Old aluminum vs. new Ram-X

I’m looking at buying my first canoe, and I’m torn between buying a used 17’ Loweline aluminum or a new Pelican Dakota 15.5’ canoe. I’m sure the Pelican is lighter, but I really like the look of the older aluminum model. I’m not planning to do any whitewater travel; mainly slow local rivers and lakes, and primarily day trips with one of my kids or my wife (so I won’t be packing a lot of gear).

My guess is the 17’ is probably more canoe than I need, but I also wonder how well the Pelican will hold up long-term (especially being stored under my deck, which is likely where it’ll end up).

A friend said aluminum boats almost always leak, and they’re heavy relative to those made of plastics; but I also think the aluminum boat would probably hold value better than the plastic ones.

The price is the same for both boats…so any suggestions as to which would serve me best?


– Last Updated: Sep-14-10 12:30 AM EST –

I would take most any good condition aluminum boat over a pelican any day. I don't think the weight difference is that much. And unless mistreated, they don't leak in my experience.

Unless they're painted camo... ;)

There’s some variation in aluminum
quality, but I see more Pelicans wrapped around trees than I see aluminum canoes.

Or, you could patiently shop for a used Royalex canoe. Durable, repairable, quiet, cool in sun, warm in cold water.

Ram-X material is prone to warping
I can’t be sure about the new models, but ALL older canoes made of Ram-X plastic are severely warped. By “severely warped”, I’m talking about deviations of several inches. Some of the boat-rental places that I drive past on a regular basis have Coleman canoes (the predecesor of Pelican) made of Ram-X, and even though the boats are stored on racks 300 feet off the road, the warping can easily be seen when driving by at highway speed. I don’t think there is a worse hull material than Ram-X.

you said “river” …
… do these rivers have rocks ??

Do they flucuate in guage depths during the year like most mountain and piedmont rivers ?? Do the get shallow sometimes , deeper other times ??

Any plastic canoe will be far superior in a mountain or piedmont river than an aluminum canoe . Don’t believe me … buy an aluminum and find out for yourself .

In a mountain or piedmont river that has rocks , gravel bars , ledges , shallow sections , etc. the plastic canoe will flex over the obstical as you run it … the aluminum canoe will not flex (but it will dent like an auto wreck) , at worse case it will grind to a halt and stick like glue to the rocky obstical .

Get a canoe “without” a keel .

Is there a river that doesn’t have rocks , ledges and bars … I guess that’s a different type of river than comes to mind for me ??

I almost agree…
Aluminum sucks on rocks and gravel, because as you said it sticks rather than slipping over it. Plastic is much better…except that the Ram X plastic is so inferior otherwise that I’d still prefer aluminum over it. And as for keel vs. no keel, I agree completely if it’s a plastic boat, because the keel does nothing on a plastic boat but get the preponderance of wear and tear, rather than spreading it around…it is totally ineffectual for keeping the canoe tracking straight. However, on aluminum I actually prefer a regular inch-tall keel, rather than a shoe keel like that which was on the old Grumman whitewater models, because on aluminum, the keel catching all the wear and tear is better than spreading the wear over the whole bottom.

I owned a Grumman from about 1970 to 1988 or so, and put tens of thousands of miles on it on Ozark streams. Finally gave it away to my brother-in-law, and he STILL uses it. The only leak it ever had was where the aluminum actually wore completely through near the stern. I’ve pretty well worn out the bottoms of several plastic boats since. Say what you want about aluminum, the stuff defines the word durable, and you don’t have to do anything at all to maintain it.

Taking the plunge
I’ve committed to the Loweline aluminum canoe, and should be picking it up this Saturday. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to put it in the water this weekend, but we’ll see.

Initially I’m probably not talking about doing any rocky rivers or rapids; likely local lakes and calm rivers. Within a year or two I’ll know if I’m actually using the boat enough to justify buying something better/new or not, and at that point I might upgrade to something nicer, and my venue might also change from placid streams to something more challenging. Or if I find I don’t really have the time/interest that I think I’ll have, I’ll sell it and move on…but at least being aluminum it won’t deteriorate from just sitting there like a poly one might.

aluminum is noisy …

– Last Updated: Sep-15-10 12:35 PM EST –

...... it can get mighty hot in the sun , it's cold in the cold months , it dents (alot) instead of flexing , it has a keel , it has sharp edges here and there , and gets sharp burs , seats are basically uncomfortable , it's metal-it's hard , it reflects sunlight in your eyes , it's got a gazzilion rivets , has crap foam floatation in bow and stern at best ... but it's a canoe .

Go ahead and get an aluminum canoe (metal gets hot and cold , much more so than poly) , you'll get more "bang" for your buck . They paddle OK though , so enjoy .

Why don't you just get yourself a nice Oldtown or similar "great" 3 layer linear polyethylene canoe ... or a Royalex canoe ?? ... you can't hurt these canoes , I don't care what you do to them , leave them set out side uncovered all year , crash and bang em ... who cares , they are indestructable (almost) .

Easy there

– Last Updated: Sep-15-10 1:33 PM EST –

The cheaper Old Towns have seats that are even worse than the seats of aluminum canoes, because not only are they hard, but they have front and back sides that prevent you from tucking your feet under them. Their cheap canoes have the very worst seats in the canoe world, in my opinion.

You are greatly over-stating the tendency of aluminum canoes to become dented. I'm not sure about the brand that the original poster is getting, but Grumman canoes are mighty tough, especially the shoe-keel model. Most of the really old Grummans I've seen have been quite abused, but the dents are few, and MUCH less significant than the warpage that occurs with Ram-X plastic. Alumicraft canoes weigh much less than Grummans, but even those boats usually only have minor dents when abused. The "normal" dents you get in Ram-X plastic cover a distance of two to three feet and are four to eight inches deep. Ram-X plastic won't maintain its shape at all. It's hard to over-state how bad that material is for boat building.

As far as reflecting light goes, don't forget that the poster is buying an old boat. OLD aluminum is dull gray, and doesn't reflect badly at all.

There's nothing wrong with that "crap foam floatation" either. It works as well or better than the floatation provided by low-density Ram-X plastic. The only downside I've seen with foam floatation is that you need to be careful that carpenter ants don't make a nest there while the boat is in storage.

I think the original poster has the right idea. Of the two cheap boats available to him right now, he's picking the one that will handle better and paddle more easily. He says he'll be willing to spend more on a different boat in the future if he "catches the bug". If that day comes, used aluminum canoes can be sold for the price you paid for them, which can't be said for Ram-X, which just gets uglier and more warped the older it gets.

yeah, the old style flat poly seats in

– Last Updated: Sep-16-10 3:05 AM EST –

....... in the "old" Oldtown canoes are hard on the butt and need a pad at the least . I carved out and contoured the bow seat in our 84 16'-10" Royalex Oldtown , very comfy now , but seats can be changed easily if one desires .

I'm not going to argue with you gbg , there's no comparison between an Oldtown Expedition 169 (Discovery 169 ??) (or any other Oldtown for that matter) and the best Grumman ever made ... the Oldtown wins hands down by miles in every category without question ... I know the difference . If one wants to upgrade to something lighter and faster from there , well that's about what you get for the extra bucks , but that's all you get , lighter and a tad bit faster (maybe) .

I know of a fleet of old Grummans , rented and paddled them long ago for down river runs , over nighters , etc. ... they look like a train wreck , leak some , and have been banged and banged ... but they still float ...

I don't recommend either a RamX or an aluminum canoe ... there is no reason to buy either when other much more preferable canoes exist , both new and used . One might have to be a bit more patient or drive a little farther to find one but that will be worth it after the fact .

OP , if you can call any one of the Bass Pro Shops in the boardering states to AR (AR doesn't have a Bass Pro) ... I strongly suggest you consider riding over the boarder and purchasing an Oldtown Expedition 169 or other Oldtown from them ... they should give you a 10% discount on everything you purchase from them the first time if you sign up for thier Bass Pro credit card (cut the card up afterwards if you want) .


click "Stores" when page comes up ...

ps., ... you'll have to call the Bass Pro (Outdoor World) store and talk w/ them about the Oldtown canoes they have in stock ... they won't be listed or shown on the website

ed: ... link corrected

This is funny, but expected
You say “I’m not going to argue with you gbg” And then you proceed to do exactly that, using the same style of argument about boats as you do when espousing the merits of super-cheap paddles.

“There’s no comparison between an Oldtown Expedition 169 (Discovery 169 ??) (or any other Oldtown for that matter) and the best Grumman ever made … the Oldtown wins hands down by miles in every category without question … I know the difference.” Your statement - “I know the difference” - is truely proven wrong by the very next thing you wrote: “If one wants to upgrade to something lighter and faster from there , well that’s about what you get for the extra bucks , but that’s all you get , lighter and a tad bit faster (maybe).” Ha! It’s clear you need some butt time and perhaps a few hundred miles in a greater variety of canoes. The Old Town Discovery is near the bottom of the heap in terms of performance - You just don’t know it yet. It may be better than an aluminum canoe, but not by much in terms of performance, and in comparison to lots of other boats (including a few by Old Town), it’s a pig.

Sure, it’s okay for general use, but it provides nothing that would justify the praise implied by your statements. The only thing stellar about that boat is its ability to withstand tremndous abuse, and that’s hardly something the average person really needs to consider.

By the way, rental fleets are hardly the thing to look at when judging a canoe’s quality, especially for aluminum canoes that are commonly still in service after 40 or 50 years. Those dents you see in aluminum rental boats didn’t get there just by normal hits on the occasional rock.

Again, you really might want to lighten up. The poster asked about his choice between two boats, and all I did was compare the two choices, and then point out that real world experience in aluminum canoes is nowhere near as unpleasant as you seem determined to make it appear. For a person who has the chance to get a decent boat “right now” (as opposed to searching for a deal on something better), the advice to get the aluminum boat seems okay by me.

And I can add:
I have a OT Disco and have had it for a long time.

Several years ago we rented two canoes from the US Park service down in the Everglades to take some other people paddling with us.

I have no idea what make they were, but they had a indian logo on the front.

I would take one of those any day over my OT disco. they were lighter, and handled beautifully.

I am not deemeaning the OT at all. it was just that the particular aluminum canoe was better.

Jack L

Aluminum is noisy in part because it
is thin and stiff, like a soundboard. If there is one thing I don’t like about my new, very light, very stiff Millbrook OC-1, it is that it is about as noisy as aluminum. I don’t even have to hit any rocks or gravel, the boat can sound like a trap drum as the flat underside of the bow hits the waves.

Aluminum disappeared pretty fast from ww rivers when Royalex/Oltonar canoes appeared. But compared to Ram-X, and to whatever the later Pelicans are made of, aluminum will stand up to ww abuse well enough.

Weights, Aluminum vs Discovery Poly
There is only one Grumman 17’ that weighs close to the 85# of a 169 Discovery. It would be the Whitewater 17 with shoe keel. The conventional 1740C model is in the mid 60’s.(Will look up the exact weights when i get home). And the Loweline canoe the OP asked about is in the range of the 1740C and is certainly no heavier.

On the water, the Disco 169 has no great advantage. The aluminum hull can be painted inside to keep down the reflection of infrared, the noise can be dampened with carpet along the bottom. Paddling wise, in water deep enough to bury the paddle blade, there will be little difference. If the Lowe has truss rivets and a deep keel, it might be a few strokes slower, but hardly noticeable at a recreational pace. For the price, the OP is well off to buy the aluminum canoe and get started.

He will always have a handy “loaner” canoe. He certainly is aware of the aluminum drawbacks; and he can live with them. Thousands of miles of rivers were explored in aluminum Grummans after WWII. Tens of thousands of us were taught to canoe in aluminum canoes in Scout Camps. And we went on many wilderness trips in them and enjoyed it. Many of those Grummans from the 50’s and 60’s are still in service in those same camps. Dents do pound out of aluminum.


Floatation in the ends
If the floatation in the ends is suspect, you can usually knock out the rivets that hold the cover plate and pull out all the old stuff and replace it. I have a michi-craft from 1978. I picked it up and put it on the car roof. While driving down the road, a snake slithered out onto the hood. When I took the end covers off, there was only half the original foam left, lots of dirt and garbage. Cleaned it out and filled it with pool noodles and spray foam and sealed it up. Used bolts to hold covers back on. It is old and dull, so there is no glare, and besides that’s what polarized sunglasses are for. I also haven’t been burned yet by the metal. Cut the keels off - it had three- and now the thing turns on a dime and I can heel it over a bit. It’s a 17 footer and I often paddle it alone. Have fun.

Aluminum boats work
I had an alumacraft for 50 years and it had no noticeable dents, and didn’t leak when I gave it to my son

Recently while staying at a resort in northern MN with my family we took out a 17 ft. alumacraft. (Hard to get everyone in the magic.) We had a good time in it. Paddled nicely. Handled nicely. Did the job.

I wasn’t arguing w/you gbg …

– Last Updated: Sep-16-10 8:53 AM EST –

...... I made statements , and I fully support every word I said . You can re-write my statements till the cows fly and they will still be exactly what I said , meaning exactly what they say , not what you want them to say or mean .

Curious how it is that many of us started paddling in the ol aluminum Grummans many moons ago but chose/choose to purchase plastic boats , composite boats and never looked back with any desire to purchase and paddle the aluminum canoe again .

As for those paddles I use and you call super cheap ... I guarantee my paddles will either match or blow the doors off anything you think is better for the river enviroment , I guarantee it . You haven't a clue what kind of paddle is needed in the river gbg or you wouldn't have made that statement . The lightest , powerfulest , toughest , meanest rock eating paddle that can be had is the best one in the river , and the ones I use fit the bill perfectly . Not only do they fit the river bill perfectly , they are a pleasure to use and paddle any water with , all day long from first light to solid dark , miles and miles and miles and miles .

I run rivers mostly , rocky mountain and piedmont . I may push up stream 4-5 miles in about as fast of water as a canoe can go , sometimes my paddle nessasarily becomes a pole ... I may run down stream nessasarily jumping rock ledges , skirting skinny streches as they come up , weaving the rock gardens , having a glancing blow off a barely submerged rock , the usual river stuff , etc. ... the river is constantly changing from deep swirling pools , deep channel flows , to light rapids , roaring fast to near still slow , to unavoidable ledges and drops , to suck shallows (sometimes even scrape shallow) ... my OT Expedition 169 shines like a star with 500-600 lb. load and moves like speeding train when the current runs hard and fast (it could handle another 400 lbs. w/o the slightest concern too) ... it manuvers and turns like a champ ... it may be matched or bested by other canoes and canoeist , but not by much ... that's saying something coming from me ... so take it for whatever you think it's worth .

"ANY" canoe can be paddled around on calm flat waters and be pleasant ... not any canoe can take the river enviroment and shine , the OT Expedition 169 can and it shines like a champ , most plastic canoes can ... the ol Grummans (best of the aluminums) ran many a river but they didn't do it well at all , they took the beating better than wood and canvas of the prior generation , plastic boats are far superior in the mountain river enviroment than either of the former generations of canoe materials ... why ?? ... because they take the abuse the river "ALWAYS" dishes out and walk away smiling , not dented and rivit busted leaks , not torn canvas , rib busted and holed .

Plain common sense should see that no seams , one piece hulls , one part instead of 100 parts are much more practical and care free , the mile wide gap in advantage between plastic and aluminum canoes only starts there , the gap gets bigger with every practical consideration about canoes there after .

Not argument , these are statements ... facts .

and I don't even do WW , just "normal" everyday easy river stuff ... this OT Expedition is also a "GREAT" large reservour canoe , when things get rough and the water blows big , it smiles and we paddle on without concern , like I said the only thing I'd trade it for is Royalex 172 Tripper ... I've paddled enough canoes for long enough to know what I'm saying ... I'm not guessing

pp , add 500 lbs. or more and then …

– Last Updated: Sep-16-10 2:14 AM EST –

...... see if it makes any difference if the canoe weighs 64 or 84 pounds .

It does , but maybe not the way you think ... the heavier , sturdier , stronger boat is better .

It just struck me that everything you said about aluminum canoes seemed to confirm every advantage I mentioned about the OldTown 3 layer linear polyethylene canoes or similar construction canoes .

and if you had an Oldtown or similar …

– Last Updated: Sep-16-10 1:57 AM EST –

...... construction plastic canoe (3 layer linear polyethylene or Royalex) , ogre , you wouldn't have had any problems or repairs to the deteriorated spray foam filled ends , no knocking out rivets and dismantling the metal ... Oldtown and similar are full hull floatation , the center layer is solid floatation that doesn't deteriorate .

sure they work , they are even pretty …

– Last Updated: Sep-16-10 9:05 AM EST –

...... and nice paddlers , just keep them shiney , dent free and use them in calm to easy , non-rocky waters and they can become antiques like the ol wood and canvas canoes , classics in everyway .

Navy Jelly for aluminum shines them up like new every time .