Gear Guides & Tips

Kayak vs Canoe – Which ones for me?

Kayak vs Canoe – Which ones for me? February 7, 20152 Comments


A few years ago I had received a bonus at work and, since our family enjoys camping in the wilderness, I decided that it would be a nice idea to purchase something to make our camping experiences more pleasurable.  My initial thought was to buy a canoe; something that we could toy around in the lakes and streams with.  However, a friend of mine suggested that a couple of kayaks would be a good idea.  After heeding his advice, I realized the differences between a kayak and a canoe and that a kayak was definitely the way to go.

For one thing, kayaks are a lot easier to transport than a canoe.  Since a kayak is fairly light in weight, carrying them across a parking lot towards my favorite stream, lake, or river is rather easy.  If I run into some areas of shallow water or perhaps a fallen log that blocks my way, the low weight, too, makes it easier to carrying the kayak to open water.  After kayaking for the day, the light weight and rather slim design of a kayak makes it easy to transport a kayak on top of even a small car.  I have been able to fit three kayaks on top of my station wagon with no problem.   A canoe, on the other hand, is generally a bit more difficult to transport.  Two people are often required to carry this lug around.  If I would need to carry it beyond a shallow spot or obstruction is the river, this too becomes a headache, as well as a backache, where the heavier weight becomes an issue.  Finally, the length and weight of this bulky vessel does not make it the most easiest of crafts to transport on top of a vehicle.  Often, the length of a canoe exceeds the length of any car and the weight, once again becoming an issue, would make it a difficult feat to get on top of my car.

Another thing that I find appealing about a kayak is that I only need one person, myself, to maneuver this vessel.  There are times when we are camping that I may wake up earlier than the rest of the family and want to get out and experience the stillness of the water at dawn.  There have been other times when everyone else may be either too busy, or have not caught the “water-bug” like I have, to get out and enjoy our aquatic resources as often as I do.  The kayak makes this venture possible as it only requires one person to maneuver easily.  In contrast, a canoe usually requires two people to effectively navigate.  Canoes, generally, have one seat in the front and one seat in the back; designed for somewhat of an equal distribution of weight.  If I were to attempt to canoe alone, the now unsteady vessel may tip a lot easier and make for a very wet day on the water.

One of the most appealing qualities that I find that give a kayak an edge over the canoe, however, is its maneuverability.  For me, the most enjoyable times on the water are during the early spring when the rivers and creeks levels are high from the fresh snow melt.  The water level during this time are cresting at the bank and rushing along at high rate of speed.  A kayak allows for split second turns as the water races through the winding river.  Log jams up ahead can be easily avoided with a drag of a paddle and shifting of body weight as my kayak can gracefully slide through a narrow passage on the river.  A kayak allows for these maneuvers whereas a canoe would make this feat a near impossibility.  A canoes bulkiness and length makes it more difficult to turn when moving at such a quick pace.  Additionally, both of the people that are required to maneuver a canoe must be of one mind in order to steer through any small river openings should the need arise.  At such a fast pace that a river may be moving during the spring time, those in a canoe, more often than not, may find themselves caught up in a bunch of brush and, possibly, with a submerged canoe.  The limited maneuverability that a canoe is handicapped with, again, may make for a rough day on the open water.

While we sometimes experience buyer’s remorse, my decision to purchase a kayak over a canoe caused no such affliction.  The kayak has many qualities that I hadn’t really ever realized until the purchase.  While canoes can be fun too, a kayak is a lot easier to transport, requires only one person to operate, and is easier to maneuver down rivers, creeks, and streams.