Want to get involved in watersports but can’t decide what kind of boat to buy? If the choice is between a solo canoe and kayak, you’re in the right place. I’ve tried both types of watercraft and I know what they can do and who they’re best for. If you want to go out on the water on your own, you will probably want a solo canoe or solo kayak. So, when it comes to solo canoe vs kayak, which one should you choose?
Let’s learn about the differences between a solo canoe and a solo kayak, so you can decide which will be easier for you to transport, paddle, and store.
I’ll talk about differences in comfort, size, and performance, as well as the typical price difference between entry-level solo canoes and solo kayaks.
My Favorite Entry-Level Solo Canoe & Kayak Options
A great all-around option from one of my favorite canoe manufacturing companies. This solo canoe from Old Town is easy to order online and while it costs more than entry-level kayaks, if you’re determined to get a solo canoe instead of a kayak, it’s a good choice.
While this isn’t a high-end kayak, it’s a solid option for tooling around the lake, pond or river in by yourself. It’s available at about a third the price of the solo canoe above, so if budget is a concern, this will do the trick. Has some storage, and at 10 feet it’s a great size for solo kayaking.
Design Differences Between Solo Canoes and Solo Kayaks
There are major differences between canoes and kayaks in terms of their cockpit styles and hull design. With a solo canoe, the hull is flatter. This means the arch rocker is shallow. Kayaks are different, but they do vary.
In other words, you can find kayaks with hulls that are deeply angled and have a V-shape, as well as flatter hulls a bit like a canoe.
When it comes to the cockpit, kayaks have variations in style. You can find solo kayaks that are designed so you sit on the top, called sit-on-top designs, but there are also kayaks on the market that have cockpits that you sit inside. Those are called sit-inside kayaks. For a full comparison of these different kayak styles and my thoughts about which may work better for you, click here.
When it comes to canoes, you pretty much always get an open cockpit, specifically referred to as canoe-style.
With a canoe cockpit, the stern and bow walls are a bit higher than the center walls. A canoe’s cockpit has an “open” design. The design of a kayak cockpit, by contrast, features a “closed” design. You sit in the middle area.
Kayak vs Solo Canoe: Which is More Comfortable?
One advantage of canoes is how easy it is to get into their cockpits. One disadvantage, however, is that canoes can easily tip over when someone is trying to get in. To get into a canoe, you will have to hold onto something to keep yourself steady. This will often be the dock beside you.
It’s a bit more difficult to get into (and out of) kayaks. It takes quite a bit of practice to be able to keep balance, both of yourself and the watercraft. You must do this as you get your legs within the kayak’s cockpit.
If you’re going for a long trip on the water and want to be as comfortable as possible, you should probably go with a canoe.
With a canoe, you will have the space to stretch your legs, as your seating is elevated from the floor. If you try to make long trips in a kayak, you will find your legs feel extremely cramped.
A major disadvantage of many kayaks is the fact the cockpits tend to be small, certainly a lot smaller than you get with a canoe. Of course, only sit-in design kayaks allow you to sit in them at all. If you have a kayak with a sit-on-top design, that is a whole different issue.
With a sit-on-top design, your kayak is easier to use but you won’t have any protection from getting constantly sprayed with water. This means you are going to end up very wet, and this is a cause of discomfort for many people.
Solo Canoe vs Kayak: Performance
Overall, you will find that canoes are more physically demanding to paddle. Solo canoes in particular tend to be a real challenge. After all, most canoes are powered by two people paddling.
Most canoes will provide better stability in most situations than kayaks can. One major advantage of kayaks, however, is their better maneuverability and speed.
Kayaks have a slimmer design, and this helps give them better speed. Also, more of its hull stays out of the water. This is because a kayak has a rocker on the bow, which includes an upward turn.
Another advantage of kayak performance is how it’s easier to maintain good tracking. Tracking means getting your watercraft to stay straight as it moves in the water. Kayaks are better than canoes in this respect because of their paddles: they have a double-sided design.
Using a Kayak Compare to a Solo Canoe
The design and performance differences between kayaks and canoes mean that these types of watercraft also have differences in how they are used and should be used.
A canoe is probably the best choice if you want to transport supplies in your watercraft. Canoes have much more space for storage than kayaks. In fact, many kayaks have no storage space at all, so keep this in mind.
There is, however, some overlap in how you can use solo canoes and kayaks. For example, you may decide to use either a solo canoe or kayak for activities such as river paddling, long-distance trips, and fishing.
Of course, this will depend on the specific design of your canoe or kayak. Touring is a common activity for both solo canoes and kayaks. The term touring refers to excursions stretching over several days.
Paddling Comparison: Solo Canoe vs Kayak
Canoes and kayaks require different paddling styles. Paddling is the motion you perform in order to make your watercraft move through the water.
If you want to learn canoe paddling, it will take longer than learning kayak paddling.
Comparing the Size of Kayaks to Solo Canoes
Of course, your canoe or kayak size is an important consideration. This is crucial when it comes to transporting and storing your watercraft.
Solo kayaks are usually shorter than solo canoes. Most solo canoes are a minimum of 10 feet, so they are quite long. The only kind of kayak that may be as long as a canoe is one of the long-design touring kayaks. Even though canoes are longer than kayaks, they are usually easier to transport.
Whether you go for a kayak or a canoe, there is certain equipment you will usually need. For example, if you are transporting a canoe or kayak over bumpy land, a kayak rolling cart may be called for, so look closely at the weight of the boat you’re considering purchasing.
Try to get one you can lift easily on your shoulder, or over your head. Carrying it like this will send the load down to your legs and leave your arm strength for paddling. You should only use your arm muscles for lifting and balancing a canoe or kayak when carrying it.
Does a Solo Canoe Cost More Than a Kayak?
Let’s take a look at the price differences between entry-level solo canoes and entry-level solo kayaks. Overall, you can find cheaper kayaks than canoes. However, if you go with a high-end kayak, it could be more expensive than many canoe options, so there are differences based on what type of boat you want either way.
There is a lot of price variation when it comes to kayaks. And I can tell you from experience, this is true with canoes, too. Price will vary by material, as well as the design and brand.
In general, though, if you’re on a budget and just want a boat to paddle by yourself you should get a kayak – the cheapest ones will be significantly cheaper.
So, Which Should You Choose: A Solo Canoe or a Kayak?
Clearly, the decision whether to get a solo canoe or kayak is an individual one. Think about how you will use the watercraft, as well as your needs and preferences. Budget is a big consideration, too.
If your priority is speed, agility, and price-point a kayak is the best choice. A canoe, however, is better if you just want to prioritize comfortable and relaxing days on the water.
About my Comparison: Solo Canoe vs Kayak
There are certainly some nuances between these two types of boats, and which will work best for your solo paddling will depend upon your budget, how you hope to use your new boat, and what’s available in your area.
Personally, I own a tandem canoe that I can take one or both of my kids out in with me, and I have an inexpensive solo kayak for excursions I take by myself. I hope that some of the information I’ve shared here helps you make your decision and choose the best boat for you. Good luck!