Canoe vs Kayak: which should I buy?

Canoe vs Kayak: which should I buy?

Canoeing and kayaking are two great ways to get on the water for an adventure. But of the two, canoe vs kayak, which one is best for you?

Canoeing and kayaking, despite always being lumped together, are actually two different activities. You can find more about the differences between a canoe and kayak here, but in short, canoeing involves sitting or kneeling in an open boat using a paddle with one blade. Whereas in a kayak, you sit down with your legs in front of you, while propelling forward with a double bladed paddle. 

Knowing this, which one should you choose when purchasing a boat? … let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of each.

Canoe vs kayak: let battle commence

What do you enjoy and why do you paddle?

Usually a difficult question to answer, but what do you enjoy? What is it about being on the water that you actually like? Do you enjoy long, leisurely paddles or do you prefer high adrenaline white water? 

Generally, if you’re wanting to travel or tour, a canoe would be a better option due to the position you sit and the way you glide through the water. However, you can also get a touring kayak to throw a spanner in the works.

As a generalisation, most people will use a kayak in white water, but you do actually have the option of a white water canoe or OC1. It’s what you prefer to paddle and how you prefer to paddle that’s the key question. 

Where are you paddling?

A few questions to ask yourself… are there lots of portages on the routes you want to paddle? If yes, heavy or bulky canoes are perhaps out the question for solo paddlers. 

Is the water you’re paddling fast flowing? If yes, you’re probably more suited to a kayak, but white water open canoes are an option. 

Or alternatively, is the water slow flowing or flat? Then you might suit a canoe or touring kayak which cuts the water nicely, making it a gentler paddle. 

These two articles on types of canoes and kayaks might help whittle it down once you’ve made your choice. 

How often will you be paddling?

If you don’t paddle often and struggle for space, you might not want a 16ft canoe parked permanently in the garage. Here, smaller kayaks or even inflatable kayaks might be a much better solution. 

Think about transportation too. Only got a small car? An inflatable kayak might be a solution. Got an estate car with roof racks? You’ll be fine loading a canoe on top in that case. Or maybe you struggle to put things on the roof? You might want to consider a smaller boat to pop in the boot or an inflatable. Use your common sense and think about your own circumstances. 

Paddling alone or with family/friends?

Do you paddle alone? Do you paddle with friends and family? Do you do a mix of both? Canoes might need more assistance with portages and getting on and off the water, whereas kayaks can be a bit better for an independent paddler especially when you’re starting out. 

It’s not just that though. Do you plan to go paddling as a family? If you all want to go in one boat, then a canoe would be better as you can pack the family, dog and food for a picnic in one canoe, whereas you can’t do that in a kayak as you’d all be in separate crafts.

After thinking about the questions above, consider the following pro’s of canoes and kayaks…

Pro’s of buying a kayak

  1. Available in different sizes
  2. Suitable for a range of different paddling environments
  3. Can be inflatable to save space 
  4. Can be a more natural sitting position
  5. Easy/more natural to paddle for beginners 
  6. Great for individuals or group paddles

Pro’s of buying a canoe

  1. Comfortable seated position for longer journeys
  2. Good option for older paddlers or those with mobility or back issues
  3. Ideal for family adventures 
  4. White water and flat water options available

If you thought this was going to be a simple ‘canoe vs kayak’ knockout, you’ve probably come out with more questions than answers from reading this. However, all points raised are important points to consider before parting with your hard earned cash.

It’s not quite as simple as canoe vs kayak as they both have their pro’s and con’s. Think about yourself, your circumstances and your budget of course to help you decide whether you should buy a canoe or a kayak for your adventures.