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  • Canoe vs Kayak: What Are the Differences?

    by Ringo Ladue December 12, 2021 6 min read

    Canoe vs Kayak: What Are the Differences? Red Canoe on the left and Orange kayak on the right. The border around the rectangle is red, black, and orange.

    Canoe vs Kayak: What Are the Differences?

    The first canoes were built about 10,000 years ago. Nearly five millenia later, humans were also using kayaks to travel across large bodies of water. Consequently, kayaks are often thought to be upgraded canoes. 

    However, canoes have some features that a kayak lacks, and vice versa. This guide will compare canoe vs. kayak to showcase their unique qualities and explore their differences. 

    Which vessel might be the right choice for your outdoor adventure? Let's find out!

    Benefits of Kayaking and Canoeing

    Paddling a canoe or kayak through the water might look easy, but if you aren't in shape you might find yourself feeling a little sore over the next few days. Both paddlesports are great aerobic and strength building activities.

    Kayaking and canoeing can both be great ways to enjoy some fresh air and exercise. After all, while this activity does help improve upper body strength, it's also an aerobic activity that can help improve your lung capacity and circulation.

    Several health benefits are associated with kayaking and canoeing, including:

    • Reduced levels of stress and anxiety; in a natural way!
    • Increased muscle strength. Particularly in the arms, shoulders, and abdominal muscles.
    • Improved alertness and focus. Exercise clears and strengthens your mind in addition to your muscles.
    • Improved lung and heart health. Paddlesports are by far one of the most enjoyable ways to help our health. Get a good report from your doctor by increasing your kayak and canoe use!
    • Decreased insomnia symptoms. Exercise can have great effects on bodies that don't want to turn off.
    • Increased feelings of joy and satisfaction. There may not be a better way to feel some extra joy than paddling in the sun while improving our health.

    Taking your kayak or canoe out onto the water might be the perfect way to enjoy a healthier body and mind. And if the weather is clear and sunny, you can soak up some sun and get some much-needed vitamin D!

    So, if you've been searching for an outdoor activity that can keep you fit and feeling great, you might will definitely want to consider kayaking and canoeing! 

    Canoe Guide

    Canoes are some of the earliest waterborne vessels created by humans. Ancient peoples likely built the first canoes out of hollowed-out tree trunks.

    This method of digging out wood to create a floating vessel gives these ancient canoes their name: Dugout canoe. 

    Early humans created these primitive water vessels to cross lakes and rivers. These communities also used dugout canoes for fishing. And for the most part, modern people use canoes in much the same way.

    That said, contemporary canoes aren't typically made of hollowed-out trees. Instead, they're made of lightweight plastic, fiberglass, or high-grade inflatable pvc. However, some of these vessels can be just as heavy as their prehistoric counterparts. 

    The Anatomy of a Canoe

    Canoes are remarkably simple, and their design hasn't changed much over the last several thousands of years. For example, most canoes have a slightly tapered body that's widest in the middle.

    They have open seating areas, a bow, and a stern. However, they're otherwise hollow and lacking in features. In this way, canoes are some of the simplest water vessels.

    Kayak Guide

    The first kayaks were likely created by the Inuit and Aleut people more than 5,000 years ago. These vessels were made of light driftwood or a combination of animal skins and bones. (Cool, right?)

    After all, there aren't many trees in the Arctic, so dugout canoes weren't a possibility for these hardy people.

    Early Inuit kayaks had two primary purposes: Helping people cross frigid waters and giving hunters a strategic advantage against seals, walruses, and other native animals.

    Today, kayaks are still used for fishing and transportation. However, they're also an excellent source of recreational fun. Kayakers can enjoy lazy floats down slow-moving rivers or fast-paced excitement on white river rapids. 

    The Anatomy of a Kayak

    Generally, kayaks are long, thin water vessels that are designed to support a single person. Much like a canoe, the widest part of a kayak is its center.

    That said, there are multi-person tandem and group kayaks that have broad-yet-tapered bodies. But these also tend to have enclosed sitting areas, known as cockpits.  

      Canoe vs. Kayak: Differences Explained

      When comparing a canoe vs. kayak, the first thing that becomes evident is that canoes are far heavier and more challenging to maneuver. Canoeing typically is best with at least 2 people, while kayaking can be a solo activity.

      Additionally, canoeing is typically a slow-paced recreational activity. But there are several ways to kayak. You can go fishing, tackle white water rapids, or enjoy a tranquil float down a gently flowing stream.

      Unlike canoes, most kayaks have a wraparound body with a small central opening that allows paddlers to sit down inside. Many kayaks also have an enclosed hatch or bungee cord securing area; some have more than one.

      This hatch or securing area acts as a small storage space for accessories or dry items. Canoes, on the other hand, don't have cockpits or storage hatches; although you can store things in the open areas of the canoe.

      Canoeing and Kayaking Tips for Beginners

      Are you interested in learning to kayak or canoe? If so, you may want to know that kayaking is often easier to master than canoeing. That's because most kayaks are lightweight, making them far easier to control and faster.

      Getting the hang of canoeing typically takes time and plenty of practice. Heavy canoes can be challenging to navigate, especially when floating across shallow rivers or through weedy marshes.

      To ensure you enjoy your first few kayaking or  canoeing experiences, you can improve your chance of success with these tips:

      • Practice your paddling technique
      • Prepare a change of clothing
      • Invest in a comfortable seat
      • Bring plenty of sunscreen
      • Check the weather in your area
      • Double-check your gear 
      • Let friends or family know where you are and what you're doing
      • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages

      Remember, canoes have wide-open seating areas. So it's easy to get a little wet when paddling in a canoe. That's why it's an excellent idea to have a dry change of clothes and some sandals ready.

      You might also want to consider investing in a comfortable seat. The bench-style seating in most canoes can wreak havoc on your back, especially if you're unaccustomed to sitting unsupported.

      Wearing sunscreen can also save you some grief. Unfortunately, many beginner-level canoers forget to apply sunscreen before paddling out onto the water, resulting in unpleasant and painful sunburns.

      Lastly, you could end up feeling a little worse-for-wear if you decide to go kayaking during inclement weather or without emergency equipment. Avoiding these common kayaking mistakes is key to enjoying your time on the water.

      Inflatable Kayaks and Canoes

      High-quality inflatable kayaks and canoes are exceptionally portable, allowing owners to make spontaneous trips to local parks and rivers. Imagine being able to explore the wild outdoors at a moment's notice! Inflatable kayaks and canoes offer that freedom.

      Because kayaks are well-suited to both individuals and partners, anyone can go kayaking. But, of course, you might want to familiarize yourself with some beginner-level tips and tricks if you're new to paddlesports.

      Final Thoughts

      As much as we have talked about their differences, it is important to note that overall concept of both paddlesports is very similar. Both kayaking and canoeing are paddlesports that you are likely to enjoy and get health benefits. Our overall message is to pick one and get out on the water. There is no doubt that you will have a smile on your face and will thoroughly enjoy your day!

      We would love to help you learn more about fun water activities.  Be sure to contact us today with any questions; we are standing by. Thanks for reading. Now get out on the water and have some fun!

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