Is kevlar ultra light worth the money?

I spend about 70 days a year river fishing out of a canoe and am looking for a new one. Im going with the wenonah kingfisher and was wondering what are the differences between tuf-weave flex core and kevlar ultra light. Times are kinda tough and the ultra light is 800$ more. Am I going to be able to tell a huge difference between the two beside the flex core weighing 15lbs more?

Other than weight
I highly doubt you’d notice any difference at all. You might even like the heavier boat better because it won’t blow around in the wind quite as much.


weight and physics …

– Last Updated: Dec-21-10 12:22 AM EST –

....... other than what you feel when dead lifting the canoe (Kingfisher) on dry land (16 more lbs.) , and the small amount of extra effort to move that 16 lbs. along by paddle on the water ... could there be any positive benefits to the extra weight (16 lbs.) ??

My take on that is , with out a doubt the extra 16 lbs. is a plus , a positive thing if we are talking about river enviroments as I am used to !! .

Water has weight and when it's not glass flat , it's doing something that causes turbulance . Don't know about the rivers you go on but if they are like mine (mountain and peidmont stretches) , the turbulance is varied from alternating current changes to rapids (I stay in the light stuff mostly) , to drops and bumps of various sizes and strength (and rocks) .

To make my point about the physics and weight thing ... consider the Ultra-light at 39 lbs. vs. the Tuf-weave at 55 lbs. , the diiference being 16 lbs. . To me that 16 lbs. is a 41% increase in weight which I relate to as 16 more lbs. of energy absorption (turbulance energy) ... my 84 lb. canoe is a noticably softer and more pleasant "ride" than a much lighter canoe . Notice I said "ride" , not paddling effort . The rougher the water gets the more the weight becomes a bonus to me .

Given that 41% increase in mass and still being a nice light canoe at 55 lbs. , I wouldn't even consider the ultra-light ... but that's just me .

Everything seems to be a trade off or compromise in a canoe ... I wouldn't be willing to trade off aprox. 29% of my canoe's energy absorption for the 39 pounder . especially since it's the same canoe (or should be) in all other regards paddling/manuvering wise .

You never get something for nothing . Put another way give up some of this to get some of that and vice versa ... it's a ballance of what you think pleases or suits you best . To pay an extra 800. bucks to give up significant enery absorption in the river enviroment seems a lousy trade off to me . Lighter is not better in "all" regards , it's just lighter . Give up some weight and you give up some of the positives that go along with weight to get a little extra of the positives that go along with lighter .

If you were talking about a touring class canoe , a narrower (and possibly longer too) - a straight liner where most of your efforts are desired to cover distance at a sleek pace on relatively flat waters , then opting for a lighter weight might seem more beneficial to me ... but you're not , you're talking about a 40" wide (38" at 4" waterline ??) x 16' canoe , more of a comfort canoe , less of a speedster .

The main advantage is low weight for
lifting, carrying, loading. Any advantage in paddling is rather small. The disadvantage is fragility. The Tuf Weave layup will survive abuse much longer. You didn’t mention the Kevlar Flex Core layup, which may be as durable as the Tuf Weave, but is also fairly light. Repairs to the Tuf Weave version may be easier also, though the difference would not be great.

I have a 17 foot Bluewater Chippewa which weighs 48 pounds. I don’t think the light weight makes it faster than if it weighed 58 pounds, but the lightness makes it easier to make abrupt turns and spins when poling.

I would suggest you not buy the Wenonah ultralight layup. It is not designed for a guy doing a lot of canoe fishing. It’s for wilderness travelers who have to portage often, and portage long distances over rough trails. If low weight attracts you, is the Kevlar Flex Core layup available in the Kingfisher?

55lbs is still a very manageable weight. Unless you are particularly small, have back troubles, or for some other reason need the very lightest, go with the flex core. Tuff Weave flex core will likely be more durable (though they’ll both be durable enough), it is easier to repair, and the weight won’t matter on the water.

I like that Wenonah offers their extreme stiff/light option, but for most people it isn’t the best choice. For a few it is, so good for Wenonah.

Only if you are racing or looking
for lightness in regards to lifting.

If you take those two out of the equation and are just getting a boat for fishing, I would not get ultralight

Jack L

If you’re fishing 70 days a year…
I’m very envious. Are you perhaps retired? I have a ways to go, but I’ve noticed that our canoes feel heavier every year. So let me offer a contrary view.

If you go that often, you’ll also get more use from your canoe; you’ll get your money’s worth every time you load and unload it. (Truly, you’ll hardly notice the difference once your canoe is in the water.) This, in turn, will make it more likely that you continue going that often. Consider the cost per trip over the next ten or twenty years; then it’s not so bad.

And if you go that often, I bet there are a lot of times when you go by yourself. There’s a big difference, especially loading back up onto the roof of your vehicle after a long day, between 39 and 55. Plus, you might consider portaging into a couple of hidden fishing spots that wouldn’t be worth it with a heavier boat.

On the other hand, 55 pounds isn’t so bad. If you were choosing between that and 68 pounds of Royalex, well, that’s another weight threshold altogether. And if money is tight, 800 dollars just might not be worth it. That’s 50 bucks for each pound you’re saving. And even if you don’t need the 800 dollars for next month’s mortgage, it could buy a lot of fishing tackle.

The flex-core layup is also a little stronger. So that’s a plus. If you like, you can always trade up to a lighter canoe in a few years. And if you compare a slightly heavier canoe to no canoe at all, then… Maybe that Tuff-weave flex core will be just fine after all.

what about
getting a different boat?

You say canoe is for fishing - hence you are not racing or carrying pounds of gear. Then you can get away with a smaller displacement boat, smaller displacement boats are smaller boats, smaller boats are intrinsically lighter.

Lifting, paddling…
The Kingfisher is 40" wide. If you will be lifting and carrying by yourself, that extra 4" can make a big difference in the effort it takes to get the boat to your shoulders. That would be a good reason to go with the ultralight. It would also be one good reason to go with a model that is less beamy.

The Kingfisher is particularly suited to carrying a large and somewhat top-heavy load. If you are a big guy and want to be standing a lot, or if you expect to have a rather active large dog with you (as in duck hunting) it might suit you - if you can live with the efficiency penalty that will come with such a wide and flat-bottomed boat.

If that doesn’t describe you, and you aren’t particularly “balance challenged”, you might want to consider something more along the lines of the Wenonah Aurora or Adirondack, which can both also be had in kevlar flex-core. A 36" wide canoe that weighs ~49lbs will be pretty easy for anyone with reasonable upper body strength to lift to his shoulders. 40" wide and ~51lbs - still not bad if you don’t have short arms or shoulder problems.

related question
So on a related note I have considered (day dreamed of) upgrading my touring boat to same model in a ultra lay up.

What diff in hull speed would you guys speculate I would see tween a 65 lb and a 35 lb’er on a sustained run?

I think the speed difference would not be noticeable, or even measurable with typical instruments. Sure, your boat is half the weight, but in a different accounting, your total displacement might be only 5% less. If you were racing this would matter a great deal. For recreational paddling, it really isn’t a concern.

Try this, go out in your canoe with your usual load and take a 5 gallon pail with you. Paddle with it empty, then fill it mostly full with water, giving you about 40lbs extra. See if you notice a big difference in speed (My prediction is that you will notice it a bit in acceleration, and not at all in cruising speed).

Seems like I’ve read…
…that some canoes have slightly (or more) different shapes comparing the RX and composite versions of the same model. That might make a noticeable difference in speed - but not because of the weight. Comparing a fiberglass boat to one that came off the same mold in kevlar? I don’t think you’re gonna see any difference in speed. Responsiveness, maybe…

It makes a huge difference
Take a ultralight and then take the exact same model and put a gelcoat finish over the epoxy.

Then let the same “engine” paddle both over a given course, and the gelcoat finished same model boat will be left in the ultralights wake.

From experience !

jack L

saw a senior couple up on …

– Last Updated: Dec-23-10 9:05 PM EST –

...... a mountain lake paddling an ultra-light tandem kayak (I am assuming it was an ultra light) ... long , narrow , sleek , so thin it looked nearly transparent . These folks paddled in great harmony as well .

I was not aware that a kayak could go that fast ... impressive speed !!

Got Both
I’ve got both layups. My tuffweave is a 15’ Wilderness solo and weighs about the same as my kevlar MNII tandem. The solo boat feels heavier than it should be. At the time I got it, it felt light compared to the royalex ones I was used to. The tradeoff is that kevlar is fragile. We took the MNII on one trip to BWCA and it needed skid plates and a lot of touch up to the bottom. However, I can’t imagine taking the trip we took down the Frost with our old royalex boat. If I took that same trip solo, I would want to do it with a kevlar Prism or similar solo. Tuffweave is tough, but I’m spoiled by kevlar for tripping, I reckon. Bottom line is my answer to your question is “it depends on your intended use.” If you have need for a light fishing boat for long portages or put-ins, the extra $800 is worthwhile. If you’re in a particularly rocky area or don’t ever plan on carrying the boat very far, where low water is common, the extra $800 would be wasted or even counter-productive.

thanks for the great responses guys
I think im going with the tuff weave. I never fish by myself and are portages are very short. I dont think the extra weight should be a problem. We normally fish shallow rivers. I hook a 55lb thrust trolling motor to a side mount and sometimes go up current but we rarely ever seen any level 2+ rapids and the current is usually pretty slow. We do alot of musky fishing and throw huge lures so im thinking the 40" width is prob a good idea for better balance. We fish out of a 14ft fiberglass canoe right now with a 40" width (not sure on the weight) and I like it alot just need some more room and that extra 2 ft is going to make a big difference hopefully it wont effect the speed and mobility too much

Weight comparisons
I have a Prism in kevflex which is 10 pounds heavier than the ultralight Prism. (44 lbs. vs 34 lbs.) It is a really rugged lay up. I don’t do a lot of portaging anymore so I am living with the 44 lb canoe. On the water you will not tell much difference.

I do have two Sawyer DY Specials. One is goldenglass at 50 lbs. and the other is an ultralight kevlar layup at 32. Both paddle identical but in the wind the lighter canoe gets blown around more.

Your choice depends on how much weight you want to handle loading and unloading. Remember 50 pounds is heavier when you are 65 than when you are 45.

The extra money you spend at 45 will not be missed when you are 65.

The heavier layup will probably be in better shape when you are 65 than when you were 45.

Fishing is your primary activity,
so forget about racing. They are 2 completely different functions, and different line-ups of canoes exist for each. No hybrids.

Since you are on a limited budget, the kevlar is not worth the difference in performance for fishing. I think a heavier layup will actually work better for you.

Another consideration might be to use a wheeled dolly cart. They work quite well, and most are less than $100.

I too thought about a kevlar layup for flat water, and there is another consideration. A couple posts mentioned that you will get blown by the wind with the kevlar more than the heavier layup, and I believe that. I also think that is due to the buoyancy/light weight factor of kevlar requiring much more weight to get the canoe down into its optimum displacement. For flat water recreation, I like fiberglass.

Higher tech is not always better for all uses.

Good luck!