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Kayaks vs. Canoes: What's The Difference?

Jan 7, 2008
Thousands of recreational boaters have a difficult time choosing between a kayak and canoe. There are plusses and minuses to both watercrafts. Most of your decision will lie with your planned use for the canoe or kayak. Fishermen going out in small groups will probably find kayaks to be of little use, while those who want to go bird watching will find kayaks to be a better choice.

Kayaks are very small and sleek, usually fitting only one or two people. You actually sit on the floor of the kayak making it less prone to tipping in high winds or white water rapids. Within a kayak, you are sitting facing forward with your legs stretched out in front of you towards the nose of the kayak. If you go on a long river journey, this position can become extremely uncomfortable. Kayaks are much quieter in the water making them popular choices for those who want to do some fishing or who plan to watch for wildlife along the way.

As kayaks do sit lower, it is common for water to splash inside the craft causing your backpacks or other gear to get wet. Purchasing a kayak skirt can prevent some of the water from getting in. Storage on a kayak is tight. Bags are pushed to the nose or back of the kayak, so once you start your journey, you will not be able to access anything in an emergency unless you have it stored on your body. You are sitting on the floor of the kayak, however, so they can be extremely difficult for a novice to get into and/or out of after a kayaking journey.

Canoes are larger and can fit up to four people. You sit on small benches or can kneel on the floor. It is possible to change your position frequently providing you remain balanced to keep the canoe from tipping. Because they ride higher in the water, your gear is far more likely to remain dry providing the weather is nice and the water is relatively calm. Waves or rain will cause the inside of a canoe to get wet. It is also much easier to access your bags on a canoe. Canoes are larger which makes them bulkier to maneuver in the water. If a strong wind is blowing, you spend the majority of your time using oars to keep the canoe facing forward. They are also more prone to tipping in white water or strong winds.

Priced pretty similarly, ultimately your decision is not going to be affected by the cost. It will all come down to the intended use. Make sure you talk it over with a dealer for a canoe or kayak that will meet your needs and perform well in the areas where you plan to use it.
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