Canoe or 2 Kayaks?

-- Last Updated: May-04-13 5:03 PM EST --

We have owned a 15.5' Pelican Canoe for a while now and have enjoyed it quite a bit. My oldest daughter and I are starting to get into it more seriously though. We also enjoy camping, both in our pop-up tent camper as a whole family (4 kids) and my two oldest daughters and I backpacking.

Anyway, we would like to venture into doing overnight to 2-3 day canoe/kayak trips (a different form of backpacking to us :-D)... Thinking about the whole process, I understand Kayaks paddle a bit easier than canoes? But... how does that compare to 2 people in a canoe vs. 2 kayaks?

For example, say at the end of the day we traveled 30 miles on the river (which we did the other day here in Ohio) in the canoe. We were splitting the load between the two of us. Is the energy output of 2 kayaks similar, more or less than two in a canoe?

I know this is going to be a difficult question to answer, so I'm up for "I think..." type answers.


I think ther are too many variables
The effort I expend to paddle a tandem canoe on the same stretch of river depends on who is paddling with me.

When camping with my wife I take the canoe solo and she paddles a kayak and we move at comparable speeds. I like the load options this gives us, and if we were both in kayaks I would be constantly waiting on her as I paddle faster than she does.

I tried looking at a results of a recent local race to compare finish times and the tandem canoes were all mixed in with the solo kayakers.

Very interesting question!

– Last Updated: May-04-13 10:27 PM EST –

I don't know the answer but I'd like to. Intuitively I think that one adult and one kid can paddle a canoe with less effort than two separate kayaks.

There are some other factors to consider besides effort/speed:

--Cost of the boats
--Your daughter's age, strength, and judgment. In a kayak she would be making her own decisions second to second and you would not be able to correct her errors the way you could in a canoe.
--Ability to work together in a canoe compared to independence of a solo kayak
--Gear storage: volume needed; dry hatches versus need to drybag things in a canoe.
--Safety: a kayak is probably safer than a canoe in rough water, but for you as a parent it may be easier to take care of your daughter in the canoe with you than to have her in a separate kayak.
--Cartop transport of two kayaks versus one canoe
--Portaging two boats versus one
--Skill level: your daughter would need more skill to paddle a solo kayak than to paddle a canoe with you controlling from the stern.

Although I have a strong personal preference for kayak camping, I'm thinking that a canoe might be simpler for a parent and child. I have kayaked with a 16-year-old girl in solo kayaks in rough conditions (ocean) and she did very well (in a stable kayak), but communication was difficult (shouting directions to her).

One canoe…
For reasons already stated;keep it simple.


You guys did 30 miles in a day?
In the canoe? If I am reading that correctly, you are going to have a hard time getting the same kind of coverage in two kayaks. This may be a place where you don’t fix what isn’t broke.

When you face up to the task of loading
and unloading camping gear, you’ll see why the canoe dominated river and lake travel on much of the north American continent. Deal with a couple of portages, and you’ll be totally convinced.

Six of one an half dozen of the other

– Last Updated: May-06-13 5:45 AM EST –

My wife and I have both canoe and kayaks, and camp out of both. When we are in the yaks, we like them the best, but when we are in the canoe we like that the best.
One thing that helps us decide which to use, is the type water we will be paddling in.
If it is the ocean or a very large lake where high winds and or waves can build up, our preference is the kayaks. If it is a river we almost always use the canoe.
We have never ever considered how much energy we are expanding in each. To me it seems about equal.

Jack L

Read this article on Kayaks vs canoes.

Upgrading our canoe, to what?
It isn’t necessarily fixing what isn’t broken, we are both wanting to do more with paddling and upgrading our bottom of the line, department store clearance canoe that we own. We just weren’t sure as to upgrade to 2 kayaks or a nicer canoe.

Canoes and kayaks have their advantages and disadvantages, but when it comes to paddle camping, a canoe holds most of the advantages.

And since you are with your daughter, being in the same boat provides more opportunities for conversation and bonding as you work together as a team.

try kayaking

– Last Updated: May-06-13 10:52 AM EST –

Apart from analytic concerns such as efficiency, for me it just boils down to what feels good! For my wife and I, after we tried kayaks on a multi-day guided trip, we bought kayaks and have basically never looked back (the canoe has not been used now in about 5 years) - we both just love how we feel moving through the water in kayaks. I am not saying anyone else should feel like we do, just saying try it out and it may become clear.

(I guess we had the advantage of trying kayaks on a multu-day trip vs. trying for an hour -- we could get over any initial uncertainty.)

I think…
Keep the canoe.

Get the kayaks.

Mix and match as appropriate.

Kinda what I was thinking, except…
The right tandem can easily be soloed by a decent paddler, which means you’d have all sorts of options, including taking all three boats or the canoe and one kayak on any given trip. However, I agree that it sounds like it’s time to upgrade the canoe. Not sure where you are, but around here unless you wanted some really special yaks and outfitting this could all be accomplished for a net cost of around a grand.

i say get another canoe. you can haul more and sounds like you have more kids that will be joining you later down the road. so 2 canoes and experienced paddler in each (you in one and daughter in the other)down the road then you get to take the whole family and as they get their experience you can start bringin yaks along as well. as the kids will want to start branching out.

this is just my opinion though. i have only ever canoe camped as we take alot with us.

Canoe it will be
Thanks everyone, there was some really good advice here. I believe we have made the decision as a family to upgrade our canoe… Now the search for the right canoe for our family.