Canoe vs Kayaking

I am looking to hear opinions from people who do both. For example I do a tiny bit of (one blade paddle) canoeing and it’s fun but I don’t like it as much because the Canoes seem tippy. There’s definitely a learning curve. But to see my friend who is formerly certified Canoe instructor and spent much of his youth Canoeing across expanses of Canada with very many mile long portages exploring Northern Ontario is a thing of beauty. His technique, “attack” of the water, speed and aplomb are very impressive to me and it’s an inspiration. They sent me a photo of him bombing down the St. Lawrence Seaway recently and recollecting the paddles I did with him and how good he is is both magnificent, and humbling!

So for all you who like oysters and clams, er, partake in both Canoes and Kayaks, for the sake of interesting discussion:

  1. What do you prefer about Canoeing and what is Canoeing do better for you and why?
  2. What do you prefer about Kayaking and when does that 2 bladded paddle sport instead of one serve you better, and why?

As in other thread, it is primarily about the decking or lack thereof.

I can’t take a canoe out to the islands offshore in Maine, I lack the skills to manage that and the risks are simply greater paddling solo in an undecked boat. I can take a kayak there with appropriate practice and caution, those are skills I have already possessed.

Canoeing is better for me when I want to take my lift-with-one-hand ultralight canoe out to a pond to check out the fall color. Less prep and gear. Does not require major skills to putter around swimming distance to shore.

You keep repeating your discomfort about stability in a canoe. That seems to be a far more limiting factor for you than skill level. If you fix the skills in a canoe you will fix the stability issues as you learn.

Why don’t you hook up with some instruction in canoeing? It appears to be the most direct way to resolve this dilemma.

I’m a canoe person that has done a little kayaking. Sea kayaks are fast (so great for covering distance) and also highly capable in big/dangerous water (great for keeping you alive).

Canoes are easy to load, seem more playful (to me) and are better for napping. My kayaking friend wants a solo canoe because they are so easy to jump in and out of when you have to get out to get over or around obstacles and also because the higher seating position lets you see more stuff underwater. Most importantly canoes are more comfortable…ask any dog except Paris.

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The question for me is not which one but where are you going? I have done dozens of canoe trips mostly in Ontario from Algonquin all the way 1000 miles west to Woodland Caribou where portaging is a part of camping and a kayak is not my friend. A 30 lb or less canoe is. Easier to pack a canoe for portages. Can be easier to stay out for two weeks.

Long ago because my hips killed me and I could not sit a kayak comfy I switched to pack canoe and sea canoe for the ocean. Both have low seating but not quite on the floor; the inches matter. The kayak purists sneered. I steered them toward Reinhard Zollitsch. He paddles a sea canoe all along the coast.

I love the versatility of the single blade and it really does not matter what craft it goes with. Most canoes can be paddled with a double and our AMC group at Knubble Bay routinely used to have members using a single stick for a spare on their kayaks.

The one thing about canoes and big water… a tandem canoe is incredibly harder to handle in waves than a solo as the ends are pinned… One Pukaskwa trip we did in a Wenonah Odyssey a big water canoe… But the waves were quite high some days… Our next trip we had two solos. Hubby loves his Greenland kayak ; me the sea canoe…

Then again a tandem kayak is the pits too at times… We camped with friends on Black Island Muscongus Bay… Ted was a slow packer. The kayak 110 lbs empty… The tide went out. Four of us nearly killed ourselves getting it over the rocks. However we loved it as a lunch table during our 13 mile crossing of Long Island Sound and back ( 26 miles in one day). Two were in the tandem and the other two of us in solos.

I do both.
When I am in the canoe (either solo or tandem) I like that the best.
When I am in the kayak I like that the best.
My wife and I threw paddleboaring into the mix a few years ago, and now when I am on the board I like that they best.

I’ll add that there is no doubt in my mind that the paddleboard gives me the most exercise. Just about every muscle and bone gets a good work out

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A good option for trips involving a lot of packing and portaging are the Pakboat folding kayaks. Their Puffin, XT and Quest series all have decks that are fastened on by wide velcro strips all around so you can easily peel them back for cargo access. The Puffins and Quests can even be paddled open like a canoe, without the deck. And even their tandems weigh under 40 pounds. You do need to unload them for portages but if you have Duluth type packs in which you can carry your gear and food on your backs the light boats are easy to carry overhead for land crossings. Pakboats also have incredibly comfortable and adjustable seats. And several models can convert from solo to tandem.

They also make Pakcanoes, folding canoes that are rugged enough for moderate whitewater and lighter than most standard canoes of similar dimensions. Their ladder type frames are more rigid than the kayak models. Pakcanoes and similar models by Ally have long been a favorite of guide companies that fly in to remote wilderness rivers.

That points out another advantage that I constantly flog of folders. being that you can take them with you wherever you travel, even overseas. Even paying the extra luggage airline fees is cheaper than renting at your destination and you can carry them folded in the trunk of a rental car. I took an inflatable roof rack with me along with the 23 pound Pakboat Puffin when I went to England in 2017. Did not even have to pay luggage fees since the boat and all my gear fit in a rolling duffel that was under the maximum weight and dimensions for the “free” checked baggage allowance. All that stuff was packed in that bag and it was under 48 lbs. My other clothes and kit for the trip were in a carry on sized backpack so I had no trouble getting through airports with that on my back and towing the rolling bag.




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Cool!

Cool but trips in Ontario often involve seven portages a day… No way doing a build and breakdown fourteen times for me.
We did use a PakCanoe for Arctic trips where flying out hardshell canoes is ridiculously expensive… Far cheaper to send it ahead. It is mailable… Also Transport Canada is cracking down on external loads and here is the real glory to the PakCanoe line.

I like messing around in small boats. My tastes run to canoes in moving water and Canadian tripping. I enjoy kayaks in open water and some of our local lakes. It’s all good.

I have 11 canoes of various types, three kayaks and one Hawaiian outrigger canoe. I prefer canoeing far more than kayaking. By “canoeing” I mean both the hull architecture of an open canoe vs. a decked kayak and also the motion pleasure of single blading vs. double blading.

In kayaks I am locked in, cramped and restricted. In open canoes I can move around, change position, kneel or sit or stand. A canoe can carry a lot more gear, pirate treasure and bigger moose skulls. You are positioned higher in a canoe and can see the surroundings better. Of the same weight, a canoe is easier to portage, and canoes can be made lighter than kayaks. A canoe can be poled. A canoe is easier to get in and out of. A canoe has a more aesthetic shape than a kayak.

Double blading is fast and efficient but boring. A novice can do forward and reverse strokes within five minutes. Single blading is much more sophisticated and much, much more difficult to master, but gives me a lot more technical and aesthetic motion pleasure. I’m talking about all the multiple and blended varieties of single-sided correction and turning strokes – not hit & switch paddling, which is also boring albeit effective. For those who do want to mix single and double blading in the same craft, the seat height on a canoe gives better leverage for that combination.

Kayaks have a few obvious advantages: less affected by wind and water intake; and easier to self-rescue if, but only if, you have a reliable roll. Other than in whitewater and some silly exhibitionist cases, I have never as an adult swamped or tipped over in a canoe or kayak, so those kayak advantages are not particularly important to me.

After 42 years of canoeing, I was exclusively a seakayaker from 1996 to 2004. Never really liked it or felt fully confident in northern oceans. So I bought an outrigger canoe in 2004 and played with that for a few years along with some new open canoes I bought. I haven’t been in a kayak in 15 years and don’t miss them.

KM: you don’t have to break down a folding canoe for every portage (I doubt anyone would do that!) You carry the boat on a shoulder yoke, just as you would a regular canoe. But one advantage is that the folder can be up to 40% lighter than an equivalent length rigid canoe – for instance a Pakboat 165 is 54 pounds compared to an Old Town Discovery 169 at 91 pounds. Though they are closer to the weight of higher end composite canoes like We-no-nahs and Swifts.

@Glenn MacGrady said:
Double blading is fast and efficient but boring. A novice can do forward and reverse strokes within five minutes. Single blading is much more sophisticated and much, much more difficult to master, but gives me a lot more technical and aesthetic motion pleasure. I’m talking about all the multiple and blended varieties of single-sided correction and turning strokes – not hit & switch paddling, which is also boring albeit effective. For those who do want to mix single and double blading in the same craft, the seat height on a canoe gives better leverage for that combination.

Kayaks have a few obvious advantages: less affected by wind and water intake; and easier to self-rescue if, but only if, you have a reliable roll. Other than in whitewater and some silly exhibitionist cases, I have never as an adult swamped or tipped over in a canoe or kayak, so those kayak advantages are not particularly important to me.

Yeah, what he said B)

@willowleaf said:
KM: you don’t have to break down a folding canoe for every portage (I doubt anyone would do that!) You carry the boat on a shoulder yoke, just as you would a regular canoe. But one advantage is that the folder can be up to 40% lighter than an equivalent length rigid canoe – for instance a Pakboat 165 is 54 pounds compared to an Old Town Discovery 169 at 91 pounds. Though they are closer to the weight of higher end composite canoes like We-no-nahs and Swifts.

Well you shot yourself in the foot with that post! Just kidding… I owned a PakCanoe 170.
My 18’6 " Wenonah is 43 lbs. My favorite composite solos are all under 31 lbs. the MR Monarch only sees use in the ocean… No way do we want to carry its 55 lbs on portages

Sorry the 170 was quite a bit heavier than the WN but way easier to stuff in a Via Rail car… They are starting to charge a lot for canoes and fitting a canoe onto the struts actually decreases the payload of the aircraft… That is where the PakBoats shine… You can stuff it in a Beaver and have the passenger number unaffected.

Never have I owned an Old Town anything…

And you showed me a picture of a kayak… That is what I was referring to on portages… You would have to cobble together a portage yoke that keeps your head out of the cockpit… Skeeters would eat you alive… bad enough with a canoe in Alqonquin or Wabakimi etc.

Mentioned already, but I’ll repeat that it all depends on what you want to do and where. Each boat category has its strengths and weaknesses. For remote interior “pond hopping” I’d pick an ultralight canoe over a kayak for the ease of loading, unloading, and balanced (on both shoulders) carrying on rough terrain. For the open water winds and waves of the Great Lakes or on the ocean (of which I have minimal experience) I wouldn’t be caught dead in a canoe (or rather because that might be my fate?), unless it was one of those massive ocean going things with a crew of many. Even then, it’s sketchy in my opinion.

I started with canoes but have gravitated towards kayaks because I love the open water and have grown to dislike muddy, buggy, hot, scratchy, tiring portages and dirty sloped buggy campsites of the interior. I favour the open coastline and near shore islands with cool and clear fresh water to drink, minimal insect activity, large flat expanses of smooth rock, and only having to pack/unpack when I’m stopping to camp.

The older I get, the less masochistic I become with my outdoor pursuits. :smile:

Don’t we all! Except for the truly hard core.
I just gave my son all my camping gear. He has one son in Cub Scouts and another right behind him.
Carrying on the tradition.

Admit I’m getting intrigued by the super lightweight canoes. While paddling at home yesterday afternoon, I see a guy walking down the boat access road carrying a white boat (site has been padlocked by the DNR because high water has eliminated all parking spaces). Turns out to be a white canoe.

He wasn’t your typical paddler. While he didn’t appear to be paddling hard, he was fast. I sure couldn’t catch up with him paddling my Fathom. Managed to connect only by cutting across a cove as he was following the shore. Learned he’s a triathalon competitor and also raced in this year’s AuSable Canoe Marathon. That made me feel better about not being able to paddle as fast.

He had just gotten the canoe, a used kevlar Wenonah (I don’t know the model) and thought it weighed about 30 pounds.

Would be fun to try a lightweight solo canoe. Would also be fun to have a lightweight surfski.

Yeah, I will concede that my relative ignorance of canoe specs showed in that comment on weight. The only canoes I have owned or regularly used in the past 50 years (until this Summer) were Old Town or Mad River tandems or vintage wood ones with fiberglass overlays, and all barges over 65 pounds.

BTW, on portaging Pakboat kayaks: the decks (and the cockpits with them) come off completely and they can be portaged like a canoe. All models except the pre-2010 Puffins and XT’s can be paddled open without the decks, like a pack canoe.

I don’t quite get what mosquitos have to do with portaging a kayak vs a canoe. But then I generally don’t camp out unless the weather is cold enough to kill them or the elevation or wind is too high for them. And if I am out when they are around I use a head-net because the little vampires love my blood flavor for some reason.

I find the skills that made tippy kayaks no longer feel tippy, translated directly to tippy canoes not feeling tippy. Canoes in general are wider to offset the higher center of gravity. I imagine there is as wide of a range in stability between different crafts in one as the other. I figure either kayak or canoe, you simply pick the stability profile that suits you.
For myself, using a single blade is pure pleasure. It’s nimble and easy to control blade angle. I use my active blade of a double-bladed paddle in largely the same ways during maneuvering strokes. But it’s significantly unwieldy in comparison.
No doubt, sitting up in the open air on a nice paddling day is a pleasure.
On the other side, a good amount of what I do in a sea kayak requires a sealed deck, and a relatively low volume between the waterline and gunwale. And there’s definitely a pleasure in having waves washing over your kayak while feeling relaxed and in control, or dipping your body and head into the water as part of a regular stroke. Or putting the kayak right on it’s side as you peel off through the lip of a cresting wave.
Yes, I’m pretty sure there’s room for both in your life. Someone recently posted a pretty great song on here about too many boats.

@willowleaf said:
I don’t quite get what mosquitos have to do with portaging a kayak vs a canoe. But then I generally don’t camp out unless the weather is cold enough to kill them or the elevation or wind is too high for them. And if I am out when they are around I use a head-net because the little vampires love my blood flavor for some reason.

On the shores of the great lakes the only “portage” is usually to the put-in/take-out. Since there’s usually an unimpeded breeze at the shoreline it keeps the flying bugs at bay. Mosquitoes can’t fly faster than something like 5km/h, so the wind speed is usually greater than what they can overcome. Contrast this with the interior, where there are lots of trees, hills, and valleys that slow down and block the wind. It makes for a much easier time of swarming me when I’m trudging down a portage trail, my arms full of stuff (in addition to the gear on my back or boat on shoulders), which makes it very difficult to do anything to defend myself against the tiny hypodermic needles.

It isn’t so much the boat as the location, and the location determines the boat to a large extent. I’ve done some pretty long portages with my 60+ lb sea kayak hanging on one shoulder. I don’t do that anymore.

Interesting factoid getting off topic: apparently biting insects like mosquitoes are more attracted to people on the introverted end of the personality spectrum because they “run hotter” than extroverts.

I have done a fair bit of both kayaking and canoeing. All of my kayaks have been sit-in models used with spray skirts and double bladed paddles. I very rarely use a double bladed paddle in canoes.

Here are some of what I perceive to be the advantages of each craft, most of which have already been mentioned. My remarks regarding kayaks apply to SINKs paddled using a skirt and a double bladed paddle.

Kayaks:

Vastly superior for the open ocean and conditions in which tall waves and breaking surf are expected to be encountered.

Generally easier for beginners to progress to a level of competency. The strokes are all symmetrical and the the boats generally feel more stable because of the paddler’s lower center of gravity.

Easier to use in whitewater. Although I have greatly enjoyed paddling canoes in whitewater, it is much easier to remain dry and warm in a kayak. Canoes take on water traversing large wave trains or in sustained rapids and become much more difficult to control. Kayaks can bust through waves and holes without taking on water. They are easier to surf with the double bladed paddle. Although I know some open boaters who claim canoes are easier to roll than kayaks, I have never found that to be the case. And even if you can roll up in an open boat, it will have a lot of water in it.

Kayaks catch a lot less wind. The double bladed paddle also allows for a higher stroke cadence for most people. Kayaks can be much more efficient in windy conditions or when one must pound out a lot of miles. Double bladed paddles can be used in canoes, but not all canoes are really suited for double bladding, and often the paddles have to be longer and heavier.

Canoes:

Much easier if one wants to paddle tandem. There are many lightweight tandem canoes available. There are good tandem kayaks, but they tend to be pretty heavy, very expensive, and the selection is more limited.

Better if you want to take along smallish children or dogs.

Easier to load and unload. Generally easier to portage. Canoes are the clear choice for canoe camping in lake country when multiple portages per day is often the norm.

Easier to move about in. Less claustrophobic for some. A canoe can generally be paddled successfully by individuals of quite different size. Not always true of a sit-in kayak.

Easier to enter and exit than a SINK.

More interesting to paddle. One typically uses a much greater panoply of strokes in canoeing.