There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the paddling and watersports world, especially with regard to kayaking and rafting. In this article, we’ll explain how each is unique, what the key differences are, and how you can get involved in both. If you’re looking for something relating to whitewater rafting/kayaking, check out our French Alps guide by clicking here.
What is rafting?
Rafting is similar to kayaking, except that instead of paddling a single-person kayak, you’re paddling a larger raft that can hold multiple people. Rafts are generally heavier and less manoeuvrable than kayaks, but they offer more stability and can be more fun for groups.
If you’ve ever been to a theme park or waterpark, you’ve more than likely been on a rafting ride. Think of the log flume, but one where you’re able to float freely and have more control over your craft. They’re super fun and great to go on with friends… especially if they hate getting wet!
What is kayaking?
Kayaking is a sport in which you sit inside of a small, narrow boat and paddle yourself through the water using a double-bladed paddle. Kayaks are designed to be lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, making them ideal for exploring rivers and lakes, either solo or with a buddy.
Kayaking is the more popular option of the two, likely because it’s a lot more accessible and less dependent on you having to do it with others, meaning you can, in theory, just head out alone and have fun. Plus it’s cheaper, you can often buy a kayak for yourself instead of having to hire a rafting craft.
What are the differences between rafting and kayaking?
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of each, let’s compare and contrast the two side-by-side so you can get a better idea of how they differ.
Rafts are much larger than kayaks, often holding 6-8 people at a time, while kayaks are designed for one or two people and so are obviously o the smaller side. If you decide to go and explore the rafting path, you’ll likely have to do so on a designated site and so will have to hire a raft for the group, instead of being able to bring your own.
Rafts are heavier than kayaks and can be difficult to transport on your own, and this is mainly why you typically won’t buy one of your own. Kayaks are relatively lightweight and easy to carry, making them ideal if you have to buy one and take it to whatever kayaking spot you want.
Rafts are more stable than kayaks because of their size and weight, though that does come with its own downsides, which we’ll cover in the next section. With regard to kayaks, they can tip over easily if you’re not careful but that’s part of the game and shouldn’t be a deterrence.
Rafts are less manoeuvrable than kayaks because of their size and weight, as we touched upon earlier, meaning you’ll have much less control. Kayaks, on the other hand, are easier to turn and paddle through tight spaces, making them perfect if you want to be able to make sharp movements.
Rafting can be more expensive than kayaking because you generally have to hire a raft instead of buying one outright. Kayaking is often cheaper because you can buy your own kayak relatively cheaply second-hand, or even new without having to spend much – generally, look for something in the £200-500 range.
How can you get involved in rafting and kayaking?
If you’re interested in getting involved in either activity, the best thing to do is to find a local club or group that offers lessons. This way, you can learn the basics from experienced instructors who can also help you stay safe while paddling.
If you live in an area where you’re close to water, a quick Google search should suffice. if you aren’t sure what to look for, look on Facebook for any watersports groups in your area – there are always people there who will be willing to help if you’re looking to get started.
Rafting and kayaking are both great ways to get outside and enjoy the water, whether you’re by yourself or with friends. Just be sure to heed any safety advice from your instructor and always wear a life jacket when paddling!