differences that are the dividing line between what’s considered to be a canoe and what a kayak is. Just like anything else, there are numerous types of kayaks and canoes that you can find on a lake. But all of them still share distinguishing common features.

Cockpit

The first and most recognizable difference between them is the cockpit – or the place where the paddler(s) sit(s) in. Canoes have ‘open cockpit’, meaning the sides of the boat rise above the water level. The cockpit (Or lack thereof) would be totally open and spacious akin to a rowing boat.

The layout of the open cockpit allows canoes to have small benches where paddlers would sit in to enjoy the sight of the water. But while paddling, most prefer just forego them and kneel on the floor than to have the best leverage to push against the water.

Cockpit

Image source: Kayak Forum

While kayaks are the complete opposite, instead of open cockpits, they have ‘closed’ ones. The cockpit and the paddler sit lower down into the water than those in canoes. This is why kayak paddlers often have to wear spray skirts – special garments that would protect the laps from the water splashes guaranteed to happen.

The seat of a kayak is delved down to the bottom of the boat with leg rest extending up front. The seating allows the paddler better bracing to stroke with the paddle.

As you can clearly see, kayaks are cut out for more personal experiences than canoes. Kayaking can both mean cruising down a calm lake and taking in the day’s calmness. It can also mean flying down white-water at breakneck speed to relish in the adrenaline rush.

For canoes, however, the extra space of the cockpit and the seating mean that you can carry more passengers and more cargo as a result. Nothing really beats an outing with friends and cases of bears on a calm lake on a Sunday afternoon.

Purpose

And those are the two largest differences between them that most do the job of dividing out which is best for who: Purposes. Kayaks and canoes can be worked by anyone with functioning arms and a good instructor. But still, everything would be useless without having a good sense of what you’re actually doing. So, before you pick a side, consider your preferences and your situations.

Say, you want to go out for several days on the water into the wild with your family to have some quality bonding time. The last thing you would want to go out on is going by a kayak. It doesn’t have the necessary space to fit a family without going out in groups of several kayaks at once. It doesn’t have the space to carry all of the provisions and cargo a family might need for several days at once. Those are the things that only canoes can do. If you pick a good one, it can handle your entire family, your dog, your luggage, and maybe something more.

On the other hand, should you want to only go out for a few hours to flex some muscles and get the feel of the water? Or yes, even launching down rush points with a chance of grievous injuries, you should definitely pick a kayak. They’re more maneuverable, flexible and generally have better agility. They also give a much more personal experience, as said before.

Purpose

Image source: Backpacking Master

Kayaks only fit short-term amusement and pleasure, and certainly does not have the kind of endurance of canoes. Which is one of the most important things you should keep in mind when it came to using a kayak?

Beside purposes, another thing you should consider is mobility. If you ever want to play in water beyond the ones you’re familiar with, you may have to manually transport your boats there. It’s fact that if you have a tiny sedan, tugging around a canoe will give you a hard time. But if you have a pickup or a truck, things could be as simple as load and drive.

Occasional portaging

And you also have to take into account the occasional portaging. Sometimes you have to shoulder the boats and move it overland to circumvent an obstacle or to move to another water, for example. For kayaks, which is much smaller and lighter than a canoe, it’d be a simple job hauling it away. But for canoes which are larger and heavier, it can be a real challenge.

So, in general, there are many things for you to personally consider when it comes to choosing in-between the two. And to help you with the decision-making, we’re going to give you a list of pros and cons for your consideration.

Canoes

Pros

  • You can fit a lot more people and all of their things into a single boat.
  • Much more comfortable in the long run.
  • More stable in the water. Canoes are much harder to capsize than kayaks.
  • Due to the elevated position in a canoe, you can have a better view of the landscape.
  • They’re easy to maneuver around, including standing up in.

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy.
  • Can be difficult to master paddling in one.
  • The single paddle is more inefficient.

Kayaks

Pros

  • It gives you a personal, self-made experience.
  • More maneuverable.
  • They can go faster with less power than you would have to exert on a canoe.
  • They’re generally lighter and easier to transport.
  • They can tolerate white-water better than canoes

Cons

  • You’re guaranteed to be wet at the end of the day.
  • Rougher water is part of the experience with kayak, and it’s going to be pretty horrifying to go from calmer parts to quicker ones.
  • You can easily capsize.
  • The paddles are much heavier and can tire you out quicker.

Conclusion

If you have got to choose, remember that there are much more to think about than just a simple rivalry. Both are good sports, and given the chance, knowing and getting used to both would complete a person’s paddling experience. In all honesty, it is much more satisfying than just sticking with one.

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