Plastic or glass?

Got a question for the yakers. I am in the market for a fast touring yak with loads of storage. I’ve read everything I can on practically every yak out there. My question is: Is a plastic yak slower than a fiberglass yak by more than a couple miles per hour.

Fiberglass is twice to three times the price of a plastic touring yak. Is it really worth paying double for a glass yak. I know this is an opinionated question, but I would love to here from the experts on the pros and cons and speed, etc… Any help and info will be deeply appreciated.



Glass = Plastic
If the exact same design, a plastic and glass boat would be equal in speed.

However, if you want a fast sea kayak with storage you would be looking at Epic Endurance 18, QCC 700, etc… These are only available in composite.

I generally prefer glass boats to plastic except for ww.

Plastic or Glass
What are the benefits of glass of plastic? I will be using it for ocean and great lake touring for about a week at a time with all gear. The Qcc 700 is a really nice yak, but I also like the Prijon Kodiak also at half the price!

It is al about weight; no serious kayak should be heavier than 50lbs (real weight not the advertised one), and no serious kayak builder makes plastic boats other than for surf/white water.


There is a difference in speed
albeit slight. In fact drag test protocall makes an adjustment for poly. This, in reality is pretty mute.

First off, why huge amounts of gear? Have you taken good lessons and rented a few boats?

I too prefer composite for it’s stiffness on the water. It’s a very different feel…one I prefer.

Serious rock gardening can be done in either, but poly is preferred by most for obvious reasons. Poly has a definite lifespan, can deform in the heat, and will never be as fair due to the roto molding process.

I would suggest as so many here do that you take some lessons and more time to focus in on your needs. Then paddle several boats within that category and buy the one that does it for you… One usually stands out…buy it.

Don’t underestimate the minor efficiency increase with composite over many miles. Or loading and unloading. Environmentally I’m not sure which is best, but I’d guess composite. With care they can be lifetime boats.


– Last Updated: Apr-16-07 9:18 AM EST –

Mostly I like the feel of a composite boat. This is not wholly rational.

Composite boats can last a lifetime with no reduction in efficiency.

Most are also lighter than plastic. The further past 50 I get, the more I think weight is a safety factor. I can more easily haul around, without injury to myself or the boat, my Elite layup Romany (c45 pounds)than my ProLite Aquanaut (c55-60 pounds) or poly Elaho DS (60+ pounds).

hull speed is virtually the same , but not the glide.When you stop paddling in a plastic boat it glides very little compared to the glide of the glass boat. this glide doesn’t make the optimal speed of the hull any faster, but it does make it easier.

At the end of the day after traveling the exact same milage in exactly the same conditions with both a plastic and a glass boat. the person in the glass boat will still feel like dancing (well maybe)…the one in the plastic boat will have gone the same distance, but feel less energetic.

It’s all in the glide

My wife found this out dramatically when she changed over to paddling glass many years ago…she would stop paddling to take a picture. With her old plastic boat, when she stopped , so did it…with the glass, she kept running into everything (and everybody) that she was trying to take a picture of. it seemed to just keep going and going and going.

Glass also feels nicer to paddle (IMO)

Best Wishes


“More than a couple miles per hour” ??
A couple to me is “two”.

If you take two duplicate model kayaks made by the same manufacturer, and one of them made out of glass and the other out of plastic.

The plastic one is going to be heavier which will translate to slower.

If you take a racer and give him a time trial in both kayaks over a given distance, he will be faster in the glass boat.

If the distance wasn’t so long that a fatigue factor would set in, (say about six miles), I would guess that he wouldn’t be more than two mph faster though.



I agree with wilsoj2.

– Last Updated: Apr-16-07 7:56 AM EST –

Is a plastic yak slower than a fiberglass yak by more than a couple miles per hour?

Plastic, espeicially the current types of plastic like Prijon and Valley, as so stiff they are equally fast to composite. So, weight becomes the only major question. When I did my research, in general, I found that (and this is a generalization) the $3000 'glass boat saves remarkably little over plastic. e.g. a plastic Kodiak weights 60 lbs, many popular 'glass boats weigh 54-55 lbs at the same length. Then, add in the fact that many boats are intended to be laden with gear, and the difference becomes negligible. It really amounts, in the end, to what you can carry to the water. Need lighter portage, pay for it with glass or kevlar etc.

There was a thread on Pnet about 1 year ago about deterioration of plastic, and bottom line, as I recall, is that many 10-20 year plastic boats are still out there, and the key is not to store it in UV sunlight and to use occasional 303 Protectant.

If expedition kayakers can travel hundreds and thousands of miles in plastic (e.g. John Turk, and Renata Chlumska 11,000 miles around the USA in a Prijon Kodiak (Google the names for more details), then plastic is certainly expedition worthy. I guess if they trust plastic and find it fast enough, then it is. Some would say they chose it to limit repairs (like the rest of us), but if there was a significant difference in the "glide" with our day paddles of 15-25 miles, can you imagine what that would be for their thousands of miles on the water! They would have picked glass if that had been a sigtnificant factor.

I paddle in stumpy man-made lakes in Illinois (hidden stumps) and plenty of rocky rip-rap launches--I'd imagine Texas to be similar... I do not paddle pristine open bodies of water with sandy beaches very often. Thus, I thought the same as you about plastic versus glass. This weekend I bought a plastic Valley Nordkapp RM, and with two short paddles only in it so far, it appears to be the best boat I have ever owned. I am glad for plastic, and I strongly urge you to check out the plastic of the Valley or VCP brand of kayaks. One look and you will see that it is essentially stiff as composite. And you won;t spend nights and weekends doing composite repairs when you launch off the rocks on the great lakes and a rogue wave slams you back against the rip-rap.

G'luck. Signed, dedicated plastic owner.

plastic is less expensive.

You’re going to have to paddle MUCH harder to go 2mph faster no matter what the kayak is made out of.

Given all the choices in plastic/thermoplastic/composite the motor and technique will make the biggest difference.

Pretend you’re buying running shoes.

Which one will allow you to run over a 8,000’ pass more easily, which one will allow you to sprint through the wet parking lot more safely, which one will get you across the marathon fastest?

If you need the extra $1000 to get gear or lessons then get the plastic boat. The 50#glass boat with 75#'s of gear will not feel fast compared to the 75# plastic boat with no gear.

Get the kayak that fits 80% of your paddling. If most of your paddling is unladen day paddling you really are doing yourself a disservice getting a big kayak that can carry the kitchen sink for that 2% of the time you actually go out for a week.

As an opinion…
from a casual paddler for only 3 summers, I would say this: if I was to get serious about my paddling and did it much more than I do now, I would get a glass boat. But for my casual day tripping and playing around, I think my plastic Sirocco is the perfect boat. For your week-long trips, I would think you would want to invest in a glass boat.

I think its a very serious (and definitely snobbish and elitist) mistake to disparage plastic boats. If a plastic Prijon is good enough for Jon Turk’s expeditions, it’s good enough for me. You done anything remotely similar to Turk? I suspect not. And I happen to like the fact that I don’t have to worry about rocky landings in my plastic Necky, just drive her up on the beach and not worry about glass damage.

Sorry, but you are very wrong

– Last Updated: Apr-16-07 9:33 AM EST –

I paddle mostly alone, so I could care less what other think of me or my boats. However, the feeling of my 24lbs ski while portaging and paddling is priceless!!!

In the long run, the small monetary saving of a plastic is irrelevant while compared to a composite one...

...Maybe that is the reason why it is difficult to see experienced paddlers in plastic boats...


Glass vs. Plastic
Thanks everyone for your replies. Boy are there some serious paddlers out there…great!!! I kept up with the two LONG EXPEDITION people that traveled in plastic boats, which made me ask the question. Here is what I’ve come up with:

  1. Plastic is more durable
  2. Glass is leighter
  3. Both yaks are about the same in speed
  4. Glass has better glide
  5. Glass is more expensive and plastic is cheaper
  6. There are alot of glass people out there
  7. There are alot of plastic people out there

    So I guess its going to boil down to how much money do I want to spend…! I’m cheap, and I’ll pay for that sometimes. But that doesn’t mean I made up my mind yet. I’ve got 28 years of paddling experience under my belt, but my disabilities limit me on a lot of things, like lifting a heavy yak onto my Jeep, but I have Hullivators (two sets), so lifting to get onto Jeep is not a big problem. When I said LOTS of gear, I guess thats the fisherman in me. Lots equals about 1 week’s worth of stuff to survive in the wilderness with if I get stuck out there that long.

    There are equally the same amount of glass as there are plastic yaks that I’m looking at. I really appreciate the feedback and knowledge out there, thanks for sharing. I’ll let you know what I decide to get!

    ORF (Old Retired Fart)

Serious kayak weight
Every year at our club picnic we set up a old meat scale with slings and have the weigh offs - with prizes.

The undisputed all-time grand champion of heavy weights is the Explorer with one person who has one weighing 76 lbs.(not a special lay-up). Explorers are always over 50 lbs.

If it was a prize you won from a store, would you take a plastic over a glass?

For most people it offers a great financial savings and you can certainly be a happy paddler in a plastic boat. There’s a liveliness to a stiff glass hull in the way in travels on the water vs. a plastic one. If you paddle the two in comparison it is quite noticeable. To many paddlers this is enough for the extra money and care involved. Theoretically, they should be the same speed but dragging it across rocks because it’s plastic is a sure way of making the hull less efficient and slower. And having two lumps in it because it sat in the sun on a car rack is going to slow it as well - but maybe not noticable enough to sway someone’s final decision.

Now we are going to liven up the argument. How about thermoform? Eddyline quit making comp boats. Hurricane is making thermoform only. Their Tracer 165 has a good reputation. A little more than poly but less than glass with the same look as glass.

what Gary said
you’re looking for efficiency,not “speed”. QCC is a good choice regarding efficiency.

  1. Plastic is more durable

    if you drop kayaks to the ground regularly.

  2. Glass is leighter

    not if the kayak is loaded.

  3. Both yaks are about the same in speed

    depends more on the motor

  4. Glass has better glide

    depends on the design, #3 and #4 are contradictory.

  5. Glass is more expensive and plastic is cheaper


  6. There are alot of glass people out there
  7. There are alot of plastic people out there

  8. Don’t forget thermoformed and used people.

dear lord that’s heavy!
My Silhouette probably weighs around 60 lbs and even that makes me cry. I couldn’t imagine carrying around a 75 lb boat. My old plastic Skerray was lighter than my glass Silhouette so go figure.

Congrats on the new Nordkapp RM.
I hope that it works superbly for your journeys.