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Thread: What canoe material?

  1. #1
    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    Default What canoe material?

    I'm in the process of trying to make some decisions on a new canoe too purchase before we move up to alaska and need some thoughts and input on material.

    Please share any thoughts or knowledge that you have about the qualities and the drawbacks of the different materials. What would you prefer to have your canoe made out of? I'm looking at a 18 foot + and something to put a motor on. I'm wondering if the lighter materials lack the stiffness for a heavy loaded boat or how they fair with abuse on the rocks.

    On a side note..........I'm wondering if its worth the weight for a albany or HB at 185 and 250 lbs. I know that many here like them and have them and I'm very tempted but the weight of them would seem to make them very limited if any portaging was need to gain access to upper waters. Most of the 18 footers claim a 1000 to 1200 pound capacity and weigh in the range of 83 to 113 lbs.

    I did find that the Clipper 18' MacSport weighs 98 lbs in the fiberglass model and claims to have a 1500 lbs limit and has 7 3/4" of free board left. This seem like it might be the best of all worlds. Note quit sure how they get that. They also have the kevlar at 82 lbs and a ultralite at 76 lbs.

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    Member Sierra Dragon's Avatar
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    couple main things i know about. - your right however in buying one BEFORE getting up here. selection is limited in Alaska oddly, plus you'll pay a 15~25% premium for shipping.

    1. Aluminum - pros - strong, stiff, takes abuse well, and will hold the motor you're looking for. Cons - HEAVY!!! (don't plan on portaging or lifting it without aid), relatively expensive, while it's pretty tough if you hit it hard enough you will get a hole and if you do a) is difficult to repair. b)Sinks which may make it difficult to get to a place to repair it.

    2. Fiberglass - Pros - lighter (80+lbs still pretty tough to portage with), cheaper, still fairly robust, there are models for motors as you've pointed out. Cons - won't stand up to the rocks and gravel as well, (but does have the advantage that it is easy to repair)

    3. Kevlar Pros- Light... (thats about it really) Cons - EXPENSIVE, Kevlar is strong but not really tough if that makes sense.... it will resist wear on rocks very well but is too stiff to stand up to impacts very well. You have to be pretty careful to not crash into stuff. In my opinion unless you really want the weight reduction the tradeoffs in wear an tearablity are not worth the cost.

    4. Royalex - (3 layer plastic composite) - Pros- After Kevlar is the next lightest material. (should be able to stay around the 80 lb mark) and is much tougher material than kevlar or fibreglass other than abrasion resistance (couple kevlar skid plates glued on take care of that though) it will bend and flex rather than crack or break. Royalex is the favored material for those of us who run rivers. it's also very easy to patch and repair. Cons - not as stiff as aluminum but better than anything else. may be tricky to find a model that will take a motor.

    5. Polyethylene - Pros - CHEAP , Cons - you get what you pay for pretty much... Poly isn't superior in any one characteristic compared to other materials but does them all well enough for about half to a third the price.


    my two cents... I'm sure there will be disagreements from others... due your own research as well... most of the canoe manufactures have some good information on their websites describing why they think their products are better than the competition.

    in your situation if you are considering portaging then Fibreglass or Royalex is probably the best bet, if not then aluminum will probably be best

  3. #3
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    I've had smaller canoes, 12 & 14ft, the first Royalex, and the latest my relatively new boat is Poly, what they call Triple Tough Polyethylene, which is stiffer than other Poly's I've checked out.

    Without a doubt I'd go Royalex if buying new, it's quite light for the strength, phenomenal strength and abrasion resistance.
    For comparison, the 12' Royalex (Old Town Pack) weighed 33lbs, the 14' TT Poly (Mad River Explorer) is 72lbs, They both abrade a bit on the tough beaches of Alaska, but the TT Poly is roughing up much quicker than Royalex. Probably actually slows you down to some degree it's that scratched up after quite a bit of beach landing this summer. Maybe not a factor in river mud up north though

    For the weight factor, Absolutely Royalex. Not sure if this applies to your search for more of a Freighter type but both these materials are pretty impressive for toughness, I think they could fly off the roofrack at 55mph and be just fine, for an extreme example. Both Kevlar and Aluminum might not fair as well, but then that is what good knots are for, right?

    Good luck, and good move to get it down south also, lots of Canoes to choose from down there. Have Fun shopping
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  4. #4

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    if you intend to not canoe rivers you can go with the lightest your wallet can afford. kevlar, carbon fiber, kryptonite, etc.

    if you intend to canoe rivers, then the only way to go is Royalex. it lasts FOREVER. you won't be setting any paddling records, but why would you want to? i have friends with Royalex canoes that are 30 and 40 years old. canoes that get the s$%@ beat out of them ever year on alaska's rocky streams, and they still keep going.

    one thing about quality canoes, they retain their value or even increase in value over the years. so buy the best you can afford.

  5. #5

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    I have a Mad River LaMoille. I love it for lakes as it handles well, tracks wonderfully, and can haul quite a bit. However, it has a kevlar outter shell and fiberglass inner. The kevlar just scratches too easily for my liking. It is definitely not a 'river canoe' and I almost feel like I have to baby it on lake portages just to keep the scratches to a minimum. I plan on selling it next spring and going with Royalex. I was in the same boat (ummm, canoe) you were a few years ago trying to pick a material. I had my mind made up for Royalex, changed at the last minute (got a great deal on the LaMoille) but wish I had stuck with Royalex.

    Just my thoughts,

    Jeff

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    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    I thought that I heard that the Royalex had a lack of stiffness that may not make it the best choice for a square stern?

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    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    I have never had a square stern Roylex boat,
    The stiffness seems to be pretty good.
    Infact, the new scott canoes I have now are royalex and seem even stiffer than other brands I have.
    very very good quality canoes for sure.
    I guess I need to do some research on these thoughts..
    my vote though for an all around, is the Royalex canoe material..
    light, strong, and paddles pretty nice..
    In our business,, weight is almost always a very important part...
    I own a kevlar canoe and it is delicate,, and not to be used by anyone that would abuse the boat in anyway,
    will not handle hitting rocks in rivers etc..
    would never take one down the swanson river etc..
    but they are nice to portage and to paddle lakes and deep waters..
    thanks
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

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    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tboehm View Post
    I thought that I heard that the Royalex had a lack of stiffness that may not make it the best choice for a square stern?
    Just by my experience, including Fiberglass Kayaks, Plastic Kayaks (Poly I guess it is) and this new TT Poly of Mad Rivers Canoe,

    I'd say Royalex is VERY stiff in comparison, even more than Aluminum in a canoe hull thickness. Can't imagine it flexing in anyway or being a weak point for square stern,
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

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    Member AkKevin's Avatar
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    Bring it up flat and put beauty together
    http://pygmyboats.com/mall/taiga.asp

    Kevin
    Are we talking about goals or are we talking about dreams? AkKevin The one and only

  10. #10

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    I own the MacSport 18 in Kevlar. It is a nice canoe, but nowhere near the Albany in terms of stability or load. It is ok for what it is, but given the choice I'd go with the Albany.

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