Kevlar canoe

Im trying to gain some knowledge on kevlar canoes. I have read the whole debates on kevlar vs royalex.For me I want a kevlar canoe, or something along those lines, ie carbon etc. My reasoning is the ability for me to do any repairs if needed and the light weight.

With that being said, I Am having a hard time trying to figure out which companies add a layer of glass on the outside to help protect the kevlar. So which compaines do this? Also are there any companies I should stay away from? or gravitate to?


most now do
Mad River used to make all Kevlar boats and they may still. Most manufacturers use Kevlar on the interior and something else (S-Glass, E-Glass, carbon fiber) on the outer layers these days and it results in a stronger boat.

But if the boat is all Kevlar and gel-coated, the gel coat will prevent the Kevlar from getting “fuzzy”.

If you have a question about how a particular composite canoe is constructed, try contacting the maker.

The real question is
What use will the canoe be put to?

Wilderness tripping?


Flatwater day trips?


overnight trips
This will be used for overnight trips on costal rivers, deltas, and possibly the occasional class I-II, but extremely rare. Looking for some thing faster and lighter than my aluminum and and more repairable than royalex.

And who uses actual epoxy resin, and not vinyl ester?

On the right track
You have come to the same conclusions that I have, in that repairability is important, and a 'glass outer layer really helps this. I would add that foam cores are a hassle to repair.

Millbrook Canoes look really good to me, but I’ve never paddled one as I live far away. If I lived on the East coast, I think I’d own an AC/DC by now.

Souris River canoes are excellent, but a bit overpriced in my opinion.

Hellman Canoes are similar to Souris, but less expensive, and so far from you that they hardly bear mentioning.

Likewise far away, Clipper canoes makes a Duraflex layup which uses no ribs or core. They also offer the option in their price list of an extra layer of s-glass on any canoe they make. I suspect other builders might do this for you as well, especially the smaller ones where you can talk with the owners.

I’ve heard the old Black Gold Layup from Bell was really good, but I haven’t beat up on one.

Bluewater’s “golden brawn infu-light” uses heat-cured epoxy, s-glass and kevlar. These, too, are expensive.

There is always Kruger canoes.

Epoxy is a bit stronger than vinylester, but not a whole lot. S-glass is about 40% stronger than e-glass, so it is a significant improvement.

I have long sought a canoe that has no foam core, s-glass outer, epoxy construction, and built at a reasonable weight (by that I mean not obsessed with the lightest possible weight, but going for a balance of weight and toughness). I’ve never found it, but have been pretty happy with the canoes I have which include a Souris and Hellman.

Gel coat does help abrasion resistance
Dave Curtis of Hemlock Canoe makes a light strong boat. He has various layups and all do have fiberglass covering the outer kevlar…I have a boat with FG, kevlar and carbon fiber.

He eschews (as do I ) foam cores. Those tend to fail in an accident and are hard to repair.

Of course you pays for a semi custom boat. But if you think of it as an investment it holds value well.

Vacuum infused boats do best with the right mix of resin and fabric, but some careful hand layups do quite well too. Its best to examine your boat and ask where what fabric was laid and look for careful workmanship…ie no sloppy frayed edges nor parted carbon or kevlar.

I saw a NovaCraft that they should have been ashamed of. The carbon weave was sloppy and daylight shone through some of the fabric. Normally I thought they made good boats.

You are in their neck of the woods. I think they are making composite boats in chattanooga. You could talk to them. I actually saw a Hellman for sale in east Tennessee this spring. I would have bought it but it was an 18 footer. Ill bet that guy still has that boat.

Good luck.

Ryan L.

Mohawk no longer makes composites

Class Five does and puts on a Mohawk label.

Mohawk has this disclaimer

I prefer epoxy, but I own both, and
I can’t detect any difference in strength between my vinylester and epoxy boats. Souris River uses only epoxy. Bluewater will use epoxy if you ask for it. I don’t recall whether Hellman uses epoxy— you can check. Otherwise, vinylester is the rule, and you shouldn’t worry about it.

I think you may be headed toward spending too much on a canoe. Check Wenonah and see if they have the canoe you want in Tufweave, a glass/polyester fiber blend that bonds unusually well to vinylester. Cheaper than their Kevlar, stiff, doesn’t fuzz from dragging, very repairable (with epoxy). A little heavier than Kevlar, but often only a 5 pound difference.

And, don’t buy an ultralight. More brittle, harder to fix.

I have three Wenonah kevlar
canoes. One is their Jensen 17. another is a comp Cruiser and the other is a J boat.

They all are ultralight with the foam core and they are all a snap to fix and, or repair.

The first repair that I ever did I used kevlar, but since then I will only use fibreglass and when the repair is finished most people can’t even see it with out close scrutiny.

So far I have repaired two cracked foam ribs using fiberglass, and a hole in the bow of the Comp cruiser when we rammend a log at 7 MPH in a race.

I have completed reepoxied the bottom of both the Jensen and the J boat, and they come out looking as new.

Take a look at the Wenonah ultralight kevlar Jensen. It sounds like it would be the perfect boat for what you are looking for at 39 pounds.

Jack L

Wenonah is heading the top of my list right now. I do like the tuff weave but like the “looks” of the plain weave. I’ll have to look more. It seems the more I look the more options I see which mums up the water even more.

Well call them. They are still in chattanooga.

Ryan L.

I currently have a Bluewater canoe
that is a kevlar/nylon/epoxy/core. layup with jellcoat. It is extremely resistant to chipping and took a very hard shot near the stern going off a ledge that left only some cracks in the jell coat and some stress lines in the hull. It has enough rocker for the class 1-2 work and it is a decent paddler on flat water.

Coreless canoes are hard to find. Mad River’s kev Explorer would meet your criteria and can be found in the used boat market. I dont know if they have any glass in the layup but it is jellcoated for abrasion and a very tough boat. It is excellent on big water ( 3’ seas on Lake Michigan) but not a very fast canoe.


– Last Updated: Jun-29-11 3:06 PM EST –

1) Clipper canoes use foam cores on Kevlar models, though I don't know details on their "Duraflex" layup, may be this one eliminates foam core. Their semitransparent "Ultralight Kevlar" have honey-brownish hulls and are same Kevlar (with same S-glass), only without decorative gel coat, so the wight is 5-6 lbs less and no color options.

2) Kruger - oh yeah... There is no other kayak/canoe with THAT many layers of composite. And lets not forget about "peeping Tom Sawyer" - Sawyer Expedition decked canoe is essentially a copy of Kruger Sea Wind (deep version), a bit cheaper and couple of layers less. The company was established by former Verlen Kruger's employee. There wasn't any hard feelings, though - late Kruger saw and approved Sawyer's boats.

PS: to the OP: why don't you ask the manufacturer? Websites never contain full technical description, it's just an advertising brochure after all.

Kevlar hulls by Clipper differ from their “normal” Kevlar hulls only by cosmetic gel coat - Ultras don’t have a gel. I doubt this makes it more brittle. But - other makers might call “ultralight” a model with fewer layers of composite, and then it will be less strong indeed.

We have a Bluewater Chippewa made
around 2000 before Bluewater was bought by Scott. Ours has no gelcoat, just a green pigmented surface layer, and is made with heat-cured, vacuum bagged epoxy, glass, Nylon, and Kevlar. We haven’t used this boat enough to say how the foam core would stand up. However, Gary Barton planned the layup, and he was also the top guy at Upatream Edge, which made whitewater slalom boats for Davey and Kathy Hearn and other luminaries.

A horrible Kevlar story

– Last Updated: Jun-30-11 4:22 AM EST –

from Souris River :

"It is not unusual to see a 5 year old kevlar canoe [by other brands] begin to separate right at the chines of the canoe (round part where the side meets the bottom). Basically the two flaps of cloth separate from each other (delaminate) due to repeated flexing of the side of the canoe against the unbending, unforgiving stiffness of the foam core bottom. ... Souris River does not use overlapping pieces like you see above, but instead uses whole sheets of cloth".
Have anybody ever seen such a disaster? On a typical foam core Kevlar/S-glass vinylester canoe??

I’ve noticed on my 6 year old sawyer that the gelcoat does have some stress cracks at that line your talking about. Its mostly in the bow where the shape of the boat allows more flexing. I just figured I would reinforce it eventually if I ever noticed it coming to the inside.

I will say that I have read almost every thing from that guy at the redrock store and he seems pretty gloom and doom. It’s always worst case scenario with him. Not saying thats bad, just saying.

Ryan L.

the brand shall be nameless. But the canoe in question still gave good service and I am not sure if it was time or use…the boat got hard use in the five years.

Its not so much what you use as how you use it. Kevlar blankets are used by superior boat builders with pieces added in a certain way in high stress areas.

And to Souris
I should preface this by saying I really like Souris River Canoes. That said, they are not immune from that problem either. I refurbished a few old rentals, and after about 10 years, they were showing stress cracks along the chines, as their rib covers all ended at the chines. It wasn’t that hard to do, with two day’s work and less than $100 materials they were good again, with probably another 20 years of recreational use. Still, no canoe is immune from damage, and at least the composites can be fixed effectively.