How to tell Royalex from Poly

So, besides weight, what’s the best way to tell whether a boat is Royalex or Polyethylene? That probably sounds like an odd question, but I’m dealing with someone on Craigslist who is selling a boat I might be interested in, but only if it is the Royalex layup. Seller doesn’t know and lives some distance from me, so I can’t just go take a look. Manufacturer is Old Town. Did they use any particular marks or style distinguish their Royalex and Poly boats? It looks like a Royalex boat in pictures, but I’m not sure what that’s worth.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

an Old Town what ??

– Last Updated: May-21-09 8:58 PM EST –

..... I'm an Old town fan and have experience in a number of thier models ... have liked them all , some a bit more than others but all were fine canoes for my purposes . Own two at present , love how tough they are , ones Royalex , the other 3 layer linear PolyE.

The difference in looks between Royalex and PolyE. is quite a bit , especially after it has some scratches and guages . The poly can guage pretty deep and you still see poly before the floatation core . The Royalex has a thinner outer/inner skin (vinyl) and a deeper guage will show the next layer , ABS , sooner .

The PolyE. is shinnier , also a bit softer skinned .

Weight is a bit lighter in the Royalex , but not a substantial amount in the older OldTowns , the earlier Royalex they used nust have been thicker and heavier than the newer stuff , I think .

Ah , Royalex is prettier I guess you could say .

I don't know how to tell by the seriel number myself but I'm fairly certain that it tells if it's Royalex or PolyE. ... get the ser.# and give Old Town a call , they will be able to tell you I think ... 800-343-1555 , ask for Patty Wheeldon if you can get her , to start off with ... she'll transfer you to the best person for help .

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What model?
Old Towns have a model name…even if the decal has been removed the seller ought to be able to read the shadow.

Discos are poly. Guide 147 is poly. Rockport poly. Predator poly.

Penobscots Trippers looks like everything else Royalex.

I got that off the website so there are may be some discontinued models.

I dont think you want the seller to cut the boat to see if it has an ABS sandwich layer.

It often amazes me how little sellers know about what they are selling

At the risk of being scooped…
it’s a OT Penobscot:

The current specs put the royalex at ~60lbs and the Poly at ~80lbs (the Royalex is a shorter boat by a couple of inches).

I’ve asked the seller to check for a plate, but I haven’t heard back yet.

Here is a guess.
I don’t know it this will work, but here is a guess. If anybody can comment on this, please do.

Every Royalex boat I have personally seen has been a different color on the inside than the outside, usually a rather bland neutral color on the inside and a “real canoe color” on the outside. All poly kayaks I have seen are the same color on both sides, and all the way through the hull. If some canoes are a ‘sandwich’ design with a poly hull, this trend may not still be true.

Thats funny
I was all set to go buy that boat tonight,I offered him 450 and he said he would take it.I would offer him 400.00 I know he will take it.That is a Royalex boat.I would have bought it but I allready have one,I just wanted a red one but cant justify spending the money for a different color.

One other thought - maybe a longshot
Does it have wood gunwales? If it does, you might be able to see the top edge of the hull between the inner and outer strips of wood, and seeing the hull in cross-section would settle the issue for sure. Further, if it has wood gunwales but you can’t see the top edge of the hull for identification, I would BET that it is Royalex. Who would put wood gunwales on a boat with a poly hull?

ask him to measure the width

– Last Updated: May-21-09 10:20 PM EST –

the RX Penobscot has a slimmer profile and has a narrower beam (under 3 ft) than the poly... from those pics it looks like it may be one!

maybe not
I missed the three layer poly on the Pen 164 and 174. Even though I live in Maine I have never seen either.

If its three layer the colors could theoretically be different inner and outer.

I believe
that is a Royalex Penobscot. The poly Penobscot is called the Penobscot 164 and the canoe should bear that label.

Easiest thing is to
punch a big hole in it. If it’s repairable, it’s Royalex, otherwise it’s poly.

If it’s not your boat, just looking at the owner will tell you on the spot. If he’s raring back to punch you in the face, it’s Royalex. If he’s picking up a shovel to hit you, it’s poly.


yep , all the Old Town poly canoes …
… I’ve seen have light color inside (beige, tan)and different color outside (green, red) … same with the Royalex canoes .

man , I can’t tell from those pics. …
… my first guess is it’s PolyE. linear 3 layer , but i could be mistaken ?? It’s the way the rubs and scratches show like poly , different than vinal Royalex , but the lighting in those pics. could be causing that …

The canoe should have an embossed serial number pressure stamped right into the hull up near the bow (or stern) , I don’t believe it will have a rivited plate ser. # like you might be thinking .

Get the ser.# and call Old Town , unless someone else knows for certain that the ser.# won’t tell if it’s Royalex or PolyE. …

definitely rx
The easiest way to tell the difference is to get close. RX sheaths the ABS plastic in vinyl inside and out. Vinyl has a homogeneous color. Polyethylene starts life as a bucket of plastic pellets. Poly boats from Old Town will always have some speckle to them and will be a little lumpy on the inside where RX should be smooth. You should also be able to pick out on the inside stems where a reinforced piece of ABS is used on RX boats. Old Town never put wood gunnels on Poly boats, usually vinyl. The RX Penobscott could have wood, but is probably aluminum gunnels. Based on the photo, it has aluminum gunnels and those decals date it to a 2006ish model year Royalex Penobscott. If the seller is taking $400 for it, even without paddles it’s a good find.

Great question
I have a OT disco which is poly and a OT Penobscot 16 which is royalex, and I can’t tell the difference except for the weight.



Sellers often don’t even get the length right. The simple thing is to have him weigh the boat. If it’s royalex, he should be able to stand on a bathroom scale with it on his shoulders. Then stand on it without the boat. Subtract the difference…if it’s a Penobscot and it’s ~59lbs, its royalex.

Nail Polish/Thinner?
If I recall correctly nail polish, nail polish thinner, acetone will dissolve ABS but not poly.

Ask him to put a couple of drops in some least visible spot. If the material gets soft - ABS, if not poly.

Additionally, nail polish will definitely flake off from the poly surface.

Crazy glue sticks to ABS as well, but not to poly

Disclaimer - never actually tried any of these :wink:

Why not
just have the guy look at the side of the canoe?

If it says Penobscot 16 it’s Royalex.

If it says Penobscot 164 it’s poly.

wonder if the long stripe decals on …
… the sides might give a clue ??

Old Town fancies up thier Rx boats a bit . Did they use the fancier striping on the polye. model too , or just the Rx ??

Can’t tell from the pics. if the gunnels are alum. or vinyl … I believe the Rx modle may have only come with blackened alum. .

Seems like even in those pics. you should be able to see the Old Town logo on the side (in the stripes) , but I don’t see it … probably just the pic. though .

Another mentioned the smoother floor for Rx , where the polye. has a slight ripple/lumpyness … that is so from what I know .

I always find it strange when sellers don’t show pics. of details like the logo brand or worded stickers , the interior or other detail features .

The mystery deepens
So, the serial number is XTC 89098C303, which Old Town says is the # for a Penobscot 160 (the RX version). The seller says the gunwales are vinyl, which Old Town says are only on the Poly version (aluminium or wood on the RX). Gotta love it when all the evidence comes together!

Thanks to everyone for the advice. And if anyone can read Old Town serial numbers and wants to chime in, I’m always gald for a second opinion.