Kayaking vs Canoeing

Kayaking vs Canoeing: Which One Is Best for You?

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to what they take out on the water, but canoes are far outnumbered by kayaks in most bodies of water today. Both vessels have been around for thousands of years, with civilizations all over the world using them to fish, hunt, or just take a nice paddle.

In the battle of kayaking vs. canoeing, which one is best? Well, it depends on what you want to do with them! They both use a boat to navigate through the water. So what sets them apart? And what are their unique benefits?

To learn more, keep reading. We’ll walk you through all the differences between kayaking vs. canoeing, helping you decide which activity is best for you and your goals.

1) The Pros and Cons of Kayaking vs. Canoeing

Kayaking and canoeing are both excellent methods of travel when on the water, as they can be an excellent workout and let you see things from a different perspective than you would traveling by vehicle or on foot. Each has its upside and downside, however, so let’s take a look at that first:

Kayaking – The Pros

Kayaks offer a higher level of maneuverability. If you are in water that shifts directions, you’ll fare much better in a kayak. Additionally, because of their smaller size, most kayaks can be carried by one person.

Size definitely matters when it comes to canoeing and kayaking – all the way down to how you plan on transporting it. Kayaks are generally much easier to secure to your vehicle and get where you’re going.

If you’re up for a thrill, kayaks are the way to go – they’re designed to move quite a bit faster. Sleeker and more lightweight, a kayak will get you there faster.

If the water is faster and more turbulent, kayaks are also the way to go. They are much easier to navigate and maneuver in rough waters or shallow riverbeds.

Kayaking – The Cons

Despite all of their benefits, kayaks also come with a few disadvantages.

Kayaking is primarily a solo paddling experience. Granted, you can go kayaking with other people, but you’re going to be doing all of the work for yourself.

You’re going to get wet. You’re closer to the water, you’re slinging the oar back and forth – but it’s all part of the fun.

Canoeing – The Pros

Canoeing is a team sport. It takes communication and teamwork to get the vessel moving in a straight line and to your destination. It’s a great parent-child activity.

Some may disagree, but canoeing for beginners is much easier to pick up quickly. It may require a bit more arm strength, but it can be done at nearly any pace and on flat, peaceful water.

It is also easier for beginners because there is more room to move around, enter, and exit thanks to the open cockpit design of a canoe. This advantage becomes doubly so when you consider how much more fishing gear, snacks, drinks, and safety equipment you can fit onboard.

Canoeing – The Cons

Staying fair and impartial, here – canoes also have their disadvantages.

For one, it’s going to take multiple people to move or portage your vessel simply due to its length and weight.

Additionally, canoes aren’t quite as safe to use on fast-moving water due to their lack of stability and maneuverability. If the current shifts or you hit rocks or any other underwater debris, you are much more likely to damage or capsize your boat.

It can also become fairly cumbersome when it comes to transporting a canoe due to the aforementioned length and weight. Nobody wants to scuff up the roof on their Outback with a big clunky aluminum canoe!

2) The Differences Between Kayaking and Canoeing

When purchasing a canoe vs. a kayak, the biggest question is “what’s the difference?” There are more than you’d think, actually. Over 60 million Americans participated in some kind of outdoor activity last year, with kayaking and canoeing being a top choice.

Each vessel has its own unique features, so read on.

How Do You Get Into and Out Of the Thing?

With some exceptions (which we’ll look at in a bit), kayaks are enclosed vessels that you sit in – some folks even say that they “wear” their kayak.

A canoe on the other hand has an open-top, allowing paddlers entrance and exit by simply standing up and stepping in or out of the boat.

How Wet Do You Mind Getting?

You are much closer to the water in a kayak, and you’re also much more likely to be in turbulent or fast-moving water. These two factors point directly to the fact that you will get wetter in a kayak – it’s just part of it.

Kayaks are also much easier to capsize than canoes due to the sheer surface area of a canoe’s hull compared to that of a kayak. Make no mistake, it’s not hard to capsize a canoe either – which leads us to…

Do You Need Maneuverability?

If you’re in fast-moving water such as rapids or a shallow river, it can mean trouble for you if you are in a canoe. If water shifts directions or if you run up against some rocks or other debris, you’re going to have a gear yard sale floating out of your canoe right behind you and your canoe-mate.

Where Do You Plan On Putting All of Your Gear?

While you can traditionally carry more gear in a canoe due simply to the size difference between a canoe vs. a kayak, advancements have been made to kayaks over the last decade or so that have given rise to the popularity of kayak fishing.

Angler kayaks come in several different varieties, but they are all designed to hold a maximum amount of fishing gear in new and inventive ways. We’ll talk more about these vessels in just a bit.

3) What Type of Water Are You Planning to Paddle In?

We touched on it a bit above, but it is important to carefully consider the type of water you plan on traversing when choosing between a kayak and a canoe. If you want something to pull up to your campsite beside a lake, for example, you’ll definitely want to consider canoeing.

Canoeing for beginners is fairly straightforward with a good teacher – learning the strokes is of the utmost importance (besides safety, of course).

Kayaking on flat water such as a lake is fine, but it takes the camaraderie out of the paddling trip in some aspects. Inflatable kayaks, however, are excellent for beginners even on flat water.

You should pick up a kayak for whitewater situations or narrow fast-moving water features. They allow the paddler to switch directions without capsizing, and you will enjoy better stability in the current because you are the sole captain of your vessel.

If any leg of your trip has the possibility of taking you onto private property, make sure to ask the property owner’s permission before launching your boat.

4) Who Will Be Joining You On Your Paddling Adventure?

Are you planning a fishing trip with some buddies? Taking the kids out for a nice leisurely day at the lake? These are all important questions to ask yourself before choosing between kayaking and canoeing.

If you’ve got some experienced veteran kayakers, it’s a no-brainer what activity you should partake in, but if you’re just hoping to float down the river and see the sites, you’re going to want a canoe.

The younger the paddler, the more you should consider a canoe because it will allow you to stay close to the children in the event of an emergency. If they’re anything like my kids, they’ll take off on their own adventure if you give them their own boat too!

If you’re planning a fishing trip with your buddies – are you planning on fishing or fishing while cracking open a few cold ones? Obviously, if you’re bringing a cooler, you’re going to want a canoe. But if you are all hard-nosed, die-hard serious anglers, you can get into much tighter spaces where fish may nest if you’re in an angler kayak.

5) How Much Experience Do You Have Paddling?

Don’t get yourself in over your head, or you’ll end up in water over your head.  If you’re new to paddling anything, try a canoe first because it will require someone else to be there with you.

Preferably the person with you has a little bit of paddling experience, and if they don’t, well…two heads are still better than one! You will be able to learn simple strokes on calm, flat water. Canoeing for beginners is also favorable because you have access to more gear (flotation devices, hint hint) directly next to you.

Canoeing is also much slower and methodical and will therefore give you lots of practice in entering and exiting the boat, maintaining your center of balance, and how to steer your vessel in the correct direction.

On the flip side, if you are an experienced water shredder with your own older ‘yak, gear, and you can do an Eskimo roll – stop reading and go buy a kayak.

6) Angler Kayaks: The Best of Both Worlds?

Kayak fishing has become very popular over the last decade, and the perpetual innovation of products on the market is evidence. Designed to carry a maximum amount of gear and tackle in a minimum amount of space, angler kayaks may be the best of both worlds.

Kayak fishing is borne of the desire to get as close to the nesting habitat as possible. Fish that are homebodies after they spawn – largemouth bass, for example – are primary targets for kayak fishing.

Choosing an Angler Kayak – Sit-In or Sit-on?

There are two different designs of angler kayaks – “sit-in” and “sit-on.” Traditional kayaks hug the waist of the paddler, leading to the aforementioned description of “wearing” the kayak.

So which way do you go? Yet again, it all comes down to preference.

The “sit-in” variety has more bells and whistles – which is to say that it is designed to carry more gear. It is also a bit easier due to the rockers on each end and angular shape. They are more maneuverable for the same reason.

“Sit-in” angler kayaks also tend to offer the paddler a more comfortable ride as they can keep more of their skin out of the sun. They are also faster than “sit-on” angler kayaks.

You’ll find multiple rod holders, probably a drink holder or two (for the double-fisters), and some even come with a small live well for bait fish!

“Sit-on” kayaks are for those of us who like to get out and float while maintaining an optimum level of movement space and flexibility. If you capsize, you won’t have to worry about your boat sinking, either. Some are even designed to allow you to stand up for maximum casting distance!

Planning the Rest of the Trip

Now that you’ve settled the debate about kayaking vs. canoeing, it’s time to plan the rest of your trip. Contact us for any of your camping, hunting, fishing, or general outdoor needs. We have plenty of resources to peruse and products to choose from, whether you’re tent camping, out for a weekend with friends, or trying to snag a trophy buck.

Most importantly, whichever route you choose and whichever trip you decide upon, please remember to check local laws and guidelines. Always wear the proper flotation device, and don’t forget to purchase or request any appropriate licenses or permits.