Going on a vacation these days is so much more than just reaching a holiday destination and going sightseeing. There are so many adventure sports that you can now try in different destinations. You might not even need any training or prior experience before trying out the various activities and indulging in an adventure sport of your choice. Two of the fun adventure sports that you might want to try are canoeing and kayaking. Yes, both of these are different sports and there are some specific features between the two that will help you tell them apart. You can then choose which of the two suits you better and head for your next adventure. In this article, we will be looking at these differences between a canoe and kayak and share with you the equipment you will need for both of them. 


A number of water vessels like a kayak, canoe or umiak are known among water sports enthusiasts. Canoes and kayaks look very much similar to each other. Canoeing and kayaking are both popular activities for people who would like to go paddling or fishing or just choose this activity as a form of recreation or exercise. If you are new to both of these activities, you might want to know their differences and which activity is the best for you. Comparing the differences between a canoe and a kayak will help you find the right activity for you and then you could go canoe or kayak racing

This article will help you identify the differences between a canoe and a kayak. We will look at the history of both these water vessels to understand them in detail. To help you plan your next adventure sport, be it a kayak or canoe trip, we will also share with you the details of the equipment that you need for both these sports. 

History Of Canoes And Kayaks: A Quick Overview

Before we compare the canoe and kayak difference, let us take a look at the history of both these types of boats. Canoes have been in use for thousands of years and archaeologists have discovered the remains of a dugout canoe which is around 8,000 years old. Carib kenu (dugout), from the Spanish Canoa, is where the word canoe originates from. A dugout canoe is an alternative name for a canoe. This is also one of the oldest known boats. 

Kayaks are fairly newer compared to canoes, which are around 4,000 years old. The Inuit tribes of Alaska, Canada and Greenland used kayaks for hunting. They were made from wood with seal skin stretched over the closed top. Canoeing became a demonstration sport in the 1924 Olympics. In the 1936 games, canoeing became a full Olympic sport only for men. Both canoeing and kayaking entered the games as women’s sports in 1948. 

What’s The Difference Between A Kayak And Canoe?

Let us now take a detailed look at the major differences between canoe and kayak

  • The first difference between a canoe and a kayak is the design of the vessel. Kayaks are much smaller than canoes. This is the reason why kayaks are also lighter in weight when compared to canoes. A canoe is built with a wide frame and an open top, which is very much like a sit-on-top kayak. A canoe is designed to carry more people and gear while kayaks offer a limited amount of space. Kayaks are of two types- sit-inside kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks. In a kayak, the paddler sits inside a closed cockpit. 

  • The next major difference between canoe and kayak is in how you enter the vessel and how you are seated inside. Getting into a canoe is very easy compared to getting into a kayak. You need a great technique to get into a kayak. You need to carefully slide your legs into the cockpit and maintain balance to avoid the kayak from tipping over. Achieving the right balance is easier in a canoe. On the other hand, sitting in a kayak is more comfortable compared to sitting in a canoe. You either have to kneel or half-kneel in a canoe, while you sit with your legs stretched forward in a kayak. Kayaks have comfortable seats with backrests but canoes are open spaces with benches. 

  • The paddle of the canoes and kayaks is the next main difference between the two. From the design difference between canoes and kayaks, we know that canoes are heavier and bigger in size compared to kayaks. It takes much more effort for paddling a canoe. Two people might be required to paddle a canoe. Knowing the type of paddle and how to paddle is important for the players. A single-bladed, flat-blade paddle is used in a canoe. In a kayak, double-bladed curved paddles are used.

    Since kayaks are lightweight and the paddles have two blades, all you need to do is grip the blades in the middle with both hands about two feet apart. Alternately dip each blade into the water. There is a T knob at the top where you should place one hand and the other hand should be in the middle. To propel the canoe, you must push the paddle down using both hands. To track your canoe in a straight line, you must do this on both sides of the canoe. This is why you need a partner for canoeing. 

  • The speed of both the boats vary. A kayak is faster and much more efficient compared to a canoe. 

What Equipment Do You Require For Canoes And Kayaks

Before you make a choice between the two water sports, here is a list of equipment for canoeing and kayaking. Once you are finally decided between a river kayak or canoe trip, you must get going and collect every single of these items to ensure a fun and safe experience. 

  • A paddle: A canoe paddle will be different from a kayak paddle for whitewater kayaking and flatwater kayaking.
  • A canoe or kayak: you can choose a kayak or canoe that is suitable for one person or if you are going with a partner then a canoe for two. 
  • A personal floatation device or a life jacket
  • A helmet
  • The right attire for canoeing or kayaking

These are all the canoe kayak accessories that you will need. In the next section, we will help you make a final choice between the two sports. 

Canoe Or Kayak: Which One To Choose?

What could be the best way to compare a canoe and kayak? Listing down the pros and cons of both the water vessels. Before we conclude, let us take a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of both canoes and kayaks to help you find the one that suits you better. 

Advantages of a Canoe

  • A canoe is wider than a kayak and that is why it is more stable.
  • Entering and exiting a canoe is easier.
  • There is more space in a canoe and you can also carry more gear. 
  • You are seated higher above the water which offers a clear view and also helps you stay dry. 

Disadvantages of a Canoe

  • You are exposed to the elements due to the open cockpit. 
  • The efficiency of a canoe is lower than a kayak.
  • You will need more energy to paddle, transport and manoeuvre. 

Advantages of a Kayak

  • You will need less energy to paddle and transport a kayak and it is much more efficient. 
  • A kayak is more manoeuvrable on water. 
  • You will be protected from the elements if you have a sit-inside kayak.
  • There will also be dry storage for gear in a sit-inside kayak.

Disadvantages of a Kayak

  • Entering and exiting a kayak is a little hard. 
  • The stability of a kayak is lower. 
  • You can get wet easily as you sit closer to the water. 
  • There is not much space for your gear. 

This is the basic system of difference between canoe and kayak and you can figure out which option suits you the best. 


We have now reached the conclusion of this article on canoe and kayak difference. In the previous sections, we have looked at kayaks and canoes in detail. For your convenience, we have not only compared these two types of vessels based on their differences but also given you an overview of their history, equipment and more. We hope this article would have helped you compare the two- canoes and kayaks and choose the right option for you. 


If you are an adventure sports enthusiast, you must totally find out more about canoes and kayaks and try them out soon! To help you clear any doubts and queries regarding the same, we will be answering a few commonly asked questions about canoeing and kayaking. 

  1.  What are the basic activities of canoeing and kayaking?

The basic activity in canoeing and kayaking involves paddling a small vessel through the water. There are certain differences in the equipment and the steps of both. Canoeing and kayaking can be done as recreational activities, hobbies, adventures or competitive racing. 

  1.  Which is more stable, canoe or kayak?

As we have looked at the features of both canoes and kayaks, we know that kayaks are lighter in weight while a canoe boat is more stable. 

  1.  Are kayaks faster than canoes?

Yes, kayaks are faster than canoes.

  1.  Is a canoe heavier than a kayak?

Yes, a canoe is heavier compared to a kayak. 

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