fiberglass vs. royalex

Looking for the pros and cons (besides weight) re fiberglass and royalex. Opinions?? Facts?



You have to specify what you mean
by “fiberglass.” If you mean, literally, fiberglass, then you are talking about a boat that may need to be relatively heavy to be stiff and strong enough.

If you mean “composite,” as in made of layers of various cloths held together with resin, then you can have a very light boat that is strong for its weight, or a boat virtually as strong as Royalex but also as heavy. Go to the Western/Clipper site and check out the layup they use for selected whitewater models. The combination of polyester cloth and vinylester resin creates an unusually durable hull for a reasonable weight.

I have an old Phoenix c-1 made in their “Fiberlastic” layup, polyester cloth and vinylester resin, and though the boat was hammered as hard as any polyethelene boat, the hull never broke through. There was one little L-shaped weak spot in the stern that I easily patched with two layers of Kevlar. The boat weighs just as much as similar polyethelene c-1s such as the Perception Gyramax, but the Phoenix layup will never crack from age.

Royalex can get somewhat brittle with age. I once saw a Mad River ME careen into a tree while sliding down a slope to the river. It split up and down the stem. It was obvious from the jagged break, with small pieces half broken off, that the ABS was old and brittle.

For lake and flat water canoe
paddling, I have had both royalex and fiberglass.

Royalex - Costs about $1,000 or more, cannot be designed with sharpness into the form, and is fairly heavy. Slightly quieter, if you are knocking things around. Most royalex designs are not very efficient for long distance flat water paddling.

Fiberglass - Costs about $750 or more, usually has sharp entry and exit lines for efficient paddling, and is also fairly heavy. Some newer models are lighter.

For flatwater, I would give the edge to fiberglass for the performance it offers.

For whitewater, royalex gets the edge all the way.

Happy paddling!