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Kayak, Canoe or Stand Up Paddle Board?

Ken Whiting answers the big question for new paddlers - Do you go for a canoe, a kayak, or a stand up paddle board?


Canoes really shine in a few scenarios: they're amazing for multi-day paddling trips because you can carry a ton of gear. They're particularly good on paddling trips that involve portages where you need to carry your gear over land from one body of water to another. The reason they're great in this situation is that you can carry all your gear in big backpacks or barrels which if you're strong enough or masochistic enough you can carry at the same time as you carry your canoe. Canoes are also great crafts for family trips because you can easily bring the kids or the dog.

Find the Right Canoe for You


Where kayaks really shine is for people who want to paddle their own boat, for people who like to feel more stable on the water, and for people who want to have a higher performing paddle craft. Kayaks are best for solo paddlers because the two-bladed paddle provides the most control and power. Having a lower profile to the water than canoes makes them better for paddling in windy and wavy conditions because the boat doesn't get pushed around nearly as much. Kayaks are more stable because you're sitting much lower than you are in a canoe which means your center of gravity is lower. When it comes to performance, kayaks are the fastest most maneuverable and versatile paddle craft, although that's certainly not true for all kayaks

While canoes are typically considered the kings of camp trips, kayaks can also be great for camping. Their downside is that you need to pack your gear into smaller bags that will fit into the kayak. If you need to portage from one body of water to another, it's a real pain because you have all these bags to deal with instead of one or two big packs that you can throw in your back.

Kayaks are also the best boats to fish from and there are a surprising number of fishing specific

kayaks available.

Lastly, kayaks are great for family outings. If you're in a tandem kayak, you don't even need the kids to be paddling. If your kids are more independent then they can paddle their own kayak much more easily than their own canoe. Sit on top kayaks also allow kids to hop on and off which is important because kids can only sit and paddle so long.

Find the Right Kayak for You

Stand Up Paddle Boards

Where do stand-up paddle boards fit in? Well to be perfectly honest, I don't use a paddle board very often. The reason being they're not as stable as canoes or kayaks. They don't perform as well as canoes and kayaks and they're not as good for family outings or multi-day trips. So why would you use a stand-up paddle board? Well the challenge and novelty of paddling standing up is really cool. Paddle boards also provide a better full body workout than either the canoe or kayak which is why it's such a popular fitness tool. They're also easier to get around and they're great for kids because they're a lot like floating docks that you can paddle. It's great for jumping off and climbing around. This is one of the reasons they're so popular for cottages.

Find the Right Paddle Board for You

So going back to the original question of what's the best paddle craft - well, it really does depend on what you're going to be doing. With that said, if you're thinking about getting into paddling just go for it! You will not regret the decision.

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