Canoe or Kayak: Choosing the Best Option for your Boundary Waters Canoe Trip
We seem to start just about every one of these with the same disclaimer: these are opinions based on the watercraft we have, there is not one true way to perfectly experience the Boundary Waters and everyone has a personal preference. With all of that behind us we do have some recommendations that will help you decide which water craft will work best for you and in almost all overnight camping situations we highly suggest using a Clearwater canoe.
Clearwater Canoe or Kayak?
The kayaks we rent are 12’ Kestrels by Current Designs and have one compartment for storing gear and no portaging yolk or pads. These kayaks are not really designed to be used on overnight trips into the BWCA, but they are excellent for day tripping on Clearwater Lake. The kayaks weigh about as much as a Kevlar canoe but with no great way to haul them you usually just end up resting it on your shoulder. Moving the kayaks around on flat ground like that is manageable, but trying to maintain balance to safely get it across a wet rocky portage would be a real struggle and potentially dangerous. Even if you are thinking about just toughing it out and getting that kayak across that portage no matter what you still have the lack of space for gear as a real concern.
So clearly we are pro canoe in almost all overnight camping situations, but there are times when a kayak can be useful on an overnight Boundary Waters adventure. The question of managing the watercraft needs of an odd number group is one we get a lot and your options are either a three-person canoe, solo canoe or kayak. If you have never paddled a solo canoe before it might be better to take a kayak as they are easier for beginners. The lack of space for gear can be shared with the other canoes in the group and then you are just left with the portaging struggles. If you are set on taking a kayak but are not liking the sound of portaging it consider picking an entry point that has very few portages or none at all. Brule, Seagull, and Saganaga Lakes are all excellent options for an enjoyable overnight camping experience with a kayak; they are all large enough that you would have plenty to explore and they can be directly accessed without portaging.
At the end of the day you are going to have to weigh your options in terms of what you are comfortable with, but we hope we have made that decision a little easier to make.