Umiaks are large, open skin boats, used for group travel, freighting, hunting, fishing and gathering. Umiaks were built by virtually all sea-going peoples of the Arctic, from Greenland to Alaska and Siberia. Depending on the particular culture, the umiak might be used primarily as a men's or a women's boat.

Umiaks can range from 15 to 60 feet LOA., with a beam of about 6 feet. They
were originally paddled or sailed, but have been outboard motor powered as soon as
such engines became available.

The antiquity of the umiak is hard to judge since skin and timber articfacts are not especially long lived. It is possible that the umiak prefigured the kayak, which itself has been built a possible 5000 years, perhaps more. Rock drawings in Europe and other evidence indicate that large open skin boats were being built as long ago as 3000 B.C. and they were more than likely used for ocean voyages. At any rate, the umiak is an extremely old type of boat that has played an important role in the travel and migration of the first arctic peoples for a long, long time.