I’m considering either an old town vapor or loon and am wondering if the 3 layer hull in the loon is better. I would think the 2 thin layers of whatever plastic they use in the 3 layer design wouldn’t be as tough or durable as 1 thick layer thats used in the vapor? Anyone have any info on this…Thanks Bob
How much durability do you need?
Old Town says the three-layer material provides a stiffer hull. Polyethylene is notorious for being flexible and prone to severe warping over time. Such warping can sometimes be fixed with the aid of heat, but of course it can happen again. As often as not, bent boats simply stay bent. I'd suspect that anything Old Town has done to improve the stiffness of their plastic boats would decrease those problems. By the way, in my admittedly limited amount of observation, I've mainly seen warping problems on wide, flat-bottomed rec boats, and not so much with touring kayaks or whitewater boats that have "more curvature per unit of area". Curves = stiffness, while flatness = floppiness.
Short of extreme rock bashing in steep whitewater creeks (which you won't be doing with either boat you mentioned), I can't imagine a need to worry about the toughness of a plastic kayak. They're practically indestructible, so unless you go out of your way to wear it out, it should last a really long time. Lots of people DO "go out of their way" to wear out boats by dragging them at every opportunity (usually causing a hole to wear-through at the tail end), and if that's your plan, just get the cheapest boat you can find ;)
Loon hands down
The Loon has a better hull shape to help keep water out of the cockpit. The Vapor has a huge cockpit opening (far too large in my opinion)and the hatch is a joke on the ones I’ve seen at least. Poly-link may weigh a bit more than the single layer plastic but it’s very durable.
Yeah, the sandwich hull structure
gives better hull rigidity for the same hull weight. I paddled a Loon and it was free of oil canning and fairly well behaved for a rec boat.
We have 5, OT boats which are
‘PolyLink’, two of them are 2002 models and have never had any oilcanning. They’re VERY durable, river boats, take a licking, and keep on ticking. BTW, they are Loon 111’s. The others are 1 each, X-Wave, Castine, and Adventure 125.
These are all well used. Well worth what little bit more they weigh.
We also store them inside.
I’ve seen some of the flimsy, thinner plastic boats in the stores. Nope! I’ll go with the better ones.
I wouldn’t worry about the construction
Buy the boat which fits your needs or the one you like paddling better. Either will be plenty tough enough.
It is true that solid polyethylene lacks stiffness, and that is why until recently canoes were not made of the material except the Colemans and Pelicans which resorted to aluminum struts and a keelson to add a minimal amount of rigidity. But in a short 10' long boat that has decks contributing rigidity solid poly is stiff enough. Virtually all whitewater kayaks since the early 1970s have been made of solid polyethylene and recently short whitewater canoes like the Spanish Fly, Prelude, L'Edge, and the Blackfly boats have been made of solid poly as well. These boats get abused plenty and the material holds up well.
Old Town introduced 3 layer poly canoes. The central part of the material is a thermoformed "foam" core rather similar to the central ABS core of Royalex. The "air" cells in the foam core also provide flotation so that float tanks are not necessary.
These boats are plenty tough as well, but it is quite possible to abrade through the outer solid layer (usually at the stems) into the foam core over time. The foam core also makes it difficult use thermal welding which is often used to repair cracks in solid poly boats.
I doubt that you are going to see any huge difference in stiffness between these hulls and either is likely to be tough enough to withstand many years of normal use and abuse.
If you’re talking about PolyLink3, it’s a great material. I had a Cayuga 146 in PolyLink3. It’s much better than the flimsy plastic Old Town is now using in the Cayugas (except, admittedly, weight). It is very noticeably stiffer. It even has a much nicer satin finish and takes polish well.
WARNING: Don’t punch a hold in PolyLink3. It will soak up water and get heavy. But it’s a durable material and a hole is unlikely.
Durability of Old Town Polylink3
Old Town’s 3-layer poly material is very heavy and very tough. I have an ancient OT Jolt that weighs a ton, so I just drag it everywhere instead of injuring my back carrying the barge around. I have dragged it so much that I have ground away the outer layer and most of the inner “foam” layer. I had it patched once and now have managed to grind it down to the very last layer. I’m hoping that this summer’s paddling and dragging will finally cut through that last layer and I’ll get my feet wet. When that happens I’ll be able to justify getting a new boat.
I have both
A loon 138 AND vapor 12.
“Better” depends on what you value more.
The loon is HEAVY, stiff, and solid.
The vapor is lighter (a plus for car topping). Single layer flexes quite a bit, so that is why the vapor has all the curves and indents for rigidity.
Unfortunately, it can break
My Cayuga was damaged by an auto repair garage while it was on top of my car. I didn’t realize there was a hole in it and I paddled with it for a couple of days. When I got home and found the hole, I had it repaired. Unfortunately, the kayak had already absorbed some water and it felt several pounds heavier. It still felt heavy when I sold it a year later. Once the water gets between those layers, it’s not coming out.
Most of the foam cells between the
walls should be closed cell. Otherwise it would be hard to control the layers after heat forming. Same is true for Royalex. The foam layer doesn’t sponge up water.
Now, if a Polylink 3 hull has been dragged, banged, folded, spindled, and mutilated, more of the foam layer bubbles may have been broken. Then if the hull is holed, there may be migration of water through the foam. But normally water migration should occur little, if at all.