Canoe vs Kayak – What’s the Difference?

Canoe vs Kayak

Getting outside more can have many benefits for your health. But you don’t have to be a runner or cyclist to take advantage of nature. If you like spending time around water, consider a canoe vs kayak for your next adventure.

You can use either type of boat to get out on a lake, but both have unique advantages. Consider how they differ so that you can choose the best option for you.

What Is a Canoe?

A canoe is a small boat that has points at both ends, and you can use a paddle to propel yourself. When rowing, you will face forward, and you will need to move the paddle from side to side since it has one blade.

Consider a few features of the common canoe to help compare a canoe vs kayak.

Size and Shape

Canoes can vary considerably in size, from less than 10 feet long to around 23 feet long. A shorter canoe is ideal for riding through whitewater, and larger canoes are great for riding with friends.

Regardless of a canoe’s length, it comes to a tip at the front and back ends. The middle of the boat widens out, so riders can sit in a single line from the front to back. Canoes are relatively short, so the seats are almost at the same level as the sides of the boat.


The two most common uses for canoes are recreation and sport. In the past, people had used the canoe for hunting and fishing, and you can still use a canoe to go fishing in a lake.

You can find canoes of different materials based on the use. Fiber composite and fiberglass canoes are excellent for casual use. They’re lightweight and easy to move, but they’re also pretty durable.

If you want a canoe for sport, the lightweight materials can help propel your forward.

However, you may want a wood or plastic canoe if you plan to use it in a river with other canoes or barriers. The material will survive impacts better than the lighter-weight materials.

Pros and Cons of Canoe


Canoes have many benefits, especially when comparing a canoe vs kayak.

  • Open deck, which is comfortable when riding
  • Easier to get in and out
  • You sit higher out of the water
  • Easier to move and more stable than a kayak
  • More storage space
  • Good for use with other people
  • Better at preventing capsizing

Canoes offer many advantages over kayaks, so they can be a good option for many people.


While the canoe is a great type of boat, it’s not perfect. Consider a few disadvantages to using a canoe.

  • Not great for solo use
  • Storage areas aren’t waterproof
  • Heavier than kayaks
  • Can be hard to move in a straight line

Who It’s For

Canoes are great for a variety of situations, especially when you’re with other people. You can find a small canoe for you and one friend. However, you can also get a larger canoe to use with the whole family.

Paddling the canoe will require teamwork, but that may be easier than paddling a kayak on your own. And if you want to spend the day on the water, you will have plenty of space to store food or drinks and other supplies.

What Is a Kayak?

You may hear that a kayak is a type of canoe, and both are quite similar. A kayak is a small, slim boat that involves paddling to get around the water. You’ll often need to operate a kayak yourself, but there are some exceptions.

Consider a few features that distinguish a kayak from a general canoe.

Size and Shape

A kayak has a similar overall size and shape to a canoe. Both boats are long yet thin, and they aren’t too high on the sides. The first noticeable difference is that a kayak has a closed design, which means the only open area is where you sit.

Most kayaks are about 12 to 16 feet long, and they’re ideal for one person at a time. However, you can find kayaks that fit two people. These kayaks will be longer, but most kayaks aren’t very wide.


Kayaks are common boats for recreational purposes. You can use them in whitewater, or you can use them in a calm lake. They’re ideal for water with some splashing because they can keep you and your gear drier than a canoe due to the design.

Some may find that a kayak is also more beginner-friendly since it uses a two-blade paddle. Because of that, you won’t have to move the paddle from side to side as you move along.

Oddly enough, you can even use a kayak to go fishing. Some kayaks have rod holders or foot pedals that you can take advantage of on the water.

And while there might not be as much storage space, any space you do have will be safe from the water. So you can pack a lunch or some snacks for a full day out on the river.

Pros and Cons of Kayak


Kayaks have a few advantages over canoes, so consider these when deciding which boat is best for you.

  • Easy to move around for beginners
  • Covered design keeps you and your belongings dry
  • Smaller than canoes so easier to transport
  • Great for a variety of activities
  • Works for one or more people
  • Excellent for fast-moving water
  • Safety techniques can help keep you from rolling over

Unfortunately, there are a few things that keep kayaks from being the best boat for every person or situation.

  • Can be hard to get in and out of and feel restrictive
  • Hard to maneuver on calm waters
  • Multi-person kayaks aren’t as common as solo models
  • Not as much storage space for belongings or snacks

Who It’s For

A kayak is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a thrilling ride on moving waters. You can use the double-blade to move around easily, and the top will protect your legs from getting wet.

Also, you don’t have to worry about coordinating with someone else to paddle the kayak. If you have the space, you can bring along a fishing pole and some bait. Then, you can enjoy a few different water-based activities.


If you want to spend a day on the water, you should compare a canoe vs kayak. Both small boats can be great, but each has pros and cons. A canoe is better for a small group, while a kayak is better for a solo trip.

Consider both options before you hit the water so that you can bring the best boat for you.