Which Boat Fits You Better–Kayak or Canoe?

Canoe versus Kayak OR is it just another word for the same thing?

According to the North American definition, a canoe differs from a kayak by the form of the paddles and (sometimes) the sitting position of the paddler.

A kayak is characterized by two-bladed paddles (one on each end) and thus is quite narrow because the length of the paddle is limited. That makes it fast. The Paddlers are often covered by a removable spraydeck. Apart from preventing water intake and protecting the passenger, this skirt enables sometimes even to roll the kayak upside down, without losing the sportsman on the way. A modern design is the “sit on top” kayak, where the paddler sits in a mold on the deck putting only the legs inside the body of the boat.

In a canoe, the paddler uses a single-bladed paddle (one blade at one end and a t-grip at the other) and sits or sometimes kneels facing the travel direction. This enables wider constructions and thus more “family-like” boats. In change, navigation and taking up speed is more difficult, at least in the beginning.

Anyway, both are small and narrow boats, typically human-powered – though a canoe may also be sailed or powered by a small motor.

Canoe in Thailand

In a canoe, there is quite some storage space for useful things ...

Which boat is the best for you? Well, it depends …

  • Are you a sportive person or do you need comfort and space?
  • Do you love high speed or rather enjoy the countryside slowly sliding by?
  • Do you like a slim or a corpulent one?
  • Do you mind getting wet?

Thing is, you cannot have everything at the same time. Go for the latest fashion, be incredibly fast, have enough storage space to take your kitchen with you and be dry all the time – you better look for a yacht. But then, where are the feelings left, those of wilderness and nature, and the exercise?

Some features of a canoe:

  • It is rather comfortable getting in and out
  • Storage space is bigger than in a kayak
  • You might take your family with you, including kids and dogs – in some of them
  • You might not want to test it on class 3 rapids
  • You probably get wet, especially with rain and wind
  • Changing your position – kneeling, sitting, sleeping :) – is possible most of the time
  • You might not be the winner in a race, but train your skills anyway – as it requires to maneuver with one-blade paddles

In opposite a kayak:

Waterfall Kayaking

In a kayak, you control every stroke with your double-bladed paddle - hopefully ...

Well, it’s not really the opposite because they have more in common than separate – but for the sake of this article, it should.

  • You control every stroke with you double bladed paddles – at least you have the illusion of doing so
  • You are centimeters above the water, as in a lowered sports car
  • Slim as you are, you tend to be amazingly fast – sexy, isn’t it?
  • Rain or spray? Just close your spray deck.
  • You pay for with being relatively inflexible in your position, so don’t be afraid getting a bit stiff after hours
  • Squeezing kids and a dog inside – impossible

Fortunately, as per today, there are quite a lot of mixed species, especially when it comes to inflatable boats.

So, don’t care as much about wording. Compare the real feature of a boat instead, and what people say. Our canoe and kayak reviews might help you …

Good choice and control


Mike Fischer, canoeing and kayaking fan & author

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