Kayaking vs. Canoeing: Which is Better and Why

kayaking vs canoeing

In the world of water sports, there are few traditions as ancient and old school as kayaking and canoeing. These two sports have been around since sailors were navigating by stars and mapping uncharted territory on maps that didn’t exist yet.

With so much history to go back through it’s hard not to ask yourself which side you’ll be staying loyal with utility or comfort? Speed over sexiness? Do you like paddling in tandem or alone?

Although a kayak and a canoe seem similar, several differences make them best suited to different uses and environments. There’s a lot to know about canoeing, just like there is with kayaking. Think of all the different strokes it takes for paddling and steering!

Kayaking vs Canoeing: What’s the Difference

Here are some of the critical differences between kayaking and canoeing.

Open vs. Closed Design

The most significant difference between these two boats is their appearance. Kayaks are small, sleek boats designed for recreational purposes or speed, open-water sea paddling, or river tours. On the other hand, canoes are heavier and more extensive and have a broad frame and open-top, and are specifically designed for carrying passengers and more gear. This open-top is similar to a rowboat.


Canoes sit higher on the water, and they have tall slides than kayaks. The paddler needs to kneel on slats running the width of the beam or sit on the bench.

Comfort and Seating

Many people find it easy climbing aboard a canoe as compared to getting in and out of a kayak simply because of the canoe’s open-top design. You can steady yourself using the canoe’s sides or nearby stocks.

Unlike in canoes, getting into a kayak can prove to be a little challenging. If you are the paddler, you need to slide your legs inside the cockpit, which will in turn maintain balance to avoid tipping the boat.  Kayakers argue that once they get in their kayaks, they tend to have a bit more control and ease of paddling than canoeing. 

The good news for kayakers is that your kayak cockpit can be configured with back support but in general, canoes tend to offer more comfort. 

Kayaking vs. Canoeing: How to Paddle

Paddling a canoe is generally steeper at first than for a kayak. It takes much effort because canoes are heavier and bulky and more often require two people. Kayaks, on the other hand, have a blade on each end that is designed for use by a single paddler. 

kayaking vs. canoeing: paddling
canoe paddle
kayaking vs. canoeing: paddling
kayak paddle

The paddler needs to grip the middle of the paddle with both hands and alternate dipping each end in the water.

How Wet Will You Get?

Well, it will depend on the various factors. Generally, a paddler using a canoe tends to be drier than a kayak by virtue of sitting above the water.

A kayak can also fare better in open water or high waves because the cockpit keeps water out. You can also fit what is known as a spray skirt that will help you prevent water from getting in.

Maneuverability and Stability

Generally, a kayak will be faster and easier to maneuver than a canoe, but a canoe will, without a doubt, be more stable than a kayak. The reason behind this is because a kayak is narrower and built with the bow and stern slightly curved, meaning that the amount of hull in the water will be minimal.

When it comes to stability, canoes have the advantage for the opposite reasons. On calm waters, canoes wider will offer you the perfect equilibrium.

How You Use It

Kayaks and canoes can be used to undertake different activities including long-distance tours, fishing, river paddling, and camping, but they carry their benefits.

For instance, if you want to relax out on a calm lake with some friends or family, you can consider going for canoes as they offer more excellent storage. A kayak is best suited for the adventurous. You can use both of them on multi-day excursions or for touring.

Storing Your Gear

For a kayak and a canoe, carrying gear is a bit different. Canoes offer great flexibility with a wide deck where you can store larger coolers and other camping equipment. Most kayaks are fitted with more minor dry storage well located just behind the cockpit.

Kayaking vs Canoeing: Which is More Advantageous



  • Kayaks are more versatile
  • Kayaks are easier to maneuver and faster
  • Double-bladed paddles show that tracking and powering of the boat are easier.
  • Excellent stability in waves
  • Have dry storage for gear
  • Have more advanced safety techniques
  • Are more portable; easier to transport


  • Less stability compared to canoes when the water is calm 
  • Less freedom of movement
  • Sitting closely to the water means that you are more likely to get wet
  • It is quick to learn the basics, but it is harder to learn advanced techniques



  • Have ample room for more oversized gear items 
  • Perfect for a relaxing day out of the water
  • Best for dual-paddling
  • They have high walls which help keep out the water 
  • Lesser chances of capsizing because they have a broader beam and hull


  • Canoes are built for tandem purposes
  • Tracking is difficult as they move in a straight line
  • Lack waterproof storage
  • More difficult to transport and maneuver when heavy 

Kayaking vs Canoeing: All are Equal

Canoes and kayaks may be the same in some respects, but they are totally different. Can you tell which one is better for certain people?

When it comes to choosing between a canoe or kayak – there’s no clear answer because both have their advantages! Here are three of them: if speed is important then go with the watercraft that moves faster. Stability should be your focus when selecting from these two boats-you’ll want something stable enough to keep you afloat on windy days

Maneuverability will depend on what water sport activities you’re doing, for example, fishing vs paddling standing up (exploring). There’s only one way to find out which type works best for YOU–give each boat style a try before making any conclusion.