Okay, I know I asked about this before, but I think I deleted the original post prematurely so I am asking again…

I am thinking about getting an elite layup Explorer, but have heard mixed things about the elite layups.

I don’t plan to use the boat for rock gardening and currently don’t live in an area with a rocky coast / rocky landings so I don’t know if I need all the strength of the standard layup.

How much weight does the elite layup REALLY save you? NDK claims 8-10 pounds but that may be an exageration.

Does the elite layup still provide adequate strength and stiffness for most applications?

Or is the Elite line trading off too much strength and stifness to really be worth it?




– Last Updated: Jan-17-08 11:55 AM EST –

You like to manhandle your boats and you're strong enough to do so. Just get a regular layup Explorer. It's their gold standard and anything else is a niche layup. Also, you will not be in HDG forever, so get the most versatile layup you can.

just buy a boat already!!!

heheheheheh…just kidding. Too bad you can’t fit into a Explorer LV elite that would be both smaller and lighter!


Planned use vs. real life
I know someone who bought a Valley boat with a light layup. He said it weighed about 42 lbs when he bought it.

He doesn’t live in rock garden country, either. In fact, he doesn’t even live near the ocean, period.

But he DOES sometimes paddle in those places. After a few days on the Pacific coast, he said he had a lot of repairs to make on that boat. The repairs added a fair bit of weight.

Soooo, do you pay hundreds more for the privilege of adding reinforcements later? Or pay the regular price for a boat that won’t need them (or needs fewer of them)?

Those are some good points…
Repairs do add to expense, weight, and incovenience.

I guess I just am not sure how durable the lighter layups are.

Seems the standard layup is perhaps over-engineered for most paddlers.

I wonder if the elite layup brings the boat down to what a more conventional glass layup might be like…like you might see in an Impex boat or other non-British company that uses a less extreme layup than the Brit boats do (they are pretty extreme when it comes to their built-in durability…and weight).


Elite layup
I don’t have any direct experience with the elite layup, but as has been said here a million times before, it depends on who is making it, and how they make it.

There are lighter standard layups out there that are every bit as tough as NDK’s standard layup, and won’t hole as easily as the NDK will. NDK’s philosophy is to keep damage localized to make repair easier. That means you have to trade resilience to get that property. Composites are all compromises. The newer infusion layups actually have a higher failure point in many cases, but will fail over a larger area when pushed too far. You pick your poison.

A regular all-cloth vacuum-bagged glass layup is fine for 90% of sea kayakers. Light layups were originally made for people who have issues lifting the boat, not for some aspect of its use on the water. If you can lift a regular explorer, you’re better off with the standard layup.

Not all lighter layups are equal

– Last Updated: Jan-15-08 1:00 PM EST –

NDK's Elite layup achieves it weight savings primarily by using less of the same materials employed in their standard layup. One less layer of fabric in the hull and thinner gel coat along with only partial keel reinforcement. Carbon/kevlar bulkheads and carbon seat (newer Elite layups often come with foam seat)are the only materials that are different thamn in the standard boats. My Elite Romany feels to weigh under 50 pounds. It feels about as firm as many Impex boats I've experienced.

Valley's lighter layups achieve weight savings by using other materials not necessarily fewer. My ProLite Aquanaut has Carbon/Kevlar and Diolene fabric in the hull, as well as Carbon/Kevlar bulkheads. The gel coat is as thick as any standard layup Valley. The boat is very firm and is holding up very well to all kinds of use over the past 4 years - 4* training, rock gardening, etc... Unfortunately, it really does not weigh less than a standard layup Valley.

Valley's newer layups achieve some of their weight savings by more efficient use of materials as much as by the materials themselves. This is also true of P&H as far as I know.

I would think that NDK's Elite layup is roughly equivalent to Impex layups of a few years ago for resiliancy and weight. Other 'lighter' layups are different.

Neither Nigel Dennis nor Tom Bergh recommend the Elite layup for hard use.

Gold standard???
If you really believe that, you’ve really “drunk the Kool-Aid”. NDK layups are the worst examples of kayak construction on the market.

what about the new Nordkapp Lv (replacement) you were supposed to be getting…or are you still getting that one?

You’re overthinking this whole process a bit too much. Just go out and use the boat(s). That’s the nice thing with glass and the ease of repairs.

I think the savings in weight with most of these boats is negligible.

Standard for NDK

Always appreciate your input re: quality. In this context, I meant gold standard for NDK and their other layups are niches… I meant my comment with the assumption that Matt has made his mind up on an Explorer and is just refining his options…

My post has been clarified to reflect this.

…lets not start down that path/string again!!!

Matt - go for the heavier layup of the standard Explorer, as I had an Impex boat and can’t deal with the more flexible FG layup those seem to have. Maybe it was just my particular boat - but it sure had the softest/thinnest gelcoat and scratched/chipped just by looking at it. (it seemed at the time)

I went with the AA now because when it comes to a fiberglass boat - I would just as soon have the (maybe false) sense of security I get with a heavier layup. I don’t know if its stronger, and saying so would most likely elicit a flame war.

I just like a stiffer hull I suppose.



For goodness sake!
Please take some time and learn about what Gel-Coat is!! It’s a frickin egg shell that offers NO…repeat NO structural strength. It is only a shell that offers some UV protection to the matrix. Spraying a mold with thick Gel-Coat only makes a boat heavier, and makes the egg shell thicker, thus harder to wear through. It makes some sense to shoot the keel areas thicker etc., but an overly thick Gel-Coat does NOT make for a strong boat. It’s what comprises the matrix that determines strength, stiffness, yield etc.

I for one would much prefer my weight be in extra glass, carbon, “structural material”, rather than Gel-Coat!

Thick egg shell on a flexy matrix does not equate to strength. Thick egg shell on a crude heavy matrix is fine, albeit heavy.

My point is that Gel-Coat is not what determines the structural integrity of a composite kayak.

Good day.

Stiffness and Strength

– Last Updated: Jan-17-08 2:36 PM EST –

"Thick egg shell on a flexy matrix does not equate to strength.
Thick egg shell on a crude heavy matrix is fine, albeit heavy."

It is also reasonable to say, is it not, that it is important to match the flexibility /thickness of the gelcoat with the stiffness of the matrix to avoid things like spider cracks.

It is not clear to me that stiffness is necessarily a measure of strength and/or durability although that often seems the common wisdom expressed here. Some may even prefer the feel of a flexible hull. Certainly SOF fans love the flexibility of their boats even in rough stuff and say it makes them tough due to resilience. To each his own.

I once ran my loaded CKV Force 4 hard onto a ledge and felt the hull flex upward for over a foot until we ground to a stop. It was not a pleasant experience. There was a scratch that went across the bulkhead placement, but it was not a bad scratch at all and no damage to the hull at all. A friend with one of the stiff boats did something similar unladen and holed the boat. On the opposite side I have a 60# AA with lots of gelcoat and it has been one tough boat. I suspect stiffness as such is not an indicator of toughness, but rather the quality of the matrix, which cannot be determined easily by us paddlers, is; and there can be advantages to a hull that will give some.

scratch vs gouge
Impex boats I’ve owned & used for some reason

would gouge the hull if accidently ran up on rock

ware as my valley which is an 04 model would

just scratch. Even just loading & unloading from vechicle & regular use it just seemed to damaged

easier. Nothing against Impex I think there a

great company & really good to deal with it’s

just what I experienced with there standard


question for Matt
I was away for a few weeks.

So, why are considering getting a new boat? I thought you were quite satisfied the Explorer?

It’s complex and as soon as an absolute is stated, there’s an exception…except for Gel-Coat.

Strength means many things depending upon application. A flexy hull may yield to imact well but become soft and spongy in time secondary to interlaminar breakdown. A light cored race lay-up may be stiff yet fail miserably on impact.

The key is balancing materials against an objective. It is very possible to have a light, stiff, and super tough impact resistant laminate…for a cost!

I think Impex may be getting unfair treatment here. I’ve found their stuff a good compromise between weight and toughness.

Heavy doesn’t mean stronger necessarily, nor does light mean weaker…but it can… Like boats, it’s all a compromise between cost, weight, durability short and long term.

An NDK would represent to me a focus on lower cost, more crude materials layed up to be stout resulting in added heft. For them, the lighter lay-up is not as tough, given the methodology and materials employed. Another manufacturer may equal their lightest lay-up and be tougher than their heaviest simply by virtue of materials and construction method…at a higher cost.

Which is better? How much do you want to spend? My 46 lb. Carbon, glass, cored infused boat is far tougher than any I’ve ever owned…overkill in fact. It was also crazy costly to build.

With composites low weight and high toughness / strength = COST! Companies like NDK strike a compromise that’s simple, adequately tough, cost effective, easy to refresh, affordable to produce, albeit a bit crude and heavy.

My guess is Nigel would be delighted to make ultra high end infused boats etc., if he could get another grand for each he made?? I think we all know the answer to that.

Bowler, buy the standard lay-up and go paddle it!

If a few lbs. is an issue, then hit the gym.

For goodness sake!

I wasn’t dissin’ Impex - and never implied that thick gelcoat = strength. If you interpreted my post as that - you were mistaken and I errored in my language (as I am sneak typing these posts at work!). I am not dis’ing Impex - just prefer British hulls that I don’t have to be careful with.



Standard Layup / Explorer
Well from what I have found out here and elsewhere it sounds like the standard layup is the way to go…or at least with an NDK boat.

On the Explorer…long story…but I am buying another and I plan to keep it.

I think I am going to buy a new 08 model in the standard layup with the new Kari-tek wire skeg.

As I said in my other post to which you are referring…the Explorer is not the most exciting boat to paddle but it is a tough boat to beat…a real solid all-around boat.

I would like to try an Impex Force 4 sometime though…seems like a very promising boat.


SOF flexibility …
… and strength varies just as much as composite stiffness and strength - and they all depend on the materials and builder’s methods.

A lot of folks seem to assume SOF are a lot floppier than they really are - a misconception I blame on them only seeing/paddling folders and inflatables. I had simliar feelings before building one. My SOF has a lot stiffer frame and a much more taut skin than any folders I’ve seen (so far). What flex is there is minimal. While does make for a nicer feel - it’s a subtle thing.

I have a composite (Kevlar WS Sparrow Hawk) that has panels that deflect as much or more than the skin on my SOF. Clearly flat panels with simple curves are not ideal for composites (compound curves are better - think eggs) - and the SH’s panels are wider then the panels on my SOF. They also lack the internal frame and tightness of skin a SOF can have.

Difference in toughness mostly comes into play with impacts. If I dropped the SOF off the rack odds are nothing much happens (unless it falls on a sharp knife or something). If I sit in it on the ground - it’s all good. I can also crank down the rack straps really hard with the SOF with no worries. I’m a bit more careful with the Kevlar SH.