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Canoes v Kayaks

Do you know the differences between canoes and kayaks?  You may have a paddling adventure in mind but you aren't sure what kind of craft is right for you.  Hopefully our quick guide will help you make that decisions.

Canoes and kayaks

CanoesCanoe (North American English) or "Canadian canoe" (British English)
A small boat, pointed at both ends, propelled by paddlers who kneel or sit on a raised seat and use paddle,s which usually have a blade at one end only.  A canoe is normally used by two people (but not always).  A canoe is usually open on top, but can be decked over (i.e. covered, similar to a kayak if attempting tricky whitewater).  A canoe is typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or a small electric or gas motor.  Paddles may be single-bladed or double-bladed but all ours are single. Our canoes are typically 16ft long with 2 seats although we have shorter boats more suited to solo paddling.
 
KayaksKayaks
A slim boat, normally pointed at both ends and usually propelled by one kayaker who sits in a low seat and uses paddles with a blade at each end.  Kayaks usually have a covered deck, with a cockpit covered by a spray deck to keep the inside of the boat (and the paddler's lower body) dry.
 
We have sea kayaks and touring kayaks (15-17ft long) which are suited to single or multi-day expeditions on sea on inland flat water e.g. Great Glen Canoe Trail. These are not suited to river journeys as they are too long.
 
Differences between a canoe and a kayak:   
 
Sitting position: In a canoe the paddler either kneels on the bottom of the boat or sits on a raised seat. In a kayak the paddler sits on a low seat with their legs extended in front.
 
Number of blades on the paddle: A canoe paddle has a blade on one end, while a kayak paddle is bladed at both ends.
 

Pros and cons - a guide for novice paddlers

 

Canoes

Sea and Touring Kayaks

Stability More stable and easier to exit if the boat capsizes, i.e. you just fall out. Less stable and harder to exit if it capsizes.  The ability to do a wet exits safely (i.e. get out of the boat when upside down) is required before you can hire our kayaks.
Steering
Solo - very difficult
Tandem - Quite difficult to start
Slightly easier for the novice
Seating position Comfortable unless you plan to kneel while paddling Comfortable
Capacity Lots of room for 2 grown adults and plenty of expedition kit. Also easier to pack to to open top. Plenty of room for expeditions but harder to pack because everything has to fit through the watertight hatches on the deck.
Speed Not as fast on flatwater as kayaks but not a problem on moving water. Faster than canoes on flat water due to more slimline shape.
Expedition Both are designed for multi-day expeditions or a single day out.  Canoes can hold bigger, more awkwardly shaped items like fire pans or cool boxes Great for multi-day or singles days out but everything needs to fit through the hatches so may limit what you can take along with you.
Where to paddle Rivers, canals, lochs and sheltered areas on the sea (although any waves can make the canoe feel unstable) Perfect for sea locations, but also great for lochs and canals.
Safety Our boats have fitted airbags front and rear to keep the boat afloat should it capsize. It also has painter ropes attached for something to grab hold off or for tying to a tree when landing.  It still takes a bit of doing to right a capsized canoe without pulling it towards the shore though. With sealed deck hatches the kayaks will stay afloat when capsized.  Difficult to empty the cockpit and get back in without help from someone else or pulling it ashore.
 
Still not sure?
- we can help you decide but may even suggest you get some lessons or some additional practice before embarking on particular routes, if we think that there is a risk you might be attempting something a bit beyond your level of experience.
- it you are at all unsure about what kind of boat you need, call us on 0333 600 6008 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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