Canoes vs Kayaks

Canoeing vs KayakingToo Many Kayaks Not Enough Canoes

Several times each year when people find out how much Kristin and I canoe they ask why if we kayak (No) and then why not.

My stock answer is “You can’t carry a moose with a kayak.”

And they always think I’m joking.

Kayaks have their place: the ocean, white water, the arctic. But most of the kayaks you see are beach toys. Oversized, plastic rubber duckies. (Don’t get me started on paddle boards…)

Canoes are tools.

This became very evident a few weeks ago when we drove from the kayak-infested Okanagan Valley into north central British Columbia.

Down in the Valley, the ratio of kayaks to canoes is at least 10 to 1, likely higher.

But the further north you go, the lower the ratio becomes until by Prince George it has reversed and you see far more canoes on vehicles than kayaks.



Kayaks are fine for putzing around at the beach, but if you want to actually go somewhere, do extended wilderness trips, and especially get some meat, canoes are the answer.

Sure, you can do trips in kayaks. But have fun trying to fit in all your gear, and be prepared to spring for premium, lightweight, compact equipment in order to make it all fit.

And yes, you can hunt and fish in kayaks. Ducks. Seals, if you are Inuit. But forget about moose and elk. Even deer will create a problem for most kayaks.

A cheap kayak is pretty much useless except for bobbing on the waves twenty feet from shore. A cheap canoe can pack enough for two people to do a multi-week trip.

Finally, most of my serious kayaking friends have messed up their shoulders. Canoeing allows you to do a more natural stroke, especially if you use a bent-shaft paddle.

There’s a lot of nuance I haven’t explored here, and I expect many will take issue with my ideas.

But here’s the point:

The high ratio of kayaks to canoes is a snapshot of the value we place on style over substance.

We live in a world where there are too many kayaks, too much emphasis on style, and not enough canoes, not enough value on pragmatism and substance.

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