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canoes vs kayaks

Canoes vs Kayaks – Which Is The Best Choice For You?

Before we even get into which is the best option for you, we first have to discuss how can you tell the difference between a canoe and a kayak. Is even there any? Well, since they are pretty similar to each other it is easy to see why there is so much confusion between the two whenever they are discussed. So, now let’s get begin by getting into the key differences to look out for to help you determine who wins your vote in the canoes vs kayaks battle.


Canoes vs Kayaks – What are the Differences Between The Two?



canoes vs kayaks


Canoes are lightweight and ‘open’ with no cockpit, similar in style to a rowing boat.  They can be quite spacious and have bench-like seats for paddlers to sit on so that you are raised from the floor and typically have two to three seats depending on what kind of activity the canoe is being used for. Some canoeists prefer to kneel on the floor since in challenging conditions it’s the best position for gaining more power behind your paddle strokes. When paddling a canoe you use a single blade paddle on either side of the boat to propel you forwards.



canoes vs kayaks


Kayaks are small and narrow with a covered deck and one or more cockpits to seat a paddler in. In a kayak, the seats are moulded to the bottom and the paddler sits with their legs out in front of them. To move forward you use a double bladed paddle, pulling the blades through the water on alternate sides.


Canoes vs Kayaks – Different types of Canoes and Kayaks

So the next step in our canoes vs kayaks debate is to discuss the main types of each. As you will see both are pretty similar in the types of boats they have, the main thing we are looking at is which type would fit you and then you can decide whether a canoe or a kayak is best.

Main Types of Canoe


Solo or Tandem Canoes

Most canoes are available as a solo version or tandem version. Solo canoes are made to be paddled by one person. They are typically narrower and shorted to make it easier to switch from paddling on one side to another and have one seat that is set back or in the middle of the boat.

Tandem canoes have two seats, one in the front at the bow and one in the back, each person paddles on the opposite side of the canoe. They are the most commonly used version of a canoe and are great for beginners and families.

If attempting to paddle a tandem canoe on your own they can be pretty awkward due to their higher weight capacity so keep that in mind if you are wanting to use a canoe on your own.  Some are made so you can move the seat for solo use so it just depends on the type of canoe you are getting.


canoes vs kayaks


Recreational Canoes

The most common type of canoe, they are best used in slow-moving water such as rivers and lakes. These are the canoes you often see available for rental at nature parks and near lakes. Ranging in size from 13ft to 17ft long recreational canoes are designed to be easy to control and stable making them perfect for beginners and families to use. They can seat 1-4 paddlers depending on the size of the canoe. Due to them being made from materials like plastic they are hard to damage so can be left outside if you have nowhere to store them.


Inflatable Canoes

Inflatable canoes are made to be easier to transport and store as conveniently as possible. They are pretty inexpensive so are a great choice for families and people that want to be able to take their canoes with them for days out or holidays and can also be available in many different lengths and sizes. They are not very durable and can be blown off course pretty easily so are best used in calm, sheltered waters.


Folding Canoes

A more convenient and practical option for those that lack the storage for a recreational canoe, folding canoes come in lots of varying sizes and shapes. They are much more durable than an inflatable canoe and are held together by an interlocking frame. They can be pretty pricey however so can be more of an investment than other types of canoe.


White Water Canoes

White water canoes are typically shorter than recreational canoes, usually around 8ft to 12ft, as they are designed for tackling fast-moving water so need to be as manoeuvrable as possible. They are highly durable and have high sides to keep water out, high degrees of rock (the curvature from the bow to the stern) and flatter bottoms for quick turning.  There is have floatation panels on the bow and stern to prevent the canoe from sinking if it flips over. These types of the canoe are less stable and hard to paddle straight in.


Racing Canoes 

Racing canoes are made for solo or duo racing and can be sized from 18ft to 20ft. These canoes are narrower and more lightweight than recreational canoes. This allows them to move faster, and as the paddler is sat in a half-kneeling half-sitting position it allows for optimal speed and power when paddling. You are seated lower in the water than other types of canoe again so they move faster, however, this also makes them less stable when the boat is stationary.


Main Types of Kayaks 


canoes vs kayaks


Recreational Kayaks

A recreational kayak can range from 9ft to 12ft long. They are best suited for use paddling on calm and flat waters such as slow-moving rivers, lakes, canals and even some sheltered coastal areas. They are difficult to capsize, stable and are easy to control so are good for beginner use.


Inflatable Kayaks

If you don’t have much storage and need a more transportable type of kayak, then an inflatable one may work best for slow-moving. They are less durable than other kayaks, however are very easy and quick to inflate and are perfect for family days out.  Since they are very similar, they are to be used the same way you would use a recreational kayak and in the same kind of environments that have flat water.


White Water Kayaks

These kayaks are shorter and wider than other types, which allows them to be more responsive and buoyant when they are in white water environments. The length of these kayaks depends on the function they are serving such as river running, extreme creeking, surfing etc.


Racing Kayaks

Similar to racing canoes, kayaks that are built for races are very long, slender and light. They vary in length depending on how many paddlers are needed in one, but range to fit 1-4 paddlers. The size is between 17ft to 36ft long. With a racing kayak, you sit low in the water for speed and have a rudder to help with direction. They are made for flat water environments for marathons.


Canoes vs Kayaks: Pros and Cons of Each

Now that we have discussed the different types, the best way to help you settle the argument of canoes vs kayaks is to go through the pros and cons of both of them, to reflect over which works best for you.

Canoes: Pros and Cons


Pros: As they are more spacious canoes are great for storage, you can carry lots of your gear with you which makes them excellent for expeditions of a longer length. You even have room to bring your dogs or kids on your canoe adventure with you.

You are also able to sit in a more comfortable sitting position which again for longer journeys is essential, and you can also stand up in them too. They also are very easy to get in and out of and are hard to capsize due to their stability.

Unless you are doing a more intense activity such as white-water rafting, you are unlikely to get as wet in a canoe as you are sat raised up. This also provides you with a better view of your surroundings than in a kayak.

You are more likely to gain skills quicker when canoeing as once you’ve learnt the basics they are easy to use.


Cons: Canoes are heavier and bigger, they take more effort to paddle at full speed and can be harder to turn than a kayak. This can cause them to be difficult to use when you are first learning especially if you are paddling solo. Due to their weight and size, they can also be awkward to transport.

Another con is canoes have open cockpits which result in you gaining more exposure to the sun, spray from the water and wind. Canoes also take on more water when paddling, especially when paddling on white water

Canoes use single paddles which are less efficient compared to the double-bladed ones you would use for paddling a kayak.




Kayaks: Pros and Cons


Pros: Kayaks are often lighter and smaller which makes them easier to transport. Their lighter weight also makes them faster and more manoeuvrable, overall they take less effort to paddle than a canoe and are easier to turn. Because of this, it means they can handle white-water conditions much better.

When paddling a kayak you use double bladed paddles, which provide a much more efficient experience.

Your gear will also usually be kept drier in a sit-inside kayak as they have dry storage holds, unless, of course, you capsize, however, if this does happen they can be rolled upright.


Cons: Double paddles may be more efficient however they are heavier which after long periods of use you will begin to feel.

Kayaks are less stable than canoes and are more prone to capsizing. It can also be quite scary when transitioning from flat water to fast-moving water when in a kayak.

Kayaks have less storage space in them so you will have to be more sparing with the gear you bring – there’s definitely no room for your dog.


Canoes vs Kayaks – Best of Each 

Here are some of the best versions of canoes and kayaks you can currently get on the market. This may also help you settle between canoes vs kayaks as you can go through the typical prices of each, their size etc.


Best Canoes



Type Dimensions  Weight Seating  Material


Old Town

Saranac 146



426.72 X

91.44 X  33.65 cm

35.83 kg 3 Polyethylene


Old Town

Saranac 160



487.68 X

   93.98 X 34.29 cm

40.36 kg 3 Polyethylene



Adventure Kit



‎318 x 88 x 50 cm

11.5 kg 2 Canvas


My Canoe

Foldable Canoe


‎93.98 x 20.32 x 66.04 cm

24.95 kg 2 Polypropylene



Ogden 2-Person 



and Folding

‎31.5 x 19 x 118.01 cm

12.22 kg 2 Polyethylene



Best Kayaks



Type Dimensions  Weight




Sun Dolphin

Aruba Kayak

Sit-in 304.8 X 76.2 X 33.02 cm 18.14 kg 1    Hard Shell    4.5/5


Challenger Kayak

Inflatable 274 X 76 X 33 cm 13 kg 1 PVC 4.5/5

Ocean Kayak

Malibu Two


Sit-On-Top 365.76 X 86.36 X 50.8 cm 29.03kg 2 Plastic 4.4/5


Excursion Pro K2

Inflatable 383.54 x 93.98 x 45.72 cm ‎21.2 kg 2 Plastic 4.3/5


Navarro 145


Inflatable 439.2 x 101.6 x 35.6 cm 18.25kg







Canoes vs Kayaks – How to Decide Which is Best for You?

When deciding which is best for you in terms of canoes vs kayaks, think of these questions :

  • Where are you paddling?
  • What is your budget?
  • How much space do you have?
  • Do you want to have storage in your boat? 

Overall it’s not just as simple as ‘canoe’s vs kayak’s’, there are different factors that change which one works best for you.  It comes down to personal preference at the end of the day – are you wanting to have lots of speed, be able to manoeuvre quickly and travel in rough waters? Or do you want to go on long days out, have a larger load capacity and not have to fear capsizing as much?

There are pros and cons to both. You also can’t just consider a canoe or kayak either you also have to think about what type you will need for your type of adventuring. Perhaps trying both out through renting may work best, to begin with, once you try them out you can gain a better knowledge of which is better suited to you.

It’s up to you who you think wins in the ‘canoes vs kayaks’ debate.

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