Fiberglass vs Royalex

What is the atvantages of fiberglass over royalex?

Is there a big weight difference?

What are the disavantages of glass?

“FG”= composite. The composite
boat, if built for strength, will weigh about as much as a Royalex boat, but will still break somewhat more often, though it will be quite repairable. Composite boats are often stiffer and sharper ended than the same model in Royalex, and paddle easier.

If Royalex is built “light”, it gets floppy and the hull may not behave well, perhaps oil-canning unless keel support is added.

Composite boats can be very light and still acceptably stiff, but most are too fragile for whitewater or very rocky rivers.

It isn’t easy to buy a pure FG canoe from reputable manufacturers, but Wenonah makes certain boats in Tufweave, a cloth where fiberglass and polyester fibers alternate. Tufweave boats are stiff, wear smooth, don’t break easily, and often are a few pounds lighter than an equivalent Royalex model.

I’ve owned several Royalex boats, and a number of pure FG or wild-and-crazy composite canoes. I prefer composite boats, but I’m good at the occasional repair. My main WW canoe over the past dozen years is Royalex.

A glass boat can have sharper edges good for flat water paddling, and they will often be lighter. However, they do not hold up to rocks as well. Rx will be much better for rocky water, it mat dent or crease but it will last.

Just to clarify
what kind of rocks and impacts we are talking about (that can destroy FG hull). It’s mostly whitewater. Whitewater boats are not normally made in FG.

Coastal paddling or river paddling (no rocky shallows, no rapids) - this is where both Royalex and FG can be used, and FG is better in this case. FG won’t be destroyed by landing (not surfing!) or launching on pebbles, rough coral sand, boulders or barnacle beds. In these conditions and for a reasonably sane paddler it will take a dozen of years for FG hull to reach the stage when abraded bottom needs either FG repair or gel coat repair, and both kinds can be done successfully.

One other thing…
If you like to fish out of your canoe, glass is a lot noisier than Royalex. But I’ve used glass composite canoes quite a bit on Ozark streams. Yes, they get scratched up, and you don’t want to bang one on a sharp rock in the middle of a really fast rapid, but they actually hold up pretty well to floating bony Ozark creeks.

Nothing is noisier than aluminum canoes :slight_smile:

People do a lot of fishing in those too.

White scratches
My first canoe was a fiberglass Old Town Camper 16. It weighed 72 lbs and had a beautful green gel coat. Early in the first year that I owned it I did not securely pull it up on shore at the resort cabin we had rented. A nice youth pulled it back to shore and tied it to the pier where the wave action continually rubbed the bow of the canoe over small rocks and stones. When I awoke from my nap I discovered the the beautiful green bow of my canoe was now covered with white scratch marks where the green gel coat had been scraped off. Entirely my fault, but the next year I replaced it with a 57 lb green Royalex Old Town Pathfinder (discontinued model) which has some small cuts on the hull but is still a pretty green after 25 years.


Gel coat

– Last Updated: Jul-07-11 12:02 AM EST –

is cosmetic by design. It will get scratched after the very 1st season, no matter what. After 10-15 years people sometimes re-coat it with gel again - I didn't, for 18 years or so, and then just sold the boat. There was no structural damage to FG, and I didn't bother with gel coat restoration - when it's old who cares how it looks... Needed narrower, faster and lighter one, and got old Kevlar 10 lbs lighter.