Kayaks paddling with canoes

I (a kayaker) have two paddling partners who are canoeists. Both want to go camping with me. I’m hesitant because (1) I’m afraid of what will happen to them if we run into “conditions”; and (2) my experience is that a solo canoe can’t keep up with a kayak.

In other words, a kayak can do things tha canoes can’t do, and do it more efficiently and safely. For example, what if we get stranded on an island because the canoes can’t make it back to the launch on a windy day?

Canoes and kayaks have a different camping style, too.

Can kayaks and canoes be compatible on tour?

Canoes & kayaks…

– Last Updated: Mar-16-13 11:51 PM EST –

The issue is not about compatibility between boats. Nor is the issue about camping styles of canoes & kayaks.
Boats are inanimate objects.

The issue appears to be between you & your "partners". If they can't go where you want, or do what you want........they are potentially NOT your partners.

I spent most of this past friday paddling whitewater with a small group of paddlers; 3 canoers, and 1 kayaker.
The kayaker was the least skilled of the 5 paddlers. We didn't run off & leave the kayaker. At one rapid; we even waited while the lesser skilled kayaker walked around a rapid.
We all started at point A & ended up at point B, together. Yes, we did have to "adapt" some, but we are all still paddling partners. We will almost certainly paddle together in the near future.


P.S. To find out what a skilled canoe paddler can do in a canoe; research Don Starkell. Wonder if he'd have let you tag along with him?

Speed is not an issue
Single blade canoe can keep up with a kayak and pass,

see it every year in recreational races here in Michigan.

Put skirts and float bags on a canoe - it can handle

anything a kayak has thrown at it, wind, waves, etc.


Skill of the paddler is another story…

It all depends

– Last Updated: Mar-17-13 12:10 AM EST –

Bob already covered it. I'll only add some details to the mix. A decent paddler in a decent solo canoe can easily keep up with the average kayaker, but usually not with skilled sea kayakers. If they want to paddle together, they still can. Strong winds definitely slow solo canoe paddlers more than kayakers, and if it's big water, the canoes might best go elsewhere. Since you are talking about possibly getting windbound on islands, such trips are probably better done with kayaks and there's nothing wrong with saying so. It goes both ways you know. I know some really good sea kayakers who I'd really NOT want with me on some of the small rivers I often paddle. It's frustrating enough putting up with their total inability to get in and out alongside steep river banks without assistance, but throw in a bunch of downed trees, and it's no place for kayaks at all. Some types of paddling will eliminate one type of boat or the other from contention and others allow both. It all depends on the details. You need to figure out which is the case, so there is no general answer to your question. I'll also add that even if there WERE a difference in the "style of camping" between canoers and kayakers (there are lots of canoe paddlers who travel light, and a more consistent difference between them is the speed with which they pack/unpack), that's not even relevant, as far as I can tell.

Speaking as one who kayaks and canoes
and is a retired psychologist, I’d say you don’t want to paddle camp with your friends.

I don’t know how good you are in a kayak, but if the water around that hypothetical island is too tough for most canoeists, it’s going to be too tough for many kayakers.

If you wanted to go camping with those guys, it would be easy enough to design a trip route and plan that would leave everyone happy.

Big group of mixed style boats
Last January I was with a group of 30 people that paddled down 40 miles of the lower Colorado River above Yuma, AZ. The boats in the group consisted of a pretty mixed lot of sea kayaks, recreational kayaks, touring kayaks, canoes, and a Hobie Catamaran. We had zero issues with a mixed group like that. Everyone there were experienced paddlers. We had very windy conditions and there were no serious problems with anyone or their boats.

If your friends that canoe are experienced and skilled with their boats, then you should be fine. Its not the boat that limits your capabilities, its the paddler.

We Do It All the Time!

With your attitude…

– Last Updated: Mar-17-13 6:55 AM EST –

I am guessing that you want to paddle with them, and then don't want you to.


As de ol’ Mingo sayin’ goes…

– Last Updated: Mar-17-13 9:13 AM EST –

It ain't de tool... it's de fool!

(Actooly, me Master cabinet-maker uncle always used ta say dat. Didn't reckon thaar waar Mingos in Germany! Whoda thinked?)


Do it all the time.
There has never been a problem including during multiday camping trips with varying water conditions. Its all about the group dynamics and how the paddlers get along not the type of boat they are paddling. One item we talk about ahead of time if new people are joining us is that each person is responsible for transporting their own gear. This is to avoid people looking at all that space in a canoe and figuring they can bring folding chairs etcetera and have the canoeist transport them. Even that has never been an issue but it gets the “new” person to practice packing everything in their boat at home. With shared gear we try and split as evenly as possible so no one becomes the pack mule.

I think that your canoe pals need to take you on a trip that has a bunch of portages. I’m sure their nice guys and will wait for you to catch up.

Since when was a camping trip a race?

canoe paddling with kayaks
I went on a river trip last summer, 3 kayaks and 2 canoes. The one solo canoe was always in the lead, couldnt keep up with him. He is a very seasoned paddler and could maneuver his canoe, better than anyone that was paddling that day. Im a kayaker, but have seen what an experienced paddler can do with a canoe. A lot depends on the paddler, not the type of kayak or canoe they are in. Keep paddlin and have fun!!!

Yes possible
As above, if the canoeists are good there really should not be a problem as far as speed goes. And canoes have done the Maine Island trail - but they are pretty good canoeists and are fully set up with float bags etc.

As far as conditions and rescues if needed, the answer is the same except that it also goes heavily to your own rescue skills. A kayaker can help rescue a canoe using very similar techniques to those used with another kayak, except for minor details like having to pass the canoe more fully over your own hull to dump out the water. And being a bit more secure in the balance in your own kayak to do so - I find that in my lower volume sea kayak I am sinking down a good bit about midway in that process. I would not recommend trying this without spending some time practicing rescues with a variety of canoes because there are a few minor diff’s that you don’t want to be figuring out the first time in significant wind and waves.

If your experience with these folks is that they are not particularly skilled canoeists, I’d look to that alone as an issue because it could affect handling problems on the water.

Went on a 4 day, slow-moving river trip
once, I was in my kayak along with two tandem/paddled solo canoes. A good friend of mine set it up and we knew each other pretty well. I like to move out, not really a racer, but not really casual either. He told me I could move out like I liked, just stop periodically so we could get together. So, I had the option. Sometimes I’d crank it up and sometimes I’d hang back and talk.

It was amazing to me how much stuff they could bring though! Two full sized tents, a folding table, big cooler, 24" cast iron frying pan for breakfast, etc. These guys liked to eat really well. Had a great time, everyone could do what they wanted, pretty much. Really laid back, had a great time.

Can canoes and kayaks travel together? I’d say yes, just be careful with your expectations.

Canoeists bring pies
Literally - we had a mixed canoe/kayak group of fellow workers, now fellow retirees, that have done an annual trip for years. One of the food calculations is how many pies to bring - intact - because of having the canoes. Yum!

Pie in the hatch …
A kayaking friend brought a home baked pie nicely

packaged and safely wrapped in her kayak hatch.

I helped her at the take-out, she went on shore,

I yanked the kayak cockpit up on my shoulder,

only to be met with screams about inverted pie :slight_smile:

Kayaks and pies don’t mix, if others carry your kayak.

the inverse problem
as a solo canoer when i plan an lead paddles and camping trips with my paddling friends i have the opposite problem. on day trips the kayakers have trouble with a difficult launch,having to get out at obsticals and shallow spots,and lunch break spot takouts. on overnights they have trouble with carrys and want a wilderness trip with none.they do also usually want to go faster. i have stopped trying to plan a compromise paddle. i plan it for the way i want and advertise it honestly so they can choose weather to come. you could do the same.


Sounds like you are talking about open water sea kayaking? Not knowing much about canoes but I have seen skirts and floatation can be added to canoes. BUT if they dont have that added to there canoes I wouldnt think sea kayaking to islands would be a good idea in a canoe without skirts and flotation.Iam I wrong? River tripping sure but open water sea kayaking not so sure without added equipment which they may or may not have. But then again your kayak needs a skirt too.

Thank you
That was a realistic answer.

Maybe I should have phrased my question something like, “Given paddlers of equal, moderate ability on large lakes prone to high winds . . . "

My worry is that a canoe could be overwhelmed more easily than a kayak. I would not have the skill to rescue a canoeist from my kayak. My attempt to do that would put us both at risk.

As a kayaker it’s hard to imagine an open craft 30” wide making much progress against a strong headwind that goes on for hours. That irritates and exhausts a kayaker, but it might just be impossible for a canoe. In those conditions what has saved me in the past was not my skill, but the kayak itself because:

a) it requires less energy than a canoe to keep moving forward against a headwind

b) it tracks better

c) double blading keeps it on course better

d) the low sitting position is more stable and aerodynamic

e) a kayak is more forgiving of paddler error. You can take a large wave over the bow and recover. You can take water in the cockpit and recover with a pump.

I’m starting to remember
I’m pretty sure I know you from a past life. I believe we met at Waterloo. Are you still mad about that?