What's the Difference Between Kayaking and Canoeing?

What's the Difference Between Kayaking and Canoeing?

Canoe or kayak?

Getting out on the water is a great way to enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. Motorized boats are fun but can be expensive and difficult to travel with. That’s why many RVers and campers opt for the self-propelled kind of watercrafts – canoes and kayaks.

Statistics compiled by the boating industry indicate that kayaks are twice as popular as canoes. In total, more than 24 million enjoyed exploring waterways on canoes or kayaks. An additional statistic shows that about 3 million kayaks have been sold in a 10-year period. Both also have a history of use, with canoe design dating back at least 10,000 years and kayak design going back at least 4,000 years.

Which is the better option? The answer to that lie in individual preferences, physiological considerations, skill levels and comfort.

There are some aspects of canoes and kayaks that are the same.

Both are propelled using a paddle. Typically, the canoe paddle is single-bladed and usually made from wood, and a kayak is two-bladed, with one on either end, and usually manufactured with man-made materials. The techniques to keep the vessel straight and make turns are similar, and require a little knowledge, skill and practice.

The design of canoes and kayaks are close to the same configuration. Many of the design characteristics apply to both equally. For example, longer boats tend to move quicker in the water than shorter length boats. Take for example the speed difference between a short recreational kayak and a longer one designed for open waters like the sea. The same is true when comparing a 16-foot canoe to an 18-foot canoe.

But it is in the differences between these two watercrafts that the choices lie.

Most canoes and some kayaks are open on top. Paddlers in a canoe sit higher in the vessel, typically on a bench seat, allowing the paddler to sit or even kneel while the canoe is being used. It is easier to load and carry large packs, coolers or camping gear in a canoe, which gives it more cargo capacity and room for passengers and pets.

Kayaks are designed with a deck which covers the top front and the paddler’s cockpit area. In a kayak, the paddler sits lower, in a seat with a backrest, which is more comfortable than canoe seats. It is also more difficult for a kayaker to move their legs while in the boat. Mobility is not an option in a kayak and storage is limited.

When it comes time to portage around an obstacle blocking the stream or from one water access point to another, canoes are usually the better option, due to the ability to load and off-load cargo and accessories, such as a portaging yoke, can make it easier to transport the canoe down a trail. Canoes also weigh less than kayaks, a definite advantage if the portage involves a long trek through the woods.

Kayaks are better designed to handle naturally occurring challenges from wind and rain. The open design of the canoe and the higher position of paddlers and passengers act as a wind drag, making it more difficult to maneuver and control in these conditions. Waves are also a challenge because a big enough wave can fill a canoe with its open design, while the deck on a kayak is fairly efficient at keeping out water.

Because of the design of the seats in a canoe, the canoe tends to be wider than a kayak, a compensation to make the canoe more stable in the water. The width of a kayak can also help it be less prone to instability. Recreational kayaks, for example, are engineered wider than touring kayaks, which although narrower, move more efficiently when underway.

When it comes to propelling a kayak or canoe through the water, it’s a toss-up. The single-blade canoe paddle requires more skill to learn how to steer or move the canoe straight through water. It involves switching from one side of the canoe to the other to properly navigate. Many paddlers find a kayak is better for novices to quickly learn the techniques, mostly because of the alternating paddling needed for a kayak happens with a rhythmic stroke of the two-blade paddle.

Whether you are using your canoe or kayak for sightseeing on the water, throwing a line in to fish, or simply getting some exercise in the great outdoors, all these activities can be enjoyed by either one. Depending on where you are headed, a lighter canoe may work better than a kayak, or a kayak may be more stable in windy and wavy conditions.

Seek out advice and take one or the other for a test run. Then, make your decision on which one works best for your lifestyle. Both a canoe and a kayak allow for an up-close-and-personal view of nature and can add enjoyment to your campsite adventures.

Jul 26th 2021 Lois Tomaszewski

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