Anyone switched from...

… canoe to a kayak and vice versa? And if so which way did you go and why? What are the benefits of one over the other?

I am asking this question as I dont really have anyone to paddle with (none of my friends are into that kind of a thing, camping is bleee), so I have to resort to going in solo all the time (unless I am car camping). I decided that this spring I will not rent anymore as its just not worth it over long run and buy one or the other. I have not tried solo canoeing yet and dont even know what to expect. I really like kayaking and feel confident on the water. I am mainly camping in places where I have to do some portaging and this is the one and only reason why I am even thinking of a solo canoe. What do you guys who have been in similiar situation sugest I do?

thanx for any info.

enjoy em both
but I had canoes for years and got a couple of kayaks 2 years ago. For the most part I like the kayaks better because I find you can go more places without tides, wind etc. affecting you as much. My wife likes it better as well cause she doesn’t have to go where I head for, more independence I guess.

Wouldn’t get rid of the canoes though, they have their place as well.

Hi there,
I’m not by far the most knowlegeable one on this site to respond to this topic, but at least I’ll bump you to the top of the list.

My wife and I own several kayaks, and used to have tandem canoes.

Advantage kayak (arguably) Wind and waves. The going gets tough, these craft are easier to handle. Sitting low with a backrest is nice. Very manuverable. Water does not enter boat, from rain, spray, or other source. Easier self rescue, if things go badly.

Advantage solo canoe : easier egress/ingress, more/easier stowage, possibly lighter for portage, variable seating positions if sitting low with your feet out in front doesn’t work for you.

I like both, though I don’t yet own a solo canoe.

Hope it helps.


Get a 25lb. open kayak …


Started in canoes, went to k-1 much
later. From my experience teaching others, you should get a good deal of preliminary practice just learning to paddle a solo canoe firmly in a straight line. And it will help to start with a canoe that somewhat >prefers< going in a straight line. Use a straight canoe paddle, one long enough to stand at least near your collarbone when you are standing. Make sure you understand the mechanics of the J-stroke and C-stroke, and practice until you can paddle on one side and keep the boat going where you want it to go.

In Georgia, just learning to paddle forward effectively is prerequisite to whitewater as well as flatwater progress. Students who can’t paddle forward effectively are blown all over lakes or washed helplessly down rivers.

Now, if you want to, you can buy or borrow a long double-bladed paddle to use with your solo canoe. Or, with some canoes, you can get a 10 or 12 degree bent shaft and “hit-and-switch” without having to J-stroke. But I strongly encourage you to take the trouble to learn paddling with a straight-shaft single blade. It teaches lessons about boat control you aren’t going to appreciate using bent shafts or double blades.

I flip back and forth frequently between the canoe and my kayaks. I use them all in all types of water.

In large lakes (and certainly on the bay/ocean), where wind may be a factor, I’ll generally go with the kayak. Also, I’ll take the 'yak on hotter days when it is easy to roll and cool off.

For tripping, or for camping, the canoe is easier to pack, and easier to carry over distances. Also, if I find myself getting in and out of the boat a lot, especially to get around or over blowdowns, shallow water, etc., this is where the canoe shines. Easy out, easy in, no hassle. I find this to be a huge advantage of canoes over kayaks.

And of course, I only pole in the canoe. Haven’t tried that in a kayak yet.


Paddle length!!!
“Use a straight canoe paddle, one long enough to stand at least near your collarbone when you are standing.”

So if you use this method to measure a canoe paddle, does that mean you have to stand while canoeing?

Canoe paddles should be measured from a seated position and take the size of the blade into account. Torso length is way more important than leg length. To me, having the same shaft length between a large bladed and a small bladed paddle is important.

years ago spent
50+ miles in a canoe getting the merit badge, some years after that got into my first sea kayak…for extended mileage paddle camping i swore i would never get in a canoe again. It would be different if I had to haul 100 pounds of pelts or the family dog :slight_smile:

how about one of each

– Last Updated: Mar-22-07 11:00 PM EST –

Started with a SOT kayak loved that for day trips or overnights but hated it for multi day trips in wind/waves/cold and for paddling in general. A touring kayak is great for just about any kind of rough water and long distance camping trips and wonderful to paddle, very efficient. I love my solo canoe for backcountry trips, portaging, paddling, day trips, fishing, and camping. I wish it could handle rough water like my kayak but it doesn't :-(

I was talking to someone new to solo
canoeing, and I was concerned that he not use too short a paddle. It is very difficult to state a “rule” for paddle selection that takes everything into account. For example, how long a paddle “feels” depends partly on where the center of pressure of the blade is located, and that is not predictable from the length of the shaft.

Anyway, when someone starts out learning solo canoeing, one hopes in the kneeling position, it is better to err a bit in the direction of too long a paddle than too short a paddle. Nothing is quite so hilarious, or inspiring of pity, as watching a new solo canoeist trying to the job with a short paddle.

I started out, 34 years ago, with a 66" Clement. Now I use 61.5" slalom paddles, even when I am kneeling low in a c-1. That is as SHORT a paddle as will work for someone who is both 6’ 5" and unusually long in the torso for my height.

Solo Canoe for your area
The natives up your way settled on Canoes. the ones on the coast of Greenland used Kayaks. As one other mentioned,the fur trade was done in canoes, not kayaks.

Yes the kayak is better in surf and ocean swells. But they are a pain on a Canadian portage and far harder to load and unload than a solo canoe.

For Algonquin and the water up your way, a solo canoe is better.

And paddling one well is part of your heritage.


Just picked up a used Wenonah
Sandpiper, Royalex. Also have two yaks and a tandem canoe. My primary kayak is an Old Town Loon 138, very stable and true tracking kayak. I used it primarily for fishing. So far, I prefer the Sandpiper for paddling, its faster than the Loon. Haven’t fished out of it enough to say if its better than the Loon, and the Loon is rigged for fishing, but think it will do the job. But, its so much fun to padde I’m thinking a Vagabond or other longer solo canoe may be my next vessel.

I started with kayaks and have since switched to canoes. The canoe works better for me as I rarely paddle in ocean waters. I find it more comfortable as I can easily change positions throughout the day. Gear access is easier, no hatches to muddle with or decks to shove stuff under. I can bring stuff I usually would’nt in a kayak(i.e, ice chest, folding chair, etc.). Portaging is way easier, especially with a lightweight solo canoe. I think fishing from a canoe is easier as well as I am in a higher seated position and find it easier to spot fish. I am able to get closer to wildlife as a single stick is not as visible as a double blade flashing through the air. With that said about paddles you can double blade a solo canoe and you have the best of both worlds. My .02 cents.

Totally agree
I’ve paddled Algonquin, Quetico and BWCA there is NO WAY I would do that kind of paddling in a kayak with those portages. Unfortunately, the more portages the better the lakes you can get to and away from people. There is one option that is like a kayak and a solo canoe and that is a pack boat. Taken from one of the first posts to respond:

I paddle coastal ocean waters so for me the kayak has it’s place but so does my solo canoe and that is why I have one of each.

I Like Canoes
But the main reason I don’t kayak much is that I am not comfortable sitting on the floor with my legs out in front of me.

I know plenty of folks who mostly kayak becuase they can’t get comfortable on their knees.

On big open water and in surf a decked boat has the advantage. Otherwise it’s pretty much user preference.

I still like canoes better. My preference.


Everyone has preferences
I’m 6’3" with a VERY long torso. I use a 50" straight shaft while solo canoing. I think canoeist will shortly see the light and start using shorter paddles.

When I learned to paddle in scouts many years ago, not your 30 but awhile ago, I was forced to use a long 63" paddle. I hated it. I hated canoing. I came back to the sport and found that I had more boat control with a smaller paddle as my shoulders were not always at their maximum rotation. A shorter paddle let me put my body behind the blade, not just arm muscle. My local paddle shop hardly has a stock of 60" paddle let alone anything longer.

Kayakers have shortened up considerably recently. Even to the point of touring paddlers using whitewater paddles. 230cm used to be standard, now people are paddling with 200cm paddles.

I’m sticking to my story, especially if a canoer comes from a kayaking background, they are going to appreciate a shorter paddle.

Are you sitting rather than kneeling?
The reason for long paddles in whitewater is to get the body into the stroke. That’s why little Davey Hearn and Jon Lugbill used 59" slalom paddles, with short blades. Most of the power in my short strokes is coming from the body, even on cross strokes.

Several of the posts above wisely advocate a canoe for the area and conditions you’ll face. I completely agree.

Native people in North America worked this out ions ago: canoes for inland waterways, kayaks for open seas. The advantages of each watercraft type for the areas they were developed in are obvious. Understanding the wisdom of tradition rather than blindly following popular trends makes sense more often than not. Disregard what you see as “roof ornaments” on car-tops in the GTO – when you go tripping canoes are still the craft of choice.

Thank you…
… all for the comments and sugestions. I guess I will just have to try the canoeing thing and see if I like it or not. What worries me is how do canoes handle in windy and wavy conditions? The lakes in AP at times get “mean” and I would like to know how much experience once needs in a canoe to handle these conditions.

Oh oh…now comes a design discussion
Not all solo canoes will be well suited to large lakes, but there are plenty out there that are.

In general, you’ll want something with a bit of bow flare to ride up over waves, but not a lot of height at either the bow or the stern that may catch the wind. Unless you’ll also be canoeing down a lot of rivers, you won’t want too much rocker. Otherwise, a little rocker at the bow and stern is still OK. Even then, a boat taht isn’t ideal can make do if you paddle it a certain way (such as cantered to one side, Canadian style).

A little weight in the bow helps a lot in a headwind…opposite in a tail wind. And a spraydeck for the canoe, if you want to go to that extent, also helps a lot. Even without a spraydeck, I did pretty well in a 25 mph wind on Saranac Lake in a MR Explorer with a kayak paddle.

I’m sure others will chime in with what I missed or debate nuances of what I’ve said here. It’s all good.