Canoe vs Kayak | Which is Better for You?

Canoe vs Kayak | Which is Better for You?

AQ Staff
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This article is about the differences between a Canoe vs Kayak, to help you decide which one is the better choice for you. You're probably looking into getting one or the other and have plenty of questions, like which is easier or better between a canoe vs kayak, if they flip easily, and many other questions.

So, let’s explore which one is better for you. We’ll cover what makes a canoe different from a kayak, and how you can use those differences to your advantage in choosing a canoe vs kayak.



Is It Easier to Carry Kids and Dogs in a Canoe vs Kayak?

I grew up participating in a Sea Scouting program in the land-locked province of Alberta so I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of experience paddling lakes and rivers. If you were to ask me which boat style I prefer, canoe vs kayak, my first question to you would be “well, who am I going with?” 

As someone who has spent time as a summer camp counsellor, I can confidently say that if I’m going on the water with someone who is not going to be very stable in the boat, then a canoe will be my first choice every time. The reason for this being that canoes have a much larger surface area on the bottom, which makes them incredibly stable. That stability does come at the cost of not being able to maneuver as easily, but the payoff is well worth it for recreational paddlers in this position. 

A canoe is stable and does not flip easily, vs a kayak.

Canoe vs kayak for kids? If you have an independent child, there are individual kayaks that your child can try but they may spend a bit more time in the water rather than on it. For flat water, I like the Old Town Heron Jr or for rivers, think Dagger Rewind XS. 

Old Town Heron Jr Kids Kayak

Old Town Heron Jr Kids Kayak


Recreational and Touring Kayak Buying Guide Which is Best for Lakes: Recreational or Touring Kayak? Canoe vs Kayak Beginners Guide to Recreational Kayak Gear Kids, this is your boat. And what a performer! The Old Town Heron Jr Kids Kayak is… Read More

You'll Stay Drier in a Canoe

I was lucky to be a sea kayaking guide in New Zealand for a short period and all too often I had taken a group of tourists out for the day who didn’t want to get wet. If this is you, my only solution is to (you guessed it) not go paddling. However, there are ways to mitigate the amount of water ending up in your boat!

Kayaks naturally have a closed cockpit design which means they give less opportunity to water splashing in your lap. If you want to ensure a dry butt at the end of your day, you can also pop a skirt on your kayak (just make sure you know how to use it!).

Canoes are also much drier than you would expect, especially on flat water. Between the higher freeboard (section of boat above the water) and a single bladed paddle not dripping in your lap as often, this choice is a win until it rains.


Canoe vs Kayak: Which One Flips Easier?

The other main concern I hear from beginner paddlers is “am I going to flip?” which is a fair question. If you try hard enough, you can flip any watercraft, but the wider your boat is the more stable it will be.

Canoes are famously more stable than kayaks because of this, but sitting above the water level also means you have a higher centre of gravity. Wider kayaks are making their way into the recreational paddling scene, giving canoes a run for their money, of which the Wilderness Systems Pungo or the Old Town Loon are great examples. 

Old Town Loon 126 Recreational Kayak

Old Town Loon 126 Recreational Kayak


Recreational and Touring Kayak Buying Guide Which is Best for Lakes: Recreational or Touring Kayak? Canoe vs Kayak Beginners Guide to Recreational Kayak Gear The Old-town-loon-126-recreational-kayak is an all-round recreational kayak for medium or larger paddlers. The Old-town-loon-126-recreational-kayak has all the standard… Read More

Better Ease of Entry: Canoe vs Kayak

Ease of entry and exit are one other reason to choose a canoe over a kayak. I have spoken to many people in the AQ Outdoors shop who are very keen to get on the water, but are claustrophobic and scared to get trapped in a kayak in the event of a flip, or have mobility issues.

The accessibility of an open cockpit boat like a canoe is unmatched in this case. You may also consider a sit-on-top kayak like the Jackson Staxx if this sounds like you. Sit-on-tops and canoes offer the best versatility for those of you wanting to bring a dog along as well. 

Jackson Staxx Sit On Top Kayak

Jackson Staxx Sit On Top Kayak


Recreational and Touring Kayak Buying Guide Which is Best for Lakes: Recreational or Touring Kayak? Canoe vs Kayak Beginners Guide to Recreational Kayak Gear The Jackson Staxx Sit On Top Kayak is easy to paddle, easy to store, super customizable,… Read More

Which is Easier: Canoe vs Kayak?

which is easier canoe vs kayak

Kayaks come with the distinct advantage of a double-bladed paddle. Being able to put in a stroke on both sides of the boat without having to swap your grip means you get more power out of your strokes and you can move forward faster. Being seated in the middle of the boat, low to the water also gives you major maneuverability perks. And nevermind the back support.

On the flip side, canoes have a different balance point which makes it easier to keep tracking in a straight line (especially if you have a keel: that distinct “V” shape on the bottom of the canoe). The higher seat on a canoe gives you a higher vantage point to observe your surroundings, and the flexibility to change your stance to stay comfortable over a longer day. 

Different shaped boats excel at different things. A longer boat stays in a straight line easier, but is harder to turn. Something short does the opposite: Spin on a dime but be difficult to keep going in one direction. If you’re only paddling rivers, then a long slender sea kayak isn’t going to do you many favours.

In the long run, paddling and managing a canoe has a steeper learning curve. Canoe strokes are more specific and require more power to be effective, so you will be forced to learn a lot very quickly in order to have proper boat control.

Kayaks are much easier to start paddling but don’t educate you on fluid dynamics and paddling technique, so you will need to take a course on proper paddling form or running rapids if you're planning on kayaking in moving water.

However, once you have the basics down, the time to master paddle strokes and technique is a lot faster for canoeing rather than kayaking.


Tandem Kayak vs Canoe

tandem kayak vs canoe

The main advantage for a tandem kayak or canoe is that you only have to carry and store one boat. This is especially the case if you plan on always paddling with a partner. On that note, boat transportation has become so much easier thanks to boat cart technology like the C-Tug, but having another person to help you can make a world of difference.

Communication is your best friend here. Tandem kayaks are nicknamed “divorce boats” for a reason. Remember those double-bladed paddles? Unlike a canoe, you cannot paddle on opposite sides of the boat here or use finesse strokes to correct your steering. This style of kayak will either exponentially enhance your bond with your paddling partner, or have you using the original meaning of the Latin word tandem: At length.

If you want the best of both worlds, (like an open cockpit, but a low centre of gravity,) then I recommend something like the Wilderness Systems Pamlico. This boat is a quirky style and fairly specific to the manufacturer, giving recreational paddlers a unique experience. 

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T Kayak

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T Kayak


Recreational and Touring Kayak Buying Guide Which is Best for Lakes: Recreational or Touring Kayak? Canoe vs Kayak Beginners Guide to Recreational Kayak Gear Looking for a two-person kayak? The Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T Kayak best-selling tandem offers performance for pairs. The… Read More

Canoes vs Kayaks: Which is Better - Summary

Consider your lifestyle when choosing the best boat for you. Do you want something light that’s going to fit on the roof of your Honda Civic, or something robust that has loads of carrying capacity for your weekend trip gear? Also consider who you'll be bringing with you, if you plan of paddling moving water, if you want something that won't easily tip, or something that's just easy to paddle.

Both canoes and kayaks come in all shapes and sizes, designed to perform well on different types of terrain. Long, flatwater touring? Try a Delta 17 or an Esquif Prospecteur 17.

Delta 17 Ruddered Kayak

Delta 17 Ruddered Kayak


Recreational and Touring Kayak Buying Guide Which is Best for Lakes: Recreational or Touring Kayak? Canoe vs Kayak Beginners Guide to Recreational Kayak Gear The Delta 17 Ruddered Kayakis an excellent choice for paddlers looking to cruise on lakes, paddle… Read More

Esquif Prospecteur 17 T-Formex Canoe

Esquif Prospecteur 17 T-Formex Canoe


Canoe vs Kayak: Which is Better for You? Canoe Trip Packing List: Essentials for a Safe Journey How to Transport a Canoe How to Choose and Size a Canoe Paddle This boat is the workhorse of river expeditions. It has… Read More

Sold Out

Running rivers and want to play? Give a Jackson Antix a go! If you want to learn more, check out our Jackson Antix 2.0 review.

Jackson Antix 2.0 - Medium

Jackson Antix 2.0 - Medium


The New Jackson Antix 2.0 Medium is a new take on the half slice movement. When we received our first demo models in, we got to the water expecting to compare them with the Pyranha Ripper or Dagger Rewind style… Read More

Want something in between? Crossover styles like a Dagger Katana are the way to go. There are so many different subcategories for styles of both canoes and kayaks that it’s really worth considering what kind of paddling you want to do first.  

Dagger Katana 10.4 Kayak

Dagger Katana 10.4 Kayak


Recreational and Touring Kayak Buying Guide Which is Best for Lakes: Recreational or Touring Kayak? Canoe vs Kayak Beginners Guide to Recreational Kayak Gear The Dagger Katana 10.4 Kayak is a crossover kayak that truly excels in any water. Designed to inspire… Read More

The best advice I can give you is to try out a few styles to see what you like, take an AQ Outdoors Paddling Course and do your research. The perfect boat for you is out there but, in the meantime, don’t wait for it to come along to start. Keep paddling.

Shop AQ Outdoors Canoe Collection

Shop AQ Outdoors Kayak Collection

Other Canoeing and Kayak Articles


Canoe Trip Packing List

How to Choose and Size a Canoe Paddle

Essential Recreational Kayaking Gear

How to Transport a Canoe

Recreational vs Touring Kayak Buying Guide

Parts of a Canoe | Detailed Diagrams


AQ Outdoors Paddling Courses


AQ Outdoors Contact

Edmonton:  (p) 780 463-4892 (e)

Calgary:  (p) 403 288-9283  (e)

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