Canoe or kayaks?

I just sold my Adventure 16 because of weight issues and looking for something a little smaller I can solo when I want to.

I can’t help but notice the trend torwards kayaks…that seems to be the popular item nowadays. Anyway, I need a few opinions and pros and cons from you guys, and girls.

Here’s my scenario-

  1. I’m 5’10" 190. My wife is 5’8" 120. My 12 yr old daughter is 5’ 110. I also have a 2 yr old son. Most of the paddling in the next couple of years will probably just be my daughter and myself. Should I look into 2 solo kayaks instead of a Mad River Reflection?

  2. Paddling will only be on calm lakes and slow bayous…no whitewater or anything like that. Overall stability of a kayak compared to a canoe…can you even compare the two? I’ve never tried a kayak yet, but plan to soon.

  3. Entering and exiting water in a kayak. Is it easier or harder than a canoe…or just a different technique?

    4)Sit on top kayak, or cockpick? Is one more stable and comfortable than the other?

    5)Would a tandem kayak make more sense than two solos?

    These are just a few points I’m thinking about and would just like to get general opinions.


the answer
Is always both.

If you are thinking of buying two of something, I would consider one lightweight Kevlar canoe. Would be more multipurpose and easy to handle on land.

Ryan L.

Before you buy anything…
Get the rest of your family and yourself into boats (canoes and kayaks) on demo days to see what they like. If you want to jump start that, see if there are pool sessions around you that you can go to and get the basics of how to handle a kayak and recovery from a capsize. The latter is the best way to find out what features you need in a kayak if you do go that way. Handling a flooded rec boat on the water without any perimeter lines is a fast wake up call for most people on what they need.

IMO, trying to buy any craft that is unfamiliar to you via reading and online research is a good way to waste money, especially kayaks since people coming from canoes usually do not understand the fit issues. Seat time is the fastest way to a keeper choice.

Celia is right - but
sometimes we all take chances making these decisions because we don’t have the time or the access to do the right experimenting before we make a purchase.

Here is what I honestly think I would do if I were you and if I didn’t have the time or inclination to do a lot of experimenting - I would by a kevlar canoe. I know people will disagree but my feeling is that a canoe is the better fishing and camping platform on the kind of water you describe. Easier in and out. They hold a lot of gear and are easy to pack and unpack. You can use the right canoe either as a tandem or as a solo craft and do just fine. The only thing that might change my mind would be if my daughter was dying to get a kayak for the cool factor. Kayaks are cooler than canoes in the mind of lots of kids. Other than that - I’d go with a canoe.

You have a lot of good options
Trying them out for real is the best bet, but if you can’t, consider these:

  1. quite a few companies make sort of hybrids, kayak shape with open top like a canoe more or less, and some can seat one or two;
  2. very stable recreation kayaks that you sit inside, such as an Emotion Glide and buy two of them;
  3. sit on top kayaks are very stable and come in sizes for one or two people, plus are easily configured for multiple uses (fishing, photography, diving);
  4. more expensive modular kayaks (Point 65)that can be configured as solo, dual, or more!

    Otherwise, go back to canoes if that’s what you truly prefer.

    Getting in or on a kayak is merely a matter of technique. The notion that kayaks are less stable than canoes doesn’t track with me!

How about an inflatable?
I’m not sure how the others on this board feel, but an inflatable kayak may be a good choice for you.

Light, easy to store and very stable. The performance is not as good as what you will get from a traditional canoe or kayak, but some are surprisingly quick. One big drawback is they perform poorly when fighting the wind, but if you plan on doing calm rivers and lakes, then it should not be a problem at all.

kayak or canoe
Try them all find out what is comfortable for you. Kids really enjoy the Independence of a kayak. I solo canoe most of the time now, most of the people I paddle with use kayaks.

Some thoughts
This can be a big topic and has been much discussed. When I first started paddling in my local group,I was often the lone solo canoer. Now the ratio is reversed. One of the biggest factors for us is getting in and out. We usually launch at a dock,steep bank or rock,seldom a gentle shelving beach that is kayak friendly. It is dificult to enter and exit a kayak or sit on the bottom canoe in these circumstances. From a dock it’s even worse. Going from sitting on the bottom with feet in front of you into or off of something higher than you is a real challenge in a kayak or sit on the bottom canoe. What are most of your entrys/exite like?


Don’t try

– Last Updated: Jan-23-13 10:05 AM EST –

I think you said you have never been in a kayak. If that is the case, then I would suggest that you never paddle one--until your ready for a major change. I used to be a canoe guy and really never thought much about kayaks. I don't remember exactly why I tried a kayak, but I did and I never looked back.

With your family situation a nice canoe is probably more practical than a bunch of kayaks, but again, don't try a kayak unless you are ready for an epiphany. Most of all, don't get too close to a nice long skinny sea kayak.

All people & all situations different

– Last Updated: Jan-21-13 10:39 AM EST –

Some may have an epiphany when first moving from canoe to kayak, but not all, and my guess is that of those, few knew how to paddle well to start with (I think those who CAN paddle a canoe well won't fail to recognize the things a canoe does better, and won't quit canoeing after they take up kayaking). The reasons one craft may be better or worse than the other have been listed time and time again. They include personal body-health issues (such as the condition of one's knees or back), the type of water paddled, whether easy packing of gear is desired and whether there's a need to portage, the need for craft-use flexibility, among others. Much of that stuff explains why Magooch is so taken with skinny sea kayaks, and why others remain fond of their canoes.

options for lightness
If you liked the Adventure other than the weight (we have one too and I know what you mean!) you might want to investigate skin on frame canoes. Just google the term “skin on frame canoe” and you will get a lot of links including one for Pakboat who makes some really nice folding aluminum frame canoes that are a great deal lighter to haul, perform well and can be configured for different numbers of paddlers. They also make folding kayaks in a range of sizes, most of which have removeable decks so they can be used both as an open boat and a decked boat.

I only mention them because many people are not aware of this option. Prices are comparable to higher end composite and Kevlar canoes. The longest Pakboat canoe is only 56 lbs at 17 feet.

We have a couple of Pakboat kayaks, not the canoes, but I have seen the latter on the water and they are nice boats that perform as well as any hardshell and, in some conditions, slightly better. Very light and very comfortable.

For all the replies. Lots of good advice. I am still kinda leaning towards a mid-size, stable canoe, but I just wanted other opinions. For my needs…casual, leasurely paddling, a canoe might be more convenient for family use.

Thanks again!

Just to throw a monkey wrench…
into what you’re thinking…

In my opinion, there is simply no comparison in the “fun factor” between any tandem craft and any solo craft. If I had the money and was sure my daughter was cool with paddling solo, I’d get two solo craft in a heartbeat, either canoes or kayaks. My personal choice would be a canoe, but I understand why others would choose a kayak.

You’ll always be pleasantly surprised by the ease of handling and nimbleness of a good solo canoe compared to a tandem canoe. And solo kayaks are very pleasant to handle as well.

More thoughts
Does your daughter enjoy being out on the water? If so, give some consideration to a nice light kayak in the 12 - 14’ range for her or for your wife. And then also look for a mid-sized canoe that can go both as a tandem or a solo. Not perfect either way, but you could get out as a family with one in the kayak and three in the canoe - until your boy needs to paddle his own craft.

Flexible approach sounds best
It will be wonderful if your daughter develops a love off paddling. IMO, some of the nicest kids I have met have been paddlers. However, she’s 12. When my daughter turned 12 I recall a discussion telling her she’d be a teen ager soon and she wouldn’t want to hang out with Dad anymore. She told me it already happened!

That age makes me think you will be better served by flexible approach such as suggested by rival51. If she is in her own boat, she has her own space, has some independence, and I think she’ll be more apt to grow with the sport. Kayak paddling is much easier to learn than canoe paddling. She’ll be proficient enough to get around in an hour. You’ll have the light canoe you can paddle as a solo when the two of you are paddling, and the rest of the family can join you on occasion. And if daughter decides paddling isn’t for her, you get to try kayaking, too.

Kayaks may feel tippy, but your butt is sitting right on the water and they are actually probably less prone to capsize than a canoe. Finding a place to get in and out is a bit more difficult than a canoe. Hopefully, daughter is not upset by mud.

Wouldn’t it be great if she tried kayaking and ended up saying she’d really rather be paddling with Dad! Good thing you have the flexie canoe!


Kayak or canoe
How much room do you have, and what can you afford? I currently have two kayaks, a mid length touring boat and a sea kayak, but I plan to add a tandem canoe to the fleet. For camping and portaging (especially portaging), a canoe beats a kayak so much that it is not a contest. For big water, like the great lakes or salt water, a sea kayak excels.

When I get out with others, some one is always planning something I have never done, but suddenly want to.

The biggest problem is working cuts into a lot of good weather to paddle.

For your part of the world ,a couple of
SOT are ideal. Look at Academy. There are some nice ones for < $500.

I agree that an almost teenager is going to want her space BUT …

Kayaks are sexy
…but like sex, you age out of it. They’re heavy as all get go, but if you’re doing a day paddle without a load, they’re easier to control. A canoe can do it all, but not much fun in the wind, or empty. A beginner will prefer a kayak because they’re easy. But you’ll top out quick and get bored. Then it will hang on your garage ceiling and collect dust and wasp nests. If a wasp stings you, it could easily get infected and you’ll lose an appendage. So do yourself a favor - don’t lose an appendage. Buy a canoe.

I’ve paddled both canoes and kayaks
for years. Still have 3 kayaks.

Some answers, but just my opinion

– Last Updated: Jan-24-13 10:23 AM EST –

1. only you can answer that after you get all your info gathered

2. Stability. Yes you can compare the canoe to a kayak.
A skinny kayak is not too stable and a skinny canoe is not too stable. A a wide canoe is stabler and a wide kayak is stable

3.Entering a kayak in the water- canoe vs. kayak: they both require different methods and once you learn each, there ease is comparable although different except a wide sit on top rec kayak is the easiest

4. Sit in vs sit on: Equal widths are equally as confortable. If you are just paddling in the summer months and it is just lilly dipping, if it was a choice for me I would start with a sit on top.
If you will be paddling during colder temperatures a sit in with a skirt is nice and dry and warm

5. A tandem kayak vs two solos. A tandem is going to be much heavier than a solo unless you are going to spend some big bucks and get a light weight one.

We have fifteen boats, (canoes,and kayaks, sit ins and sit ons, solos and tandems, light weights and heavy weights, skinny ones and fat ones), so I speak with a little experience.

With all this said; do like all the others say, and "try before you buy" there are lots of liveries that rent various types.

Jack L