benefits of canoe vs. kayak?

I’m looking for a paddling vehicle and learning which would be more enjoyable to use.

The water would be lakes, slow rivers, slow creeks, and bays… (destination always the same as the starting point).

I imagine I’d prefer the slower, more casual pace of a canoe, and the sitting position seems like it’d be more comfortable on the back and knees.

Is one easier to get in on the shore’s edge and then push the rest of the way to get fully in the water? (keep the shoes dry)

I think I’d like an open-top also. More easy to enter & exit, move around, and store gear.

For whichever vessel I like the idea of inflatables… small for the trunk, easy to carry on a trail to reach water, and can be durable enough for what I need. A lightweight hard boat could work too.

THanks for any ideas and perspectives

You have already answered your own …

Just reread your post.

I myself favor the kayak when I am in it, and I favor the canoe when I am in that.

Jack L

You need to try both
You correctly point out that canoes are generally much easier to enter and exit. As for comfort, some people find the paddling position of a kayak more comfortable than a canoe, many find the opposite, but canoes do allow you to move about much more easily.

Both can be paddled leisurely, but in a canoe it is much easier to put down your paddle, reach for a camera, stretch out for a moment, etc.

Durable lightweight boats that paddle well are typically expensive, but you can find some good deals on quality used boats. In a given price and performance range, canoes can sometimes be made a little lighter since they lack a deck. But there really haven’t been any highly successful inflatable canoes or folding canoes. There are some very high quality folding kayaks.

Canoe paddling is a bit less intuitive than kayaking. The basics can be learned within a reasonably short period of time but many people find it easier to jump in and start paddling a kayak than a canoe.

If dry shoes are a priority…
get a motor boat. That’s not a reasonable expectation with a paddle boat, either launching or once underway since water has a way of finding its way to you.

That said, the best way for you to tell is to try both. Canoes have more windage, so depending on where you paddle may require more time to get it under command than a kayak. Or you can consider a pack canoe, paddled with a double blade so it easier to control, though that’ll give you wetter lap and feet than a kayak or a single-bladed canoe.

SOT’s can be difficult to car top compared to a very light solo canoe or some sit inside kayaks - there is just less to hang onto on its way up and down. How do you plan to transport this?

Recreational Use
You would be a recreational kayak or canoe user. My wife and I are the same, nothing wrong with that. It’s perfectly acceptable to paddle quiet waters.

We haven’t paddled canoes but the sitting position is higher than in a kayak. There are kayaks built for that recreational category which have features that make them easy to use - large open cockpits, comfy seats, lots of storage.

Inflatables are another potential type of good rec boat. Much easier to store and home and transport to the lake. Check out the Advanced Elements line.

There are waterproof boots you can get from a place like NRS but in most times of year getting your feet wet in an old pair of sandals in a foot of water is no big deal.

Just keep in mind that recreational equipment is built for that type of ‘quiet water’ but if you move into more advanced conditions (large open bodies of water, bad weather, faster moving waters, etc.) then your equipment would be out of it’s league so don’t exceed your equipment or your ability and all is good.

if car topping is a concern
and you want light weight, consider a pack canoe. You sit on the bottom and generally paddle with a double blade but can access gear more easily than in a kayak.

Getting your feet wet is part of paddling. Float the boat and then get in.

Eventually you may go for both canoeing and kayaking. I did.

ug, not inflatable
Inflatables are slower, more affected by wind, wider (harder to reach the water), and often heavier than hard-shell kayaks. And inflatables that approach the performance of hard-shell boats are much more expensive.

Reading your post, it sounds like you’re saying you want a canoe. Try out both, and get what you like.

You mentioned paddling on Bays, and that’s the only thing that might not be appropriate for your boat choice. Ocean waters can be rougher, more exposed, and shore can be further away. (Big lakes can also yield all these conditions). In an open boat without lots of flotation, you need to be aware that your ability to recover from a capsize is very limited in water deeper than you can stand in. Therefore open water should probably be avoided.

Otherwise, sounds like you’re on the right track.

body mechanics…
You touched on the subject of body mechanics in your OP and I’d like to expand on that concept. If one is to consistently paddle over a period of time, say decades like many of us have, consider this: sitting on bottom with legs extended as in a kayak, puts the most pressure on the spine. Sitting on a raised seat as in a canoe is second. The least pressure comes when kneeling with butt on a canted seat or kneeling thwart. After 40 years plus of canoeing I believe that if I had not been kneeling, I would not be able to paddle today. So, if you’re into wilderness tripping or paddling over the long haul then consider kneeling to save wear on your lumbar vertebrae.


decked canoes too
Kruger, Rob Roy, Clipper, Sawyer, Wenonah, all make them. Some are pretty spendy. All of them are pretty nice.

I have known excellent whitewater open boaters who reluctantly went to a kayak when their knees gave out, or ankles caused them too much pain to kneel anymore.

And I have known a couple of excellent kayakers who took up open boating when their backs gave out, or when their hip joints would not allow them to get in and out of a decked boat without pain.

I think this varies from person to person.

As a kayaker…
I see great fun in both. Couple years back I was invited on a multi day Northern Forest Canoe Trail trip back east. Not being a canoe guy I wasn’t sure how I’d like it.

I loved it! The canoes are so easy to deal with and packing is a breeze. They were comfy and fun to paddle as well. I’d rather be in a kayak in a 20+ knot blow and big seas, but for the trip we did the canoes were awesome.

From what you describe a canoe may be the way to go.

Just my thoughts.

greatly appreciate all the ideas…
Sometimes just hearing an echo helps… it does seem as if I already know that an open-top would be more enjoyable and useful.

sitting position is trickier… I think both would be fun. The kayak gives more of a feel of being in and with the water… the canoe is closer to a birds eye view (like an SUV compared to a short car). Kneeling in a canoe seems like a between option. I think the lower the sitting is, the more stability also… though that may not be an issue in still or gentle slow waters.

I was wondering about using a double-sided paddle in a canoe… but the idea of getting wet makes the single paddle preferable. Again, to me, the double-sided paddle seems like a design for sport or speed… and I believe I am wanting casual, in-the-moment, relaxed paddling; slow relaxed risk-free exploring as opposed to fast-paced testing-limits adventure.

There are some inflatables that I’d seen videos of… some have flat bottoms and they basically slid across the surface of the water with very little tracking. I had my eye on the ‘advanced elements’ ones too, which have a semi-rigid bow and stern, and they appear in videos to track more similarly to a canoe/kayak. Most are enclosed kayak designs, but at least one has a 2nd seat where gear could go.

…I looked at some of the hard-shell manufacturers, and some of those boats are nice! (like bells’ 12’ canoe at 24 pounds and the quality looks superb!).

Avoiding a roof rack with an inflatable is a big benefit… but it’s good to know there are some hard-shells that would be manageable to roof and to carry along a trail to water.

I NEVER, EVER get my feet wet when paddling my canoes. Feet should be dry, I paddle in 40 degree weather and up…wet feet are not an option.

Canoe all the way. They’re lighter, more stabile, carry more “stuff”, and you can actually reach your stuff when you want it. You can keep your feet 100% dry, you can sit, kneel, and swap around position anytime you want. A canoe has it over a yak anyday and any way you cut it.

The Bell Dragonfly?
look again at the Bell website and tell me what is wrong with the picture.

Hint.Look at the spacing between footbar and edge of the seat.

There are other real pack canoes out there.

I’m not so sure
If you want to go miles out into the ocean in frigid water, paddle up next to and stick a harpoon in a large marine mammal, and tow the carcass back to shore in inclement weather, a kayak is definitely the way to go.

…and even more to the point, …
… is that the first thing a person accustomed to rec kayaks or entry level touring kayaks does when they get in a solo canoe is remark about how tippy it feels. With rec kayaks being as wide as a solo canoe but with the paddler sitting practically on the floor, they really are a lot more stable. Just sayin’. Not that it matters of course. Canoes are only as tippy as the person in the boat causes them to be. Most canoes feel pretty stable once you get the hang of it, which doesn’t take long.

Multiculturalism and relativism are …
… so comforting.

Every behavior is acceptable, every religion is equally true, and every paddle craft is equally meritorious.

Sorry, but there is right and wrong in the universe, and the right answer to the OP’s inquiry is a carbon/kevlar solo kneeling canoe that can also be paddled sit 'n switch. Once the the sophisticated Kama Sutra techniques of this craft are mastered, the love of and for it will last forever – unlike the meretricious lure of the easy date kayak, which ends up being more akin to a one night stand.

Final answer.

Until your priorities inevitably change and you become addicted to love. Then, you get a kayak … and a sit-on-top … and an outrigger … and an inflatable. And, thusly, after 30 years, you will have all your answers.

But one thing has to be settled immediately: this “I don’t want to get my tootsies wet” nonsense.

Consider. If you wanted to take up skiing, would you be concerned about snowflakes landing on your nose? If you wanted to take up hiking, would you be worried about getting dirt on the soles of your boots?

Well, canoeing is a WATER sport. You will step in the water, stand in the water, and fall in the water. You will swim in water when your canoe tips over. You will have to wade it through swamps and gator holes. You will have to extract the canoe from pins on rocks and stumps and bridge abutments in the middle of the water. You will be smashed about upside down in water after you make the mistake of buying a kayak and try to roll. Waves will crash into your canoe and swamp you with water into the water. Rain will pour down from the true religion’s heaven and drench you with water.

And that’s just the first week of the water sport.

If all that sounds unappealing, you could instead just hang around internet canoe boards and type a bunch of stuff while lying in bed – as someone I know has been doing for three months.

To be even more specific, buy a new Winters Osprey or Yost Wildfire, if you have big bucks, or look for used ones if you don’t.

Don’t give up on roof racks yet

– Last Updated: Feb-19-11 12:03 AM EST –

It would be nice if you could try a few boats AND meet one or two folks who put a canoe on their roof so yu can see how easy it is. Even very compact cars will easily carry a small canoe using a roof rack. A good rack isn't exactly cheap, but most people can budget one into their life without too much trouble, and just like a light boat, anything that makes the task of getting a boat onto the water easier or faster practically guarantees that you will use the boat more often. Nothing is quicker onto the water than a light boat that's "ready to use". And even if you choose a heavy boat, you will like the way a hard-shell boat paddles more than an inflatable too. Of course it all boils down to priorities, and only you can decide what is most important.

Oh, one other thing to consider when weighing inflatable versus hard-shell is "shelf-life". I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to take my brother's 32-year-old Royalex canoe on a trip into the boonies, but I'd think twice about trusting a 30-year-old inflatable.

By the way, re-reading some of your posts, I'm guessing that you might be over-estimating how difficult it is to get a canoe up onto a roof rack. It's actually quite easy, especially if you can lean the canoe against the rear cross bar, or if you install one or another type of "cheater bars" that let you lean the canoe against some other part of the rack before actually sliding it up there. With a really heavy canoe, getting the thing onto your shoulders is more difficult than putting it on your roof. With the right rack or simple modifications to your rack, you can load any canoe on your roof with ease even if you can barely carry it yourself. That might sound paradoxical, but it boils down to the fact that the "lean the boat first, then walk to the back and push it up there" method of loading the canoe is much easier than lifting the boat off the ground to carry it, and unless it's a terribly heavy boat even that part isn't too bad if you know what to do (and of course no special technique at all is needed for lightweight boats). I can provide more details later if you like, and others will have tricks to share as well.

Wet Feet
The simple solution for wet feet is to use boots. I used to use tall “Tingley” slip-on boots over work shoes. Worked just fine. Now I use boots that are actually made for paddling, and they are a lot nicer. And of course, lots of times having wet feet is no worry in the first place.