kayak vs. canoe


Expedition Leader
Owning about 10 canoes and 4 kayaks, I'd say the issue isn't a disjunct. You need both depending on what you want to do. Canoes, decked and open, can be rolled as readily as kayaks so that's not an issue if you want to develop rolling skills. Even tandem canoes can be rolled upright. Both kayaks and canoes are specifically designed for the kind of water to be paddled. Paddling a whitewater solo canoe on a lake is often not a pleasure. Paddling a touring kayak on technical whitewater river, likewise. I'd say the most versatile craft in your situation would be an all-round tandem canoe since it can accommodate all three of you on lakes and rivers thru Class II and is useful for day paddling and overnight camping. For three people, I'd recommend at least a 17' canoe to provide enough room for overnight gear. The three of us on our family often used an 18 1/2' Mohawk Jensen WWIII for longer camping trips. It's not a very manoeverable boat but it's roomy enough for 7 days worth of gear for three. When our daughter was young, we'd use a 16' Blue Hole Starburst for overnight whitewater trips. I put a pedestal behind the stern seat (in place of the airbag) for our daughter to sit. It was easy for her to paddle back there as the boat is narrow at that point.


Way late joining in on this but it's been an interesting read. Lots of very great, valid comments but unless I missed it, no mention of efficiency and safety. From my experience:
- if you know how to paddle correctly (often overlooked) a kayak can either go a fixed distance much faster than a canoe or a greater distance for the same energy expended.
- kayaks are ocean and lake-friendly but canoes are dangerous in the ocean.
- as above for bad weather; I've been big lake kayaking when the weather suddenly changed and got really nasty. I was OK in my kayak but my canoe pals had to rush for the nearest land in a big hurry when wind and swells got bad.
- personally, I like being forced to only bring what I need by the limited storage space in my kayak; I should note that my Current Designs Extreme High-Volume has pretty big bow and stern pods. I used to be a bicycle and motorcycle camper so I'm used to limited storage and mini-gear. My canoe pals always bring way too much stuff, much of which they don't use.

A few more comments; owners of sea kayaks with rudders are too quick to drop rudder and use it all the time. I advise newbies to practice kayaking without the rudder and only use it when current/wind/swells start making things difficult. Learning to control the direction of a kayak with paddle alone is similar to learning how to J stroke properly in a canoe. I add this because so many kayakers I see on the water are so bad when it comes to paddling technique and this may have an influence on what type of water craft they choose to buy.


Active member
I don’t have any input on what type of craft to get, but I will urge you to stick to the water conditions that your craft and skill levels are rated. I’ve lost count of how any folks my water rescue team has had to rescue because they tried taking flat water (the ones from Wallyworld) kayaks through class 2-3 rapids.
Regardless what you get, have fun!


Officious Intermeddler
We’ve had and used both of your different choices quite a bit over the past 40 years …

So, some misc thoughts/pts based on our experiences:

How would you be Vehicle Transporting your boat?
Some cheaper brands of canoes can be awfully heavy to load up on a high roofed rig. Some kayaks long enough for three, the same.

Transporting from car to water, I’d say the same. Inflatable or folding kayaks might be easier to transport in both circumstances.

Self rescue if you capsize is might be easier in a canoe (although takes more work to bail it). Stay away from ridiculously tippy canoes like the older poly Colemans. With a youngster on board you might try adding outriggers for stability. Inflatable family sized kayaks are less tippy and much easier to climb back into if flipped, and self bailing rigs more easy to rid of water.

Someone mentioned the Sportspal canoes. I definitely second that great recommendation if you go the canoe route. These are very lightweight for their size, have foam insulation on the inside that helps reduce the bite of cold water transfer which otherwise makes passengers uncomfortable and helps floatation once tipped, and have built in side sponsons/floats to better stabilize the craft. These are wonderful play boats.

If you can find an old Folbot, these skin or aluminum frame hybrids fold for easy transport and storage, are deep bodied and high sided (very hard to tip, you can even stand up in them) and carry a large volume and weight of people/ gear.

Skin on frame Folbot out in the Georgia Strait, in some very calm water off of northern Vancouver Island

(Sorry for blurry pic)
Advanced Elements inflatable double kayak easily going against the current of a PNW river. We’ve confidently paddled this in the Pacific Ocean and the treacherous mouth of the Columbia River.


Active member
Old post but I would go with a kayak. Canoes are great but kayaks seem to do most things better in my experience. Unless speed is really important, I would get a folder. Take a look at Klepper (EU) and Long Haul (USA) folding kayaks. Bergans (Norway) makes a nice folding canoe, the Ally. An ideal configuration might be getting a tandem, it gives you a lot of flexibility and add a single or another tandem as needed and/or the kid(s) grows up.


Pontoon Admiral
Everything about boats is a trade off, easily packed inflatables won't track as well as a hard shell keeled boat, folders are better at tracking than inflatables but a solid keel is always the best.

Cargo/people capacity, the longer and wider the better, which also means heavier, slower and might need a trailer. Narrow and long is easier to paddle and will be faster. Long is harder to turn, short is easy to turn and they will without any real effort, so they don't track well.

A 5 year old has no business in a boat by themselves on any navigable waterway, period! Maybe in their own boat tied to Dad's boat, but that's really not a good idea for any distance.

I'd suggest you first define the waters you plan on paddling because that will dictate the best boat. Example; while younger, stronger with lots of energy, take on a string of faster rivers, shorter boats, like 8, 10 10/12 foot yaks. Later, taking on the Ohio River or Arkansas, slow big waters, I'd take a Freighter Canoe, 16-20 even 24 footer and for me, I have a large trolling motor as well.

I'd plan my trips to the waters best suited for the boat I was using at the time. If you don't have a boatyard available to you, sell the boat used on those waters already traveled and buy one for the new challenges.

My Zodiak was a fun boat by itself, the dingy for the Sea Ray Sundancer.

You don't want to try to make one boat do it all, you won't be happy; portage a 75 lb canoe for a mile or two and see what you think. (hauling everything else as well).

Your skill level dictates which is safer, a canoe or a yak, I prefer my 16ft Old Town canoe, heavy, still waters to heavy current that tracks well, day or weekend trippers. I also liked playing with my Pamlico 16' double holer', even had a sail rig for it.

Bought that Pamlico to take a trip in, it was to be for a non-profit fund raiser, dollar a mile. From our City lake, to the James River, to Table Rock Lake, then through other lakes along the White River to the Mississippi and on to the Gulf. That yak with the sail would have been a great trip, but the non-profit took a different event.
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