Kayak vs Canoe(which is better, what are differences)

Kayaking vs. canoeing is an age-old debate. There are enthusiasts and passionate defenders for both. If you have to choose a side and are confused about which one to choose then read on. Even though a kayak and a canoe may seem similar there are quite a number of differences between the two.


Key Differences Between Canoes and Kayaks

Here are some of the most significant differences that make canoes and kayak suitable for different environments and useful for different purposes

Open vs. Closed Design

The biggest and most noticeable difference between the two boats is their design. Canoes are similar to rowboats. They are heavier with a wide frame and an open top. While kayaks are small boats with sleek designs ideal for speed. Most kayaks have a closed top.

Getting In and Out

It is easier to get in and out of a canoe as compared to a kayak because in a canoe paddlers have to use its sides to steady themselves and then standup once inside. Getting inside a kayak is trickier because paddlers have to slide their legs inside the cockpit while maintaining their balance. Kayaks however offer more comfort and ease of paddling than canoes. But in general, a canoe’s open-top offers more freedom of movement.


Canoes being heavier and broader require more effort to paddle usually requiring two people. The paddle blade of canoes is shorter and has a single blade. Kayak paddles come with double blades and it is easier to paddle in kayaks because they are smaller and lighter. Moreover, pedal kayaks come with pedal propulsion systems that make pedaling effortless using just the legs and no upper body strength.

In a kayak, the paddler is seated and uses a double-bladed paddle pulling the blade through the water on alternate sides to move forward.
In a canoe, the paddler kneels and uses a single-bladed paddle to propel the boat forward.


Stability and Maneuverability

Canoes offer more stability while kayaks are easier to maneuver and control. Kayaks are narrower. Their bows and sterns are curved slightly upwards and less of their hull is in the water. This means that lesser resistance is faced while paddling kayaks because lesser water needs to be displaced. But when it comes to stability canoes provide much better stability as compared to kayaks because canoes are sturdier. Their hull is also wider which allows for greater stability

Storing Gear

Canoes in general provide more space for storage than kayaks. Their wide deck is capable of storing camping equipment and larger coolers and all of this easily within reach. Larger kayaks offer adequate storage that is generally below deck in cargo holds. Some kayaks have dry storage behind the cockpit. This makes accessing gear while kayaking a bit difficult though. But in case of a capsize or high wave your electronics and camping gear stands a better chance in a kayak as compared to a canoe. But this aspect makes canoes easier to carry over dry land as you do not need to empty the cargo holds first.

How Wet Can you get

In general, a canoe sits higher above water so it might be assumed that it will keep you dryer. But a kayak proves to be a better option for staying dry when it comes to open waters because of its closed top that prevents water from getting in. It can also be covered with a spray skirt. A spray skirt is a piece of fabric that can cover the cockpit to stop water from seeping in. A canoe is harder to capsize than a kayak. But a kayak can easily be righted if it tips over. Learners are taught safety techniques like the “Eskimo roll” for sea kayaking.


Kayaks are easier to transport as they can be carried on almost any kind of vehicle because they weigh less. Nowadays kayaks feature inflatable and foldable designs that make them much easier to transport as compared to canoes. Canoes are bulkier and weigh more so they can not be transported using just any vehicle. They can be transported in SUVs but even then you can not fit two canoes in one SUV.

A kayak is easier to paddle for a single person. A canoe is easier for 2 people. Kayaks are easier to propel. Canoe is easier to load gear.

First of all, let’s get the basic idea of what Kayak and Canoe are.


A canoe is a lightweight narrow vessel that is pointed at both ends and is open on top. It can be propelled by more than one person. The paddlers are seated facing the direction of travel using a single-bladed paddle.


A kayak is a small and narrow watercraft that is propelled by the means of a double-bladed paddle. Usually, it is propelled by a single person facing the direction of travel. It has a closed top and the cockpit is sometimes covered with a spray deck preventing the entry of water by waves.

So, which one is easier? That is a difficult question since both the Kayak and the Canoe have their own advantages and disadvantages which makes a different impression of ‘easy’ in the eye of the paddler. A kayak may be easy for a single person but a canoe has an upper hand in accommodating more people. A canoe may be difficult for you but easy for some other individual. Many factors play a role in determining which is easy which varies from person to person.

1. Which is faster?

For some people, speed matters in determining which watercraft is easier. By their designs, the speeds of kayak and canoe depend on their lengths. However, since kayaks are lighter in weight than canoes, so having similar lengths, a kayak will be faster than a canoe. Kayaks are widely used and are easy to transport from one place to another.

2. Which is more stable?

In some people’s minds, ‘easy’ means more stable. A canoe is more stable than a kayak of the same length. Its stability makes it easier to handle on large waves and fast-moving water, while on the other hand, a kayak is much less stable and has a tendency to tip over when faced with large waves or fast-moving water.

3. Which is more comfortable?

Comfort is an important factor while comparing kayak and canoe. A lot of people want comfort to be their priority while traveling across the water. Canoes have an opened top and have a larger area to accommodate more people along with their belongings which can be easily fitted in the open top of a canoe. Moreover, the higher sitting position in canoes permits people to see the water ahead more clearly, take better photographs, and even fish with more ease.

However, on the other hand, kayaks have a closed top making it very difficult to see the water ahead and with not much space, it offers very less area to accommodate many belongings. It requires a lot of effort to take a picture while moving in a kayak. A canoe is perfect for going out with kids, family, and bringing camping gears along with food supplies while a kayak is ideal for an individual seeking adventure in the water.

4. Which is easier to paddle?

Paddling is required to move whether it is a kayak or canoe and can be really exhausting. It plays a vital role in comfort. Kayaks are easier to paddle and propel due to their less surface area in contact with the water surface offering less friction. Kayaks also have double-bladed paddles making paddling more reliable.

For this reason, kayaks are ideal for propelling in a straight line and are good in rough waters. While it is harder to paddle canoes due to their larger weight and more surface area in contact with water causing more friction. Moreover, canoes have a single-bladed paddle. So, canoes turn better and are perfect for dry paddling trips.

5. Which is easier to load and unload?

Loading and unloading can be a fair problem while using watercraft to travel. Due to their open-top and wide accommodation area, canoes are easy to load and unload while on the other hand, kayaks give you a hard time loading and unloading due to their close top.

So, which are easy, kayaks, or canoes? The answer depends purely on what your requirements are. Both the kayaks and the canoes are unique in their own ways. If you are an adventurer seeking thrill and fast travel in the water, a kayak is ideal for you. But, if you want more comfort with a large space and a better view, a canoe is perfect for you.

There is no right answer to this debate Whatever one you choose depends upon your needs and the purpose for which you are using it as well as the types of water you want to go on. Both have their pros and cons and whatever one you choose will give you an exciting and enjoyable time.

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