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8 Different Types of Canoes

A photo of a woman canoeing.

River, recreational, whitewater, racing, and fishing inflatable and folding canoes are the most prevalent canoe types. Carbon fiber, kevlar, fiberglass, aluminum, and PVC(for inflatable) canoes are just a few of the many varieties of canoes that may be found. A canoe may seat one person alone, or it may accommodate four or more individuals.

I’ve delved into all the details for you from types of canoes to material styles and their pros and cons to help you make a more informed decision. Enjoy!

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Types of Canoes

Recreational Canoes

A photo of a recreational canoe and kayak.

Recreational canoes are built to be extremely stable and easy to paddle. They’re easier to maneuver than touring canoes because they’re smaller, ranging in length from 12 to 17 feet. Recreational canoes are an excellent option for novice paddlers and families.

However, they may also be used by intermediate and advanced paddlers because of their wide and stable design. Flatwater, such as quiet lakes or slow-moving rivers, is ideal for recreational canoeing.

Therefore, this sort of canoe is commonly offered for rent at natural parks. Recreational canoes that accommodate a large number of people are available in a variety of sizes. There are solo leisure kayaks as well as tandem kayaks with room for up to four persons.


  • Nice turning
  • Stable
  • Spacious
  • Reasonably priced


  • On turbulent water, it is difficult to paddle.
  • Limited ability to track

Touring Canoes

Touring canoes, also known as expedition canoes, are similar to recreational canoes in that they’re built to go farther and faster. These boats are longer and narrower than recreational canoes, often between 16 and 19 feet in length.

It is simpler to travel in a straight line with far less effort because of this shape’s ability to track and reduce wind resistance.

Having a longer canoe means that you can bring a picnic, camping gear, or even a dog with you.

In addition to having a higher weight capacity and a lower center of gravity, these features all contribute to the boat’s overall stability. Because of their length, touring canoes require more effort to turn.

Intermediate paddlers who plan to go a long distance and pack a lot of supplies are best suited for touring canoes.


  • Great tracking
  • Extra area for storing things
  • Usually more robust
  • Better for long-distance trips


  • Turning is more difficult
  • Expensive

Whitewater Canoes

A photo of a woman racing on a whitewater.

These are the smallest canoes, ranging from 8 to 12 feet in length, and are built to handle rapids and fast-moving water. Whitewater canoes include hull features like a high rocker that allow them to turn quickly, often on one paddle movement.

It also has buoyancy slats in the bow and stern, which aid the boat’s recovery from high waves. Whitewater canoes, by their very nature, require sturdiness. So, they’re usually crafted from either thermoformed ABS, plastic, or Kevlar, the more expensive alternative.

The canoe, as well as spray skirt extension junctures, are more easily controlled when wearing leg straps and foot braces. For experienced paddlers, whitewater boats are best suited to fast-flowing rivers and rapids.


  • Exceptionally long-lasting
  • Great turning which is superb for rapids
  • More user-friendly controls


  • Paddling in a straight line is difficult

River Canoe

As a balance between whitewater and touring canoes, these canoes (commonly known as river tripping canoes) are a good option. River canoes, with their high rocker and maneuverability, are ideal for navigating eddies.

These are areas where the downstream and upstream currents converge. Most boats, even though their hull designs can vary, do not have keels, which allows for quick and easy maneuverability.

In general, river canoes, which are often lengthier than whitewater canoes, can track well throughout the river’s flat areas since they are longer. In addition to steeply flared sides, other elements help to keep water out.

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River tripping boats, like whitewater canoes, are built to last. It’s best for paddlers with intermediate or advanced skills, as well as rapid rivers.


  • Suitable for rapids-filled downriver journeys
  • Resilient in harsh rivers
  • Durable
  • Consistently make quick, sharp turns


  • Suitable for short distances

Inflatable Canoes

A middle age man folding a kayak.

If hauling and putting away a stiff canoe will be a problem for you, an inflatable canoe may be the best option. It’s possible to stow most inflatable canoes in the trunk of a car or the inside of an apartment the way a large suitcase can be packed.

The design and build quality of inflatable canoes vary widely.

For short journeys in calm and protected seas, some boats have flat hulls that can easily be blown off course by the wind. The rigidity of some inflatable kayaks is comparable to that of hard-shelled models.

These vessels can also be found with V-shaped hulls so that they can be used to navigate more expansive waterways, such as rivers and lakes.

Hard-shell canoes are far more durable and track better than inflatable canoes, but this does not mean that inflatable canoes are any less useful. Inflatable canoes, on the other hand, are a sensible option once you have limited capacity and travel a lot with the canoe.

Slow-moving waterways such as rivers, lakes, and quiet seas are ideal for beginning and intermediate paddlers.


  • Easy to store
  • Reasonably-priced
  • With a variety of lengths and hull forms to choose from
  • The majority of them have movable seats.


  • Not long-lasting
  • When there is a moderate or high wind, tracking is difficult.
  • Canoes that fold up

Folding Canoes

When it comes to storing your canoe or taking it on vacation, folding canoes are a great alternative for those with limited room. The interconnecting structure of most folding canoes keeps the rigid shell in place.

Crossbeams as well as inflatable side tubes are also commonly used to strengthen the frame.

Folding kayaks exist in a variety of forms, making them ideal for both recreational and professional use. Even whitewater rivers can benefit from some of these kayaks.

Advanced paddlers, as well as novices, slow-moving waterways such as calm seas, lakes, and rivers, are beaten for this canoe.


  • Inflatable canoes dry more quickly than portable versions
  • Several models are extremely long-lasting


  • Pricey
  • Has the same weight as a hard shell

Racing Canoes

A photo of players in canoe racing.

Racing canoes are lighter and sleek, making them ideal for racing. The stern and bow of most boats are pointed to cut through waves and currents, and the hull is particularly stiff to reduce drag.

As a result, the racing canoes are far more nimble, but they are also less stable when they are anchored in the water. Tracking is aided by their length, which ranges from 18 to 20 feet, although turning is more difficult due to their length.

While leisure and touring canoes provide additional storage capacity for luggage and passengers, racing canoes do not. In most racing canoes, paddlers sit in a half-kneeling, half-sitting position, which is ideal for one or two individuals.

Advanced paddlers, speed, and competitiveness are the best uses for racing boats.


  • Greater speed is possible
  • Great tracking


  • Turning is more difficult because of the increased lag.
  • Not very stable

Fishing Canoes

Similar to a recreational canoe, a fishing canoe is designed for comfort and stability. In general, they can hold a lot of weight and have a lot of room for all of your fishing, picnic, and even camping goods.

And while a touring or recreational canoe might be suitable for several fishing trips, fishing canoes include distinctive properties including rod holders that are useful on a fishing expedition.

There are other canoes with a broader beam, which refers to the width of the canoe as measured from the broadest point of the gunwale.

Fishing canoes are divided into two primary categories. These two boats are distinct from one another because they both have squared-off bows. A canoe with a square stern is more versatile since an outboard motor can be added.

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Beginners and experienced paddlers alike will enjoy fishing canoes as well as square stern canoes.


  • Solidity of construction
  • Able to add motor
  • motor Rod holders
  • Large interior


  • Slow to react (except when you add the motor)

Canoe Materials

Varying Wood Canoes

A photo of a man riding a wood canoe.

There are wood planks, strips, wood and canvas, and more. However, these have been replaced by lighter, more modern materials. Wood is heavy, high maintenance, and expensive. The skin in the frame type is very rare and mainly built as a DIY project.

Polyethylene Canoe

Polyethylene is a thermo-molded plastic which lacks rigidity in the absence of considerable reinforcing. Plastic canoes are just as slippery as fiberglass canoes among others, letting them readily slide across rocks.

Polyethylene canoes are inexpensive and long-lasting, but they are also hefty. Repairing these canoes might be more complex. The sun’s rays can distort them. Ideal for: Those searching for a low-cost, long-lasting boat for recreational paddling and day trips.

It is tough to patch and should be protected from exposure to UV.

Fiberglass Canoes

A photo of a yellow-green fiberglass canoe.

Fiberglass was the first composite material utilized in boat construction. Fiberglass canoes are constructed with a fiber and resin mixture hardening in a mold. Several different forms and patterns can be made using this method.

Due to their distinct exit and entry lines, fiberglass canoes may easily be identified from other types of canoes. Fiberglass canoes are more efficient, faster, and more agile in the water because of these design features.

There are some designs of fiberglass canoes that are suitable for whitewater as well as flat water.

While they offer long-term stability and are lightweight and affordable, they perform best when paddling in calm water. It’s not ideal for whitewater and cracking is a possibility.

Royalex Canoes

When it comes to strength and durability, nothing beats Royalex or its lighter cousin, Royalite. It’s built of ABS laminations with a vinyl exterior skin and foam cell core, although it’s not exactly a composite.

It’s cost and weight are comparable to fiberglass. Radical whitewater paddlers and all-around paddlers are the ideal customers for this canoe.

Having said that, the pros outweigh the cons by a wide margin. The production process restricts the forms of composite materials, and you should keep them from UV exposure.

Aluminum Canoes

A photo of aluminum canoes on a cedar water lake.

Aluminum has long been a popular choice for canoe construction. Canoe producers began using the same aluminum stretching method used by fighter jet manufacturers after World War II.

Because aluminum is a brittle metal and cannot be used alone to construct a canoe, it is alloyed with other metals to increase its strength.

When it comes to family outings or other leisure paddling, aluminum canoes tend to be a popular choice. These canoes are used by beginning canoeists because they are extremely robust and require no upkeep.

Aluminum canoes are an affordable option for vacations on flat water, family outings, or first-time paddlers. They’re durable and easy to maintain as well. However, they can be heavy, hot, and do get noisy in the water.

Kevlar Canoes

Kevlar is a common composite material used in the construction of canoes. Canoes and bulletproof jackets are also prominent uses for this material. There is frequently a composite blend of Kevlar and other materials to increase the material’s tensile strength.

The weight of a Kevlar canoe is directly connected to the boat’s strength. The more lightweight a canoe is, the less powerful it is. There are several advantages and disadvantages to this, depending on the type of river and the amount of portaging required.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to Kevlar canoes.

Because Kevlar canoes are manufactured over a mold in layers, there are practically limitless design possibilities because of this. Due to the canoes’ small weight, you can paddle them quickly.

However, because Kevlar canoes aren’t as robust, they may require more maintenance than other canoes.

Carbon Fiber Canoes

Carbon fiber is another popular lightweight boat composite material. Carbon fiber canoes are just as light as Kevlar canoes. The proper amount of flexibility can be achieved by combining carbon fiber composites with other materials.

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Because of their strong construction, these canoes are frequently employed in competitive racing. To make a carbon fiber canoe, the material is mixed with a liquid resin in a mold, and then the surplus resin is vacuumed off.

The final step is to apply a gel coat. You can get them customized, offer great portaging and it’s fast. The stiffness, however, makes it better suited for flat water.

Canoe Styles

Solo versus Tandem Canoes

A group of tourist canoeing in the sea.

One person can paddle a solo canoe or kayak. As a result, they tend to be shorter than their single-seat tandem counterparts. To paddle in tandem canoes, one canoeist sits on the bow and one on the stern, and they paddle on opposing sides of the boat.

While in a solitary canoe, the seat is either in the center or somewhat pushed back, making paddling left and right difficult unless the paddler uses the J-stroke to paddle only on one side at a time.

Kneeling or sitting is an option when paddling a solo or tandem canoe, depending on your preference. It is possible to convert some tandem canoes into solo canoes by moving the seats. Others, on the other hand, have a third and fourth row in the middle.

This makes tandem canoes ideal for families and excursions, as they have a greater weight endurance than solo canoes.

However, unless you’re an expert paddler, many tandems are difficult to paddle alone, so they’re a poor option when you and your paddling partner have conflicting timetables.

The Importance of Canoe Shapes

Bow-shaped Canoes

The shape of the bow is critical since it is what chops the water. High-volume bows and sterns are required for whitewater boats to ensure their capacity to cross strong waves and to provide extra buoyancy for shorter-distance paddling.

Whitewater playboats with more rounded ends make upstream moves easier as well. Touring and adventure canoe hulls must be able to withstand lake waves (and some moderate whitewater) while maintaining a reasonable hull speed.

This is done by directing water away from the boat’s bow and stern with a modest flare. However, the boat’s stern and bow should have a volume that’s sufficiently low to readily cut through waves.

Hull Shape Canoes

A photo of a double hull canoe.

To get higher primary stability (stability when the canoe is flat), the bottom of the canoe has to be flat. The more curved the bottom of the hull, the less initial steadiness however the faster the vessel will go.

Sport and cottage-style canoe hulls often have flat-bottomed hulls because of their stability, which is ideal for fishing and learning to paddle. Touring as well as expedition canoe hulls often feature a gently rounded bottom for improved maneuverability and acceleration.

When it comes to lake and river canoes, keel or v-bottomed canoes are preferable for tracking purposes. It is possible to paddle the canoe without sacrificing its weight-carrying capability if it is a tumblehome, as the distance between the gunwales is narrower than the entire canoe width.

The carrying capacity increases linearly with the displacement. A gunwale tuck is commonly used in whitewater playboats to accomplish a tumblehome (a molding material technique like Royalex).

Canoes have secondary stability when they heel over because of the flaring of the side parts of the mid area. For whitewater boats, this means that the paddler can lean the canoe over to cut turns. Several recreational boats are equipped with Tumblehome as well.

Rocker-shaped Canoes

In boat design, rocker refers to the degree to which the hull sways from the bow to the stern. Speed is reduced and payload capacity is reduced by using a rocker. For lake and touring canoes, the rocker should be kept to a minimum.

River hulls do not need to be quick, but they do need a rocker for agility (5 – 6) “can accommodate a 16-foot whitewater canoe.

Rockers should be included in both touring and expedition canoes. Consider an asymmetrical hull when purchasing a tandem or solo canoe for traveling, expeditions, or sports (the canoe’s shape is comparable front and back).