Buying a canoe or kayak is exciting and can be a bit overwhelming. First and most of all find a reputable paddle shop and a knowledgeable representative that is not on a commission based salary. Find a shop that will help you and stand behind the sale after the fact.
Here are some tips and frequently asked questions:
Canoe or Kayak?
Ah, the big decision. Over all it's a matter of preference and function. A canoe holds more gear and people but takes a bit more experience to paddle solo. Kayaks are generally lighter and more nimble.
Where should I start?
Decide what you would most use a canoe or kayak for, and what kind of water. Would you do any overnight or multi day excursions? Are you looking to paddle on lakes and ponds or whitewater? Is dry storage an important feature to you? Is weight an issue? Evaluate your needs for capacity.
Many questions above relate to cost and will help you set a budget for your purchase.
Generally small recreational kayaks, around 10' or so with no dry storage are the least expensive. They are designed for a variety of people who want to paddle around and maybe explore for an afternoon. Be sure to check capacity as these kayaks may be limited in that regard.
One of the most popular categories in the recreational segment of kayaking are boats in length from 11' to 14'. There are multi purpose kayaks that offer a wide range of features.
Usually the longer a canoe or kayak the better it tracks and carries momentum. The wider a boat is will often make it more laterally stable. So, if you're looking to cover greater distances go longer, should stability be one of your primary concerns go wider. The recreational kayaks of today are mostly all very stable unlike kayaks of years ago.
Canoes also come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. The same basic rules of length and width mentioned above apply to most canoes. There are many different hull configurations for both canoes and kayaks. It all comes down to what you plan to do with your boat most often and what you prefer.
There are many materials for canoes and kayaks. The most popular and affordable are made from polyethylene. Ultra light weight boats can be made from Kevlar, but are usually expensive, around double the price of a comparable boat made from a polyethylene product. Royalex or ABS is a layered composite material that is light, durable and not as expensive as Kevlar.
Kayaks that are very long 15' and up are usually touring kayaks made for longer expeditions. Whitewater kayaks are usually very short and are more designed to be worn by the paddler to enhance performance.
Many good manufacturers have detailed information on materials, hull configurations and product uses. Take your time and make a good decision. It will make for better paddling!
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