Canoe vs Kayak: Which One Should I Buy?

Shaun Chung Kayak, side-postgallery1 Leave a Comment

As with anything in life, whether you want to go out on a beautiful, sunny day in a canoe or kayak is a matter of personal choice. 

There are many benefits to both and depending on personality, where you would like to go and what you want to do. Either could be conducive to your activities.  Probably the biggest difference is where you want to go.

In short, I personally recommend kayaks over canoes. And inflatable kayaks would be good choice especially if you don’t want your kayak to take up much space at your place.


The kayak is most likely going to be your best option if you want to go out in the larger bodies of water, more exposed water or the seas and oceans.  They sit a little bit lower to the water and your center of gravity is a bit lower making you more protected.


The canoe is designed more for inland-style water like working around smaller islands, going around rivers or inland lakes when you’re carrying your camping gear around with you to find a favored spot.


Canoes are also more inline for setting up camp in that you can bring the whole family including your dog with you for the trip.  It is completely open concept allowing for carrying all of the gear while leaving room for the kids and your pet.


Benefits on the canoe with its openness include storage capacity, can carry an ice chest for the fish that you catch.  You sit about five inches from the bottom of the boat so you have a better view of the scenes around you.


With a kayak, you can get a double seat and you can bring more than one person in order to go on a nice trip. But it’s not as family-oriented as the canoe.  It won’t allow for the closeness of the whole trip that the canoe does, and there is not enough room for both camping gears and Rover. You also sit much lower and seeing an expansive view of the surrounding area is not really an option.

The nice thing about both the canoe and the kayak is you can just take them out on a nice sunny day and float, relax, watch nature, destress.  There’s no cell phone, only positive health benefits for both.  Getting to the water is a bit of a challenge in some ways for the canoe.

Being heavy and awkward is a downside for the canoe.  It’s cumbersome and difficult to maneuver while carrying it from the car to the water.  It’s actually recommended that you perform exercises to keep your shoulders, back and arms in shape to be able to carry it.  If you get the desire to go canoeing, it’s a bit of a process to load it up and get everything ready to go.

Having much less weight to it, the kayak can be put over your shoulder and carried with much more ease to the water.  It’s something that if you get the urge that you want to go out on the water spur of the moment, it takes virtually no planning.  You can just throw it on your roof rack with the paddle, get there, unload and your off.  Simple and easy.

Paddling is another thing that can be a chore or a piece of cake.  A kayak has the privilege of having a double bladed paddle which just requires side to side action.  It’s a much more smooth movement than that of the canoe which requires that you turn your entire body to go from one side completely to the other due to the single bladed paddle. And the paddle is also shorter than that of the kayak.

It takes more effort to paddle the canoe at top speed which can tire a person out easily causing you to take more breaks.  It takes some skill as well to paddle a canoe in a straight line especially if you don’t have a partner.  It’s much easier to paddle a canoe with two people.

Because the kayak is easier to paddle it is a good alternative for the beginning boater.  It’s a bit simpler to control than the canoe. As it sits closer to the water, it has more stability and allows for better balance.

A difficulty with the kayak is a lot of them are hard to get in and out of.  Most have a small port where the canoe is all open.  The canoe is nice because you can stand up in it while you’re fishing, kneel, move around from position to position. It allows for comfort.  With the kayak, you are kind of stuck in one position. Going out for a long period of time causes discomfort.

There are versions of the kayak, though, where you can sit on top. This version does allow for you to stand, do your fishing and allows a bit more freedom of movement.  The kayak has many features built in that make it so that it does not take in water.  There is a skirt that you can put around the opening to keep water out of the port.  There are also drains in the kayak itself where if any water comes up on it, it will drain right off.

If water gets in the canoe, you are kind of stuck with it.  There’s not really any place for it to go.  Because it’s so open, if you go out into heavier waters or catch yourself in rougher waters, you will take some into the boat.  The kayak does really good in the rough water.  Canoe not so much.  The kayak can also ride through shallow water but a canoe doesn’t do really well in shallow waters.  It needs more than just a little bit to get itself going.

Kayaking vs Canoeing for Seniors


Seniors enjoy both, but the canoe is a little heavy and cumbersome for senior citizens to have to maneuver by themselves.  A kayak is great for them, and there are plenty that are designed that are easy for them to be able to get in and out of without any trouble.


The thing with the kayak and seniors is they are great for beginners and they are easy to learn.  It’s good for joints.  This is perfect for socialization activities.  You need to use memory skills to be able to go out and find your way from place to place.

Some TIPS to think about if you’re a senior considering beginning kayaking:

  • Heavy –  You want to get a very light-weight material for your kayak.  You don’t want anything heavy to have to lug around.  They recommend wood as a good possibility.  Manufacturers of kayaks are catering to seniors because they’re seeing a growing interest in this population.  They want to make them lighter to be more conducive to their backs.
  • Paddles – You need to invest in good paddles.  Again, this is something that needs to be light-weight possibly wood, longer, narrower and something that can be maneuvered in an easy way.  Do research, ask the sales staff when purchasing what the simplest for rowing would be.
  • Cart –  Possibly buy a cart that you can use to transport your kayak from the car to the water.  This way you can concentrate on walking in the rough terrain around you especially the rocks which can be difficult to cross over.  You want to walk in between the rocks rather than walking over them to avoid falls.
  • Safety – This is the most important.  Always let family know where you plan to travel, the route you are going to take, what time you plan to return.  Take things with you in case of worst conditions e.g. changes in weather.  Maybe have rain clothes with you, put your cell phone in something weather resistant and make sure it is fully charged. Also bring something that can make noise in case you get stranded, bring some food, always wear a life jacket when you go out.
  • Busy – Try not to go out at busy times.  It’s best to go out when the water is not full of other boaters.  Nicer times to go would be early in the morning, off days.  Don’t try to go on the weekends, during heavy summer vacation times, or during holidays.  You don’t want to have to work yourself around other boats and lots of other people.  Take it when it’s calm and relaxing.  Don’t add stress to your otherwise non-stressful day of fun.
  • Exercise –  Keep your body moving on days that you’re not kayaking. You can work out your arms and shoulders with light dumbbells, and walk to keep your legs active.  Keep your core moving.  This will make the rowing and the actions you have to do with the kayaking less taxing on the body than it needs to be.

Seniors seem to really enjoy this activity.  They have a lot of fun getting out in the water, and it is great exercise for them not just physically but mentally.

Kayaking is racking up the benefits and the popularity among a lot of people.  I think canoeing is kind of losing its appeal here among the masses.  It seems maybe it’s just a touch old school.  It’s more the back-in-the day, family-camping-trip kind of vehicle, and that seems to be it’s only resource.  It’s not as sporty or as fresh as the kayak.

Canoe vs Kayak for Exercise/Health Benefits

The canoe and kayak kind of have the same benefits as far as exercise in that they both require rowing so they both work the same muscles and core.  The canoe requires much more effort because it has the single paddle and is a shorter paddle.  When it gets at top speed, you really have to work hard.

The canoe is a low-impact, calming exercise. Going out for a nice day of floating in a perfect chance to let go of all of those troubles that may be piled up in you.

On full-paddle days a person can burn up to five thousand or more calories.  Canoeing can push the body almost like interval training does.  We’re not even mentioning the part where you have to carry this heavy load in addition to your gear off your car down to the water.

It improves cardiovascular health, increases muscular strength including the back, arms, shoulders and chest.  Increases torso and leg strength.  It works the whole core area.  It’s a very good workout.

Kayaking has always been seen as a fitness tool.  Whenever they’ve had different versions of adventurous-types of races they’ve always included a kayaking bit.  A lot of people have started training in kayaking and include it in their routine.  It’s a compliment to biking or jogging.  It is a great low-impact exercise for anybody who may have joint issues with knees or hips which is why it’s so good for seniors.

All paddle boats will benefit you in pretty much the same basic muscle groups for exercise. But the narrow kayak is good because it just kind of glides through the water.  Trying to balance alone is a workout for your core muscles. Trying to maintain an upright position and keep your posture straight.  It’s good for the back as well.

The kayak works the arms, shoulders, biceps, triceps through rowing.  Your core and back are strengthened through maintaining stability. The abs are tightened including upper, lower and obliques.  It is very good for the heart, an awesome cardio workout.  It is a perfect relaxation health benefit.  Taking the kayak out on the water, finding a nice secluded spot and just floating is a perfect way to meditate and release any stress that may have you bogged down.


It’s pretty much the consensus that the kayak is the way to go in the way of things today.   The canoe has its place probably with some folks who like to go camping and take their kids and pets out for days by the lake.  It seems like the kayak has much more versatility and many more uses.

The vote here would have to be for the kayak especially for the ease of learning and the fact it is good for beginners.  This beginner would be all about that.

  • 145
  • 88
  • 123

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *