Canoe vs. kayak?

I am a paddler and that is what I love doing, almost to a fault. I am, however, traditional and I have 0 experience with sit-in kayaks, only canoes.

My two best friends and I will be undertaking a trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River. My friends, I believe, are more inclined to use the sleek looking, top of the line touring type yak.

However confident I am in my paddling abilities will I have to choose between ‘converting’ or being left behind?


– Last Updated: Apr-25-10 5:16 AM EST –

1st off I should say I have no experience doing long trips. A few days at a time here and there but nothing on the scale you are taking about.

My first thoughts are that you will never be able to paddle a typical solo canoe alongside your friends in their sleek sea kayaks. However much of that assumption is based on my own experience and what little I have read about you in this post.
A lot of what you are asking is really a question of how much experience you have and what type of boat you are paddling. My suggestion is to take a weekend and paddle with your friends. It is kind of weird that these guys are your best friends yet you are not sure how fast either of you will be traveling. You will find out if you are compatible over long distances in a relatively short time. The fact that you are asking says you don't have the experience yet. Also, not really knowing the experience level of your friends, it is very hard to judge what their typical day on the water is like. New touring sea kayaks mean nothing if they don't have any time in them.
I don't know many solo canoeist that travel at the pace that would be fairly easy to do in sea kayak. I am sure they exists. I just don't see them on the water I paddle on. Most solo canoeist I run into are traveling at 2.5-3.5mph. That would be fairly easy to outpace in a sea kayak. A few canoeist I know are capable of cruising at 4-5mph but those people are exceptional paddlers. I know a couple of canoeist that would dust a typical sea kayaker.

Short answer: too many variables to answer the question.

As one who paddles both canoes and
kayaks, I say stay with your canoe since that is what you enjoy the most.

If they are the type that would “leave you behind”, then believe me they are not friends.

Ask them, and if they say they will, then team up with some other canoe paddlers who would indeed be friends.

Nothing sucks more than going on a paddle, and then having some elitists take off.

I always make it a point to stay with the slowest paddler, and to this day, I have never heard from Him or her that they didn’t enjoy the trip



yeah stick with the canoe
You will be more comfortable, and be able to carry more comfort gear and food.

I have both canoes and kayaks, and the kayaks get left behind when I go on trips. Day after day sitting with your legs stretched out in front wears on you.

Just because it is a canoe doesn’t mean it has to be slow. Just means you might want a faster canoe :slight_smile:


– Last Updated: Apr-25-10 1:38 PM EST –

It'd be good to find out how your cruising speeds compare before you commit to such a trip. A good paddler in a solo canoe can easily keep up with a casual paddler in sea kayak.

A spray cover will make your canoe less vulnerable to wind and waves.

Two-three day paddle test
I would second the poster above, and strongly recommend the three of you do a 2-3 day river paddle together before embarking on such a journey. Such a trip will reveal/expose more differences among you than simply canoe v. kayak. You really want to know what you are getting into–what your pace and daily mileage will be, how frequently you will take breaks, etc. And you’ll also learn interesting things like how long it takes each of you to get up and get going in the AM. If you are the type that jumps out of the tent each morning and wants to get on the water ASAP, and one of your buddies likes to take it slow, get a full breakfast, and take his time packing up, its good to know those little things before going on a trip of this length. It could save your friendship, and the trip.


– Last Updated: Apr-25-10 8:25 AM EST –

What you're contemplating here is a big trip on a big and varied river, of course. Wind, waves, barge wakes, and combinations of these can work to the annoyance of a canoe paddler. On such days the canoeist might be more inclined to travel a possibly longer route through the many sloughs while the kayak's best route might be out in the open nearer the barge channels. Perhaps this would present problems keeping a group together. Not every day will be like that, though. I suspect if you carry the food (easy enough in a canoe) there will be strong incentive for everyone to regroup occasionally.

What all of you can count on is many long days on the water. I'm a canoeist and wouldn't be even a little comfortable thinking about spending those kinds of hours confined in a kayak cockpit every day. Some kayak paddlers can do that, of course, but not that many. They may speed ahead, but you'll catch up while they're stretching their legs.
In your shoes, that would decide it for me. Speed be damned, that much time in a sea kayak could be crippling to me. That's a huge river. It won't even be comfortable in a canoe.

Keeping your hands dry would be easier in a canoe as well. Like the river I paddled as a kid, the Mississippi (The Big Muddy) isn't that clean. Blisters and small cuts tend to get infected pretty quickly if they get wet. Infections of that sort can cut a trip short and shouldn't be taken lightly. I doubt anyone has ever paddled that far, canoe or kayak, without at least getting a blister. Can anyone work a kayak paddle in waves for long hours and keep their hands dry? There's an outside chance of doing it in a canoe.

two cents worth... I just nip out on the Mississippi a couple times a year, usually near the confluence with the Wisconsin R, used to paddle it down by Galena IL, and am hoping to explore the area around the confluence with the Black and Trempelau this season. I'm sure there are more hardened Mississippi river rats about this board.

Well put Scottb, and good idea regarding the test paddle. I also agree regarding friendship. If they take off on you during such a big trip, they’re not your friends. I would stick with your canoe since that’s where your comfortable. If they’re buddies, I bet they’ll pace themselves to what you’re doing. Also, who knows, you may just keep right with them. I for one, like to take things slow, take in the view, take photos, etc. If you race from start to finish what point is it in even going…gotta take it all in. One last point, I would think they’d want you to come along…and would treat you well…on a long trip, a few yaks and one canoe…the canoe will probably be carrying some of their gear.

Wouldnt Discount A Long Double Blade
or GP yet, and might experiment a bit before the trip. Only real challenge I’ve had keeping up with yak friends was a ~20mph headwind on an open v choppy river and a light unloaded 14’ 30# canoe without a cover. Many yaks were able to drive into it, I had to turn back. Just too much wind resistance for my GP and this old bod, and will probably never keep up with speedsters.

A Canoe it shall be!
Thanks for everybody’s input, some of it was very helpful.

Thought I should add a little bit to put some of you, who may have been discouraged by the apparent addition of another intruding idiot into the paddle-sport community, at ease in letting you know I am not that idiot.

My friends are the best one could have, but anybody, I think, will have their patience tested by their comrades after the first month or so. So I may find myself trying to outpace them for a brief respite without looking at their backs. Or for other reasons, childish for sure, but human none the less. Though “left behind” was merely concerning the effort required to keep pace with them.

I have been gone for too many years in service of our Country. I am in Afghanistan right now and am looking forward to being on the water again. It is true, my friends and I have not paddled together because of this but we will. Much planning to be done and a couple years in which to do it.

I am glad I joined this forum. It seems I have found a great resource. Thank you again


Thank you.
I hope you enjoy your trip and your time with your friends and thanks for your time in Afghanistan.

"River Time"
You have certainly earned some river time. I can see why you might want to really go for something big, soon after your return.

Thanks for your service.
I’d be glad to buy a case of your favorite beverage for your CANOE trip down the Mississippi.

You can have your cake and eat it too!
Hi elw0611,

First I must say thank you for your service. I’m glad we have people like yourself putting our country first.

I have paddled the Mississippi with a “The Great River Rumble”. There were about 75 kayaks and only 3 solo canoes. The pace was set by a Wenonah Minisota 2 so it was fast. We traveled about 125 miles on the Mississippi. I paddled a Wenonah Prism. I was able to keep up with the group but I worked much harder than the kayaks did. The biggest problem with the Mississippi is wind. There are few places to get out of it. If the wind is blowing 10 mph it’s blowing 15 mph when it gets pushed into the canyon of the river. And it almost always blow upstream!!!

Right after I go back I started looking at Decked Canoes. I ended up buying a Clipper Sea 1. The two advantages over a standard canoe id the rudder. I hardly ever use it but when you need it there is nothing as nice in a quartering wind. The second is the low Windage. Days that you would be landlocked because of the wind are minimul. Just like a kayak. Most days I don’t use it but I do have the Spray Skirt. If the weather turns wet or cold it really doesn’t bother you much. Just like a kayak. The seat can be moved up or down. I only use a canoe paddle but if you wanted to use a kayak paddle you could lower the seat.

There are only 3 decked canoes I would consider for this trip. The Clipper Sea 1 like mine. The Kruger Sea Wind. And the Superior Expedition. Just let me know and I can get you more information on these 3 boats.

Good Luck on your trip. I wish I was going with you!!!



Or find a partner
I agree with several of the posts so far.

Good friends won’t leave you, but of course it would be unfair to good friends to show up with a Coleman.

A decked canoe would be a good compromise - much more comfortable and easier to load/unload. The Miss is big, but it isn’t Anglesey.

I think it was Verlen Kruger who said something about comfort/stability = longer days on the water = more miles covered. That just makes sense. A fast boat can be more fatiguing.

A solo canoe may keep pace with a kayak if it is a sleek design. If you could find another paddler and get yourselves in something like an Itasca or Minnesota II, you would do that much better, especially into the winds.

I’d like to do the Big river someday. Have a good one!

A Sawyer Loon might do the trick, too,
if he can find one, since they’re no longer made.

About 16 years ago I canoed most of the rivers and lakes in our state. Your biggest hurdle won’t be the kayaks. It will be the wind.

However if your friends will take it easy they might even enjoy getting out off their kayaks and let you paddle their yak for a day while they stretch their limbs in your canoe.

You might even learn to kayak on this trip.

>I have been gone for too many years in service of our Country.

You’ve gone FAR BEYOND the realm of service that the so-called leaders designed for this country’s foreign involvements. Speaking as a fellow canoeist…big, moving water is one thing for the touring kayak…another for a canoe. Take care and have all the safety equipment you can muster.


food for thought
More great advice! Thanks!

Solo Canoes
If I was considering such a trip and did not have a tandem partner I would want one of the (semi) decked canoes that Paddling fan recommends, understanding that those are not designed for kneeling.

Or I would want a fast comfortable solo with a spraydeck.

The Bell Magic, Hemlock Perigrine and Wenonah Advantage are three that come to mind. If I was a big guy or was hauling a big load I’d add the Wenonah Voyager to that list.