The Difference Between the Canoe and the Kayak

Kayak vs Canoe

Canoes have been used for some thousands of years already. Archeologists have discovered, not too long ago, remains of dugout canoes that date back at least 8,000 years, although we can’t say for sure how old these types of boats have been used. What we can say for sure is that yes, they are part of the tools used by people for much longer than we previously thought.

Kayaks on the other hand, are known to have popped up a lot closer to our times, somewhere around 4,000 years ago. Both of these types of boats are known as great pieces of equipment for people that like fishing or recreational paddling as a form of exercise.

These two types of boats look so alike that most inexperienced people won’t be able to tell the difference. And out of them, the sit-inside kayaks resemble the most to canoes. But let’s take a quick look at what sets these two apart. What are the differences and similarities that differentiate kayaks from canoes and why would you choose one over the other?

Canoes vs Kayaks

The canoes and Kayaks have several differences and similarities between them. Below you will find the ones that stand out the most:

Their design is very much different

Although this is one of their main differences, it is also one of the closest similarities between these two boats. As a general rule, canoes are considerably larger than kayaks. They are built similarly to sit-on-top kayaks, with open tops and wide frames. What sets them apart from kayaks is the fact that canoes are made to carry both more gear and more people. Kayaks, on the other hand, are much sleeker and offer more limited space.

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There are multiple types of canoes available but out of all of them, the most common ones are the recreational types, also called the “Canadian” canoes. These boats will usually have enough space inside for a paddler to kneel on slats or sit on benches that run the width of the beam, sit considerably higher on the water than kayaks, and will usually be 13 to 17 feet in length.

Not all kayaks will have an open top, but canoes will always have this feature. Although there are some kayaks that are sit-on-top with an open-top, the kayaks you can sit inside are actually the ones that will resemble a canoe the most. One of the most visible differences is that when it comes to kayaks, a paddler will have to sit inside the enclosed cockpit.

A simple way of putting it is that you would actually “wear” a kayak of the sit-inside type while in the case of a canoe, you would ride it instead.

The Way You’re Getting Into the Boat

Getting into a canoe is always easier than getting into a kayak, and this is because canoes are open vessels. When it comes to getting into a canoe, you will only have to step onboard. You can even use the dock or the sides of the boat to get the necessary momentum to step into the boat.

When it comes to a kayak on the other hand, you will need quite the technique and skill to get inside. You will have to make sure you keep your balance and also keep the boat from tipping over, while carefully sliding the legs inside the cockpit. Canoe users will also need balance, but keeping it on the vessel will be a lot easier than getting the balance needed to get inside the kayak.

But even so, as soon as you manage to get inside, there comes a different argument, about the comfort that a kayak is able to provide. This is why most of the kayaks are not only very comfortable, but will also come equipped with very comfortable seats, some of them even having backrests. Canoes are a whole different story. They can’t be called luxury boats. They are made of an open space and if you’re lucky, maybe some benches.

Canoes are also paddled differently than kayaks

Get Kayak or CanoeThis is where a difference can really be seen. It will usually take considerably less effort to paddle a kayak than it takes to do it in a canoe, as kayaks are almost always lighter and less bulky. What’s more interesting is that you will usually need two people to paddle a canoe, while you can usually paddle a kayak alone. This is because the paddles of a canoe are shorter and have a single blade, while those of a kayak are longer and with two blades.

The usual paddle used for a canoe will have a blade at the bottom and a “T” know at its top. When using it, you will help a hand in the middle and the other one on the T knob. To proper the canoe, you will have to push the paddle down with both of your hands.

When it comes to tracking a canoe straight, you will have to do this on both sides of the boat, alternatively. If not, then two paddling partners will have to do this, on alternate strokes. This synchronization is surely not something as easy as you think.

Paddling a kayak is surely less of a headache. The paddles of the kayak has two blades and the boat itself isn’t usually as bulky or as wide as a canoe. To paddle it, all you will have to do is pick a paddle with both your hands, two feet apart, and then just dip the blades alternatively in the water.

So is a Canoe or Kayak Better?

These two types of vessels offer very similar services so deciding which one is better will usually come down to personal biases of each. To help you decide, I`ll be going over the pros and cons of both of them.

Pros of a Kayak

  • You will have a lot of dry storage options inside sit-inside kayaks
  • You will have protection from elements when it comes to sit-inside kayaks
  • Easier to maneuver while on water
  • Requires considerably less energy to transport and paddle, being designed for efficiency

Cons of a Kayak

  • Not a lot of room for whatever gear you need to carry
  • You will get a lot wetter because it is closer to water
  • Not very stable on water
  • Harder to get in and out of one

Pros of a Canoe

  • You stay drier and get a better view around you because it sits higher on water
  • They offer you more space which means you can carry more gear
  • It will be easier to get in and out of one
  • Their width makes them a little more stable than kayaks

Cons of a Canoe

  • It requires considerably more energy to maneuver, transport and even paddle
  • Not all that efficient as opposed to kayaks
  • You are exposed to elements in the open cockpit

Choosing Between a Canoe and a Kayak

First off, ask yourself what is more important for you. You need more speed? Then you should go for a kayak.

Are you the type of person to paddle leisurely around a lake while bringing more gear with you? Then a canoe is better for your needs.

Although both boats can serve you well, it will come down to your actual needs.

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