Kayak vs. Canoe: Which is Better for You?

The kayak and the canoe are 2 popular types of boats used for a wide range of activities like recreation as well as for fishing. However, those 2 boats can sometimes cause confusion, especially amongst beginners. That’s because they may look alike and it can be difficult to tell them apart.

If you are in the market for a canoe or a kayak or don’t know which type of boat to choose, we welcome you.

Indeed, we made this comparison comprehensive guide in order to help you choose the best type of boat based on your need and purpose.

Without any further ado, let’s get started!

Table of Contents


The kayak is a modern type of boat that is sometimes seen as an enhanced version of the canoe. It is a long boat that has a streamlined form factor and a narrow width.This boat can be used in a wide range of activities like recreation, fishing and everything in between.

Indeed, one of the best things about the kayak is its versatility and flexibility.

Additionally, it comes in different sizes and some models can even accommodate up to 3 people with ease due to its large cockpit. One of the best things about the kayak is that there is a greater diversity in design when compared to the canoe.

Types of Kayaks

There are several types of kayaks on the market and they are known under different names. Here is a quick breakdown of the different types of kayaks that you can buy.

1. Sit-on-top Kayak

The sit-on-top kayak distinguishes itself from other types of kayaks by its large and spacious cockpit. Additionally, the sit-on-top is the most popular type of kayak that you can buy and it comes in both as a one-seater (single kayak) or as a two-seater (tandem kayak).

2. Sit-in Kayak

The sit-in kayak is possibly the most efficient type of kayak. It has a small cockpit and usually only come as a one-seater. However, in a sit-in kayak, you are closer to the water thus allowing you to paddle more efficiently. Additionally, the smaller size of the sit-in kayak makes it more maneuverable in the water.

3. Tandem Kayak

Also known as a two-seater, the tandem kayak evidently comes with 2 seats and intended for 2 people. However, it is flexible enough to be operated by only one person. One of the characteristics of the tandem kayak is its long length of usually 144-inch or more.

This long length gives it excellent tracking and if you generally paddle in a straight line for an extended period of time, the tandem kayak is one of the best types of kayak for the money.

4. Pedal Kayak

As the name suggests, the pedal kayak has a pedal drive system. This pedal drive system turns a rotational fan at the bottom which will propel you either forward or backward, based on the direction you paddle.

One of the characteristics of the pedal kayak is its ease of use and comfort. This type of kayak is best suited for recreational activities like sightseeing but it is flexible enough to be used for more precise activities like angling or fishing.

On the downside, the pedal kayak is usually a very heavy kayak, mostly because the pedal drive system used in this type of boat is usually heavy. Therefore, this type of kayak is definitely not used for speed.


  • More efficient. Due to the streamlined form factor of the kayak, it can glide through water more efficiently as it offers little to no points of resistance.
  • Very comfortable. If you like comfort, you will love the kayak. Most kayaks come with a padded seat and an adjustable backrest that provides comfort and support to your back while paddling.
  • Flat bottom for stability. Stability is at the heart of the kayak. Indeed, most kayaks have a flat bottom that offers a large surface area on the water. In turn, this large surface area makes the kayak very stable, in such a way that most kayaks can be used as a stand-up kayak for activities like fishing.
  • More lightweight for portability. When compared to a regular canoe, the kayak is generally more lightweight as it is meant to be transported quickly and easily to the kayaking location. Additionally, due to the narrower width of the kayak, it can be lifted and carried more easily.
  • Versatility. Since the kayak comes in so many different shapes and designs, it is much more versatile and flexible as well. Regardless of your need and purpose, you will definitely find a kayak for it, whether it is for fishing or recreational activities. On the other hand, the canoe has a more standard design and only intended for only 1 type of activity.


  • Limited storage area. While most kayaks have a decent storage compartment with a watertight hatch, it is limited in terms of space and the amount of gear and accessories that you can carry. This is mostly because of the slim design of the kayak that has a limited space inside the cockpit.
  • Requires some experience. Even if the kayak is very easy-to-use even to absolute beginners, you still need some prior experience in order to navigate with the kayak in an efficient manner. Unlike the canoe, it has a slightly steeper learning curve and is more difficult to maneuver.


The canoe is one of the oldest types of boat that you can buy. In fact, this boat has been used for thousands of years and the oldest canoe is dated as far back as 10,000 years ago. One of the best thing about the canoe is how easy it is to embark or disembark.

Moreover, unlike a kayak, a canoe has tall sides than act a protection buffer in case of an impact.

Canoes are generally larger than kayaks and can be used to carry a lot of gear and accessories. They are also very beginner-friendly and you do not need prior experience to paddle with a canoe.

Types of canoes

There are several types of canoes on the market. Here are some of the most popular ones that you will find.

1. Recreational canoe

As its name suggests, the recreational canoe is used for recreational purposes. This type of canoe is the most popular model that you will find that the market and they are very durable because of their heavy-duty plastic or aluminum build construction. Moreover, they provide you with a lot of space for storing your various gears and accessories inside the cockpit.

2. Intermediate or Advanced canoes

This type of canoe is usually used for sports activities or by professionals who want to use a canoe for performance and speed. It has a more streamlined form factor as well as being lighter due to the more lightweight and higher-quality material used in its construction. Of course, the intermediate or advanced canoe is also more expensive than other types of canoes.

3. Whitewater canoe

The whitewater canoe is used mostly for river paddling. It has a higher side that both protect you from impacts as well as prevent water from entering the cockpit. Additionally, the whitewater canoe has a flatter bottom for greater stability.

Due to the flat bottom of the whitewater canoe and its large width, it is more stable on the water and has fewer chances of rolling over especially when navigating rough waters.

34. Racing canoe

As you may have guessed, the racing canoe is a sports canoe that comes either with a flat bottom or a V-shaped hull. This type of canoe is usually made from a mixture of very lightweight but extremely tough material like Kevlar and fiberglass. Those materials make the racing canoe very durable and long-lasting, as well as a safer boat to use when moving at high speeds.


  • Large storage area. While the canoe does not have a centralized storage compartment, the large cockpit provides you with a lot of space to store your various gears, accessories and fishing catch.
  • Less likely to roll over. Due to the design of the canoe, it is less likely to roll over, unlike the kayak. In fact, the V-shape of the hull of the canoe provides it with better buoyancy on the water and when navigating rough waters like whitewater, the canoe is less likely to roll over. Therefore, the canoe is a safer boat to navigate with.
  • Sitting is more natural. When you sit in the kayak, you normally have to stretch your leg. On the other hand, you sit in the canoe with your knees bent. Thus, sitting inside a canoe is more natural and will help prevent leg pain in the long run.
  • Can accommodate more paddlers. Since the canoe has multiple seats, it can accommodate more paddlers thus providing it with more performance and speed as it has more “muscle power” for paddling. Additionally, since the canoe is larger than the kayak, it can accommodate more people in a more convenient matter.


  • Less efficient. Since you are generally higher up when sitting in a canoe, you are also further away from the water. This can cause an awkward position when paddling, and it can even become uncomfortable if used for an extended period of time. Therefore, the canoe is less efficient than the kayak when it comes to general navigation and comfort.
  • Not very stable. The hull of the canoe is designed for efficiency rather than stability. Indeed, unlike a kayak, it does not have a flat bottom but rather a traditional V-shape hull. Therefore, you cannot easily stand on a canoe, limiting its ability as a fishing boat.
  • No adjustable backrest. The seat in a traditional canoe is comprised of a standard bench seat with no backrest. This lack of backrest can make the canoe not very comfortable and can cause back pain if used for long hours.

The Verdict

Finally, we reached the end of this kayak to canoe comparison. As we have seen, each type of model has its own advantages and disadvantages.





Intermediate to advanced

Beginner friendly

Storage Compartment

A limited number of accessories

Can carry a lot of accessories

Sitting Position

Legs stretched

Knees bent









Discomfort over long hours


Very versatile

Not versatile at all




At this point, there is simply no winners as it will mostly depend on your need and purpose. If you prefer comfort and efficiency, the kayak is the obvious choice. When it comes to safety or storage, the canoe is the preferred type of boat.

In general, the kayak is more lightweight than the canoe. However, both types of boats can safely and easily be carried on any transportation devices like a kayak trailer .

At the end of the day, the kayak remains the most popular type of boat out of the 2. Even if the canoe has many advantages that make it a highly desirable boat, we like the kayak more because of its efficiency and versatility. Additionally, the kayak is more affordable and there are hundreds of models that you can choose from to suit your need and purpose.

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